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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Counselor Q&A: Part 1

Hey y'all! I had posted about counselor questions you may have because I had hoped to do a little Q&A. Now, let me first start by saying....I am definitely NOT an expert. I have been a counselor for only 4 years going on 5 and have tons to learn.

I feel like I have some ideas to bring to the table and wanted to help any questions new counselors or interns may have. I know how scary it can be looking for a job and starting your first year. Being a counselor can be a scary job because we are a big part of our students' lives but it sure can be the most rewarding job! I broke this up into two parts because I wanted to be able to give thorough and hopefully helpful answers. So let's start!  These are some questions that sweet counselors sent in!

I am going to be interning at a middle school in the fall. I love doing small groups, but they are not done often at this school. My supervisor says I am welcome to give them a try. I have experience with groups at the elementary school. Do you have any tips/ideas/resources for groups at the middle school level?

Great question!! I had to figure this out, as well, this year. I moved from elementary to middle school and did tons of elementary small groups (12 to be exact) but was clueless as to how I would run them at the middle school level. With different lunches, CAIN time (student support after lunch), and different periods I was a bit overwhelmed at first but then I tried to get creative. 

I emailed teachers a couple of weeks after school had started (I think the 2nd six weeks) to ask who may benefit from some of the groups I was going to start (based on the needs of some kiddos I had already met with).  From there I looked up each of their lunches and created a chart to see if I had any common kiddos at specific lunches for specific topics. From that, I was able to do lunch bunch small groups similar to what I did in elementary. 

In regards to resources, I usually kept it simple. I did, however, use this book a lot. 
You can find it on Amazon HERE!
I also used a lot of music for "free writing" activities, journals for coping skills, paper and markers for writing goals, and I also loved looking up fun icebreaker, team building activities online.

Ultimate Camp Resource had a lot of neat ideas for icebreakers. You can find the site HERE. With my students, I noticed they enjoyed team building and just talking more than anything!! I just tried to see the needs of the group and the vibe the first meeting and that helped me to plan for future sessions.

Any suggestions on how to make yourself stand out when applying places!? I have just finished a year leave replacement and am now looking for a new position.

This may be corny...but I think being yourself is the key to standing out. Focusing in on your talents and letting a glimpse of that show in your interview really sets you apart. At the same time, it's also important to understand that not only do you want a job....but you probably want to be at a campus where you are the right fit. When I applied for elementary positions, I knew that I was going to be flexible and adapt but luckily the principal that hired me wanted someone creative, positive, and upbeat! When I went into my interview, I created a not so traditional resume that was fun and highlighted my strengths. Note: I also brought my regular resume.
Here is an example of what I gave them as a way to see how I enjoyed being creative.
 I think letting them see your passion shine through and being genuine makes a big difference!!! I also think dressing professionally is so important. I have sat in on many interviews and helped out at job fairs and there have been times I was either shocked by how short a skirt was or how low cut a shirt was or how it seemed like they didn't try at all and just threw on something. I am in no way judging or saying looks matter but if you are wanting to obtain a job and work with kids, dressing professionally is important. Professionalism is so important! Now, have I gotten every job I applied for? No... but I remember thinking that I will be put where I am supposed to be and that gave me a sense of peace about it all. I know it can be heartbreaking and stressful and put you on a roller coaster of emotions but just be yourself and know that you will end up where you're meant to be!! Good luck!!! : )

Starting out as a fresh new school counselor: Any tips on some must haves I should have in my tool box?

 I think no matter what grade level you have, there are some simple, budget friendly essentials.

#1 Paper and markers
It's amazing what some markers, paper, and prompts can do. At my last school, we had a lot of students that did not speak English. We had refugees from around the world and when I had them come to me, I was so thankful for paper and markers because somehow we could communicate with pictures. It was amazing. 
There are so many activities you can do with those basics. For elementary, it may be drawing how you feel or drawing something that scares you. For middle school, it may be writing down goals or drawing/writing how you feel when people call you names, etc.

#2 Stress ball or something students can "fiddle" with
Sometimes I have students who truly need to see me but feel so awkward. That is when a stress ball or a squishy ball comes in handy. They may want to talk it out but have something to "fiddle" with to possibly avoid eye contact or use it as a way to distract their nervousness. I am actually on the look out for more items like this!! 

#3 A laptop/technology
A laptop or ipad is a must have! Whether it is to play a song to reflect on in group or a video for students, or a way to access college info...a laptop or computer is a must for any counseling program. 

#4 A Planner
Being organized is one of the biggest qualities a school counselor must possess. As counselors we wear many hats and having a planner or electronic way to keep it all together is an absolute must!!

#5 Books
For elementary, I had a lot of books that I frequently used in my guidance lessons and even small group (Ex: Julia Cooke books). For middle school, I would love to do a book study or integrate more literature into lessons but even they sometimes love the younger kids' books. I remember reading Oh the Places You'll Go and then creating goals and plans of action!! They loved it!!

I would say we could add so many items to this like puppets, printables on the wall, etc but really you can start off with these simple things and do so much!!!

I hope these were helpful and I look forward to the next round of Counselor Q&A's which I will post this week! If you have any more questions, please feel free to email me at melroseacker@yahoo.com or comment below!!

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