That very first day on your own. It's hard to forget. When you're in grad school, all you want to do is finish your internship and land a great job. When that happens, there is a massive sense of relief - you did it! Everything is working out!

Well, that feeling lasts until you watch the sea of little faces fill the hallways in waves and waves and WAVES. There are kindergartners crying, new students trying to find their way, and worried parents who want this year to go better than the last. Suddenly, you are expected to help and there is no school counseling supervisor to look over you any longer. I remember thinking, Am I actually qualified to do this job? Which is ironic because I spent my whole job search convincing myself I was.
I don't know about you, but in my school counseling program, we had to analyze films that had counseling scenes in them and reflect on the techniques and level of success that the counselor had with his or her client. It's easy to critique someone else's performance than create your own. If I watched 50/50 (above) during grad school, I probably would have laughed at how Anna Kendrick's character handled her first counseling session. She looks uncomfortable and follows the basic script we all learn when we start our counseling programs. In essence, it's fake.

However, I watched 50/50 post grade school, so my reaction was a little different. In many ways, I saw myself in Kendrick's character. I remember my first school counseling session, trying to figure out what to do and say. This feels awkward, should I say something? They are being really quiet, what should I do? How long should I let them talk before I wrap things up and send them back to class? It's funny how quickly things change.

Now, I feel like I can handle most of what comes my way. I am learning the fine art of listening and guiding, being supportive and firm. I know which students just need to vent and which need more advice. I know which teachers need time to talk about their difficult students and which ones need some space. I am certainly not perfect, but each day I am becoming a better version of Marissa 1.0, the newbie who had no idea what she was getting herself into.

I say this not to scare you, but in fact, to help you feel less alone. It's okay to be scared out of your mind sometimes. It's okay to not know all of the answers. I am only going into my 5th year of school counseling, but I can say each year is better than the last. You grow more than you ever could have imagined and soon become a strong, self-sufficient machine, in the best of ways.
As you gear up for this school year, know that not every session will go well (see video on the right), and that's okay. It's about the connections you make. If you feel nervous and stumble over your words, your students will forgive you as long as they know that you care. I promise!

So, when you see the waves of kiddos flooding your halls in a few weeks, you can choose to sink in your own self-doubt or kick until you reach the surface. Not literally. You know what I mean. ;)

Oh yeah, and don't forget: There are a lot of school counselors out there who can lend you a pair of floaties.
Last week, the elementary school counselors in my district organized a "Best and Brightest" event where each of us shared our favorite individual, small group, classroom, and school-wide counseling strategies from the 2012-2013 school year. Needless to say, it was AMAZING! We typed up our notes for our records and provided each other with hard copies and electronic copies of our resources. I highly encourage this event!

Due to the success of my own district's "Best and Brightest," I thought I'd host the same event with all of you! This time, I picked my 10 favorite tools from this year (not including my ultimate favorite, Tim...that's for another blog post!). Enjoy!

Get My "Top 10"


Share Your Favorites

To participate in the Linky Party:
Create a blog post titled "Best and Brightest 2012-2013"
Place the Linky Party logo (left) in your post.
Describe your favorite strategies from 2012-2013
Submit your blog post link (below). Be sure to link to the actual post, not your homepage.

If you do not have a blog, just share your strategies in the comment section.


Office Tour



Why not personalize your beginning of the year lesson with a short office tour?

I created this video with a Sony Bloggie Touch camera, Format Factory (to convert the video file to WMV), and Windows Movie Maker.

Like the puppet shown in the video? Check out my "Adventures with Tim" program here. Tim is a wonderful addition to my school counseling program because not only do the kids love him, they also learn from him.
I went back to school today and let's be honest, I was a little nervous about my summer vacation officially ending. While I feel more confident with each passing year, I am still a bit apprehensive about jumping back into the countless demands placed on a school counselor's shoulders.
Ready or not, I started the day with a district meeting. As I walked through the doors, I saw my fellow school counselors. Everyone was excitedly talking about new ideas, plans for the year, and other fun updates to their programs. Then, one of my colleagues handed me a beautiful picture (left); she made one for each elementary school counselor. Talk about a fabulous way to start a new school year!

I love having a close group of school counselors to bounce ideas off of and to lean on when things get rough. We have been through a lot together - I am lucky to have such a great group of friends.
To top it off, we decided to have a Pinterest craft party this Thursday. We'll be making some of our favorite Pinterest projects together so we are ready to start the year. In order to keep my lovely web followers in the loop, I'll be taking some video of the party so you can see how everything turns out. I hope we don't end up with items suitable for "Pinterest Projects Gone Wrong." Stay tuned!
Recently, I have been receiving a lot of questions from my readers regarding the start of the school year. Whether you are getting ready for your very first year as a school counselor or are just starting at a new building, it can feel overwhelming. Where do you begin? What should you focus on? Well, here are a few of my ideas:

Building Relationships

Without positive relationships with your students, staff, and parents, you will not be able to accomplish much. School counselors are a resource for EVERYONE. Your school family must feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns and should look to you for support.
I recently posted a video podcast (left) about building relationships. In the video, I share a few ways that I have formed strong bonds with my students, staff, and parents.

For additional ideas, check out the following links:

Organizing Counseling Materials

I have found it helpful to have a routine, especially with my individual and small group counseling sessions. Students know the expectations, but have some freedom to choose how they wish to express themselves. Here are a few of my favorite and most used materials:
3. Art Supplies
5. Stress Balls

Documentation Prep

Documenting can be one of the most stressful parts of the job, simply because we often must push it aside to handle more pressing concerns. Then, we may let it go until there is a huge pile of paperwork to manage.
Just like with counseling materials, you should have a routine for your documentation. In June, I posted a video podcast (left) about how I record my session data.

For additional ways to document and promote your efforts, check out the following links:
Award Opportunities
(Bottom of Resource List)