“Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example.” – Senator Cory Booker
This is one of our favorite quotes, especially when it comes to school counselors. School counselors may not realize the power they hold in their roles. They may lack confidence, fear of getting in others’ lanes, not feeling they have a voice, or not knowing where to start. Something we have often shared with school counselors is that you can’t wait for an invitation to the leadership table, you have to make and take your place. How school counselors do this is critical. There is a balance of respectfully doing so while taking initiative. Here are strategies to help create your seat at the leadership table.
Intentionally build a relationship with your administrator.
Many administrators may not understand the role of a school counselor. Building the school counselor–administrator relationship is key to creating change. This begins with trust, established through shared experiences and positive interactions. It can be summed up as: Be available, be consistent and be a servant leader.
Be Visible and Transparent
Being visible and transparent with your administrator and staff is a powerful strategy. Simple steps you can take include:
Be visible at drop-off or dismissal, visit students at lunch and be in classrooms.
Maintain an open-door policy whenever possible. We need to close our doors at times to serve an individual student or small-group session, but a closed door should not be the image of the school counselor.
Establish mobile office days or times. This is done by utilizing a rolling desk and working from different parts of the building.
Share/post your calendar or schedule each week/month. This allows administrators to see where you are spending your time and what your program priorities are. It is important to be diligent in your scheduling. Remember, if you don’t have control over your calendar, someone else will.
Schedule intentional touch-base meetings with administrators. This helps to align the administrator’s campus vision with the goals of the school counseling program. It facilitates a team approach and builds a valued and trusted partnership. This also provides opportunities to discuss how your role can best serve the needs of the campus.
Authors Melanie (left) and Melissa (right) get visible.
Present a United Front
The school counselor's office often becomes a safe spot not only for students but for staff. Although it is important for school counselors to be able to support staff and hear their concerns or frustrations, it is vital that we do not contribute to or exacerbate those frustrations. We can provide support while still maintaining our professional obligation to the leadership team.
See a Need and Fill a Need
In a school building, everyone is busy. Our job as a school counselor is to be an ambassador of empathy to those around us. Instead of saying, “That's not my job” or “I’m too busy,” we should be looking for opportunities to serve those in our care. When we take the time to see a need and fill a need, we are establishing ourselves as team players. Although not always easy, it allows us the opportunity to put deposits in our “trust buckets” for the times that our doors are closed or we have to say no to some requests.
Have a Plan and Follow Through
Nothing creates distrust more than broken promises, unmet expectations and confusion. Although some circumstances are outside of our control, it is important that we work diligently to be true to our word, sincere in our efforts and creative in implementing systems that are easy to find, follow and explain.
Make MTSS Your BFF
MTSS is at the heart of student success. Administrators understand the value of MTSS in regard to the academic success of students. It is our job to speak the language of MTSS so that administrators understand our role in the process.
Speak administrators’ language:
We are not just providing SEL Lessons, we are delivering quality Tier 1 instruction.
We are not just “hosting a lunch bunch,” we are providing Tier 2 intervention.
It is not about dramatically changing what you do, it's aboutcommunicating differently, so that others better understand what you do.
MTSS provides clarity and advocacy regarding your program’s role in student success.
MTSS helps you be proactive by knowing what students need and intentionally creating a system to meet those needs.
We all know that school counselors are vital to student success. The easiest way to increase effectiveness is with the support of administrators. Our voice is crucial and finding your seat at the leadership table is worth making some simple changes. Those small changes can have the biggest impact.