December 2017

President's Letter: What Promotion Really Looks Like

By Emily Sallee
Did you know that Oregon’s student-to-school counselor ratio is the ninth highest in the nation? I doubt that surprises any of us, but instead wasting time trying to win the “I have a bigger caseload than you” competition, let’s ask ourselves what we can do about this atrocity. This issue of Outlook focuses on promoting your program, in terms of resources and approaches to use in advocating for your school counseling program and your role as a school counselor. What better way to address our infamous high caseloads than to advocate for MORE school counselors to do the amazing work you are doing each and every day?

When I think about the word “promote,” I think public relations, advertising and *gasp* politics. However, you have the potential to promote your program and your role every single day. By promoting yourself and your program, you will gain supporters, resources, collaborators, etc. And it shouldn’t take a lot of free time (if the phrase “extra time” is even in your school counseling vocabulary); it only needs to be intentional, well planned, and consistent.

Promoting to administrators, teachers and other building staff can look like participating in and even presenting at staff meetings, professional development opportunities and professional learning communities (PLCs). It might look like inviting your administrator(s) to be a guest in a lunch group or to observe a classroom lesson. Consider any opportunity for collaboration as a venue for promoting your program, particularly when you incorporate staff members into behavior support plans, interventions, celebrations, and mentor activities like Save-One-Student (SOS). The goal is for your building staff to see your value and contributions to ALL students every single day.

Promoting to parents can look like having a “Counselor Corner” in the school newsletter or paper. It can look like a counselor website (check out weebly.com!) and a bulletin board with resources. It can look like being a presence at school, in the hallways, cafeteria, recess, etc., and even at after-school or evening events. The goal is for parents of all students to know who you are, what you do and how to find you.

Promoting to district stakeholders can look like opportunities for outreach collaboration programs/activities, like Backpack Buddies, Holiday Help, and mentors. Include community leaders on your school advisory team and your building Crisis Response Team. If your district has a care coordination team (such as YST), participate in it; if it doesn’t, create one! The goal is for community members without students in your school to know who you are, why your school is awesome, and how they can help support ALL students.

Last but certainly not least, promote to your district stakeholders: your superintendent, human resources director, special services director, and school board. This can look like submitting photographs and content to be used on the district website. This can look like inviting these people to visit your school and be a guest in a lunch group or celebration activity. Remember, big kids like recess, too! Consider teaming with your administrator or school counseling colleague(s) to present at a school board meeting. The goal is for the decision-makers in your district to know who you are, what you do, and how they can help ALL students.

That’s a lot, right? But how much are you already doing? What other suggestions could you add to this list? School counselors are problem solvers. Team with your colleagues and delegate tasks. Only together can we create big changes. Summon your inner Eckhart Tolle and remember, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” Go forth and promote your awesomeness! 

Contact Emily Sallee, OSCA president, at president@oscainc.org