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Creating a School Counselor Culture

By Sue Arvidson | January 2023

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Why is it that everyone seems to have an idea of what school counselors should be doing with their time? If you feel like your administrators, teachers and other student support professionals are regularly asking you to do things that are non-counselor duties, it might be time to work on proactively creating a school counselor culture in your building or district.

Begin With a Plan
Where to begin? First, be very clear with yourself about your role in your building. Sometimes we need an honest assessment of how we are spending our time and what our priorities are. Do you feel that you have a proactive comprehensive program in place? If you are spending most of your time in responsive mode it is time to carve out a plan for yourself.
  • January is a great time to work on your annual calendar. If you started this in the fall, wonderful! Have you looked at it again? Go back to what you had planned and adjust your calendar to reflect what actually happened. What are your priorities for the remainder of the school year? Write them down!
  • Have you completed your Use of Time Calculator? This document is designed to help you to be aware of how you are actually spending your time and is essential data for advocacy.
  • Remember your Annual Student Outcome Goal Plan from last fall? This is a great time to do some progress monitoring on how your students are doing. What do you need to do to get yourself back into focus on this important work?
  • One last document to dust off is your Annual Administrative Conference form. You know the drill now – how are you actually doing compared to your plan from the fall?
After you have updated your documents, it is time to set up a meeting with your administrator. A mid-year refresher of your goals and priorities is helpful for everyone. Come with a proactive plan of how you can work to accomplish your goals in the second half of the year. What are the specific activities you want to implement? All-school events? Classroom lessons? Small groups?

Now that you have a proactive approach and some concrete plans in place, it is time to have some fun. We have the best job in the world! Do your colleagues, families and students see you as joyful and grateful for the work that you get to do? There is no doubt that our work is difficult, but it is also meaningful and fun. We get to be present with students every day – don’t forget what a privilege this is.

Celebrate Our Field
National School Counseling Week is a perfect opportunity to celebrate, share and showcase your work. Sometimes school counselors feel uncomfortable celebrating themselves, but remember, this isn’t about you personally – it is about highlighting the value of school counseling. Sharing treats is always appreciated! Thank your staff for their collaboration and take some time to let them know what you’re about. So many great ideas are out there, as a quick search of Pinterest will show. But remember to keep it simple – this should not be an additional stressor for you. Some mini candy bars and a few “Did you know…?” signs scattered around will suffice. For example:
  • “Did you know that school counselors have met with XX number of students this year?”
  • “Did you know that school counselors focus on academic achievement, social/emotional development and career and college readiness?”
  • “Did you know that school counselors couldn’t do their work without collaboration with school staff?”
Expand Your Message
Finally, think about ways to share the good news of school counselors with district leaders, your school board and your community. Some districts have counseling leaders who are helping with this work; others do not. No matter your situation, consider:
  • utilizing a social media account to promote events happening in your school counseling program
  • writing a note to your superintendent or school board to tell them a bit about your role and thank them for their support
  • offering to speak at a meeting for guardians
If all school counselors work on refining their roles in alignment with the ASCA National Model, sharing their plans and goals with others, celebrating their work with collaborators, and sharing all of this with decision makers, our profession would take a giant step forward in creating school and district cultures that support and elevate the work of a school counselor.

In our district, this work has led to tremendous growth in the number of school counselors over the years. It takes time and lots of collaboration, but it is worth the effort so that people truly understand how an outstanding school counselor can transform a school and make a powerful impact on all students.

Sue Arvidson is lead elementary counselor for St. Paul Public Schools in Minnesota and a member of the ASCA Board of Directors. Contact her at