Are you ready to start your year off right?

If you are like me, the sight of a disorganized office or classroom is overwhelming and disorienting!

And the knowledge of an unorganized counseling or teaching program is worse!

For that reason, I have compiled a list of my top tips for how I tackle the first week back to school in order to have things ready by the time everyone returns! This list can also be referenced by admins such as principals and school counseling directors in order to guide their school counselors on what they should be doing their first few weeks on campus. So, let’s get started!


1. Set Up Your Office

Unpack all materials and set up your office/classroom. Just put everything you have in a place so that you feel somewhat comfortable in your space because it will all change as the year progresses anyway. Additionally, set up your waiting room/suite/lobby if you have one. To save time, call in a student helper who can come to the school and do this for you. Just make sure you get parent permission.(3-6 hours)


2. Update Your Contact Info

Change out your summer break phone/email message and return any phone messages, if necessary. Check work email and take care of any responses you need to send. (1-2 hours)


3. Make a To Do List

Make a TO DO list and write the tasks in your planner or Outlook Calendar or Smartphone or whatever you use to keep yourself organized.  Just put everything you have in a place so that you feel somewhat comfortable in your space because it will all change as the year progresses anyway. Here’s an example of my Beginning of the Year Counseling TO DO list. (1 hour- half day).


4. Meet With Your Team

Meet with your colleague (if you have one) to coordinate your activities/plan your lessons for the next two weeks and to set a weekly or monthly planning time to continue meeting regularly through the school year.  After, get your materials together. (2-3 hours counselors, 2-3 days teachers)


5. Post Up Your Schedule

Set up and make/email copies of your weekly schedule and yearly calendar/syllabus – post copies wherever you work, on your office door, and email/give to your administrators; it’s also good at this time to set up with admin a weekly or monthly meeting time that runs throughout the school year so everyone knows: what the American School Counseling Association (ASCA) recommends that you do, what amazing things you are actually doing, and what admin needs for you to do. (1 hour- IF you laid the foundation for this at the end of the 2016-17 school year with your admin.  If not and you need guidance- download ASCA’s Annual Agreement and walk through it with your admin.)


6. Plan Your Guidance Lessons

Plan your August/September guidance or character ed lessons and create your staff/student/parent needs assessments (that will guide the rest of your guidance lesson topics after September) if you didn’t get a head start on this at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Use your district or state mandated school counseling objectives to plan your first few lessons; excellent August/September lesson themes include: introductions, how to see the counselor, how to handle an emergency, and success in school. Here is a link to the first guidance lesson that I use to introduce myself to students and teach them about my role and how to access me. (1 day)


7. Create Your Staff Presentation

Create your Program Presentation to Staff and determine a time/date with your principal that you will present it to staff. There is a free downloadable template on my homepage of my program presentation. (half day)


Now go get started on that TO DO list.   Happy Planning!

Below are some photos of my counseling office and teaching space, in case you need some decoration ideas.


Stephanie Lerner
School Counselor, TEEN TRUTH

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