Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Reflections from the American School Counseling Association Conference

For those of you who follow the department's twitter feed (if you aren't yet, why not?), you may have noticed a few tweets lately with the hashtag #ASCA13. These are in relation to this year's annual conference of the American School Counselor Association, which has offered many wonderful opportunities for professional development and networking.
In addition to building contacts with some inspiring colleagues, I've also been (re)introduced to numerous resources:

However, the most important aspect of the conference has been the keynote and breakout sessions. Here are some highlights:

  • Chef Jeff Henderson shared his inspiring story about making poor choices as an adolescent and young adult, taking responsibility for his actions, and working hard to learn the ways and means of success in the adult world.
  • An elementary school near Philadelphia shared their experience with improving the overall performance of the school by providing opportunities for social justice, especially by incorporating more parent involvement into the success of the students.
  • Building networks of shared responsibility among all stakeholders is critical for a school's success.
  • A freshmen in transition program to help students get through this especially challenging year, through mentorship, checklists, and vibrant lessons.
  • edtrust.org offers valuable resources to help identify gaps in equity and college access.
  • Students whose parents did not attend postsecondary education are an increasing population, and there is no easily attained method for identifying this group, who already are at a deficit because they don't think about themselves as first-generation college students. PLEASE, if this is you, do not hesitate to inform your school counselor so that we can walk you through the process.
  • David Marcus, the author of "Acceptance," talked about his observation of the value in school counselors, because they (we) treat otherwise-discarded students as human beings. This is only possible when school counselors are in schools (unlike what is happening in Philadelphia schools) and with manageable caseloads (unlike what is happening in most of California).
  • A rich discussion about the value and impact of a comprehensive school counseling program that is Recognized as an ASCA Model Program (RAMP). We are going to try to get our program up to this level in 2013-14 with a goal to apply for RAMP in either October 2014 or 2015.
  • A presentation of many exciting and interesting visuals for captivating lessons to help keep freshmen engaged and understanding the importance of their first year of high school, especially understanding how different it is from middle school.
  • A detailed and in-depth conversation about the eligibility criteria for aspiring college student athletes, with an introduction to the more rigorous standards for students who are going to graduate from high school in 2016.
  • The last day will include a session on early-warning indicators for at-risk students, and a keynote presentation on aggressive behavior in girls, by Rachel Simmons, author of several books on this pervasive and frustrating issue.
Thank you to the BCPS Office of School Counseling for the opportunity to attend this conference, where so much professional development is possible.
Regardless of what career(s) you pursue, you should get involved in your professional association for the purposes of support and development. We are always growing. There are quite a few veteran school counselors who are in attendance and have been just as energetic about the opportunities for challenge and growth.
Post-secondary education of some sort may be your goal for high school, but it should definitely not be the end of your growth. In fact, there are many indicators pointing to how necessary it will be to have the skills and adaptability to evolve as a learner. Just think about how many careers are booming right now that were not even conceivable just 15 years ago.
Please help us provide a more supportive and comprehensive school counseling program, and complete the needs assessment later this summer. The link will be in the summer newsletter, and posted on twitter.