Sunday, August 05, 2012

School Counselors: Our Time and Services are Valuable!

When I first began my school counseling career, I quickly found myself at the mercy of everyone and their needs/schedule - from the administration, to the teachers/staff, to the parents, to the students, to community agencies, etc. A phone call came in or I heard a page over the school intercom and off I went to address the issue. While I certainly felt I was helping those in need , I didn't always feel that my time as a school counselor was being valued. We didn't have a comprehensive school counseling program at the time and I felt I was letting others decide for me what was important for a school counselor to be doing each day.

I began to feel even more conflicted, when I had to abruptly end a small group session, individual session, or a classroom guidance lesson to take a parent phone call, to meet with a parent who stopped into school, to meet with an agency professional who popped in, or to address someone else's definition of a crisis situation. I was not meeting the needs of all students in the school, I was letting students down, and my time wasn't being used as wisely as possible. I sometimes felt that I was giving others the impression that all I did was sit around all day waiting for the next phone call, meeting, page, or issue to pop-up. I felt I was giving the impression to others that the school counselor wasn't busy, so she's available to address any situation. I was sending the incorrect message that my time, and the work I was doing with students and staff, was not valuable.

So, with a few years of experience (way back then:), I began to feel more comfortable with how to schedule many of my services, how to triage the crises, and how to manage the phone calls/pop-ins from others. After searching for a system of scheduling/time management that would work for me -- from index cards, to logs on a clipboard, to monthly calendars, to small appointment books, to computer data sheets/logs -- about 12 years ago, I came across this appointment book. I found one summer during the special Teacher's Back to School Breakfast at Staples. I've been using one ever since!

This is the At-A-Glance Academic weekly version which runs from July 25 to September 1.

The inside of the book looks like this.

In the front of the book, there is a page with small yearly calendars. In the back, there is a page of important dates /holidays for the current year and 3 future years, a page indicating U.S.A. time zones and area codes, as well as, pages to list important names, addresses, and phone numbers.

I like this book because:
  1. It runs from July to July
  2. An entire week is shown when the book is opened
  3. I can write in my scheduled responsibilities at the scheduled time (classroom lessons, small groups, lunch sessions, individual sessions, meetings, etc.). See example to the right.
  4. I can write in the unscheduled responsibilities that pop-up during the day at the time they occurred 
  5. I can keep track of the amount of time that was devoted to each responsibility, activity, meeting, etc. by drawing a a little line or arrow (see example).
  6. If a scheduled responsibility was cancelled, then I keep it in the book and put a line through it
  7. I can go back and collect data later on
  8. There is enough space to write on each line
  9. I like that the day is divided into 15 minute increments
  10. The book easily fits in my school bag and is easy to carry to meetings
  11. Because of the size of the book, a paper sheet can easily fit between the pages without having to fold it
  12. Post-it Notes (which I should buy stock in) stick nicely on the pages

I wish the book:
  1. Came in fun colors or patterns other than black
  2. Had a pocket on the inside cover

Whatever the system, find one that works best for you. Your time and the services you provide are extremely valuable!!


  1. This post was helpful to me as I reflect back on my first year of school counseling. I felt the same way and it made for some stressful days. I tried to keep track of everything on my outlook calendar, but I was not always at my desk and one thing popped up after another. As I prepare to begin the 2nd year, I feel like I need to go back to basics to help me be more organized with my time. This brings me peace of mind. Thanks for your post!

    1. Nicole - how exciting to start year 2! While certainly I never get everything written down because I don't walk the halls with this book and the pace is usually so fast that I don't always remember all I did, but it is a close enough estimate. If nothing else, I can go back and see when and who I worked with, spoke to, and called. I can see the groups I held, lessons I taught, meetings I attend, sick days I had, etc. Not many details written in this book -- just the what and when. I wish you all the best this school year!

    2. I totally agree. Plus being the RTI coordinator can get very overwhelming. I'm trying to create the balance and help my administrators understand the many different hats we wear. I really needed to read your post today! Thanks

  2. This is my first year going without my At-A-Glance Academic year calendar. I always LOVED it - and agree with you that it's just about perfect for school counselors - but during the course of the year last year I made the transition to using Google calendar on my iPad and computer. I just about got the shakes when I put in my Staples order and didn't include the calendar! I WILL, however, continue to use it for my master schedule. At the beginning of every year I take a copy of the two page spread (any week will do) and pencil in all my weekly appointments that will be consistent during the year, or during a period of time (groups, etc). Not quite ready to end the relationship! Here's wishing that the Organizing Fairy visits us regularly and that the Overscheduling Ogre does not!


    1. Thanks for your comments - made me giggle...
      Using the type of technology you spoke about really has it's benefits -so glad you found that it works for you! Maybe one day my lobbying for an iPad will come to fruition...even then, don't know if I'll be able to part ways with this "black book!"

  3. I have used the same type of weekly planner for years... I love it!! I have started using the old "Flair" markers - they provide color (which I NEED) and I also add stickers just to keep it "happy"!! Thanks for sharing your idea!!

    1. Love myself a good felt tip! But don't think I ever tried the colored Flair for fear of bleeding through the pages! I will be trying it out this year thanks to you...

  4. It's funny that you say you use your iPad...I got an iPad this year and started using the calendar but missed my old fashion pencil in agenda, so I got one! I use the iPad for lots of things, but when it comes to daily planning, you just can't beat the at-a-glance :)

  5. Great minds think alike! I recently blogged about my day planner, and found it very interesting that your scheduling technique is identical! I could never make the switch to a computer or ipad calendar!

  6. I'm an aspiring school counselor (first semester of my Master's program ends next week) reading through your blog posts and this one caught my eye. I'm actually working on making my own planner of sorts that will begin in June 2013 and end in May 2014, as I'll have a GA job, 2 internships (one that's 150 hours, the other is 600), classes, etc. I also work a part-time job where I can get it printed at a discount. :D

    If you want, I can send you a PDF of it when it's complete for some feedback. Thanks for the awesome ideas! :)

    1. Hi Cary. I am starting an internship and would love to have a pdf of your planner. I am going to purchase the at a glance, but would love anything that will help.
      Thank you so much.

    2. I would love a Pdf of your planner!!