2013 Graduation

Over the past few days, we have celebrated the achievements of those who strive to help others achieve their fullest potential – the School Counseling class of 2013!  On Sunday, we had graduation at the Bank of America Pavilion in the seaport district of Boston, where Bob Kraft shared the advice to ‘not follow others advice’.  On Monday, the Suffolk School Counseling Student Association held a celebration at Jerry Remy’s, also in the seaport!

I wish our 14 graduates continued success!

2013 graduates at the Bank of America Pavilion

2013 graduates at the Bank of America Pavilion

2013 graduates at Jerry Remy's, the 'fun' picture (thanks Jane!)

2013 graduates at Jerry Remy’s, the ‘fun’ picture (thanks Jane!)

2013 graduates at Jerry Remy's, the 'serious' picture

2013 graduates at Jerry Remy’s, the ‘serious’ picture

A first year’s perspective

My name is Katie Adler and currently I am a first year student in the MED program for school counseling/certificate in college admissions counseling. I graduated from Wheaton College in May, with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in education. When I started my undergraduate career, I always knew I wanted to go into education, in what facet however I wasn’t sure. By minoring in education I was able to get a taste of the multiple different roles, whether it was a teacher, special education aid, or school counselor. Quickly I realized that what I loved most was actually the one-on-one individualized time I had with students and the ability to help them better understand their true potentials. From this realization, along with the knowledge that my psychology degree gave me, I decided that school counseling would be the perfect fit.

After finally deciding on the concentration that I believe fits all my passions for education, I started to look at programs. The first thing that caught my eye about Suffolk’s program is the fact that you can also receive a certificate in college admissions counseling. To me, college planning is such a prevalent part of the high school plan, and because of that I really think it will be useful to have that specific knowledge when figuring out the best way to help students explore their options. I’m looking forward to completing these courses over the summer.

So far in the program, however, I have had the opportunity to complete 40 hours of pre-practicum observations. Through these observations, I was able to shadow school counselors first hand and get a glimpse of what modern day school counseling actually entails. The most surprising outcome, from participating in these observations, was that not one school was the same. Each school had their own program and or curriculum that they implemented and all had different methods to help students in the educational setting. I also saw a big difference between the counseling goals at the middle school level and at the high school level; putting the question in my head, what type of atmosphere would I feel most comfortable in? I will have the opportunity to do 35 more hours of observations next semester, and I feel that this experience will really give me a great idea of what kind of school, whether it be middle school, high school, urban, or suburban, would make me happiest to counsel in.

Along with completing these observation hours, I will be looking for an internship for my second year in the program, where I will complete my practicum. I think that being able to feel out each school and decide which one fits you best is a great way to get you to make the most out of your internship experience. Although this has only been my first semester in the program, it has been a great experience so far and I am looking forward to what comes next.

Finding an Internship Site

As early as January and February, first year students completing their observation hours begin to think about their internship site for the following year. While focused on the day-to-day tasks on our plate for our current classes, we are also eager and anxious to find an internship for next year. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Suffolk’s pre-practicum observation hours are set up in a unique way that requires students to visit several different types of schools. The purpose of that structure is to allow students a more comprehensive picture of school counseling in different settings but also to help them identify the type of school that they might like to intern at and work in after graduation.

Before even beginning my observation hours, I had my eye on a few different schools where I thought I might want to do an internship. I quickly reached out to those schools to complete observations and enjoyed myself at each one of them. I thought that I would like doing an internship at any of the sites based on the people that I had the chance to meet and what I observed at each one. Knowing that you’ll be spending a lot of time with your supervisor at the school, it is important to feel like you got along with them before signing up for an internship. I felt that way at each of the three schools I was considering. So I had to think a little bit more critically about the best place for me.

The primary reason I was thinking of these three schools was because I work full-time for a non-profit college access program. Many of our students attend these three schools and I thought it would be a nice natural overlap between my job, where I planned to continue to work, and my internship. So I knew that each of these internship sites would be a natural extension of the work I had been doing for the past few years. What I needed to consider next was the school that I thought would have the biggest impact on my future.

I thought about each of the three schools and finally settled on one because I thought I would leave the school and enter the workforce in a year with the most transferrable skills. The school has a diverse population and is an urban public school. It is, however, a relatively competitive school with a focus on college that is represented by the guidance department. I thought that this would give me the necessary experience to work in urban public schools as well as schools with a strong focus on college after graduation. I decided to ask if I could come back for a second observation to make sure.

That second visit confirmed my feelings that I did want to intern there. When I asked about openings for interns for the following year, they said they had already chosen their interns. I was surprised because it was only January but understood that they had already gone through the process. The director of guidance did say that there was one counselor, who was a Suffolk graduate, who might be able to take on an intern and that I should contact her. I did and she suggested that I come back a third time for an observation visit to work out the details of the internship because she hadn’t had an intern before. At the end of the visit, we decided that I would be an intern there the following year. After three visits, we were both sure that this was the right decision.

The truth is that we can’t predict if our internship site will set us up for the necessary experience to get a job after graduation. We don’t know where the job openings will be and exactly what experience employers will be looking for. That said, I do feel that I have found a guidance office with a culture I feel comfortable in and that I believe will provide me the opportunity to develop valuable skills for my future as a school counselor. I am thankful for the opportunity to observe at so many different types of schools and make connections with graduates of the Suffolk program in order to help me find the internship I wanted.

Interested in hearing more about the Suffolk M. Ed. in School Counseling? Attend an info session on April 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Omni Parker House. Find out more at the Suffolk graduate admission website!

Final Projects in School Counseling

Working with adolescents allows me to repeatedly hear my students’ exasperated voices ask the question, “but when am I ever going to have to know this in real life?” I try to come up with answers as often as I can, but I have to admit that sometimes they are right. In high school and even college it is sometimes the case that final exams, papers, and presentations are full of information that you may never need to know again. However, as this semester comes to a close at Suffolk, I have reflected on the usefulness of the final projects that I handed in. When I am able to step back from my work, it occurs to me: I will definitely use this again!

In my Child and Adolescent Development course, my final project was to create a guidance seminar on a topic of our choice. We were to present it to our class as if we were school counselors presenting it to the families of our students. My partner and I chose to create a seminar on stress and how families can help adolescents learn to manage stress. Based on the information we had learned this semester, we were able to put together some physiological and developmental explanations for why adolescents may experience stress differently than adults, hopefully helping adolescents and their families understand each other a little better. Though the “families” in this case were our peers, I became acutely aware of our role of educating families and other stakeholders in children’s lives about their development and how to best work with them. After explaining what was going on in adolescents’ brains, we went on to provide some knowledge about typical stressors for high school students and some concrete suggestions for how families could help. At the end of it, I walked away with a true understanding of the potential impact school counselors could have by sharing what they know with families, students, and faculty members. I also walked away with a presentation on stress management that I could give to families tomorrow if I needed to. I can bring this to job interviews to show how ready I am for the job and I feel more confident in my abilities to present to families should I get the opportunity in my internship or in a future job.

In another course, Action Research, we were charged with the task of conducting research at our internship sites or jobs and presenting our findings to our peers. In the current landscape of education, school counselors (among other educators) are being asked to become more accountable for their work. They are expected to show how their work has impacted the school or the academic achievement of the students by using data. This was a perfect opportunity for us to practice so that we could enter the field with the appropriate research and analysis skills. I chose to analyze the impact of a summer intervention on summer learning loss in the middle school students that I work with. The content of the Action Research course gave us all of the knowledge that we needed to set up a research design, conduct the research, analyze the results, and share them with our peers. I appreciated walking around the room and hearing about the results of each of the research projects my peers conducted at their internship sites. It allowed me to see just how important data is to our work and how prepared we will all be to use it to benefit our future students and schools!

These are just two examples of the practical skills that I have gained in my Suffolk classes. I also have an entire curriculum that I created in my Groups in Schools class, videos of myself completing a counseling session, and will soon have sample college recommendations after completing my summer classes this year. A few people have asked me if I think I will be prepared to enter the field after my graduate program. I suppose I can’t say for sure until I get there, but I do feel ready based on the work I am doing. Finals week is a little more bearable when you know you are gaining valuable skills that you’ll need in the future!

Please feel free to contact me at mkay@suffolk.edu if you have questions about the program at Suffolk!

School Counselor Observations

My name is Melanie Kay and I am a part-time graduate student in the combined M.Ed School Counseling and College Admissions Counseling Certificate Program at Suffolk. Because I am completing the program part-time, it will take me three years to complete and I am currently in my second year. Though it is sometimes difficult to balance, I am so grateful that I am able to complete the program part-time, while continuing to hold a full-time job. This requires a little bit of flexibility on the part of my job, but the schedule of the Suffolk classes also makes this possible.

Now, in my second year, I am in the process of completing my pre-practicum observation hours. The Suffolk program approaches the 75 hour pre-practicum component required for licensure in Massachusetts in a different way than many programs and I feel as though I am learning quite a bit as a result of that. Suffolk requires students to observe at a variety of different school sites rather than setting up a regular weekly placement at a school (that will come next year when I complete my internship) in their first year. So far I have had the chance to observe at an three urban public high schools – two in Boston and one outside of Boston, two independent high schools, and a charter middle school. It has become apparent to me that the guidance department is a clear window into the culture of a school.

I find it so interesting to be able to observe the real life application of concepts that we have discussed in classes or heard about in the news. At one observation, I had the chance to observe a freshman guidance seminar where students were learning about bullying. Because of the new Massachusetts state law, schools are required to have a bullying policy. Though much of the attention can be on the consequences of bullying in schools, I was glad to have the opportunity to witness some of the prevention programs that schools are employing. This school was addressing bullying in the seminar but, being aware that students had been inundated with bullying information lately, they reframed the lesson to be about respect. It was so encouraging to be in a few classrooms of freshman who were so eagerly discussing the concept of respect and brainstorming very real situations and potential solutions within their own school community. In that same freshman seminar, the counselors took a few minutes to make sure the freshman remembered the limits to confidentiality when they talk to a counselor and to remind them of study habits they had discussed in previous seminars. It reminded me of the wide range of areas that the school counselor is involved in at a school and in the students’ lives.

As I continue to observe at different schools, I look forward to picking an internship site for next year where I will spend 2-3 days each week. With the knowledge of the schools that I am gaining, I feel confident that I will pick an internship site that will prepare me for the type of school I want to work in after graduation. I look forward to posting more updates as I continue to observe at schools and explore the career of school counseling! Please feel free to contact me at mkay@suffolk.edu if you have questions about the program at Suffolk!

Snow Days and Second Semester

For those of you in New England, I’m sure you’ve heard all about the snowstorms hitting the Boston area. As a result, we’ve had several snow days. However, all this snow in the beginning of 2011 has reminded me how fun snow days can be! While I may not be saying that in June, getting up and checking the TV for cancellations does have a certain thrill to it. The beginning of 2011 also marks my last semester here in Suffolk’s School Counseling program. My internship at Watertown High School continues this semester and it’s been busy and exciting…when we’ve been there!

As we wrapped up 2010, the guidance office was filled with high school seniors getting college applications submitted, checking that transcripts had been mailed and that teacher recommendations had been completed. As an intern, I had several seniors on my caseload and worked with them starting in September on the college process. Some knew exactly where they wanted to apply and had spent the summer visiting colleges and working on their college essays. Others were less sure about their post-secondary plans, so I was able to work with them on searching for colleges using the school’s Naviance system, brainstorming essay topics and eventually hitting the submit button. I have been able to practice my counselor recommendation writing skills with the students I worked with and now we’re all anxiously awaiting those college letters.

Aside from college counseling, I continue to meet with students about a wide range of issues from transitioning to a new school to family life concerns to academic performance. I also have the opportunity each week to sit in on our department meetings and student support meetings. As the year has gone on, I’ve become less of an observer and more of a part of the conversation – a great feeling.

In conjunction with my Action Research class last semester, I worked with the assistant headmaster to look at attendance trends at the high school. It’s been really interesting, and helpful, to have our coursework overlap with our internship site. It’s nice to think that our internship sites are benefiting from the work that we are required to do for class!

As we begin our second semester, we are all thinking about what sort of helpful tools we can leave with our internship sites. Some of us will leave lesson plans, some will leave new programs and resources, some will leave helpful data analysis. I continue to brainstorm what might be most helpful for the high school – more evaluations of the programs they offer? Updated resource guides for students and parents? Helpful tips on applying for jobs? Resources for counselors on college counseling for students with learning disabilities? A new system for working with new/transfer students?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be ironing out the details and putting together a final project that will hopefully be beneficial to the school and be something I can add to my portfolio. As a department, we’re also preparing for our sophomore class visits where we begin working with them on career exploration and really introduce them to the Naviance system. Soon after that, we start talking to juniors about the college process and the cycle begins again…until it’s interrupted by another snow day!

Remember the SATs?

Remember the SATs? While thankfully I don’t have to take them ever again, there’s a good chance as a school counselor I will be running or proctoring them at some point during my career.  Over the weekend I had the opportunity to work with one of the counselors at WHS and run the SATs. While not every school is a testing site for the SATs and not all school counselors are the ones running the SATs at their school, understanding the ins and outs of the College Board and the detail involved in running the SATs is an important tool for any school counselor to have.
From assigning rooms to ensuring that there are enough proctors to cover all of the reasoning tests, subject tests, listening tests and non-standard tests (for students who are eligible for accommodations) to counting and recounting test books and answer sheets, the tasks themselves aren’t anything to write home about, but they are a part of the process. Before test day, we had to assign students to different rooms and then print room lists. We had to ensure that each room had the proper number of desks. For students with accommodations, we had to ensure that their accommodations were similar enough to be in the same room as students with different accommodations (most students needed extended time). We had to determine whether or not we could take stand-by students on the day of the test and see if we had tests for students who may not have registered noting that they needed accommodations. We had to make sure the building would be unlocked and the rooms would be open. All of this before the test even started!
At 7:15 on Saturday morning, we began SAT testing day. We were rechecking lists and registering stand by students. We were answering questions about taking more than one subject test and helping kids who had forgotten their ID or their CD player for the listening test. Once they had all made it to their rooms, we were answering calls for more test booklets or questions about students who weren’t showing up on class lists. And once the test began, we were giving breaks to the proctors and beginning to complete all of the information for the College Board – proctor information so they could be paid, number of students taking the test, number of students who were absent, number of students who were stand-bys…lots of numbers and data.
Once the students were finished with their tests and had been dismissed, we began counting and recounting answer booklets and test booklets and inputting the numbers into the College Board’s system. We had to make sure the proctors had completed seating charts and had returned whatever they had taken at the start of the day. Finally, we packaged the materials up and shipped them off.
While it’s not the most exciting way for a school counselor to spend their Saturday, it certainly is a task that I’m glad I was exposed to during my internship. Not only is the understanding of how the process works important if I ever find myself supervising the SATs, but the experience of having helped run the SATs is certainly something I can mention when I begin the job search process! And, it reminded me just how glad I am that I don’t have to take them ever again…

Starting the Internship

It’s 6:00 AM and my alarm starts beeping. I think to myself, “What am I getting into?” So begins the first day of my internship at Watertown High School. It has been 2 months since I started my 3-day a week internship at WHS and while I will never enjoy hearing my alarm clock go off before the sun is up, I do look forward to my internship each day.

My name is Adrienne Eaton and I am in my second year of the combined M. Ed School Counseling  and College Admissions Counseling Certificate Program here at Suffolk. My coursework last year and over the summer provided me with a great foundation for the work I am now doing in my internship.  I have been pleased to see my coursework come to life this year – from counseling theories to adolescent development, from group guidance to college counseling, my internship is exposing me to the issues, programs and responsibilities I learned about last year and continue to learn about this fall.

For example, fall in a school counseling department is filled with schedule changes, new student registrations and college counseling. Over the summer, as part of the College Admissions Counseling Certificate coursework, I took a course on the Fundamentals of College Admissions Counseling. In this course, we covered everything from searching for colleges to financial aid to the transition to college. As I begin to work with students who plan to go to college next year, I find that the information I learned over the summer is invaluable to the work I am doing in these senior meetings. Another summer course for the certificate required me to visit 10 different colleges or universities to learn more about the school, their admissions policies, their support services and their diversity programming. This required meeting with representatives from the different offices and gave me a glimpse at what these ten schools are all about. Certainly as a beginning school counselor the challenge will be knowing what schools are known for what programs and who might fit in there, but the course gave me a good place to start and some great contacts in the higher education world.

While my internship is giving me the hands on experience I need to be a school counselor, my coursework at Suffolk has given me a great foundation and prepared me well for my internship and responsibilities there.

A second year’s perspective

Hi, my name is Kelly Flanagan.  I’m currently in my second year of Suffolk’s school counseling program. I am also getting the new College Counseling Certificate that Suffolk just started. I have an internship at Brighton High School, a Boston Public school.

My first year of classes gave me great preparation for my internship this year.  We explored counseling theories, actual counseling practices, counseling legal issues and a host of other items.  I really enjoyed Suffolk’s unique take on the pre-practicum required of all candidates for MA initial counselor licensure.  Suffolk (unlike any other program in Boston) allows you to spend a day at multiple schools (instead of multiple days at one school) so that you can really see the similarities and differences of counseling offices in private, public, large, small, rural, urban, schools.  It also helped me choose which schools I wanted to apply to for an internship, in addition to helping me start my professional network.

I also chose Suffolk for its great location.  The time and location of my classes allowed me to keep the job I held previously to graduate school.  Its also been a great central spot to commute to and from my internship site and my apartment in Cambridge.

The addition of the College Counseling Certificate was the wonderful icing on the cake for me. When Dr. Tim Poynton mentioned the possibility, I jumped on the opportunity to make myself a little more unique from a job application perspective.  Though I initially chose it to make myself more marketable, I’ve been really pleased with the knowledge I’ve gained.  I have used several items in my internship to help students apply and prepare for college.