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Back to School- An ESL and Counseling Plan!

It was such a pleasant surprise to go back to school this week. The end of the summer is always a little depressing and this break, in particular, was especially difficult to end since I had such a good time writing some new ESL and counseling books while visiting my parents in Florida.  (Visiting my parents in their "subdivision resort," as we like to call it, is a reverse vacation for us since we live the lifestyle everyday of a camping vacation in our totally rustic 700 square foot cabin on 7 acres of wilderness).  Then, when we got back from the "subdivision resort,"  my husband and I had a great time enjoying our two new horses and newly built screened-in porch. So, after all this, I was NOT feeling ready to go back to school.  But then I walked into my office and two things happened.  First, I started preparing for my new colleague who is so enthusiastic about starting her school counseling career that her enthusiasm just totally energized me!  I felt more professionally excited than I had in a long time.  Last year was especially draining with our very high-need student population always growing and the resulting stressed reactions from staff members.  Second, I was further energized by prepping for a new teaching experience that awaits me- I made plans last semester with our extra-curricular coordinator and Newcomer teacher to start teaching a speaking and listening class to our intermediate ESL learners.  So, I worked  all summer to get this curriculum, ESL in the Middle, ready.  Making plans and prepping materials to teach this class had me buzzing all around my office! So the moral of this story is: embrace the new! Having a new teacher or counselor come on board with you can give your educational world a whole new, rosy glow! Likewise, having a new teaching or counseling program that you are excited about can get you bounding into school with golden retriever puppy energy!

After setting up my office, burning through a summer's worth of emails, getting my ESL/EFL curriculum squared away, and setting up my planner for the year, I was ready to get down to business and update our counselor handbook for the new counselor.  I wrote the handbook several years ago as a guide to keep in our counseling office and I've used it through the years with new colleagues or interns.  However, it hasn't had a major overhaul in years, so it was time.  I felt so inspired thinking of the newness and excitement of starting out in the school counseling profession.  This inspiration got my professional juices flowing and I revised the counseling handbook, adding in tons of new docs that have come into popular use over the last few years, both in my district and nationally .  I'll be tweaking this handbook throughout the year and I hope to publish it on our website here in early 2016.  Here are two free downloadables from the handbook: a very rough Table of Contents (giving a snapshot of some of the documents it will contain) and our Counseling Office Tragedy Plan (God forbid, if one of our students/families suffers a tragedy).  There are many other helpful resources below- just click on the green links which will take you right to an article, video, or product you can use after you leave a comment below.

First, a few Bilingual Learner updates...


And now, onto our main feature:


If you are like us and the sight of a disorganized office or classroom is overwhelming and disorienting, here is a list below of how we tackle the first week in order to have things in order and in process by the time everyone returns:

  • Unpack all materials and set up your office/classroom. (3-6 hours...don't spend more than a day on this, even if you are breaking in a new office/classroom because it will all change as the year progresses anyway.  Just put everything you have in a place so that you feel somewhat comfortable in your space.)
  • Change out your summer break phone/email message and return any phone messages you acquired while hanging out at the beach. (30 min-1 hour)
  • Check work email and take care of those over-the-summer emails and any others you just couldn't deal with during the last few days of the 2014-15 school year. (2 hours)
  • Put together your TO DO list and write the tasks in your planner or Outlook Calendar or Smartphone or whatever you use.  This way, you will know when to do them and actually remember to do each task. (1-2 hours if you are continuing from the TO DO list you started for this new school year at the end of 2014-15.  If you didn't start your 2015-16 TO DO list last year and you have to make it from scratch- block out a half day.)
  • Meet with your colleague (if you have one) to coordinate your activities/plan your lessons for the next two weeks and to set a weekly or monthly planning time to continue meeting regularly through the school year.  After, get your materials together. (2-3 hours counselors, 2-3 days teachers)
  • COUNSELORS ONLY: Set up your waiting room/suite/lobby if you have one. (20 minutes- IF you have an awesome student helper who you can call up to come to the school and do this for you.  In our counseling office, we have amazing office aides each year that we painstakingly train- email us if you need training mats.  Because our counseling office secretary positions were cut a few years ago, our student aides are like mini-office managers and know our suite layout better than we do.  So, we bought our student aide lunch and just let her go- 2 hours later, she was all done and our waiting room sparkled.)
  • Set up and make/email copies of your weekly schedule and yearly calendar/syllabus- post copies wherever you work, on your office door, and email/give to your administrators; its also good at this time to set up with admin a weekly or monthly meeting time that runs throughout the school year so everyone knows: what ASCA/TESOL recommends that you do, what amazing things you are actually doing, and what admin needs for you to do. (1 hour- IF you laid the foundation for this at the end of the 2014-15 school year with your admin.  If not and you need guidance- email us as it's too much to go into here.)
  • Start on that TO DO list.   Happy DO-ing!

If you'd like to see some photos of our counseling office or ESL/EFL classroom, you can scroll down to last month's post where we posted photos of last year's classroom and counseling office.  If you want to see current 2015-16 photos, stay tuned- they will go up in our September post here next month!  In the meantime, I will share this awesome self-disclosure poster from NY social worker, Doralee Michaeli- I've already hung it on my office wall- you'll see it in the pics next month! 


That brings us to the end of this month's post.  Catch up with us again the first Saturday in September for our next post with ideas for those new PSCs and teachers who are just starting out, plus lots of pics of our counseling office and ESL classroom!  As always, you can find out about our latest promotions, free stuff, or our counseling/ESL adventures by following us on our Facebook Page or Twitter Page or Pinterest Page.


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