Advice for Surviving Your First Semester as a School Counselor

imagesBy Sabrina Bong — This past week marks a major milestone for me: I have made it through an entire semester as a school counselor.

Looking back, I feel like I have grown so much since my first in-service day in August. Though I still am constantly asking for advice and bouncing ideas off of other people, I have found my niche here.

For me, the most interesting thing is having interns here at the school. I remember being in their positions; last year at this time, I was them. I was the one sitting in on conferences, quietly watching Individual Education Plans getting created, and seeing a handful of students. Now, I am the one running conferences, helping develop Individual Education Plans, and doing my best to see and bond with all 350 + of my kids. To watch these interns as they begin their careers, then look at myself in the mirror and see how far I’ve come, is a fascinating process.

I know there are many things that I’ve learned this semester that I wish I would’ve learned in the beginning, whether that’s during practicum, internship, or even just when I started my job here as a full-fledged school counselor. Here are some tidbits of wisdom for all those interns joining their internship sites; here’s hoping you have the same luck and experience that I have been blessed with!

  1. Make your students “your own.” This may be strange advice, but I think this is one thing I have done that really seems to build not only a relationship with me, but a certain camaraderie within my entire sixth grade class. All of my sixth graders know that they are “my kids,” that I have their backs 100%. I remember that one student was in my office because an older student had been making fun of her. Her mom was comforting her over the phone and asking if she wanted to come home. The student’s response? “No. I’m Ms. Bong’s kid, so that means she won’t let anything happen to me.”
  2. Self-care really is important! I remember in grad school when several of us would joke about how we needed to “self-care” before we would go to the beach, have another glass of wine, or watch six hours of Netflix. But self-care is no joke. There are days when you really just need to go home, ignore the emails and paperwork, put on your sweatpants, and just relax.
  3. Take it one day at a time. Have a short memory. Just because one day is bad doesn’t mean that all the rest of the days of the week will be bad too. Shake it off and go into work the next day with a smile on your face.
  4. You can never ask too many questions. I am so thankful that I can wander into the other counselors’ offices and ask them questions. In fact, in the very beginning of the school year, I was probably in their offices more than my own! But the most important thing that I’ve learned is that no question is a dumb question, and that you should always ask if you’re curious. It’s better to get your questions answered and be well-prepared than to not have the answers and be too embarrassed to ask.

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