Thursday, August 8, 2013

Regaining Confidence

With exactly one week left of summer before I am back in my office for my second year as an elementary school counselor in Vermont, right up until my shower (where I do some of my best reflection) last night, I was feeling even more overwhelmed than I was last year at this time. As my fantastic co-counselor/mentor/friend/lifesaver, Rebecca, pointed out, this was because last year, I was oblivious. I didn't know what I wasn't prepared for. This year, I'll have about 40 additional students, more responsibility, and as Johnathon, a "fellow" school counselor so aptly pointed out on his blog, less room for error. As he wrote, "Last year was new and shiny. If I made a mistake, it was easy to revert back to the ol' 'oh I'm new- whoops!'" I also have the weight on my shoulders of everything that I didn't get to this summer. I had a long, unrealistic list of things that I wanted to accomplish this summer (including two 4-day conferences and course work for 4 credits), not recognizing that I would really need the time to decompress and re-energize after a challenging (but fulfilling) first year.

Once I accepted the fact that I would be going into the school year with that long list of things to do (okay, I'll be honest, there's actually at least 4 lists) still hanging out in my folder, I also had to remind myself of my own blog post from February, and Rebecca's "pep talk" from the School Counseling on Air Back to School Chat (which I'm literally watching AS I write this blog post (multitasking queen)).

My current workspace
(note the broken laptop monitor --
apparently the year took a beating on it too).
I do A LOT. And even on days that I don't feel like I got a lot done, I was there, and I was a comforting person, and I gave a boost to someone. So I may not have written up my Drugs and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Unit for Rebecca to use this year, or decided on a way to keep notes on students, or prepared for our presentation at the VT School Counselor Association conference this year, but I am going to be there on the first day of school, refreshed and ready to give hugs and high fives to my "old" students, dry my new kindergarten students' (and parents') tears, and calm nerves, just by being a familiar, helpful face.

There were so many awesome moments at the end of the school year last year that made me realize that just being there is enough, from thank you notes and hugs from parents and my 5th graders, to a little moment at field day, when one of my neediest 1st graders was looking around for someone to help him open his popsical wrapper and when he locked eyes with me, he said to himself, "Oh, yeah, Miss Wheeler. She always helps me because she's nice." It wasn't particularly grand or eloquent, but for some reason, it really hit me. I'm nice, and I help. And if that's all my students learned from me last year, that was enough.

And with that, I'm ready (and excited) to start my second year. Maybe I'll even remember to take time to blog :-).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Snow Day Reflections on Time

As I sat, bundled up in my bed on this snow-less snowday, the time slipped by, and before I knew it, it was 3:00pm and I had gotten (essentially) nothing done (other than clean my room, eat some scrambled eggs, watch The Holiday, and play Words with Friends). This realization brought me to another -- every day of the work week, I have accomplished so much by 3:00pm, something I love about my job.

By 3:00pm on a typical day, I've taught at least one (usually two) class council lesson, run at least two (usually three) lunch groups, scarfed down my breakfast, tea, and (if I'm lucky) my lunch, seen at least three (usually four) kids individually, consulted (at least briefly, and sometimes, at length) with all eight of the classroom teachers in grades 1, 3, and 5, spoken multiple times with my co-counselor, the principal, the school-based clinician, the behavioral gurus, the secretary, the nurse, and others, and usually attended at least one (but almost always more than one) meeting.

I've checked my email, zipped coats, responded to concerned parents, tied shoes, made referrals to outside counselors, comforted 1st graders ashamed of new glasses and 5th graders questioning their identity, prepped for the next day's individual, group, and classroom sessions/lessons/meetings, laughed a lot, observed students in classrooms, had tough conversations, helped implement behavior plans, decorated bulletin boards (who am I kidding, I haven't changed a bulletin board since November or December), responded to crises, and pushed Kindergarteners (who pretend they don't know how to pump) on the swings at recess duty.

And sometimes, it's just nice to write all of that down. Maybe I'll come back and look at this on the days where I feel like I'm not doing enough. I could always be doing more, but I'm confident that I'm doing a lot, I'm doing the best I can, and I'm developing strong relationships with lots of my students. And that will have to be enough for now.