Although August is ideal, it’s never too late in the school year to get organized!
As a school psych, each day can include every part of the job description, such as little testing, observations, consultations, counseling, emails, and writing reports. And that’s a calm day when there aren’t any behavioral emergencies!
In order to avoid the midnight report writing sessions, here are my top ten tips for staying organized throughout the school year. If you are like me, you have more than one school that you are supporting, so things can get crazy sometimes.
Keeping up with all of your many students to evaluate, counsel, and meetings is a definite challenge. Without planning, scheduling, and a documentation system, you can end up owing your students hours of counseling. Even worse, you may bore your counseling students by your lack of planning a variety of activities!
1)Assessment Log using a Google Doc
On the first week of school, before students are back (hopefully), creating my assessment log is my main priority. My district gives me a few days every year to do trainings, move offices (if needed), and prepare myself for the upcoming school year. My previous district, that shall remain nameless, provided me with a version of my current assessment log that I use now.
I adapted it for my needs in my current district and moved from having it be a Word doc. To a Google Doc. That way, I can add all of the specialists from both of my schools, so that everyone can see what Triennials or Initials are coming up that might be on their caseload.
The important columns that I have include what type of report it is (Initial, Tri, FBA, IF, etc.), students name, grade, DOB, current eligibilities, case holder, 60-day or annual due date, date to send out the Assessment Plan by, Scheduled IEP date, and services/comments. Some comments might include if it’s a private school assessment, special services, or if there is a settlement agreement.
FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL…
During the first week of school, you should go through your SELPA’s IEP system to complete as much of my log as you can before holding a meeting with all of the specialists at each school where we will schedule all of the triennial IEPs for the school year.
I try my best to schedule the IEPs on the days that I am at each school site, but as the school year progresses things get a little jumbled. Thanks to Zoom, it really hasn’t been a big deal to attend a meeting for a different school site on a day that I am not assigned to be on campus.
2) Assessment Monthly Testing Checklist
|Name/School||IEP Date||Testing Week/Day||Elig.||Rating scales Sent||Rating Scales returned||Case HolderComments|
This organization tool I developed myself and is a crucial part of staying up to date on all of my testing. Some days, I just want to report right with a cup of coffee and listen to music or podcasts. It’s the best. But, if I see that I need to test a student that week, it will motivate me to get out of my chair and go observe or test a student that day. I first made my testing schedule with a ruler and pencil. Recently, I made an actual document, however, which saves me time with drawing lines I suppose.
There is room for 13 students. I remake this form about 5-6 times during the school year. I usually put both schools’ students on it, and will photocopy it for my other office. I do not put last names in case of confidentiality if the custodian or other students in my office notice it.
I have calendars galore. I have my work calendars (plural) and my personal Gmail account calendar. Yes, I color code my calendars. As a mom of 3, and a full time school psychologist, I rely on my Gmail calendar to show both personal events, my husband’s crazy work schedule, and my own IEP, SST, Staffing, and other various meetings and trainings during the school year.
Work-One for each school or combined if possible
My employer uses Outlook. Within Outlook I have a personal meeting calendar and a Special Education calendar for each school. Yes, definitely have each calendar in a different color for your sanity because things are going to get messy with more than one school.
Things are so packed some months that I really struggle to even fit in a canceled meeting or initial IEP. With everything available to see I can usually figure out one day that I am available at the same time as a teacher, specialist, principal, and parent.
Personal -Enter all IEP and SST dates to keep
For my personal calendar, I put in all of my work things, including meetings and counseling schedule, into my personal phone. I cannot tell you how many times I am in a classroom or talking to a principal and someone will ask me when an IEP is, or if I am free on a certain date. I’m anti walkie-talkie actually, but that is because I always carry my phone on me when I leave my office. I also use my phone to record my voice for recess observations.
4) Assessment folders-getting signed assessment plan asap
This is pretty standard to the job, but the few things that I do a little extra. One is that I ask all of my case holders provide me with a copy of the signed assessment plan the minute it is returned. Another is keeping a little sticky note or assessment checklist with the assessment tools that I am going to administer or rating scales that I will use.
You may have to bug teachers on occasion, but you would be surprised at how many times there are errors in assessment plans that you may need to fix.
5) Counseling Students Parent Contacts Document
This is a quick Google Spreadsheet or Excel sheet that makes contacting counseling parents a little more efficient than doing a search in the computer system, especially when sending mass emails (always BCC) to parents regarding changes in their counseling schedule or sending a cool video for the student to watch at home. I particularly used this tool during distance learning because I contacted parents via email quite often.
6) Counseling planning chart
This is something new that I am trying. I have so many different counseling resources, games, worksheets, and other activities for my students and it’s best to have a plan set for each week to target their counseling goals. I used to just look through my documentation of counseling activities log to see what I have already done. But, wouldn’t it be better planning to figure out what activities that you plan to do before the 10 minutes prior to providing your service? In order to do this, I started a Google Doc with a few columns on it for each student or counseling group and a 6-week activity plan.
Many of my counseling groups and individual counseling students are working on generally the same types of issues, such as social skills, emotional regulation, or low academic motivation. Usually I can use an activity, video, or game within a session in different ways to target specific and general goals for my students.
7) Counseling weekly schedule chart
This is a simple chart in some ways, but mine keeps growing exponentially as the school year progresses, making it more complicated to follow. Finding time slots that work for all of my students can also become a challenge, as I rearrange my groups, move students from individual to group counseling, and add or exit students. Meeting requests can also pose a scheduling challenge. Here is my Counseling schedule chart example below.
8) Google Form for Counseling Documentation
My Google Form for Counseling Documentation I came up with last school year. I am so proud of myself for this one because I used to have a paper folder for each student, even if they were in a group. I would then have to find time in my day or week to write out the activity and progress towards their goal. One of the drawbacks of this system would be that I could only update the information when I was at that school site and the reality is that usually my counseling documentation happens when I remember or find the time, often on Fridays.
With this method of creating a Google Form, I am able to click a few buttons, enter the date of the service, enter the activity, and enter the progress notes. The form then creates a lovely graph showing attendance, and creates a spreadsheet that organizes all of the documented services, so that you are able to pull up that information anytime if needed.
|Timestamp||Student||Date of Session||Activity||Results of Session, Progress towards goal(s)||Attendance|
|D.||9/16||Student Quarantined, unavailable|
|L. , E. P., L.K.||9/15||“All about me” rapport building, coloring||good participation with socialization, less with the activity|
|S, K||9/15||“All about me” rapport building art activity||OK socialization, but Sammy fixated on the Kenetic sand and required prompting to engage in activity||Present|
|L.O., Ben||9/13||Rapport Building Jenga||Good participation and conversation. Ben requires focus on behavior and calming strategies.||Present|
9)Emails; Clean Them Out Regularly and Use Often for Communications
I’m a sneaky lil’ school psychologist. I will sometimes email people just to have the record of the communication. I also use emails for organization by using the search bar quite often to look for information that I just can’t quite remember. To keep organized, it is important to clean out your emails as best as you can.
I also make sure to check every email or delete any emails that I know don’t apply to me as soon as they come in. Do I do this with my personal emails? Nope. But I am much more of an organized person when it comes to my work than my personal life.
10) Use Post Its
I even mentioned that I use Post-its in a job interview once. How embarrassing, right? I use post-its often during and at the end of my day to help me remember what to do when I return to my office, even if it’s just returning from rewarming my coffee for the tenth time. I use Post-its a lot because I like to take remembering EVERYTHING that I need to accomplish off my plate as much as possible. I think of it as setting myself up for success since I really do have too much on my plate.
Since I go back and forth to different schools during the week, having a little note from myself reminding me that I need to make a phone call, observe a student at recess, etc. helps get me to be productive when I return. I currently like the giant Post-its, but a notepad is also fine, it just doesn’t stick to fun places like the side of my file cabinet.