What To Do On In-Service Days as a School Counselor

The beginning of the year looks (and comes) a little different for everyone, but especially for counselors! While we might not be labeling all the things with our new class list names, we still have lots of things to check off to get back to school ready! Keep reading to find a list of beginning of the year counselor tasks to get you started.

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Trying to figure out what to do on those in-service days at the beginning of the year? List of beginning of the year counselor tasks

Beginning of the Year Counselor Tasks

1 – Office Reset (and purge)

Are you like me? At the end of last year did you have good intentions about organizing things so that when you came back, set up would be easy but the end of the year was such a whirlwind of fun and chaos and crisis that you ended up organizing some things but shoving other things into corners, drawers, and shelves? Hopefully it’s not just me!

Reset Space

No matter the size of your space, you likely had to pack up for the heart and soul of the school, the janitorial team. Start by getting your furniture back where you want it in a logical space so that you can see the door from your normal sitting (ha) space. If you have the necessary space, set up a space where you can meet with groups and easily access your materials. I have a U-shaped table for my groups, and behind my chair is a bookshelf with all of my group curriculum and on top is a drawer system of school supplies. It makes it easy for me to quickly pull (and sometimes put back) the materials we’re using.

Regulation Area

A regulation space is great to have in your room, again, if you have the space. It should be away from windows and in a cozy spot with things like:

Don’t have space for a regulation area? Make a calm kit box! It all fits in a pencil box.

Trying to figure out what to do on those in-service days at the beginning of the year? List of beginning of the year counselor tasks

Shelf Reset

Something that was on my to-do list foreeeevvvvver (insert Sandlot meme here) was to organize my books by topic. I finally did it on the last day of school! I have my books in bins and labeled the bins by topic (family changes, anxiety, feelings, problem solving, etc.). This really helped me 1) know where things are and 2) let go of some books that I haven’t used in years. See all of my book topic lists here.

I have 2 separate bookshelves in my office. One of specifically for books that I use in lessons, groups, or with students. The other is for curriculum or counselor reference books. The bookshelf with children’s books is in the open space of my room with my couch and carpet, and the other is behind my group table.

Drawer System

I think most of us have some version of the rainbow drawer cart system that Michael’s sold several years ago. I used to have my drawers labeled by day, but finally wised up and made a drawer for each grade level. This helps me prep myself for lessons each week so I can just pull out my grade level drawer and carry it to classrooms for lessons.


Lastly, and I know it’s hard, but try to purge all those things you’ve been saving for years thinking you’ll use one day but just haven’t yet! I know counselors often don’t get a budget and sometimes it’s not really sufficient, so we tend to hold on to things out of necessity. But if you have a pile of streamers or fidgets that are barely hanging on to life that have been collecting dust in a bin, toss them. Make some space to display those beautiful pictures and notes kids will give you this year 🙂

2 – Teacher Check-ins

Hopefully the office reset and purge can be knocked out in one day so you can feel refreshed and move on! Another task that is always at the top of my list during in-service days is to meet with teachers. I set up time to talk about:

  • incoming students on their class lists: this is a strengths-focused conversation! Here’s what they like, here’s who they work well with, here’s what they’re good at, and here’s how they’ll shine! I don’t ever want this to be a “watch out” conversation
  • review behavior support plans or 504 plans as appropriate
  • hear any concerns or questions they have
  • solidify lesson scheduling time if it isn’t built in to the schedule already
  • ask if there are any specific ways I can support their students in the first couple of weeks

I know everyone is pressed during this week, so if it’s not an official sit down, I’m always happy to go in and help them label, sort, or hang and just chat while we do.

3 – First Week Schedule

As best as I can, I try to schedule my first week. This helps me to stay focused on what I know needs to be done, support the ways I know I can support, and not get pulled into a crisis spiral. Some typical things on my first week schedule are:

  • Mornings: front of school greetings + Kindergarten transition support
  • Middles: classroom support, check ins with caseload students, meeting new students
  • Recess: visibility and support
  • End of day: from of school support

Of course I am not scheduling every minute of every day because things come up, but I try to plan my expected supports.

4 – Meet the Counselor Info

For new students and families, I try to prepare some simple materials to welcome them to the school and let them know how I can support them. I make simple postcards for new students and put them on their desks with a pencil (get the easy template here) for the first day of school and prepare an easy email and “Friday folder” stuffer to send home at the end of the week for families. For the families, I just let them know who I am, a little about what I do and how I can help, and my contact info.

Trying to figure out what to do on those in-service days at the beginning of the year? List of beginning of the year counselor tasks

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