My first year as a school counselor I had an administrator who had never done the job I was doing and no mentor assigned by the system. I know I could have done better and not felt so lost if I had a mentor, coach, or just someone else in the same position I was for advice, collaboration, and support. My school system has a Teacher Mentor Program and counselors get assigned another counselor as a mentor. However, all mentors are trained in a basic model that is designed for classroom teachers. I have also supervised many practicum and interns for various universities so I have had training to do that type of counseling supervision. I have also attended supervisor training at our state counseling association conference. I have taught practicum at a local university in the school counseling program so I have many ideas and experiences to reflect on what works and what does not.
Here are my main thoughts about what a mentor can and should do for a novice school counselor to make the induction experience ideal:
1) Don't agree to be a mentor/coach unless you have the time to commit. The past few years my school was over-crowded so I did not mentor; however, this year our enrollment is much lower and I feel I have the time, energy, and desire to do so.
2) Teach novices routine school procedures and district policies and best practices. Hopefully the district provides all new counselors training on risk assessments and referrals for child abuse, if not that should be a priority. If the counselor is in another building, encourage them to identify someone in their building who has been there awhile to seek guidance about building specific routines and expectations. At my first elementary school I asked the librarian most of my questions because my office was right next to the library.
3) Provide ongoing guidance related to lesson planning and classroom management. Unless the novice is a former teacher, this can be a struggle. Encourage them to use the ASCA Model lesson plan template unless the school requires a different format.
4) Provide observation, sharing, and collaboration throughout the first year. Offer to let the novice observe you and then observe them and provide lots of feedback. An alternative is to video lessons and review them together at a convenient time. Video seems awkward but it provides such great feedback and opportunity for professional growth.
5) Be transparent about how you organize and conduct your school counseling program. Share copies of letters, agendas, session plans, calendars, so that the novice has a starting point to make their own.
Finally, be available to just listen. Encourage the novice to share and reflect as they learn and grow throughout the year.