Relationships and the School Counselor

Relationships are key.  We hear this a lot in the school setting, but it's especially important as the School Counselor to have relationships be your main focus.

Coming into the role of School Counselor straight out of the classroom, I was worried that I would lose the types of relationships I loved having as a classroom teacher.  While the relationships are different, they are still critical to my role, and often as meaningful.

I am in a school of over 600 students and I am proud to say I know EVERY student's name (and I try to also learn one fact about each student, but I'm not sure I can claim this for every student just yet).  It wasn't easy, but I've made it a priority of mine.  A few things that have helped me:
  • I have morning and afternoon duty in our school's main entrance.  I greet everyone as they come into the building and as they leave for the day.  
  • I make it a point at the beginning of the year to notice names on backpacks if I'm unsure of a name as a student walks past me.
  • In the early days of school, I spend a lot of time in and out of classrooms getting to know students.  During what I call "Meet the Counselor Week," my 20-minute mini-lessons also include "getting to know you" activities.

  • I am the coordinator of our school-wide behavior system.
  • I host a Small Group of new students at the beginning of the year.
  • I make it my goal to greet everyone by NAME as they walk into the building.  There's much to be said (and researched) about hearing your own name.  
  • I've tried to be better about my greetings -- instead of "Hi, Will!" I try to say things like "Will!  I'm so glad to see your smiling face today!"
  • I have had Kindergarten AND 1st Grade lunch duties for the past 4 years, so I've been able to get to know each student early in their school career.  
Some of these are not the typical or expected duty of a School Counselor, and while some may object, I take every opportunity of a duty as an interaction with students -- another opportunity to develop a relationship.

Some other ways I develop relationships with my students include:

  • Being a "reward" for good behavior:  Students can "cash in" good behavior tickets to eat lunch in the office with me.  
  • Extra enrichment activities: to fundraise, the Reading Specialist and I have collaborated to create a painted rock garden and to chalk the school.  
  • Lunch Bunches: I was unable to host traditional Small Groups last year for a variety of reasons (space, being the number one reason, which is why I am SO excited to be getting my own classroom space).  One of my solutions to this problem was hosting Lunch Bunches over a variety of topics -- starting with 3rd and 4th Grade Girls and "Friendship."  You can find the pack I use HERE.

I make it a priority to develop relationships with not only my students, but also their families.  For example, the W family at my school currently has twins in 2nd grade.   I've also gotten to know about their little sister, her name and interests as, in just a few years, she too will be a student at my school -- with, hopefully, a relationship already formed with one adult in the building (me!).

I have created several resources to assist with Parent Communication and Engagement, as I have heard from other School Counselors, that is a struggle.

I am SO passionate about Parent Involvement and Engagement, in fact, that it was the topic of my dissertation.  So I can literally say I have a "doctorate in it."

Additionally, my PreK lessons all include a take-home coloring sheet or 1/4 sheet of our learning objective for the day.  I made this to help with the daily "What did you do today?" question and hopefully give parents a kick-starter to the conversation: "It looks like you talked about 'showing teamwork' today.  What did you do to..."  These have been so popular, I even sell them separately.

How do you build relationships with your students and their families?  Comment below!

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