In honor of National School Counseling Week, Baltimore County Public Schools asked three school counselors – one each from an elementary, middle, and high school – to keep a journal of a typical day.
Carrie Schiavone, school counselor, Cromwell Valley Elementary School
I get ready for work with my mind racing about students I want to see, topics I want to discuss with parents, materials I need to gather, and information I want to share with teachers. When I arrive at school, I have an hour to check email, consult with teachers, plan, and gather materials for my individual sessions and classroom guidance lessons. I know that this day will not unfold exactly as I have planned, and I’m ready for the surprises.
I am either in the lobby or outside greeting students. These 15 minutes allow me to say “Hello” to hundreds of students by name, give hugs, and make eye contact and have quick conversations with the ones wearing heavy emotions. I walk to homerooms and check in with a few students, and then head to the TV studio to be on the morning announcements and talk about the character trait of the month.
I check my email and respond to a parent reaching out about a loss in their family and asking me to see their child that day. I grab my materials for a classroom guidance lesson, just as a student in tears shows up at my door. I stop and talk through the problem. Then, I rush down to the classroom (a few minutes late) and teach a lesson about conflict resolution to enthusiastic third graders.
Back to my office. The nurse calls. A second grader has shown up in her office for the fourth consecutive day with no fever or sickness. We work together to address what we suspect is anxiety by calling the parent and gathering more information. I try to make it to the restorative circle in our Behavior Learning Support classroom, and then I scurry to pick up a student for a scheduled counseling session. A teacher pops in to follow up on a parent email, and we schedule a parent conference.
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
I run social lunch bunches and group counseling sessions each day. The students and I use this time to explore topics such as friendship, social skills, test anxiety, and anger. One group today is on “brainology” – how a growth mindset can help us achieve our goals. A Grade 5 student shares that he decided to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. (his normal time) because we learned that the brain needs 9-10 hours of sleep at his age, and he reports that he feels so much better. In the midst of my lunch groups, a student bursts in and plops on my sofa. I make sure her teacher knows she is here, and take a pause from my group to address her needs.
From the back of a classroom, I quietly observe a student for the IEP (Individualized Education Program) team process. I will report my observations from this lesson at the next team meeting. I hurry back to my office and check the folder on my door where students leave notes requesting meetings. In the folder is a sweet thank you note from a parent. Her child shared with her what she learned from a lesson I offered, and the mom felt comforted by what her child shared. I pause and think that that lesson was months ago. I smile and realize the impact that we may not see in our day to day. I’m off to my other classroom guidance lesson, and I get sidetracked for a few minutes talking to another teacher and parent volunteer about an upcoming Career Day.
Shew! It’s dismissal already? Students pop by to check in. I put my coat on, check on the Safeties, and then go outside for afterschool duty. Afterschool, I have a parent-teacher conference, and I am looking forward to highlighting the strides the student has made and planning for additional success.
I sit back at my desk and write some notes, respond to emails, and think about how students are different as a result of my program. I know school counselors wouldn’t be successful without the relationships we have with teachers, students, administrators, and parents. I feel lucky to be a school counselor at CVE. I love my job.
Venetia Banks, school counselor, Holabird Middle School
(working with Grade 8 students and with Grade 6 students whose last names begin with A – K)
I start my day welcoming students into the building. Standing in the hallway during this time allows me an opportunity to do a quick check-in with a variety of students. After morning duty, I meet with students who submitted school counseling appointment slips from the day before and return some parent phone calls. I also have a few minutes to touch base with the Grade 8 administrator and complete a referral so that one of my students can begin the eLearning process.
I help facilitate four parent/teacher conferences with parents whose primary language is Spanish. I made arrangements with the English for Speakers of Other Languages Office to schedule an interpreter to attend to help foster communication. One of my missions is to remove barriers that make it challenging for my parents to participate in the educational process.
Crisis counseling and mediation support was needed for students. I met with the students involved and was able to support them in resolving their differences amicably. The students were able to return to class with a plan in place where respect and courtesy were the central focus.
I hold individual meetings with students to review their 6 year plans. We talked about their career aspirations, their interests, and their dreams for their future. We discussed what courses each student would need to take in high school to put them on the right path towards their goals.
After cafeteria duty, I held my monthly meeting of Girls ROC (Resolving Our Conflict), a mentoring group created in 2013. Girls ROC has played an important role in fostering a positive culture in our school for our female students and providing them with positive and proactive leadership opportunities. Today Mrs. Tara Scott, a youth dance instructor, was our guest speaker. The students were so attentive and asked great questions during her presentation.
It was time to send out an email to staff and students to remind them of our Go Red campaign to raise awareness about heart disease. I created announcements and added web base publications that will help me kick off this school-wide initiative.
I spend some time scheduling my appointments for tomorrow to meet with students about their grades and attendance. I put slips in each teacher’s mailbox that they will find when they arrive the next day. I also take some time to return parent phone calls that came in during the day. I might normally be heading home now, but I have plans to watch my students compete in a basketball game, so my day is not quite over yet.
Zachary Clark, school counselor, New Town High School
(working with students in Grades 9-12 whose last names begin with P – Z)
My day starts with preparing for new enrollments. I’ve had two new students start at New Town this week, and I need to be ready when they arrive in the morning with their class schedules. Once I know I’m ready for my new entrants, I start working my way through my emails and phone calls from parents and teachers.
After the morning rush of students, I start meeting with seniors to review their 6-year plans and assist them with new college applications, scholarships, and the FAFSA. This is one of my favorite times of the year as many are receiving college acceptances, and we are celebrating four years of hard work. Our principal, Mr. Whatley, announces college acceptances each morning during a “Great Day to Be a Titan” message. It is a point of pride for myself and my department that each year 100% of my graduating seniors have been accepted in a 2-year or 4-year college.
The spring semester has started for the Community College of Baltimore County. As the early college access coordinator, I have been meeting with students to sign-up for courses, including 15 seniors taking Fundamentals of Communication 101 through an CCBC onsite class at New Town. This class is offered during the school day and allows students to jump start their college experience. It takes a lot of time and effort to coordinate an onsite CCBC course.
I’m in classrooms, delivering a lesson to students about their PSAT results. I talk to the students about what their scores mean, ways they can make improvements before they take the SAT, and how they can use this information to help them to make smart choices about next year’s courses. We also talk about how all of this connects to their future college and career plans.
I conducted some crisis counseling with students, helping them to focus on positive decision-making and healthy peer relationships. Sometimes these counseling sessions are scheduled on my calendar, but often they occur during the day, and I need to make time to address them.
It’s second semester, so I’m working closely with some of my students who are struggling academically. I hold individual counseling sessions with my students to create plans for how they will turn their grades around, and then I collaborate with their teachers and parents to involve them in these plans.
After the dismissal time rush of students, I have a few minutes to finish preparing for a presentation I’m doing this afternoon at our staff meeting. I’ve partnered with the STAT teachers to create a professional development on the topic of using Cornell Notes in all content areas.
I stayed late to facilitate our school’s FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) Completion Night. We opened our doors in the evening and invited Stevenson University and the Community College of Baltimore County to join us in supporting parents applying for financial aid for college. I just realized I will be back in my office again in less than 12 hours, but days like this that are filled with both the expected and unexpected are what I love about being a high school counselor.