When Trish Hatch, PhD, arrived on the job for her first school counseling gig, overseeing a total of 1,300 students at two different schools, she said the only thing on her desk was a folder offering the names of the “gifted” students.
She soon learned that her principal had no idea what her responsibilities or role was to be; there was no one for her to turn to at the district level, and there were no guidelines or handbooks to refer to.
“I had to wing it,” she said. “I learned through doing.”
While educators have “mentor teachers” and a support system to help them through their first two years on the job, she said, there is nothing like that in place for school counselors, who as society moves forward, are taking on more difficult tasks.
Once Hatch moved up to a district level position, she began putting together her own guidelines for the school counselors under her purview and assumed other districts were doing so, too, but that wasn’t the case. She said everyone seemed to just be “doing their own thing” instead of making a coordinated effort for this important position.
“Everywhere I go, the school districts don’t have any of the things I created in my district; no job description, no handbooks, no guidelines,” Hatch said. “It is random acts of school counseling, random acts of curriculum, random acts of intervention—all by very well meaning and caring people—but it is just random.”
So a full 15 years after Hatch left her district—having served as a school counselor, school administrator, district leader and later as co-author of the ASCA National Model—she decided to make a long-held dream a reality; she created the training for those who oversee school counselors, herself.
On March 4 and 5, Hatch’s educational consulting firm, Hatching Results, LLC, convened their first National School Counseling Leadership Conference, which took place at the Ayres Hotel and Conference Center in Costa Mesa, California, and drew 175 attendees from all over the country.
The focus was on the professional development of school administrators, including superintendents, board members, district employees and other school counseling leaders, and covered four themes: School Counseling 101; Building the Team; Building the Program; and Building Systems of Sustainability and Leadership.
“This was a unique opportunity to talk to administrators about school counseling,” said Nancy Jarman-Dunn, Ph.D. “The profession has changed so much over the years, that unless you participate in professional school counseling associations, like CASC and ASCA, it can be hard to keep up. Many school administrative credential programs do not cover comprehensive school counseling programs and the role of the school counselor.
“Our students need every minute they can get from a school counselor and when school counselors implement comprehensive school counseling programs, the research proves that students are advantaged,” she said.
Alma Lopez, a district school counselor coordinator in California’s Livingston Union School District, who also attended the event, echoed Dr. Jarman-Dunn’s comments.
“The school counseling profession has come a long way and is making remarkable differences in the lives of students throughout the nation,” she said. “As leaders we need to understand the role of a professional school counselor in order to support the work that must be done to truly serve all students in an equitable manner.”
The conference’s keynotes were well-known leaders within the profession, which in addition to Dr. Hatch, included Dr. Carolyn Stone and Diane Perez.
Workshop breakouts on the first day covered topics such as “What Every Administrator Needs to Know About School Counseling,” “Recruiting and Hiring the Next Generation of School Counselors,” “ASCA National Model 101,” “Mentoring and Supporting New and Experienced School Counselors,” “Creating a School Counseling Program Handbook,” and “District-wide Evidence-based Implementation Plans,” among many others.
“We are trying to give them what we wish we would have had,” Hatch said. “I don’t want them to spend time making it up. It’s out there. The problem is, they don’t know where to find it.”
Hatch’s team of training consultants consists of other movers and shakers within the school counseling profession, including Danielle Duarte; Lisa DeGregorio; Paul Meyer; Whitney Triplet; Julie Hartline, EdD; Mark Boggie; Vanessa Gomez, EdD; Nicole Pablo; Ashley Kruger; Angela Tang, PhD; and Felipe Zanartu.
In addition to the Hatching Results team, other guest trainers were also curated to help tag-team the workshop sessions as well, including David Ford; Enedilia Media; Cynthia Leon; Becky Love; Tracy Wilson; Jami Parsons, EdD; Mayu Iwatani; and Samantha Haviland, PhD.
“Some trainers are full time employees [of Hatching Results] who have been leaders in different districts; others are current counselors and administrators in the field whom I’ve known as friends and colleagues for many years, and that I’ve worked with, trained with, and collaborated with at multiple different national events,” Hatch said. “There are no qualms about their expertise.”
“Collaborating with leaders from across the country to present about a wide range of topics was really exciting,” said Duarte, who serves as director of program development for the Hatching Results team. “We learned a lot from one another, which we were able to share with conference attendees.”
Dr. Stone, who is an expert in the world of ethics and legal matters within education, gave the Monday afternoon keynote, “Legal Literacy and Ethical Practice in the Complex World of School Counseling,” speaking on various subjects, including sexual harassment; bullying and cyberbullying; pregnancy; suicide; abuse; and parental rights.
“The National School Counseling Leadership Conference was systemic change at work,” Stone said. “By reaching the school counseling leadership, we could in turn impact change for dozens of school counselors who are in their charge.”
Many of those in attendance lauded Stone’s time at the podium during their online feedback, some saying they could “listen to her all day long.” Others couldn’t say enough about the conference line-up and its content.
“I’ve been to hundreds of conferences where I liked maybe one session; every session I attended [at NSCLC] was amazing, helpful, beneficial and had takeaways for me to use immediately,” said Dana Armstrong, a lead high school school counselor from Placentia, California. “The presenters were professional, friendly, helpful, knowledgeable and passionate about their topic. This was a top-notch conference.”
“Trish’s keynote stood out for me,” said David Ford, director of Iowa PREP and a guest trainer at the conference who attended other sessions. “Her message is always so spot-on and grounded in district reality. She understands the nuances and politics within a district, how to identify and address those issues, and how to connect with administrators regarding the role of the school counselor and the counseling program.”
“This was such an amazing experience for me,” shared Alison Roffers, a district administrator in Springfield, Missouri. “I tweeted ‘This is my professional heaven,’ because it’s true. A lot of the things I have been passionate about for so long were addressed and it made me feel validated … and sane.”
Since it was the first conference of its kind, Hatch said she and her team wanted to “get it right,” so they worked hard on content and decided to keep it small, choosing a boutique hotel in a central California location as the inaugural setting. Once the word got out, however, the event quickly sold out and many would-be registrants had to be turned away.
In addition to all the workshops and networking opportunities, one of the most popular aspects of the conference was that team members put many of the tools and resources from each of the sessions on Google drive and provided the link to attendees so they could use or modify them for their own programs.
“I’m so happy about the success of our first annual National School Counseling Leadership Conference,” Duarte said. “From coordinating the sessions and presenters to finalizing all the conference logistics, it was exciting to see all the work come together and then hear so many positive comments from attendees.”
“I’m super happy with the way it went,” Hatch added. “We have built something that people really like. I’m also excited, because it is always great to accomplish something that is on your bucket list. It was a dream and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever pull it off.”
Not surprisingly, due to the overwhelmingly positive response from attendees, the second annual NSCLC conference is already scheduled for March 4–5, 2019, and has been moved to San Diego. While many of the attendees and presenters said they appreciated the “intimacy” of the inaugural venue, it was clear a much larger space would be required going forward. Details on the 2019 venue, which are still be finalized, will be released soon.
“When you have 175 people who tell you afterwards you were right … you can advocate the importance and legitimacy of this type of conference,” Hatch said. “Now we can say with confidence, with data and with experience, that this is exactly what is needed.”
As for changes to the format of future conferences, Hatch is still assessing its overall impact.
“I plan to thoroughly review all of the feedback,” she said. “I don’t know of any of our sessions that did not meet someone’s needs, so I’ll probably keep all that, but change up some of the keynotes and maybe add an additional strand for those who return.”
Being an administrator in a school district can be a “touchy” job, Hatch admitted, which was why it she felt it was important to make the conference a “safe space” for attendees. She also offered conference goers one-on-one time with Dr. Stone to address even more sensitive issues.
“You don’t want to air your district’s ‘dirty laundry,’ but there were some important things said and attendees wanted to address these experts,” Hatch said. “So creating that space where you could approach any of the speakers, leaders or keynotes for advisement, was important.”
Many attendees stated they appreciated this opportunity for candor in a safe environment and it allowed them to open up, build trust and share.
Overall, the conference allowed national school counseling leaders the ability to learn things they can’t find anywhere else and take those lessons and resources back to their districts to build better environments, programs and relationships within their schools.
“Some districts don’t have the money to do the on site training that we do, but they have the money to come to a conference,” Hatch said. “They are looking for the tools; we can give them the tools and we support them.”
Look for members of the Hatching Results team, including Dr. Trish Hatch, as well as some great giveaways, at the ASCA Annual Conference exhibit hall, booth No. 420, July 14-16, in Los Angeles. For more information about what Hatching Results can offer or their upcoming events, contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit hatchingresults.com.