As a school counselor, one of the most rewarding aspects of your job can be connecting and collaborating with members of your school and community. I like to think of school counseling as a boat. Building relationships with educational staff and with key people in your city or town can help bring them “on board” your counseling program. Here are a few ways you can partner and pool resources with other faculty, staff, and members of the public.
You are probably already working with teachers to provide classroom lessons and possibly co-teach lessons that align with both American School Counseling Association standards and teaching standards. You can also plan field trips, projects, and other activities with teachers that will meet the needs of all parties.
Last year I was able to teach my career lessons in a math teacher’s course. It was a great tie-in to her curriculum because she’d been teaching students about financial literacy and higher education. We both benefited. I also took all of our school’s 6th graders to a local career and technical college to expose them to one means of higher education.
Specialty teachers include art, music, physical education, and any other special content area teachers with whom you may interact in your school. These are great people to join forces with—I always feel inspired and amazed by the creativity of these individuals! Specialty teachers can be helpful when you need a creative solution or idea for a program or project.
At schools in my previous positions, I collaborated with art teachers to co-teach lessons in which we focused on a school counseling–related theme and then led an art project to correspond with the theme. This past year, I teamed up with a family consumer science teacher to host a knitting and crocheting group during our school’s activity period.
Specialty professionals you can liaise with include nurses, speech pathologists, school psychologists, occupational therapists, special education teachers, technology/IT professionals, and any other professionals with whom you interact in your school.
These staff can be great allies because of their expertise. You can work with them to support a common cause or run counseling groups on specific topics. It is also great to have specialty professionals to consult with on your cases, as well as on best practices for the issues and concerns they are trained to deal with.
In the past year, I had the wonderful experience of running a social skills group with a special education teacher at my school. Collaborating in this way helped me build relationships with the special education students she served.
Support staff are some of the hardest working people in your school! They include administrative assistants, paraprofessionals, custodians, and others. I recommend recognizing them and thanking them for their hard work anytime you have an opportunity. Many support personnel work year-round and therefore don’t get a break over the summer. Look for ways you can collaborate with or bring support staff in on various projects and initiatives throughout the school year. It is important to include all members of the school community.
There are many ways you can build relationships with parents inside and outside of school. I recommend connecting with your school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or parent groups that exist in your community. You can ask parents what needs they have and address them throughout the year. If parents are looking for programming on a particular topic, you can work with the organization to provide it.
Last year I organized a book group for middle school parents that I called “Thriving in the Middle.” We read two books over the course of the year and had multiple meetings to discuss them. I hosted one of the meetings at a local bookstore and another at my school. It was a fun way to dialogue with parents both in the classroom and after hours. It also helped me learn some of the concerns they had about their children.
How do you connect and collaborate with members of your school and community?
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