Coffee with the Counselor sessions are a fun and relaxing way to get important and timely information out to your school family. We started doing these sessions at my school about 3 years ago when a presenter shared the idea at the Florida School Counseling Association Annual Conference. In the past, I had a very difficult time wrapping my head around doing parent meetings/workshops. Sometimes I felt like the topics may not interest them or after a lot of hard work organizing the event in the evening, very few people would attend. The following steps may help you make it a very stress-free and casual process so that you may end up loving it (like I did!). Hope these tips for starting a coffee with the counselor event at your school help you get started:
Survey parents for topics of high interest
You will want to survey parents to see what topics are of interest to them so you can ensure interest and attention in your event. Put a google form link in your next parent newsletter, parents are more likely to complete it when its digital. Some of my previous topics have included things like:
-How to Make this a Great School Year.
-How to Help Your Child Develop Social-Emotional Learning Skills.
-How to Help Your Child Transition to Middle School.
-How to Help Your Child with Test Preparation or Reduce Test Anxiety.
The sky is the limit!! One of my early sessions for this coming school year will be: How to Help Your Child with School Closure.
Create a schedule for your sessions
This can be done monthly or quarterly, totally up to you! I schedule my sessions from 7:30 – 8:30 AM. Parents are allowed to begin dropping students off at my school at 7:30 AM. It is perfect because their child goes to class while they join us for coffee and good conversation before they head out to work. Make sure you get approval from your Administration beforehand.
Invite other mental health professionals to attend.
Invite other mental health professionals in your building or in your zone to attend and participate in the sessions. Some of the support staff we invite are School Counselors (elementary/middle/high), School Social Worker, School Psychologist, Family Counselor as well as other Behavioral Health partners. Send them the schedule of dates/times for the whole school year and reminders several times during the school year so they can plan on attending.
Create a flyer
Create a Coffee with the Counselor flyer and share it with staff, other mental health professionals and parents via email, social media or other communication apps. We use ClassDojo so I post the flyer on there as well. You can also post copies of the flyer in an acrylic stand at different points of high traffic (i.e. single point of entry, front office, community engagement table).
This is the flyer that I use and I am sharing an editable version with you for FREE, head on over to my freebie library to download it.
Organize your materials for presentation
About 1 week before each session, make sure you organize the materials you are going to showcase for your presentation. Include a sign-in sheet, agenda, related books, and curriculums you use. We will be highlighting my favorite new Social Emotional Learning curriculum for Social Awareness and Relationship Skills for the SEL-themed topic.
Stock up on supplies
About 1 week before each session, make sure you have coffee cups, stirrers, COFFEE, flavored creamers, milk, cream, sugar, sugar substitutes, and some small snacks like granola or protein bars. We usually buy these items with school funds, but if you don’t have any funds available, you can also request donations. Starbucks and Einstein Bagels have donated items for these sessions in the past! Save leftover items that won’t spoil for your next session.
Set up in pre determined location
Set everything up the day before each session, preferably after school. We use the Media Center, but make sure you have an alternate location in mind in case the book fair comes to town. Sometimes we use an empty classroom when the media center is not available. Leave everything ready, even the super large coffee maker! Our head custodian turns it on first thing in the morning at 6 AM so that we are ready to rock and roll when the parents arrive at 7:30 AM. As mentioned previously, we prefer to have these sessions in the morning because we get a better parent response before they go to work rather than having them come to school after a long workday.
Enjoy the coffee and convo
Enjoy the fruits of your labor and the coffee! Keep the conversation light and flowing. Have the parents share their experiences with regards to the topic and encourage the other mental health professionals to chime in at different times. Share resources and make sure everyone signs in so that you can later send them a thank you email for attending the session. Try not to do all of the talking and make it more of a casual collaborative session where others can share their knowledge and experiences (and coffee!).
I hope these tips for starting a coffee with the counselor help you to start your own soon!