Living near Atlanta, there is always a sighting of a zombie or vampire. Passing near a movie set, you see crowds of teens watching scenes from Vampire Dairies or The Walking Dead. Truly being undead is the new rage. Although zombies are exciting in the movies, the idea of experiencing one in real life is pretty terrifying. Each year, a new group of freshmen come to high school terrified of their new environment. As a school counselor, we hope to be that person who advocates for them and orients them to the unwritten rules of the school. Unfortunately, if students do not know you exist or see you as this scary thing it is difficult for the school counselor to perform these roles. In fact, sometimes I feel like that scary zombie when I try to approach my freshmen because I haven’t taken the time to get to know them. So, instead of me looking for warm bodies, I want students to feel comfortable coming to me (well, at least not avoiding me).
Typically, the beginning of the year so is insane that it is virtually impossible to get to know your new students. As a high school counselor, there are many opportunities to meet our new students, but our time is often spent on too many administrative tasks. By the time a freshman is referred to the counselor, the student is often confused about our purpose for seeing him or her or too timid to let us into his or her world. It is important to take the extra time at the beginning of the year to introduce the role of the school counselor to our freshmen and their parents.
Here are some ideas of how high school counselors can introduce themselves to freshmen at the beginning of the year:
Make a good impression at Open House
One way to make a good impression is to be available to meet parents and students, talk to them, and provide helpful resources. One resource that you can provide is a Freshman Survival Guide that students can read before they start school on the first day.
Here is an example of a freshman survival guide produced on North Tonawanda High School Counseling site.
Greet students in the halls during the first week of school
A great way to encourage students to see you as a friendly presence is to be one of the smiling faces they see when they enter in the building in the morning.
Create a Freshman Parent/Student newsletter
The Counseling Geek provides a great video about the advantage of using Mail Chimp to create a newsletter for students and parents to subscribe at the beginning of the year. At open house, provide a information sheet for students and parents to complete so their emails can be gathered and/or provide the newsletter site.
Lunch with the School Counselor
Invite small groups of 9th graders to have lunch with their school counselor to learn about the role of the school counselor and give them academic, college/career, and personal/social information.
Here is an example of a power point presentation for freshmen by Brian Law of Valdosta High School.
Parent Coffee with the Counselor
Invite parents to join you for coffee after dropping off their students in the mornings for informational sessions. Here is a website advertising an informational coffee session with the school counselor. Below the website, there is a poster advertising a coffee with a middle school counselor for rising 9th graders.
Just taking some time to meet with our freshmen early can make a big difference in helping to form lasting and trusting relationships. If you have ideas to share about how you make connections with your freshmen at the beginning of the school year, I would love to hear them!