This is my final year at my school – I accepted a new position for next year. To say that I am filled with feelings about it all is an understatement. A month from now I will be saying goodbye to a major chapter in my life. This change was entirely by choice, and I wanted to take the time to write a post explaining how I knew that it was time to move on. I imagine I am not the only school counselor who has or will have to grapple with this decision. And as much as a “5 Ways I Knew It Was Time for Me to Leave My School!” is the type of blog title that’s all the rage right now…I’m just gonna narrate this out and hope it’s just as helpful and that something resonates with some of you.
I’ve been at my current school for 6 years now. This was my first elementary school counseling position. It’s not just where I got my feet wet – it’s where I swam and sank and dove and became the school counselor I am today. I’ve had two executive principals, two co-counselors, and six assistant principals. It has had times of rainbows and sunshine and also times of doom and darkness. I actually interviewed for positions at other schools two other times in the past six years but something (usually caseload size or fear of the unknown) kept me from accepting any other position. This time was different – this time was the right time.
I’m ambitious and motivated (except about housework…) and I want to be GREAT. Not just good. I want to be GREAT. And until this year I felt like I was becoming a better school counselor each year, which is what I always hoped for. This year though, I could feel myself slipping into complacency. I wasn’t there yet, but I could just feel a little something in me that was becoming stagnant. I could have found some ways to kick myself into gear, but then this super awesome opportunity came up that I knew was just right: I get to open a new school!
The part of our district I work in is growing – bursting at the seams really. Overcrowding at one school in particular lead to the building of a brand new elementary school. I was interested but wasn’t sure if that’s what I was looking for – and then they named the new principal; the principal of the middle school my students currently feed into. I texted my counselor friends at the middle school and asked “Do I want to go work for him?” and they said “Go. Now. Run. Do it.” I’ll admit that having two people (who I believe know me personally and professionally) recommend him as a phenomenal leader really impacted me. So I applied, and then found myself in an interview, being offered the position and saying yes. And then panicked; not because I really questioned my choice but because never before in my life have I ever made a decision without agonizing over it. And so, in mid January of this year, I decided that my resolution for the year was simply to be bold.
Right after the interview, my first call (ok, my first call after my husband) was to my current co-counselor. This girl is my rock and I knew she would be 100% supportive of me and that I needed to tell her ASAP. At some point in the call, I expressed some guilt for leaving – leaving her, leaving my faculty, leaving my students. She shared with me something that our (also awesome) librarian said to her: “Opportunity should never come with guilt.” And that has been what I have carried for the past few months, because this is an AWESOME opportunity and there’s no room for guilt in that.
I get to work with admin that, while I’m still getting to know them, has a genuine and contagious enthusiasm while maintaining wonderful professionalism. I get to work with a team of teachers that were handpicked by said admin and that are actually choosing to work at our school.
Which is so daunting but man-oh-man, I am so pumped for this! It won’t be all easy though. A new school comes with its own challenges. Logistical challenges. Challenges I won’t even know about until we start. I have a lot of worry about meeting the (very high) expectations of everyone. One of the reasons I jumped at this chance was to push myself and to be pushed – but at the same time that’s scary. What if I don’t measure up? What if I don’t rock it? What if it’s more work than I can handle while also trying to be an awesome wife and mom?
But what I’m most anxious about is the building relationships with hundreds of students and a whole new faculty. Teachers are all coming in with different views of what the school counselor’s role is and how they want to collaborate with them. I won’t have six years of establishing my worth and value and reputation and trustworthiness. I won’t have an immediate ease and rapport with all of the students. I’m going in semi-blind. My ability to do my job well is so largely contingent upon these relationships and it is work to do it. It’s good work though, and I’m ready for it.
WHEW. That was a lot. But that’s the new chapter in my school counseling journey…and I’m really excited to share it with you.
I’m new to your blog. And I love it! I’m currently a high school counselor, but I have an upcoming interview for a brand new elementary school as well. Have you already discussed how you’re building a program from scratch?
I think I answered you on Instagram, but I am going to share here some of what I wrote to you in case someone else is wondering the same thing. Building relationships and using needs assessments were huge for determining the needs of the school. I also decided to use what I had been using with my older school as a starting point because it was a similar population. And there are some needs that I found to be universal year after year with each cohort that also served as a starting point as I was learning more about the population. Finally, constantly seeking feedback and being open to tweaking was something I mentioned!
Hi Sara! My name is Becky and I just came across your blog today. I’ve been reading SO many of your posts. I am very encouraged by your realness in this post. I am currently in graduate school for my masters in school counseling. I decided to leave my full-time job to switch to counseling. It was a BIG jump for me.. a career change and moving from Michigan back to my home state, NJ. I can totally relate to your comment about agonizing over decisions. I am very excited for the journey ahead of me, but I am also VERY nervous. Your blog is amazing and was such a great reminder for me to be bold and go for it!! Thanks again 🙂
Hi Becky! I am so glad you were able to connect with it. A career change and state change is so major! Sending you peace and joy while you make the switch, and please feel free to reach out if you ever have questions as a new counselor.