Marketing Your Program & Advocating for Your Profession

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As many of you know, last week was National School Counseling Week. What a great opportunity to continue advocating for my role as a school counselor by educating administrators, teachers, and parents at my school. The good news is that we don’t only have to advocate for school counseling during National School Counseling week…we can educate others and market our programs throughout the school year as well!

Typically, we have a pretty good idea of what doctors, teachers, and lawyers do in their careers. Because of how much the school counseling profession has changed in recent years, it makes sense that others may not really know what we do or what we are capable of doing. Many people who are parents of young children today didn’t have a school counselor when they were kids {especially in elementary school} or had a guidance counselor in high school who helped them choose a college. Depending on the precedent set in your school, teachers may think you are a glorified disciplinarian or see you as the “fun aunt/uncle” who visits their classrooms once a month. Perhaps administrators think we should be doing secretarial work or have extra duties because we don’t have a set schedule like teachers do {which of course must mean we have TONS of free time, right?}. 😛

 

There are a few ways that I advocate for my role throughout the school year:

(1)Promoting My School Counseling Program

Every August, my school has an event called Back to School Night where parents come to school to learn more about what their children will be doing in the classroom that year. Since I have not yet learned how to bi-locate, I can’t possibly go to every classroom presentation to promote the school counseling program. Instead, I give out brochures that explain what I can do to help students and parents. Brochures are also sent home with children who did not have a parent attend back to school night.

FRONT:

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BACK {with personal contact info blacked out}:

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I also promote my program to prospective parents during our open house event every year. I created a display board that outlines the school counseling program from early childhood through middle school. This allows parents to see that I am present in the students’ lives from their first day of school to their last, which truly shows the comprehensive nature that school counseling programs strive for today.

 

 

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At my request, my principal added a Counseling page to the school website, so parents are aware from the moment they view our webpage that there is a school counselor who is active in the school.

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My presence in the school newsletter {which you can read about here} is another great promotion for the counseling program because it reminds the parents I am there and that I am a resource they can use throughout the school year.

 

(2)Eliminating the Use of the Term Guidance Counselor

On every document with my name, every e-mail, and every column I write for the weekly newsletter, I always include my credentials and my title of school counselor. The parents and administrators at my school never see the words “guidance counselor” on anything I send out.

Another place I eliminate this term is when I refer to my classroom lessons. I know that technically they are referred to by most as guidance lessons, but I feel that creates a little confusion since we are so adamant about the title of School Counselor {without the word guidance}. I simply refer to them as classroom lessons.

 

(3)Educating About What School Counselors Do

The marketing strategies I listed above are great ways to educate parents about the role of the school counselor, but how do we educate administrators, teachers, and even students about what we do?

Administrators and teachers –

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I am extremely lucky that the majority of what I do is counseling related. I don’t have a lot of extra tasks that interfere with what I should be doing as a school counselor, but in the times that I have been assigned things that are not supposed to be a part of the school counselor’s role, I have had to educate and advocate for what I was hired to do. For example, when I first started at my current school, I was given recess duty every single day. Not only was it a dual role {because recess duty teachers are supposed to discipline} but it was taking up the best time for me to see students. Halfway through the school year I was able to negotiate to only have recess duty twice a week because I began my Lunch Bunch groups 3 times a week. At the end of the year, I had the big conversation about getting rid of my recess duty altogether. I provided literature on dual roles and why school counselors do not discipline the students. I talked about how recess was one of the best times for me to see students because they wouldn’t miss any class time. I also brought up how difficult it was for me to observe anybody at recess {as I had been asked to do many times} because sometimes I had to switch the duty I had with another teacher, and then even when I was at the right play yard, it was hard for me to watch one student when I was supposed to be watching ALL of them. Even though this conversation was not easy for me as a non-confrontational person, I ended up with no recess duty and more time to work with my students.

Another way I advocate to my administrators is through my annual report. At the end of the school year, I submit a report that includes pretty much everything I’ve done that year. I include things like how many individual and group sessions I’ve conducted, how many parent phone calls and meeting I’ve had, etc. I’ll be posting more about this in May.

 

Students—

I’m a firm believer that we should educate our students about what we do so that they know how we can help them. In order to do this, my first lesson in every grade level is an intro to counseling lesson. I do different lessons for this based on grade level, but at the end of each lesson, the kids know how I can help, how they can ask to see me, where my office is located, and the rules of confidentiality.


 

We are part of an amazing profession! Let’s advocate for our roles as school counselors and show others just what we are trained to do so that we can help more students in the long run.

 

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