The school year goes by so fast. Before you know it, summer begins. How did you get there? What happened along the way? We don’t often take time to reflect on the challenges and successes achieved over the course of the school year. With the year wrapping up it is time to savor the work and moments that helped you grow, overcome obstacles and create new memories.
To accomplish this in small, easy increments, I keep a 365-page journal. In this journal, I treasure the daily events, including small things that happen. This helps me to remember the details of the full year. I take stock of personal and professional accomplishments including the counseling and professional development programs I have created and the resulting relationships I have with school counselors, teachers and staff. This daily exercise provides me a way to consider how I can better connect theory with actual practice. Using this space to take pictures of the beauty of my surroundings reinforces how thankful I am for each and every day.
As you reflect on your year, we want to share some ideas to help you take stock of your accomplishments:
Leverage data from the current year! All too often, staff and administrators get to the end of the year with a sigh of relief (deservingly so) and do not capitalize on the treasure trove of end-of-year data that exists in front of them. Spend two half-days reviewing outcome data either by yourself or by organizing data retreats. Assess the year’s performance and begin identifying student groups in need of support from day one of the upcoming school year. This will allow your team to begin delivering proactive services that are supportive and less reactive. Students in need of support will appreciate being supported from day one. If your team does not run many counseling or support groups, then challenge the team to begin running one in the next year and begin by creating it using student achievement data. Providing administrators with outcome success data is a powerful tool for demonstrating the effectiveness of your team. — Dr. Matthew Liberatore, LCPC, Senior Advisor
Seek feedback from students, parents and colleagues on what worked well and what didn’t. As a director of college counseling, I developed and delivered programs focused on college and career readiness for groups of students and their parents. This involved creating seminars and web based resources while also inviting post-secondary institutions to visit our school to support and inform students in this process. Given that there was not a dedicated block of time to deliver this instruction during the school day, I needed to partner with my teaching colleagues to identify and find opportunities to incorporate this learning into the school day with their help and support. Taking time to assess what worked well and what could be improved upon helped us all celebrate our successes and grow increasingly excited for the next school year. — Mary Docken, VP, Outreach
Write it Down
One summer as a school counselor, I attended a professional development workshop and completed a most enlightening exercise. It involved writing a letter to myself identifying what I hoped to achieve in the coming school year and what obstacles I might expect to encounter. When the school year was finished, I opened the letter and compared what I had written with what had actually happened. It was inspiring to see how I grew personally and professionally. Writing it down made a lasting impact. — Deborah Hardy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor
Create Opportunities to Celebrate
By each year’s end, I had put my Latin III & IV students through the ringer on countless timed exams, so I decided to convert the year-end final into a culminating exercise featuring everything students had learned about ancient Roman language, literature, history, and culture. In some years, students wrote and delivered Latin orations sentencing the Catilinarian conspirators while dressed in historically accurate garb of Roman senators. In other years, they wrote verses of Latin epic poetry and delivered dramatic lines while dressed as characters from the Aeneid. Students from introductory level classes were invited to observe these final Latin presentations — under the trees in my family’s front yard — in order to partake in celebrating the joy and competency these advanced students had developed through rigorous and inspired study. Following the presentations, we all broke bread with a Latin cena (meal), thus establishing a wonderful concluding memory for the academic year! — Patricia Gagnon, SVP, Programs & Practice
Review your yearly accomplishments to set a plan of action and new goals for the next year. As they say, the ending is a new beginning!