52. Teaching Future Planning As a School Counselor
Episode 5220th March 2024 • Counselor Chat Podcast • Carol Miller, School Counselor
00:00:00 00:21:44

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In this episode, we are chatting about something that is sure to spark joy and excitement - future planning for our incredible students! 


Exploring Future Planning

  • Diving into the world of future planning for our students—empowering them to achieve their dreams.

Strategies for Engagement

  • Hosting a Career Fair in May at my elementary school—exciting opportunities for students to explore diverse career paths.
  • "Munch and Lunch" sessions with parents sharing their unique career experiences—inspiring students to think beyond the ordinary.
  • Eye-opening "How Long is a Lifetime?" lesson—plotting lifespans, retirement ages, and years spent working versus in school.
  • Teaching students about adulting—budgeting, financial responsibilities, and preparing for life beyond school.

Links for Further Exploration

  • Dive deeper into the discussed lessons with links provided below
  • Explore these activities and adapt them to suit the needs of your students and school community.

Lessons Mentioned:

Other Great Lessons for Future Planning:

Grab the Show Notes: Counselingessentials.org/podcast

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Carol: You're listening to the counselor chat podcast, a show for school counselors looking for easy to implement strategies, how to tips, collaboration, and a little spark of joy. I'm Carol Miller, your host. I'm a full time school counselor and the face behind counseling essentials. I'm all about creating simplified systems, data driven practices, and using creative approaches to age students. If you're looking for a little inspiration to help you make a big impact on student growth and success, you're in the right place because we're better together. Ready to chat? Let's dive in.

Carol: Hi, everyone. It's Carol. Welcome back to another episode of Counselor Chat. Before we dive into this week's episode, I just want to take a moment and say thank you. Last week was a really emotional week for me. The podcast was heavy. It was all about dealing with our own grief and being a support for others while we're dealing with our own grief. And then if you read my email that went out, you know that we had to put our dog down the same day that episode came out. And I shared that in my email. And the love and support and all the messages that I received, it was overwhelming. I still haven't responded to all of those messages yet because it was an outpouring of support. And I just really want to say how thankful I am for you, for all your words of comfort. That was really hard for us, for me, and I really do appreciate your support. And like I said, we have to give ourselves grace. And that's really what I've been doing, trying to give myself some grace. And I did promise you last time that our next episode of Counselor chat wouldn't be so heavy. And I'm going to keep with that promise. It is not going to be heavy. I can't deal with heavy right now. I just want to have a little bit of fun. So today on the podcast, we are going to talk about, I think, a lesson, that series of lessons that I really enjoy doing with kids every single year. And that is, I think one of the reasons, actually, I became a school counselor in the first place, is it's about teaching future planning. I always felt, especially when I was first going into this career, that school counselors were really there to help students kind of figure it out. And I really wanted to be a high school counselor when I first started, and I really wanted to help with the college admission process and all of that stuff. And so future planning was an area that I really, really love. And as I've kind of changed levels now, I'm in elementary. But even having been in middle, there's so much to, I think, future or teaching future planning lessons as a school counselor. So are you ready to chat about future planning? Because I certainly am. One of the biggest parts of our job, I think, is to share strategies to support kids on their academic and personal journeys. I mean, we are definitely helping with all the emotional stuff along the way, but there's a lot of emotions when it comes to academics and personal journeys. And so when we are teaching these lessons, it's really important to understand, too that kids are going to respond to those in different ways, because their emotions about the future can range from excited to scary to nervous to maybe even a little bit sad because it's scary to think about. So whether we are helping kids prepare for college, or entering the workforce, pursuing an alternative route to graduation, or helping elementary students understand that there's more than like five different careers out there, that there's this whole spectrum of different jobs and journeys that they can travel on. Let's talk some really specific examples that you can use. Let's just start with the basics, though. Future planning isn't just about setting goals. It's really about equipping students with the skills and the resources that they need to turn those goals into reality. And so I think it's really important, as we are going through and talking about future planning, that we really try to utilize some interactive activities. We are doing our first career fair at my elementary school. We're going to be doing it in May. I have never really done one before, but I have been a part of careers on wheels and days when I was in the high school, we would work with one of the local colleges and as well as in New York, we have a boses, which is our career and tech program for our high schoolers. We work with them to bring different career programs to our kids. With the college, we would go and have careers in medicine days. With our boces programs, we would have careers on wheels. And our kids would actually get to go to a facility and try out different wheels, from getting in a skid steer, to sitting in a bulldozer to all these kinds of things. And these are high school kids, but you can certainly do it with the elementary and the middle school students as well. Having even at the elementary level, a police car or a fire truck or an ambulance come in so that kids could take a peek around is really exciting. If you work in a farming community, having farmers bring their big equipment or a tractor dealer bring some stuff in, those are all cool experiences. For kids and getting to maybe try on a fireman's hat or their gloves or feel how heavy their coats are are incredible experience for them. So if you can incorporate any of those types of activities into your program, they are pretty special. But besides a career fair or college fair or any of those types of things, we can also do some other things as well. At the middle school, we would have parents come in and we would have a munch and lunch where we would have parents come in and sit with our kids at lunchtime. And any kid that was interested could go and ask them questions. We did send some pretty cool parents that had some pretty amazing jobs. One worked with the Mars rover, a Land rover. And so he was able to show us what that really looked like and tell us about his experiences with the Mars Land rover. We had other parents who were neurosurgeons, and so they would talk about the brain. Other parents were personal trainers, and so they would show us some of their exercises. So there's really a lot of things that you can do to get kids engaged and hear about different careers and try to imagine themselves in that particular career as well. And I'm sure if you go through your parent lists, you'll probably be amazed at how many different parents that you could actually call in and say, hey, can you help me with this little project that you have? And these things? When we did the munch and lunches, we did them throughout the year. So whenever a parent could come in, we would have them come in during lunches, and they would just sit, and we'd have a special table, and we would tell the kids on the announcements, and the kids knew what was coming up. It was pretty awesome. And you can do that in any level. You could also do a different day of learning where you have kids just learn, forget their regular schedule, and just go through a schedule of classes where maybe their teachers are just sharing another passion with them. Whether it's card making or candy making or yoga or belly dancing or pie making, people have different interests as well. And some of these interests can be some pretty big careers or turn into pretty big careers. So think about who you have, even on staff, that you can utilize for just something different, for kids to think outside the box, to try to understand or identify their interests or to ignite maybe a passion that they didn't know existed. I think one of the biggest things about career exploration is just understanding that there are so many different careers out there that you're not limited to, just the ones that maybe you've heard of or that, you know, family members that are doing them, because there are thousands upon thousands of careers out there and new ones pop up every single day. And we want kids to know that they're out there. Think about it. When I was in school, podcasting wasn't even a thing, and here I am doing a little podcast. Now, granted, I'm not getting paid for this at all, but there are people who do make a living podcasting, so you can have kids try that out as well. Just think about some of the different things that are out there. I think the other big thing to really do when you are talking about future planning, at least for me, I think as we're looking at careers and before we even start our career lessons, I really try to start with growth mindset and goal setting, because I think both of those are really big components that lead into our career exploration. We have to be able to set some goals and have that mindset that there is nothing really off limits for us, that if we really want this, there's going to be a way for us to achieve it. Whether it's going to college or it's going into a career. Our kids, there shouldn't be anything that's off the table for them. We should be able to help them figure out what it is they want and help them to achieve their goals. One of the things that I really love to do is when we're talking about college planning, I keep saying college planning, but future planning is I really like kids to really have an understanding what their future can potentially look like. And so one of the things that we talk about is the average age that people retire at, the average age of a lifetime. And we actually have a lesson. It's how long is a lifetime? And when we are doing this lesson, we look at how many years that we spend in school versus how many years we're working according to what the average age of retirement is. And then how many years of retirement do we have in a lifetime? And so the average lifespan is actually 72 years, and the average retirement age is 67. And so when you are looking at that, you really get to see, wow, I might be spending like 42 years of work. And so what does that mean? And oh my gosh, I'm only going to be in school maybe 18 years. So how do I make the most of these 18 years? And oh my gosh, I already had like seven of them go by. So how do I make the rest of them count? So that when I get to those years of work, I am doing something that I'm really going to enjoy. I like to do timelines with the kids, too, where they're plotting all this out, and they get to put in their timeline other things, like the highlights of what they're looking forward to. Maybe it's driving a car or graduating from high school, graduating from college. Maybe it's having a family or buying a home or going on a vacation. And so we plot all this stuff out on a huge timeline to kind of project our future. And we use that as, wow. When we spread it all out like this, we don't really have a lot of time. It goes by really quick. And how do we make the most of all those years, and how do we make the most of the years that we're in right now matter? So that when we get to those years of work, we're satisfied, we enjoy it, we're happy, we feel fulfilled, and how can we make sure that we can retire? And we talk about retirement, and we talk a lot about some of the conversations that we had recently were, well, you really can't retire unless you have the money to retire. With my grandparent right now, they're 77 and they can't retire yet because they don't have enough money saved to retire because they never saved when they were younger. They started working late because, well, my grandmother had kids first, and then she went back to school and then she went and got a career because, well, my grandfather died when my father was really young, so my dad never really knew his dad, his grandfather. And we talk all about those kinds of things and how things can really change our timeline. And so what does it mean to retire comfortably, and what does it mean to be able to support ourselves and what kind of lifestyle do we might want to have? And granted, these aren't conversations that I'm going to have with our, we little loves. But as our kids are getting into fifth and 6th and 7th grade, these are definitely questions and conversations that we will. Another lesson that I really love to do with kids is talking all about adulting and really how to be an adult. What does that mean? What kinds of things do I have to do? What do you mean? I'm going to get a salary and I have to pay taxes. And from my salary, they might be deducting a portion of it, not only for taxes, but for insurance, for my health care. And, oh, I want dental coverage and I want eye exams included in that. So maybe I have to pay a little bit more of a premium. And what if I don't have a washer and a dryer in my house and I have to go to the laundromat? How much extra is that going to cost me if I live in the city and have transportation, mass transportation, as opposed to living far away from my job in the country, where I have to drive 30 minutes to work or an hour to work, and I need to have a car and then I need to have insurance. What costs more in the end? Or what are some of the unexpected things that I might have to pay for one day? Oh, I'm going to have animals. But what if one of my animals gets sick and I have to go to the vet? Or what if it's my mom's birthday and I want to buy her a present? How do I make a budget with all of this? And so we do some budgeting work and we really try to pretend like we are adults and living in an adult world and all the things that are going to come up. I will tell you that if you do an adulting lesson with kids, especially middle school kids, they quickly realize how special their parents are. It's really kind of cool. They're like, wow, I better go home and say thank you to my mom because she really, I didn't know all the stuff that she had to do and worry about and take care of and pay for, and I didn't realize how expensive, like, life was in general. So these conversations are so eye opening. And then you couple it with that, well, what do you want to do? Let's do some career interest surveys and figure out what careers might be best for me. And then what are these careers about and how much training does it take and how much will the training cost and how much of a salary am I going to be made and what kind of lifestyle can I have with the salary that I'm being paid? Because those are questions that sometimes we don't have enough of with kids. And these are also the questions that kids have sometimes too late and they don't understand, like, oh, my gosh, I don't understand debt, and I am graduating with tons of money and I don't understand financial aid and I don't understand. So all of these things are really interrelated, whether we think that they are or not. So having these questions and having these conversations and having these lessons, I mean, I just love them. I love seeing their excitement, their enthusiasm, their spark of, oh, what else is out there? But also that little dose of, wow, this is a little bit of reality that I might have to face when I'm older. It's just pretty interesting and pretty special. I think as we are really talking about future planning, part of future planning not only is all about looking at these goals and the future and what our lifestyles can potentially look like, but we really have to help students also really identify their strengths, their interest and their values. Because I think as counselors we need to really tailor our guidance to each student's unique needs and that is really helping them talk about all the different potential career paths and the steps that they need to that are required to achieve them. All of these things, all of these sessions, all of these lessons really empower students to make the best decisions for themselves and their future. And they might not be making them at the elementary or the middle school level, but when they're getting into high school and they're thinking about life afterwards, we're really helping them and empowering them to make these good decisions for themselves. So future planning, my friends, is so important. If you are really stuck with, oh, what kinds of lessons can I really use to excite my kids? Or what about that adulting lesson? Or what about that other lesson about how long is a lifetime? I'm going to put the links for those in the show notes so that you can actually take a look at what I do because they are really cool. Lessons next time, my friends, because I know that this is rather long, I want to talk a little bit more about really some career lessons that we can do with kids because we're heading into the season where I think a lot of people are talking careers with their students. But for now, if you're interested in the adulting lesson or the future planning lessons, I'm going to drop some links in the show notes so that you can check them out. So I hope this was a little bit lighter than our last topic that we talked about grief. I think it was because future planning is a little bit more exciting. I hope it was as exciting for you and I hope that you love talking to your kids about futures, their futures. Anyway, until next time, I hope you have a great week. Bye for now.

Carol: Thanks for listening to today's episode of Counselor chat. All of the links I talked about can be found in the show notes and@counselingessentials.org forward slash podcasts. Be sure to hit, follow or subscribe on your favorite podcast player. And if you would be so kind to leave a review, I'd really appreciate it.

Carol: Want to connect?

Carol: Send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram at counseling essentials until next time. Can't wait till we chat. Bye for now.




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