My first job as a school counselor was within a private school system. I worked at three different buildings three days a week. Because of the number of students at each building, I had a half day at one school, a day and a half at another, and a full day at the third building. Two out of the three had not recently had a school counselor in the building. Basically I was starting my program from scratch. My current job has me with three different schools, in three different cities, that are not affiliated with each other at all. I am one day at one school and two days at the other two. These schools all had previous counselors that I was replacing but the program that had been in place was not up to my standards. So again, I was basically starting from scratch to create my school counseling program. I should also note that at each of these buildings I was/am the only school counselor.
I am fairly independent and while it would be nice to have another counselor on staff to bounce ideas off of or help when need be, I do enjoy being on my own. I can do what I want (within limits of course) in terms of what my program looks like and how it is run. My current schools are all K-8 and vary in class size but demographically they are similar. While the politics of the building and the student needs vary greatly. The position I am currently in and the buildings I am currently at leave the school counseling program up for interpretation based on the counselor (me) currently filling the role. I try to take the aspects of ASCA that define our role in a K-8 setting and make that work with the time I have at each school.
CLASSROOM GUIDANCE: Once a month I am in each K-5 classroom teaching a guidance lesson. The topics vary and I try to keep the monthly theme the same throughout the levels. Teachers are encouraged to let me know of any specific issues they would like me to cover otherwise I have a vast array of lessons I pull from. For middle school, 6th – 8th grade, I will be meeting on an as needed basis for classroom guidance.
I call my classroom time Guidance but my title is School Counselor. There has been a lot of change within our job as counselors over the years and while I agree with the title change I still choose to call my classroom time Guidance. I believe it’s the easiest way for parents to understand what it is I do and it is what I’m doing. I am providing guidance to their child/ren on friendship, feelings management, careers, etc.
INDIVIDUAL STUDENTS: Students are referred to me by their parents, teachers/staff, or self referred. If I plan to meet with a student more than one time I need parent permission. This usually consists of an email home informing the parents that I will be meeting with their child regularly. I include what the focus of these meetings will be about and encourage them to contact me with any questions or concerns.
SMALL GROUPS: Groups are run as needed depending upon the need of the students and the building. Groups can be formed because a parent asks for their child to be a part of a group or because teachers see a need. Any child participating in a group requires parent permission and I use a similar format to my individual counseling students. The tricky part of running small groups is my limited time in each building and the small numbers I have to work with. Groups may be needed but unable to run because there is not enough participation. In that case I try to meet the needs of the student another way.
What does your program look like?