5 Strategies for a Successful School Counseling Internship
This post was written by Elementary School Counselor, Vanessa Allen. She has been an educator for 25 years and is the author of the Savvy School Counselor blog. She is a National Board Certified elementary school counselor in North Carolina and enjoys creating resources for counselors to use in their programs.
You have completed your initial coursework, and now the time has come for your school counseling internship. It is so exciting to finally arrive to the grand finale of your graduate studies. Your time as a school counseling intern is very important and can set the stage for your future. Who better than your site supervisor to give a recommendation to your future employer? With that in mind, it's really important to make the most of your internship and to have a plan in place to help make the time at your site meaningful and productive. As someone who has been a site supervisor for a few excellent school counseling interns, I would like to share five strategies to make your internship a success.
1) Have a Plan
It is highly likely that your graduate program will have specific requirements for you to complete throughout your internship. These requirements may include video recordings, self-reflections and case studies. Your site supervisor may also have objectives for you to meet. Once your internship placement has been determined and becomes official, coordinate a time to meet with your future site supervisor. During this meeting, the two of you can begin to get to know one another and you can share your graduate program requirements with him or her. Be sure to have a timeline for your program assignments to assist your site supervisor with planning for you. Use a planner to keep all of your important dates and deadlines in one place. Having a good plan in place during your school counseling internship will help you stay on track and meet all of your objectives and requirements.
2) Show Initiative
Initiative is the ability to assess and initiate things independently, and it is a great skill to bring to your internship. I really appreciate how my former interns took the initiative in different situations and didn't always need me to tell them what to do. They were aware of what was needed and took it upon themselves to move forward to meet the need. Your site supervisor will share lots of information with you regarding individual students, groups, or classes. Do you have a lesson to try that could address a classroom issue that's been brought to your attention? Is there a small group you could initiate to assist with an ongoing issue of girl drama? Don't be afraid to say, "I have an idea." or "Here's something I'd like to try." As a site supervisor, I was very impressed when my interns brought ideas to the table.
3) Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
As a school counseling intern, you will have opportunities to practice small group counseling, individual counseling and classroom counseling. You may lean more toward one area than another. As a former classroom teacher, I was always at ease going into the classroom. It was in my comfort zone. If you are coming into school counseling with teaching experience, work on improving your individual and small group counseling skills. Of course there's always the flip side of the coin as well. If you have no teaching experience, let classroom lessons be where you broaden your skills. If using your "puppet voice" makes you uncomfortable, include a puppet in one of your lessons. When it's all said and done, you want your complete school counseling program to be strong. So step out, and use your internship to strengthen the areas where you have the least experience.
Effective communication is important in any working relationship. You will want to keep the lines of communication open between your site supervisor and yourself. Don't hesitate to tell him or her when you don't completely understand something or if you are feeling frustrated about anything. Also, you'll want to be open to any critique or suggestions your site supervisor may share with you. Your goal during your internship should be to learn everything you can in order to become an effective school counselor. Take the advice given by your site supervisor and use it to make improvements each week. Additionally, you will want to communicate effectively with the teachers and parents of your students when necessary. Your internship is a good time to figure out which methods work best for you whether it be electronically, face-to-face or on paper. Being an effective communicator will help you build a solid rapport with your site supervisor, the staff and parents.
5) Create a Resource Collection
Throughout your internship, you will learn about a variety of resources. You will want to remember all of the children's literature titles, apps and websites you are introduced to and have the opportunity to use. There will also be times when you create activity sheets or games for your lessons, or your site supervisor may have a great lesson that you can copy. It's a good idea to create a notebook or a digital file of resources to refer to for future use. If there are books in your site supervisor's collection that you really like and want to have, add the titles and authors to your resource wish list for future reference. With permission, make copies of forms or activities your site supervisor has created so that you have something to reference when you start your first job. These could include brochures about the school counseling program, permission forms for small groups, needs assessments or counseling referral forms. Having this collection of resources when you start off on your own will be a very beneficial tool.
I believe the time spent during your internship can truly build a solid foundation for your future work as a school counselor. If you keep these five suggestions in mind as you move forward, I believe you'll be well on your way to having a successful and wonderful learning experience as a school counseling intern.