Setting the Tone in the First Month of School

We all know the first month of school is a total whirlwind. We’ve got new students, exciting new activities, new coworkers, and so much more. We know that setting the tone and setting expectations early and consistently is the key to success. Here are some ways we can do that as counselors:

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School Counselor First Month Tasks: setting the tone for the year with expectations, communication, and plans for success

School Counselor First Month Tasks: Setting the Tone

1 – Review Procedures

Just like teachers teach and review classroom procedures for the first couple of weeks and month, counselors can do the same! We can of course support teachers in reviewing their procedures and schoolwide procedures, but we can also review our specific counselor procedures like:

  • how to schedule a counselor visit
  • how to request or set up peer mediation
  • how to visit the classroom or school regulation space
  • how to use the items in the classroom or school regulation space
  • how to access supply or resource stores
  • what to do if you don’t have a snack/lunch
  • anything else specific to your school!

Want resources to set up a regulation space? Find something that works for you here.

Check out these behavior and academic expectations resources.

2 – Prioritize and Communicate Your Plan

We don’t want to get stuck in the hallway referral and request spiral, so it’s important to communicate your counseling program plan to staff and caregivers. We can let them in on when and how we will

  • administer SEL screeners
  • use SEL screeners to inform classroom lessons and group counseling
  • monitor and use behavior referral data (learn more about this in my webinar on data and progress monitoring)
  • teach classroom lessons and how we will reinforce this material outside of lessons
  • recruit and train peer mediators or leaders
  • set up time with them to discuss concerns and plan student supports

3 – Caregiver Reach Out

I find that front-loading information for caregivers goes a long way in setting the tone for the year. I want to let caregivers know a lot of the same info I’m giving to teachers but I’m more family-friendly terms. I typically include this info in the school newsletter, but whatever mass communication tool works best for you is great. I want families to know things like:

  • what school counselors do, what’s within our scope, etc.
  • how I’m supporting new year transitions for new and returning students
  • topics I’ll be covering in classroom lessons
  • what group/individual counseling are and why they’re good for students and support academic success
  • how I’ll reach out to them if the school team thinks their child could benefit from additional counseling support
  • how caregivers can contact me if they have questions or concerns
  • list of referral sources for a variety of needs

4 – Visiting Classrooms

During the first month, I make it a priority to be visible and present in the classrooms as much as possible! I do this formally and informally. Formally, I go in to introduce or reintroduce myself and let students know when I’ll be coming in regularly. This is a great time to review those procedures listed above too. Informally, I try to go in and just be present during the classroom community-building activities. I want students to know that what happens in the classroom is important to me too and I want them to know that I’m a part of the team and not just some person in a separate office working solo.

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