The 4th of July in Boston comes with sightseeing and fireworks. However, the real celebration happened just days before in the Veteran’s Memorial Arena where over 3,000 school counselors from the United States and around the world gathered for the American Association of School Counselors (ASCA) Annual Conference.
Positive energy radiated in the arena as many attendees were wearing shirts with messages reminding us that their title is school counselor not guidance counselor, or that the recommended student to counselor caseload is 250:1. Richard Wong, ASCA Executive Director posed questions for attendees to reflect on in his opening remarks. He stated, “The country may be divided but we are united in a common goal “School Counselors Build Better Humans!“
Being in Boston reminded attendees of the challenges faced in this city. Jeffrey Baumann’s keynote speech about the tragedy he endured losing his limbs at the Boston Marathon bombing was riveting. Jeffrey shared that from a difficult experience comes the chance for a new opportunity. The journey we take will come with hard work, pain, and times when we may want to give up, but the final positive outcome is the focus. For Jeffrey it was to live and walk again. For school counselors it is to continue their work with students.
This inspiring keynote set the tone for the workshops that followed. With an updated comprehensive school counseling model launched, school counselors were excited to share ideas. Learning is about what we do, not just how we do it. The main ideas presented in the conference encompassed a variety of areas such as:
MTSS and Interventions
- Social emotional programs such as suicide awareness, transition programs for all levels, understanding the adolescent brain, creating safe schools, and dog therapy.
- Collaborating with different mental health school-based providers to create action plans.
- Strategies for using solution-focus counseling, stress management, restorative practices, developing trauma sensitive schools, and for creating student focus groups.
- How to write lesson plans and understanding the importance of outcomes.
- Engaging students with different activities in the lessons.
- Incorporating the Mindset and Behaviors Standards as key concepts to learning.
- An updated model with new language, templates and resources for implementation focused on the work of a school counselor.
- Understanding changes in school systems and how to handle difficult situations as a growth process for school counseling.
- Embracing the opportunities and making the best of what task a school counselor is asked to do as the focus is the support for the student.
Several workshops also addressed college and career readiness, ethics, confidentiality and self-care for school counselors. Free time built into the schedule was a bonus to continue rich discussions with colleagues.
As the conference concluded, the days of learning connected with a broader theme: Building Better Humans with a Purpose — underscoring for school counselors their important role in school systems to collaborate, educate and inspire future generations.