The start of a new school year brings a lot of excitement, along with a good amount of stress. As a high school counselor, I know that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed… especially if you’re the lone counselor on campus.
What tools do I use to alleviate that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling? The reality is, there’s no quick fix. At the beginning of the school year, I’m pulled in every direction. I don’t have time to go online to this site or that tool to find information (although, the Tools page on the Texas OnCourse website is a pretty solid source in a pinch). Instead, what I have are my “Golden Girls.” These three ladies and I have built a network of trust, accountability, and encouragement in order to survive in education. We’re spread out across the state in schools of various sizes. Some of our duties are the same, while others are very different. But what is common among all of us is that we love kids and we work hard to provide the best level of service we can.
We use each other as a sounding board to when it comes to best practices and questions about curriculum, PEIMS codes, GPA calculations, or STAAR testing accommodations. Other times, we message each other to celebrate being one day closer to a three-day weekend. When one of us doesn’t have the answer, we turn to our broader networks of trusted colleagues to help us fill in the gaps. It makes being the ‘one-woman show’ on our campuses a whole lot easier.
What if you don’t have your own Golden Girls (or Guys) to turn to?
That’s OK! It took me about seven years of being a counselor before I found my trusted group, but I have always had mentors that I could call to ask questions. Reach out to your ESCs. Call counselors at a school nearby. Don’t think you have to know it all. It’s not humanly possible.
If you need a place to start, I suggest joining the Texas College and Career Planning Source Facebook group. This is a public group for Texas educators, counselors, and advisers who specialize in college, career, and military readiness. If I have a question, someone knows the answer! Sometimes I just browse others’ posts and gain a new perspective on something that I, too, have wondered about. Or maybe it’s something I’ve never thought of at all, and it inspires me to try something new with my students. Being a member of this group is a low-commitment (but very effective) way to ensure that I’m on the leading edge of college and career counseling.
Another wonderful way to connect with your peers in education and share helpful tips is by participating in Twitter Chats. The Texas OnCourse Twitter account hosts one every month on a timely topic. In the past, they’ve posed questions on the SAT/ACT, ApplyTexas, Back to School tips, and more, and experts from all over the state and nation chime in with best practices. You can answer questions or just hang around to gain insights. If you've never participated in one or aren’t much of a Tweeter, don’t be intimidated! Visit this page to view upcoming topics and brush up on what exactly a Twitter Chat is.
My best suggestion to every educator at the start of a new year? Take every opportunity you can to network with others, in person or digitally. By developing a network of trusted colleagues, you’ll have a group of cheerleaders in your corner to help when it matters most.