How Do You Map Out Your Entire Year as a High School Counselor?

I love lists. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t like lists, I love them. For me, a list will keep me on track and help remind me of where I’m going and what it is I set out to accomplish. A few years ago when I worked in the high school setting, I had an extensive list that outlined the year ahead pinned to the wall in front of my desk to help keep me on track and headed toward my goals; I called it my “Workshop Timeline” but here, I will call it my Yearly Calendar Outline. I had a lot of balls in the air, and it helped me to remember exactly where I needed to be spending my time.

Start by figuring out your goals for the year and then work backward by naming the events, groups, and classroom presentations that will support your efforts.  Most events occur at pretty much the same time every year—you can be pretty confident that November 1st of any given year will be the deadline for early college admissions applications and that your seniors will graduate sometime in May.  Start by writing down what you already know and then fill in the blanks.  Once you know the basic outline for the year, you’ll feel more relaxed and be able to handle the little (and big) stuff when it comes up.     

I spoke at a conference a few years ago and casually mentioned this list, and the response was tremendous. After the meeting, people emailed and called me to get copies and thanked me for helping them organize their programs. Apparently, I’m not the only one who likes lists. It’s a couple of years old, but I think a lot of it is still relevant.

Invite Speakers as Experts in Advance of the Date

You’ll notice that I’ve blocked out the name of my former school and a lot of names of speakers. Take note about the speakers—there are a lot of blocked out names. I hope that you are able to read between the lines here and realize that you don’t have to be the expert, you just have to find the expert and invite them to your school to speak to your students.

Have Events & Include Families

You’ll also notice that I had a lot of “nights” and events because we had an incredibly involved parent population and wanted to make the information available to them as well. When I wasn’t able to make it into the classroom, I found other avenues to get the information to my student population. We had breakout sessions, and our tech students videoed the sessions to share with parents who weren’t able to make it to the event.

Put Your Goals in Your Face

You can see at the top of the list that my goals were front and center. With such a demanding environment, I always had to ask myself if the project I was working on was getting me closer to one or more of my goals and if it wasn’t than perhaps I needed to stop and reassess my involvement in a particular project. You’ll notice that I had the title of the event or lesson (the ‘why’), the grades impacted, the dates it was to take place, and the location.  Each of the events was carefully selected and curated to help reach one or more of our overarching goals. 

Be Ruthless About What Goes on Your To-Do List

Kate Northrup, author of “Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms,” says that she runs each item on her to-do list through three filters that help her determine a particular item is genuinely worth her precious time. These three questions are so applicable to the work of a school counselor, and here they are: 1) Does it need to be done? 2) Does this need to be done by me? 3) Does it need to be done now? Friends, if we can start making those decisions before we get bogged down in the minutia of a particular task, we are going to save ourselves so much time and energy that might have otherwise been wasted.

Share Your Yearly Plan with Stakeholders

I shared this document with my administrative team and a few parents and teachers (individually) before the year began and asked them what needed to be added or removed. In hindsight, I wish I’d been bold enough to have had a School Counseling Advisory Committee review the plan for the year, but I wasn’t. I would strongly encourage you to be more confident than me and share your plan publicly. I have always had this fear that no one would care what it is that I’m doing or my program is doing, but as a parent, I know better now. Parents what to know what is happening and want/need that information communicated to them.