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Navigating Streams of Paper.

Counselors can easily find themselves drowning in a flood of paperwork. This counselor uses some lifesaving organizational tools that have saved her from being swamped by the numerous notes, forms and other papers that she must navigate through each day.

"I have so much paperwork that I've little time to actually counsel," is the lament of many school counselors. In my position as a middle school guidance counselor, every day brings new knowledge, new challenges and more paperwork. Sometimes the volume of paper and array of duties can be overwhelming. With three years behind me, I sometimes still feel like a novice, but I've discovered three tools that provide organization and sanity in my busy, demanding guidance position. These three lifesavers are:

* A three-ring binder

* daily log

* A tickler file

Three-Ring Binder

This is very helpful for organizing the sundry notes and sample forms that begin accumulating from the first day on the job. Initially, I started with a 1-1/2-inch binder, but before the end of the year, I had expanded to a three-inch binder.

The following arrangement has served me well, but each situation will be different, so use what seems applicable to your given circumstances. I've listed just a few examples of documents you might place behind designated dividers.

Inside front cover sleeve:

Place blank, three-hole-punched log sheets.

Within binder, front to back:

1) Log sheets in date order, with the most current logs forward

2) Clear sleeves containing

- school map

- bell schedule

- lunch schedule

- faculty and staff roster

- magazine clippings on stress management (Hey, it's your book--put anything legal you want in it!)

3) Labeled dividers

* beginning of the year--orientation dates, notes on class lists and teachers desiring to do homebound or tutor

* computer data--notes to help you navigate your computer system

* end of the year--copies of end-of-year forms given to teachers to complete, your own to-do lists and failure notice information

* Exceptional Student Education (ESE)--ESE class hours calculated list, grade class lists of ESE students and ESE forms with other notes written directly on them

* ESE referrals--procedural outline, referral forms with notes recorded on them and notes pertinent to referral process

* General--This section is for everything that doesn't fit elsewhere. These may be separate divisions if you have enough information on any one area--homebound and home schooling information; sample forms of child study team report and referral for county mental health; attendance policy; dress code policy; phone, fax machine and copier operation. (Obviously, I'm not mechanically oriented!)

* Individual Educational Plan (IEP) and staffing meetings--examples of parent letters, notes on required forms, who attends, what to do if a parent requests a student be removed from the program, what to do after IEP/staffing and notes on gifted program

* Limited English Proficient (LEP)--notes on meanings of terms like LY (student is being served in the program), LZ (student can cope in regular classroom), tracking procedures and structure of LEP committee

* Registering--example of forms and list of items needed to register (birth certificate, health record, proof of residence)

* Scheduling--copy of master course schedule (I keep a separate working schedule in my desk tray.), notes on changing and withdrawing students from classes, and retained student list

* Testing--guidelines for participation in state and district assessments and alternative assessments

* 504/Academic Instruction Plan (AIP)--notes on who qualifies for plans and procedures for scheduling meetings to serve or dismiss a student

Daily Log

During your internship to become a guidance counselor, it is usually required that you complete a log of your time and activities for the necessary hours. Although I had not observed any of my mentors keeping track of their daily activities, it was a useful device that this avid journalist has found beneficial on more than one occasion. The most important data to record are names and dates.

Though I have never verbally referred to my log as evidence, I have on many occasions been able to say, "On `such and such' a date, I saw `so and so' or I mailed `such and such.'"

Consider this tool a private journal rather than a public record. It is not meant as legal evidence but as a personal crutch to maneuver around the variety of tasks and interruptions a Counselor must handle. A daily log gives me peace of mind, if nothing else. I refer to it time and again to see if I have completed an activity; which students were referred, when; what date I counseled a particular child; and if, or when, a teacher memo was sent.

Here is a short version of my log sheet:
Counselors Log For: --

Time Activity


Tickler File

I have six hanging file folders at the very front of my desk file drawer, where they are easily accessible. They are labeled for the five workdays--Monday through Friday--and "Next Week." Their purpose is to provide an easy method of follow-up and a quick start for the day, as well as preventing misplacement of important papers. Simply go to the appropriate day of the week and complete the work within that folder. Mondays are the day to also look at the "Next Week" folder then distribute its contents among the daily folders.

These three simple tools, followed faithfully, can help beginning counselors navigate the new job territory. They will help the experienced counselor tame the growing encroachment of the paper jungle and lessen the strain of accountability to students, parents, teachers and administrators.

Cheryl Bennett-Abney is a middle school counselor in Clewiston, Florida. Before becoming a counselor three years ago, she taught high school business courses for 18 years.
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Title Annotation:organizational tools for the school counselor
Author:Bennett-Abney, Cheryl
Publication:Techniques
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Words:928
Previous Article:Setting the Course.
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