Not long ago I saw an Instagram post from another school counselor who had a "mobile office" day. She spent the day moving around the school with her desk on wheels. (I would love to give her credit for the idea if anyone knows who she is! I tried to look but it was impossible to find her through all the posts.)
I was instantly inspired by her post though! One of the reasons I love connecting with school counselors and other educators on social media is for the amazing ideas that are shared that make us all better educators. Once I saw the post, the ideas started flowing of the amazing things I could do with a mobile office.
First...what would I use? I didn't have a rolling desk but I did have an old hand-me-down cart on wheels that I used for a wide variety of things. It would be perfect with my laptop on the top and a few supplies. Plus some extra supplies, my water, and walkie talkie on the other shelves.
Second...who will I see? I needed to do several academic check-ins with some 8th graders. These are often quick conversations focused on setting goals and a plan, but when appointment pass are given out for them to come to my office the process ends up taking more time than necessary and I wanted to reach as many students as possible. Plus some students don't show to their appointment times, so by going to them, they had to see me.
Third...when would I see them? I ended up going mobile the last hour and half of the day for a couple of days. I pulled them from academic classes, which can sometimes be tricky. Why it worked for me? The conversations didn't take long. I have great relationships with my teachers and they know that if I pull a student from class there is a good reason. I avoid quiz and test times. I gave my teachers notice ahead of time of what was going to happen and why, so again they knew what I was doing was to help support students in their classes.
Fourth...what would I need on my cart? I posted on social media right after I went mobile because I was so excited about how awesome the experience was. (If you don't know by now, I get really excited about ways to connect with my students). So since I have posted on social media, a few people have asked about some of the things on my cart. I had my laptop to look up grades since I was doing academic check ins. I printed out a few grade reports of students I knew I was going to talk to who had several NTIs (Not Turned In assignments) because I wanted to highlight those assignments and give them to the students so they wouldn't be guessing about what they needed to do. There was a container of pens, pencils, and highlighters. Some reminder tools: Agenda sized to-do lists, reminder wristbands, and post it notes...whatever may work for the students to remember their plan and what they needed to do! I also had a clipboard with a very quickly created goal sheet. The goal sheet had three areas for the student to write. 1 - Their goal. Most were super simple: Pass Language Arts or Pass Math. 2 - Their plan. Their plan was usually what we discussed in our quick conversation about their grade...any NTIs that needed to be completed, reassessments that needed to be taken, attendance at Saturday School, etc. The students usually came up with these on their own. They already knew what they needed to do. I was just their to remind them and be a support for them to do it. 3 - How to celebrate. If they reached their goal, how would they celebrate with me. Students chose things like with a sprite or candy. A few students chose nothing, they just wanted to reach their goals and pass classes. Here's a link to the form I used as well as the to-do lists: To-Do Lists and Goal, Plan, Celebrate Forms The reminder wristbands, by the way, were a fun find a the Target Dollar Spot a few years ago. (I bought all that I could find!) I've never found them again. I plan to just use blank ones when I run of these.
Bonus...Why did I love going mobile so much? Y'all know my focus is on connecting with my students and at first I thought this mobile office thing was just a huge benefit to me. I get to see more students, more quickly. I'm visible to teachers, administrators, and students so they see the counselor out and about. However... what happened was a new way of connecting with my students. I went to them. I'm going to repeat that. I went to them! That made all the difference! We had quick conversations, yes. But we had honest conversations. I saw looks on my student's faces that said "wow, you care about what I'm doing!," "you're paying attention to what is going on with me," "you want what is best for me." I also had some students open up about their stress levels, their low self confidence in their academic abilities and more. All because I went to them and essentially said 'Hey! I'm paying attention to you! I see you. Let me support you! I know you can be successful!" Because why else would I have them set these goals and make plans if I didn't think they could reach them?! And before you think it is because of the celebratory treats. That is the very last thing that I bring up in the conversation. Through the goal setting, planning, and honest sharing they have no idea that any sort of treat is coming. In fact, I think I could do these check ins without it completely.
The other thing that happened....just carting around the hallway made me visible and apparently approachable to students. It's not as if I'm not ever in the hallway during class changes or other times.... I think there is something about that cart! Anyway... almost every student who came into the hall to get water or go the restroom or visit the 8th grade office stopped to talk to me, usually about nothing in particular but I didn't matter because sometimes making connections with students looks like nothing in particular at first!
I'm so excited about incorporating this idea of a mobile office or connecting cart into my work as a school counselor! It has been a surprising and exciting experiment that will become a regular part of my program. And the cart is getting a very necessary makeover this summer....new paint and new fabric! I will share pics once it is complete.