Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Best Counselor Summer Ever

By: Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

The end of the school year is almost in sight.  You’ve seen a few students wearing shorts, the maple keys are starting to sprout into small trees on the far side of the school playground, and budget requests for next year have been returned—denied, but returned.
Welcome to summer!
While your contract may keep you in the office for a few days after the students are gone, your time off is on its way. As is the case with many things, school counselors usually don’t follow the advice they give their students when it comes to June, July and August.  If ever there was a time to practice what you preach, it’s now—so follow these simple steps to come back ready and refreshed in the fall:
Play for at least the first two days of vacation.  I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks convincing juniors that they really shouldn’t spend all summer working on college essays—not only does that process sound boring, but the essays they write over three months will sound boring, too.
The same thing is true for teachers.  There may be painting to be done, or summer school to be taught, but give yourself some time to appreciate how hard you’ve worked this year, and to remember what it’s like to have concentrated periods of fun.  That may mean sequestering yourself away with a good book, or catching up on Game of Thrones, or spending time with family—but whatever fun means to you, do it, and don’t look back or ahead.
This is June, not New Year’s Eve  I’m also amazed at the number of students who come by my office and swear next year will be different.  They’ll make the Honor Roll, they’ll get to class on time, they’ll eat the cafeteria food without complaint.  These resolutions may not involve smoking, drinking, or spending more time with the family, but they should sound familiar—they are goals that have no plan.
You may have ideas on what you’d like next year to be like, and that’s good—but counselors know that hope is just the start of a plan.  Dream big for the first part of the summer, but then pick a few reasonable goals for next year, and make plans to seek support, measure progress, and assess them on a regular basis.  Every 9th grader wants to go to Harvard; the 12th graders who do, do more than hope.  That’s true for growing counselors as well.
Watch your speed  Just like students, some counselors love their work because they go a million miles an hour in a typical work day, doing twelve things at once, usually with a high degree of mastery.  This may be a work habit borne by necessity, but even if it isn’t, you’re good at it, and it gives you a little buzz.
That’s great, but here’s a hint—you’re not at work anymore, and spending 3 “quality” minutes isn’t the same as 15 regular minutes in the eyes of your three year-old child, cat, or hydrangea bush.  We make a living encouraging people to build deep roots in relationships, and we know what happens to those who don’t.  Now is the time to remember what breathing sounds like; what real listening feels like, and what handmade bread tastes like.  If for no other reason, engage in these activities so you have fresh examples to share with your students next fall, when they want to know what it means to be at peace.

Gershwin wrote “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” Sing that song.

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