Back-to-School Tips from Texas OnCourse

Posted by Allison Rizzolo, Texas OnCourse on Aug 4, 2020 3:35:11 PM

As we enter an uncertain and uncharted year, we at Texas OnCourse will be sharing resources to help you hit the ground running. Look for time-critical posts from us now through Labor Day here, on the blog, as well as on our social media and in our weekly subscription email, the Playbook.

Enhance your counseling and teaching processes this fall with suggestions from educators like you

First, be sure to review some of our blogs from the spring. We published suggestions from educators like you on:

We’ve been connecting with our fellows and other educators over the summer to compile some additional tips. Here are a few:

  1. Get visual. You’re well acquainted with the fact that students prefer short, highly visual information over a wall of text. Take screenshots of our graphics or graphics from others on Instagram and drop them into an email, text, or Google Classroom environment for students. Informational graphics are great, but inspirational ones could really help your students too.
  2. Let us do the legwork. Check out our weekly Facebook Live videos. We know you’re working three times as hard as you usually do, if not more. Each week, we broadcast on Facebook with the latest updates on college and career planning information impacted by COVID. We post transcripts of these videos on our blog as well. Educators we’ve heard from have found these videos very helpful, and we plan to continue doing them for as long as you need.
  3. Humanize with video. Video is a great way to reach your students and also serves as a calming presence. Jenny Patrick, a Texas OnCourse district fellow from Bangs ISD, said her students told her it was comforting to see her face and hear her voice. Make a short video to welcome your students back to school, or use Screencastify, a free screen recorder for Chrome, to walk your students through new policies, your timeline for the next few weeks, or things like using your Google Classroom, playing MiddleGalaxy, or exploring endorsements on MapMyGrad
  4. Help your colleagues help you. The Academy isn’t just for counselors! Share the Academy with other educators and let them know it’s an easy way to access up-to-date, trustworthy information and answers to all your students’ questions about life after high school. Here’s a handout listing the modules that are important to different members of your school’s staff.
  5. Meet your students where they are. We know you do this already, but when you’re super busy it may be easy to overlook steps you could take in a remote learning environment. For example:
    1. Allow your students to DM you during Zoom or other group sessions, and make sure they understand the functionality of the platform so they can do that. For our middle schoolers especially, sharing their questions publicly may be uncomfortable. 
    2. Use every channel available to communicate with students – including word of mouth from their peers!
    3. Just because students aren’t responding, don’t assume they don’t have questions. They’re overwhelmed, too.
  6. Repurpose content. If you use Canvas, lesson plans from our College and Career Readiness Curriculum can help you populate it. This is what district fellow Ashlie McKenzie from New Caney ISD did. You’ll need to copy and paste from the PDF and make some revisions, but this is a relatively quick way to ensure that your students are getting the college and career readiness instruction they need. We converted some of our most popular lesson plans into student-facing activity worksheets appropriate for independent learning in the time of COVID – start there! Preview these college and career readiness lesson plans here or create a copy in your Google Drive.
  7. Look to your community. Fellowship alumna Stephanie Perez Gill, from Houston ISD, is connecting with local groups to see if they’re doing virtual presentations on financial aid or other topics. Ashlie McKenzie worked with her regional network of admissions counselors, bringing them into virtual presentations and using their videos, resources, and YouTube lessons with her students. And reach out to former students! Ashlie also called on alumni of her Posse Scholars program to speak virtually with her current students about the application process.

Look for brand new college and career planning resources

We’re hard at work developing new resources between now and September. Here’s what you can expect:

  • A new edition of our middle school College and Career Readiness Curriculum (out now)
  • A College and Career Knowledge Assessment for you to determine where your middle school students stand on postsecondary knowledge
  • Updates to modules in the Texas OnCourse Academy
  • Future Forward Texas, a public-private collaboration providing digital counselor packages full of free digital content that aims to maintain college enrollment rates in Texas despite the effects of COVID-19
  • Advising resources to complement Texas College Bridge
  • Graphics for easy sharing with your students and curated resources to support you


Don’t miss a thing – stay connected with Texas OnCourse

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Topics: Educators, Distance Counseling, Distance Learning