As a school psychologist, I often have little to no say as to where my office will be. I can attest to being put in janitor’s closets, the back of the dean’s office, and in “the bungalow.” As a school psychologist, it is important to be flexible and work with what you are given. Even if you have a small space, many of these items are important keys to making your job easier. This can help prevent school year burn-out.
Comfort is key. For my first two years as a school psychologist, I was at the edge of campus of a very large Middle School. My office was between the boys and girls bathroom, and did not have a working AC or heater!
1) Warm up your “Space”
In many schools that I have worked in the staff is not able to control the temperature of their classrooms of offices. It’s ridiculous. I do not like to be cold, so I will run my space heater most days from November through March. That way, I can actually take off my jacket and feel a bit cozy as I work. If you can’t get one, a spare small blanket can also help a chilly office.
Be sure to put your space heater in a location where you will not forget to turn it off every time you leave the office! I hate to waste anything, especially energy, and I would not want to risk starting a fire. Yikes!
2) Support your Back!
I have had many chairs over the years. Some have been better than others. Right now, I use a pillow behind my back for one of my chairs. I do not like arm rests, because I need to pull my chair all the way in for good typing posture. I have even gone on scavenger hunts to check empty classrooms at the beginning of the year for better chairs. It’s that important!
If your principal is not able to provide you with a good chair, I would recommend buying your own. If you own it, you can take it with you to your next assignment and always have your best posture for those long hours of sitting.
3) Standing is the New Kale
Why sit, when you can stand, Sitting is the new smoking they say. Having a portable standing desk option is a good way to help your back, neck. It may also possibly help you to burn a few calories on days that you are typing away for hours on end, or even zooming for two hour IEP meetings.
I added my portable standing desk to my office a few years ago. The one that I bought was only $40 and is pretty basic.
4) Additional, but Optional Electronics
I cannot believe that I did my job for 8 years before adding my second monitor to the report writing equation. I love it! My extra monitor is great for multitasking, particularly when report writing. You can use it for looking at BASC scores, digital records, previous evaluation reports, etc. when typing up reports.
I use my extra monitor daily. One I bought myself many years ago. This year, I asked my district if they could provide one for my other school’s office and they were able to. If you can’t buy one, this may be an option.
My colleague swears by using an extra mouse. To each his own. However, we both have multiple power chords. It’s the worst when I go to one of my schools and realize that I forgot my power chord at my other school or at my home.
My laptop is not common within my district, so I have had to leave my school site to go on a power chord hunt on a few occasions. Other forgetful days, I will test or observe students all day and use my phone for checking emails once the power runs out on my laptop. By having additional power chords for your laptop, you save a few headaches.
5) Sensory Toys and Fidget Items
Sensory toys can be used lots of things. You can use them for building rapport with students, providing incentives for students to participate, and calming students.
I have several counseling students that come to counseling, just so that they can play with one of their preferred fidgets. With the Kinetic Sand, you can also make stress balls with 2-layers of balloons to prevent tears.
6) The Calming Corner
This is for you roomy-office psychs. I have been so lucky to finally have a spacious office where I can have a “Calming Corner.” (See above example).
If you are able to create a calming corner, you should go for it! Your teachers will love having a space to send students who need a little break, and your students will enjoy using it.
7) Mindfulness Coloring Books or Printed Pages with Markers, Crayons, etc.
All students enjoy a little arts and crafts from time to time. It helps mix things up with weekly counseling sessions. Mindfulness coloring, in particular, is a great way to build rapport with students who are sent to your office due to emotional concerns.
I have even used it as a tool when conducting a suicide assessment on occasion. Coloring can distract and calm children who are experiencing heightened emotions. Color one with them while talking in order to both model and share an enjoying activity.
As a solution, I have found some mindfulness pictures online that are free to print and are a little more simple in design. I also got a little artistic one winter break and drew several gender neutral and boy-themed mindfulness pictures (Pokémon, Star Wars, Skateboarding, Mountains, etc.). I’m really proud of them, and hope to make a small mindfulness coloring book from them one day.
8) Hand Sanitizer, Extra Masks
I never realized before COVID how many colds I was probably getting from testing and counseling students in my tiny offices. Once free of the mask mandate, I may still wear one most likely. Don’t forget to give kids a lil’ squirt of sanitizer on their way into my office. Then wipe down the table after counseling sessions. Keep it clean people.
9) Plants, Student Artwork, Personal Items, Posters, etc.
I am admittedly not really a plant person, but I aspire to be. I did have a student give me a succulent, and I even named it Judy. I prefer, however, to have a few artwork and personal items on the walls to help personalize my office. I have had students make me pictures from time to time, and I will post those on my wall.
Kids enjoy seeing their artwork displayed, which can help build self esteem and rapport. I will also put up my own work as well, such as my samples of mindfulness coloring or new years resolution pictures.
In addition, you can pin up thank you cards or holiday cards from friends and colleagues.
However, you don’t want to look like a hoarder. So, try to limit the wall clutter and just have enough to create a small sense of having a home away from home if you want to add personal pictures. You want your office professional, but a little homey and inviting.
Counseling Themed Wall Décor
Last, but not least, don’t forget the counseling themed posters! A little positive thinking poster, Zones of Regulation posters, or poster of Emoji’s with emotions can be functional art that supports your work.
10) A Mini-Kitchen Space with Plenty of SNACKS!
This is key to a happy day. Having a drawer or cabinet with a mug and a bowl is needed to get me through the school day. Also I have snacks, instant oatmeal, tea, and coffee pods. Use the fridge in the faculty lounge if you need a spare creamer or cold snack. Years where my office was miles away from a microwave or coffee maker, I would even have a little microwave and/or single serving coffee maker in my office when allowed.
I have three kids and a husband that leaves for work at 5 am some days, so this momma does not eat breakfast always. Afternoon snacks are also a good idea because sometimes my leftovers lunch does not always cut it. Sometimes I just need a little tea, diet coke, cookie, or nuts to keep me from getting “hangry” as they say.