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School counseling is an incredibly rewarding and challenging profession that can have a lasting, positive impact on students’ lives. To succeed in this field, you’ve got to be dedicated to hard work, have a strong commitment to learning, and be willing to continually grow and evolve.
Here are five of the best ways to become a better and more effective school counselor:
1. Educate yourself. School counselors should stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices in the field. Consider taking courses or seminars covering child development, classroom management, crisis intervention, and college planning. I’m constantly reading, listening to books and podcasts, and taking online courses. I started taking courses online through edweb.net last year, and it has been a game changer for getting my CEUs and expanding my knowledge set.
2. Network with other school counselors. There’s no better way to learn than to connect with other professionals in the field. Participate in professional organizations and attend conferences or workshops to learn from the experiences of others.
Meeting new people can be daunting, but remember, these are your people. At conferences, we have the opportunity to find a sense of community with our peers who understand the daily struggles that come with the job. If you’re feeling brave, take the plunge and sign up to speak at a conference – not only will it give you a discounted rate, but it also provides an excellent platform to meet others in the profession and build meaningful connections. So, if you’re able, sign up to speak and expand your network!
3. Seek out mentorship. Find a mentor who has been successful in the field and shadow them or ask for advice. This will give you the opportunity to learn from someone who has been in the same position as you.
Having a mentor outside of your building can be incredibly beneficial. Connecting with someone from another school – whether it’s through a school counseling conference, online, or even a colleague you admire in the field – can provide you with invaluable insight and guidance. I personally reached out to a more experienced counselor who I could turn to for advice when I didn’t feel comfortable burdening my supervisor with every question. Having a mentor in addition to my supervisor proved to be immensely helpful and gave me a better understanding of the field.
4. Keep up with current research. Read research studies and books related to school counseling and incorporate the findings into your practice. This will help you to stay up to date on the latest findings and provide better service to your students. I am an absolute nerd and make it a point to review the research and read the latest books. I will often read an entire book to create a lesson. (I’m extra; don’t judge me.) I read “Moonwalking with Einstein” to write my lesson on study tips for fourth-graders and used Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead” to create a small-group curriculum for my fifth-grade girls.
5. Practice self-care. Self-care is essential for any profession, especially one that requires emotional labor, like school counseling. Make sure you take breaks, practice healthy habits, and take time for yourself. The job creates chaos and can beat you down if you aren’t careful. Remember, you can’t self-care your way out of a toxic environment. You have to take care of yourself.
School counseling is an incredibly rewarding profession, but it can be draining. By following these five tips, you should be better prepared to serve the students in your schools (and not burn out in the process). With a commitment to continuing education and self-care, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges that come with the job and provide the best service to your students. I wish you the best and want you to remember that what you do matters.