I am all about being vulnerable and sharing the lessons I have learned from doing classroom lessons, so here it is!
1. Not Greeting Each Individual Student:
When I walked into a classroom I would address the class as a whole but not as individuals. Taking a little extra time to greet each student helps build the counselor-student relationship. You can do this by simply saying "Hi Suzie!", or asking "How was your game over the weekend?", etc. Something that lets the student know that they are special enough for the counselor to remember their name and/or something about them. It is so simple but effective. I personally love the teachers that create a handshake for each student before they enter their classroom in the morning.
2. Using Writing as A Punishment for Poor Behavior:
I cringe at this one, I am not joking when I say it makes my heart sad. In my school, we have a behavioral support academy (BSA), this is a classroom in the school that has the students that are most problematic in their classes. There is a process of getting into BSA, usually an accumulation of discipline points. Needless to say, putting the most problematic students in your school in one classroom and doing a classroom counseling lesson is NO easy task. There are days when I am constantly prompting them, trying to keep them on task, keep them from roasting each other; other days I leave ready to rip my hair out because it is really challenging when all the students are wired with energy, and not listening to anything you say. When I would feel overwhelmed and defeated I would have them do a writing prompt. Let me tell you, that was more for my own peace of mind than for the students. Writing should never be seen as a punishment for poor behavior, it should be seen as a creative outlet, an opportunity to learn. No matter how overwhelmed you are feeling, do not just have the students do a writing prompt as punishment from their previous behavior. It benefits nobody and it makes the teachers jobs harder in the long run because the students will learn to hate writing.
3. Developing Counseling Lessons Around A Worksheet
Middle school students sit at a desk all day, they want to move! Relying on the students to do individual worksheets for the majority of your lessons is almost a sure way to make the students be resistant during the counseling lesson. Not only that, research shows that a well-planned activity that involves movements is far more effective than anything else. That is why most of my lessons now involve movement, task cards, group work, sorting cards, puzzle pieces, etc. These types of activities are versatile, allow them to move, and are engaging for the students.
4. Not Using Callbacks!
Instead of using callbacks to help keep the students on task, I would talk at them. I would verbally remind them that they need to be on task. However, having a call back that forces them to stop what they are doing and respond to refocus, it is part of best practice during teaching.
5. Winging It!
Just don't do it, it is not good for anyone. Be thoughtful and intentional with each lesson. These students are the future leaders of America that we are teaching, they deserve 100% the best version of you every day in order to give them the best potential outcome.
6. Research Classroom Management Strategies
Graduate programs for school counselors do not include anything on how to manage a classroom. It is hard, I tell many of my teachers that they have one of the hardest jobs for this thing alone! Before you go into a classroom, do your research on good classroom management strategies. Do classroom observations on teachers to observe their skills, wording, and transitions from one activity to another. Befriend the strong teachers and learn from them!