Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Putting New Life in Scheduling Time

By:  Patrick O'Connor  Ph.D

The task school counselors love to hate is back.  No matter how often we point out that we never had a graduate course in Scheduling, principals find a way to make sure our winter months are filled with bubble forms and spreadsheets, as we put our patience and high school Geometry skills to the test, and begin to talk with students about next year’s schedule.

This activity isn’t completely without its benefits, since it gives us time to talk directly with students, but there isn’t a single counselor who gets to late March and says “There has to be a better way to do this.  By then, it’s time to move on to spring testing (another duty that wasn’t part of the graduate school curriculum), so we jot a few notes down, and hope some free time will emerge that allow us to tweak the scheduling process, if only a little—and when that time appears, it’s July.

It’s time to make the time rather than simply hope it appears.  As you prepare to take on scheduling this year’s students for next year’s class, see if any of these tips can make the process more student-centered.

Flipping the scheduling process.  Experienced counselors look at high school scheduling and see two huge time wasters.  The first one involves asking the student what they want to take; this usually occurs in the counselor’s office, before the student has seen any of the scheduling materials, or given any thought about their courses for the next year.

The easiest way to avoid this is to make sure the student comes prepared to discuss the choices they’ve already made.  By making scheduling materials available to students well before the counselor meeting, students will have time to consider their choices, discuss them with their parents, and come up with questions they might have before they appear in your office.  Call it homework, or call it flipping the scheduling process, this approach puts students in the driver’s seat, and requires a degree of proactivity that can make a world of difference.

Submit the schedule ahead of time.  The second step in this process goes even further, and requires the student to submit a rough draft of their schedule before their meeting with the counselor.  This approach asks the student to make some initial decisions, requiring them to evaluate their priorities on their own.  It also gives the counselor an opportunity to review each schedule ahead of time and prepare their questions before meeting with the student. This can be especially helpful if the meeting usually includes a review of progress towards graduation.  Checking the student’s rough draft against the graduation template before the meeting allows the counselor to prepare other recommendations if the student is missing a required course, or create time for a second graduation review during the meeting—and checking twice is never a bad idea.

Using scheduling time for real counseling.  This plan ahead process creates an opportunity for counselors and students to use scheduling time for a greater purpose.  After reviewing the student’s choices, and the rationale being those choices, the conversation can move past the logistics of scheduling, to include deeper discussions about career interests, college plans, summer activities, and more.  This makes the activity of schedule building less about classes, and more about students—and that’s always a good thing.  

No comments:

Post a Comment