Friday, February 22, 2013

Scheduling for Success? Plan On It.

I am a big believer in planning, in the moment, for things that are coming up in the near future. I like making agendas for vacations to, say, Austin, where the bats will be seen one night, Amy's Ice Cream will be another, and there will be a long walk through the Capitol grounds on the color coded agenda. It drives my Amy to distraction, as she prefers to fly by the seat of our proverbial pants, going to and fro, with the wind.  This is also true for me, to some extent, as I face with dread planning too far in advance,  whether it is getting ready for Christmas or sweating the details of a home repair, (of which there are many to choose from on a regular basis.)
In the Counseling Center, this translates into a high interest for me for the next day's events of presenting in classrooms, doing a workshop that night, or gearing up physically for one of the 97 days of testing that looms. Not so much do I enjoy the meetings about the meeting, the staffing before the meeting for the future meeting, nor do I enjoy trainings which often have to consist of  a Powerpoint, with a handout in my hand that look awfully like the Powerpoint, if the preparation is for a time beyond the length of the program guide of my DVR, which is about a week. I try to stay interested, and I do make notes, which often become "to-do" list about other things, but I do have a noticeable glaze, I have been told, after a period of time. I think the rule applies that I can stay focused for my age, approximately, which is the downhill side of 40, but not always. So, this takes me to the current task that I am finishing today: scheduling my "Rising Seniors" for their final year at MHS. The challenge has been to stay enthralled, interested, supportive of goals that are not just for next year but the years beyond.  I hope that I have succeeded, and I think I have, largely, but there is a grind to the last few days that has given me pause and given me impetus to reflect.
It starts in January, this scheduling process of ours, with planning and meetings about the process, the materials to be given, the process that the information should be made available. We have gone over academic planners for weeks, made the decision to put them online for the first time, and we discuss to the last minute what new classes are to be offered, if any. All counselors print out their students who are on pace to graduate within the next year, and then an appointment book is filled, with consideration given to when we call for students, focusing on "non-core" classes to take students out of, if possible, which can irk the electives teachers to no end. Every student's parents get invited to the scheduling conference, which is meant to be 20 minutes long, and letters are sent in the mail home. We give notice on Facebook, our website, Twitter, and we announce the looming moments.
Backtracking for a moment, we have teachers show a Powerpoint of the process with applications needed for classes to be collected by them, give all students a course selection sheet and a transcript. There is a CATE (Career and Technology Education) Expo, with the classes offered on two days, and then at the end of the week, we have a "Registration Relay" with students going through the day, getting recommendations from their core teachers, turning in applications for classes like Ag Power Systems or Partner PE, and then at the end of the day, we gather those from the teachers and sort them. This involved about 1, 600 forms this year.
Monday morning, we start the process with a bang, with parents in tow, often, as I think that the letter of invitation often gives them a chance to get information from the non-communicative strangers that live in their house that they wouldn't get otherwise. The bang comes when there are fireworks between student and parent over grades, lack of effort, or general sullen behavior, with my office a perfect forum to vent. I think it must be the soothing blue on my wall or maybe it is the Kirby Puckett framed picture or maybe my understanding countenance. Or maybe, it is that they are actually sitting next to each other for the first time in a long time, without hot wings in front of them.  Questions abound, and the student actually gets quieter and quieter, as the parent takes the reins. I try to redirect answers to the student, but this doesn't always get a response, other than a study of the fingernail that seems to have just gone astray.
There is sometimes simply confirmation of the right path, community service hours owed or not, a quick glance at the transcript, and a sharing of future destinations, if the student is alone.  I try not to rush, and this is a time when I find out about a job they have, their position in soccer, or how their grandmother is doing.  This is what I live for and actually took classes for, the art of communicating and trying to develop relationships. Then, the phone gives a signal ring that I have another appointment arrived, and I have to scurry.
The last part of the process is giving out information about testing, college visits, websites to go to, college fairs to come and a "Rising Senior" night to publicize. I have our home page pulled up, our Facebook page open, Big Future from College Board to show. I have a stack of forms, and I try to go over each one, while the student is easing out the door, sometimes. In one case, I had a student refuse to stay beyond the bell, as they didn't want to miss math. (!)
Quite often, there is mutual appreciation for time, and a chance to give praise and congratulations for success. I commiserate with a softball player whose tournament was rained out. I get thanked by a grandmother, who didn't seem appreciative in front of their grandson for my bewildered anger over an attitude toward Geometry, but waited for him to leave, so she would stay the "good cop".  I have phone calls to follow up or a visit from a kid ranked 507th who wants to take AP classes because he knows he will "try this time." It becomes a bit overwhelming, and I have called for kids the wrong time a couple of times. I have had to follow up with a rescheduled appointment on the fly more than once.
In their mind, they have a clear path planned out, they are optimistic about their schedule being perfect, and they are bubbling with energy and raring to go at that moment. I worry about the next appointment, the next test to give, and I know this for a fact: it will start all over again this time next year. The feeling of  semi-dread can do havoc on the mind and body.
But, today, I am thinking there are only 10 more school days until Spring Break. We are going to see Muse in concert, and the kids are going to a camp. I need to get to work planning big moments to come.

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