Friday, December 18, 2015

We are an AVID school!

Do you know about AVID?  It stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination.  The mission of AVID is to close the achievement gap by preparing ALL students for college readiness and success in a global society.  Sounds like that fits right into a school counseling program, doesn't it?  :)

My school district has adopted the AVID program district-wide.  Each month we have AVID professional development within our grade level meetings.  After the PD, the teachers are challenged to implement at least one of the strategies learned into their classroom.

This is our third year implementing AVID both in the district and in our school.

We incorporate school-wide strategies for Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading and we have two AVID classes:  one for 7th graders and another for 8th graders.  Students go through an application and interview process to be selected for the class.

This year our AVID classes have worked hard to market the program to anyone walking in our building.  They have created several signs which are hung all over the building.

The signs serve two purposes:
1.  to educate others about the AVID program
2. to motivate and inspire our students

I love walking through the building and feeling the college and career mindset!  :)

Didn't the kids do great?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Stressful times

I love my job!  I love working with kids and I also enjoy the warm comraderie that we adults share at my school.  I truly feel like I have found my niche.  :)

Let me just say that while I love my job...this post is going to steer into the personal this time.  So...if you are looking for school counseling ideas, this time I will be writing about something very different from my normal blog post.  It might seem a little negative.  I just want it to be honest.  This is what I'm dealing with right now and I thought I would share.

As I continue to learn more and more about being a school counselor, I am given more responsibilities.  This makes me feel confident in my abilities and a little proud that I am being trusted with more.  Along with the positive comes more stressful days.  This year I have my first practicum student.  She is truly AMAZING!  She is enthusiastic and motivated, and very reliable.

 I start to get teary eyed just thinking of the end of semester.  I also realize that along with a practicum student comes even more responsibility...I need to model what a comprehensive guidance and counseling program looks like and carry the burden of proving this through my day to day interactions. 

And here is where it gets personal.  I am recognizing that I need to write down what needs to get done or sometimes I forget to complete it.  I also realize that when my responsibilities increase, the length of my "fuze" decreases.  Add to all this my personal life...and the personal life of my siblings and now I have a knot in my stomach that is hard to release.  I notice that when I talk things out, I tend to feel better, but if I really want to talk all this out, it would be more fair to set up an appointment with a counselor/therapist than to talk it to death with my family and friends.  

So, right now I am super overwhelmed and having a hard time because the stress of the job compounded with family situations all lead to a greatly affected school counselor.  Sorry for the negativity in this post, but I really wanted to share that it truly can feel awful at times, but I am in the HELPING profession and most likely have some connections.  :)  

Can I handle all this on my own?  NO way!  Here is where I need to realize that I am important and so is my health (both physical and mental).  What is the next step?  I think a few counseling sessions might be helpful to work through what I am feeling right now.  

Moral of the story?  Please take care of yourself so that you can help others!  :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New counselor in year three

This is my third year as a school counselor.  While I believe I have a much better understanding of what it means to be a school counselor now, I still feel like a newbie in many ways.  I still ask lots of questions and warmly welcome collaboration.

This year I do notice that I am taking on a lot more responsibilities. Maybe it is because I feel more comfortable or maybe it is because others believe I am capable (that's a good thing!).  Not sure...

One of my new repsonsibilities is being a mentor to practicum students.  Let me just say that I have a FABULOUS practicum student who is knowledgeable and motivated.  Together we have started three lunch groups to sharpen relationship skills.  We are in week three now and the groups are really coming together!  Since our first progress report just went out on Friday, we are also getting ready to tackle the D & F list togehter.  It is so nice to work with Rebecca and to share what I have learned.  In no way do I consider myself an expert, but I do believe in sharing experiences to help one another.  I know I have learned so much from my co-counselor that I feel whenever I can give back, I should.

Speaking of giving back, last night a few of my grad school buddies and I were asked to come talk with the practicum class.  What an energizing evening!  I remember how helpful it has been for me to read blogs and learn from more experienced counselors.  Now I am getting a chance to pass the baton!  :)

I will say that passing that baton would never have been possible without my two amazing "coaches":  my practicum instructor Ann and Carolyn.  Between the two of them is a wealth of knowledge!!  Not only have they shared their knowledge, but they have also taken us to regional and state conferences and even got out on the dance floor with us!  I really cannot say enough positive things about the Stephens College Guidance & Counseling Program and it is because of everything they have done for me that I will give back whenever I have the opportunity!  Thanks Stephens!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Favorite Responsive Service Resources

According to the ASCA National Model, “Responsive services are activities designed to meet students’ immediate needs and concerns. Responsive services may include counseling in individual or small-group settings or crisis response.”

Responding to student needs can be a little daunting, as we cannot accurately predict the issues and concerns they will bring us.  Thankfully, we can actually be proactive in responding by educating ourselves and collaborating with other professional school counselors. 

I would like to share two resources that help me tremendously in responding to students.  The first is a book and the second is an Internet resource.  (A non-techie and a techie resource)

While attending the ASCA conference this past summer, I attended an amazing session led by two gentlemen Keith Fulthorp and Around Schonberg.  They used the time in the session to share how they incorporate Solution-Focused Brief Therapy into their school counseling programs.  One of the books they recommend is Solutioning by Willyn Webb.  I was so excited about their session that I ordered the book as soon as I returned home from the conference!  I am in the middle of reading the book Solutioning.  

Here is what I like about Solutioning:
1.    It is easy to read.  Not full of a bunch of theoretical jargon. 
2.    This book is full of examples.  I love being able to see how someone else handled an issue I might face.
3.    This book features real language I can practice and use at school with my students.
4.    Each chapter ends with practice exercises to put me in the mindset to focus on solutions rather than problems.
5.    This may seem trivial, but I really like the size of this book.  It has over 300 pages, yet still fits in my purse.  This means I can take it with me and read whenever I have a few minutes.

My other favorite responsive service resource is a Facebook group called, “Caught in the Middle School Counselors” or CITM for short.  I found this group my first year as a school counselor and it has proven to be a constant support and resource for me as a professional.  Keeping up with this group is like getting a little bit of PD every time I check it.  If you are familiar with Facebook, you understand that people will post questions, comments, and pictures while group members have a chance to respond by offering support, opinions, or ideas.  It is virtual collaboration.  J

Here is what I like about “Caught in the Middle School Counselors”:
1.    This is a closed group consisting only of school counselors, mental health providers (such as social workers, psychiatrists, and therapists) and students studying to become school counselors and/or mental health practitioners. 
2.    The members are at all different experience levels!  Ideas based on years of experience as well as fresh ideas from those new in the field.
3.    This is a super active group!  Every time I check it, there is a new post.  So much information at my fingertips!!  J
4.    This group is full of real people in the trenches…just like me!  People who have faced some of the same challenges I have like the death of a student.  Not something any of us want to face, but definitely something that happens.  It is so nice to have others respond so quickly with tried and true information.
5.    This group has a Google Drive with files!  Just this week I used a peer conflict contract I found in this group.  So many resources already typed up and used by those with more experience than I have.  What’s not to love?

As school counselors, we want to be more proactive than reactive, but the truth is we need to be flexible with our time as a great portion of our program includes responding to student needs.  The two resources mentioned above are great ways of educating ourselves so that we can respond to student needs effectively and efficiently.  J

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Best is Yet to Come

What an exciting day back to school! Teachers returned to school to see this hot air balloon launching from our property.  I saw it, felt the excitement, and ran to take a selfie (YES, I work with middle schoolers!).  :)

This balloon and its launch are a perfect symbol for our school this year as our theme is, "The Best is Yet to Come."  As educators, we should always REACH HIGHER and EXPECT MORE.  Just as this balloon acsended rapidly, so too can our students with a little push, and a lot of love!  :)

Here is a short video of our awesome faculty participating in, "Afternoon Delight."  Our amazing music teacher wrote this song based on our theme for this year.
  Can you find me?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Recycled calendar

I have a really nice calendar from 2014 that I just could not throw away.  The pictures and quotes were just too motivational.  It is a very large calendar...about 14" x 14".  My first thought was to find some frames that size and frame them.  

The problem?  It is super difficult to find frames of that size, let alone COSTLY.  I was looking for an inexpensive way to display them, not something that would break the bank.

Last night I found the solution!  I had some 8x10 frames that I picked up at the Dollar Tree (where everything is a dollar) in a closet.  I was able to cut the pictures down to that size and frame them in the frames I already had at home!

Super cheap project and it just took me about an hour to tear the packaging off the frames, cut the pictures and reassemble the frames.  Now I have 5 inspirational frames pictures.  One for each day of the school week!  

Question for my would you use these in your counseling program?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Last Day Traditions

What traditions do you celebrate on the last day of school?

We normally finish on an early release day, meaning that we release the students after the last lunch shift.  This makes for a short last day.  Since grades have already been turned in, it is a day for celebrations.

Students start out the day with an all school awards assembly where we recognize attendance, participation in extracurricular sports and clubs, and academic achievement.  This year as my collegue and I lined out the awards to pass out, we were both AMAZED at all the students who were so successful!!  (On a side note, we also ran some data for PBIS and found out that 78% of our students did not have a single discipline referral for the 2014-15 school year!)

After our awards assembly, we switch gears and celebrate the talented folks with a talent show.  Our Emcees are 8th graders and they pretty much run the show!  This year's show consisted of singing (groups, solos, duos, with music, and acapella), electric guitar solo, solo color guard routine, and what I will call stick juggling (see picture).  Our talent show always ends with a "surprise" performance by the teachers...usually a dance mix.  This year was no different.  The mix included YMCA, Thriller, Cha Cha Slide, the Superman, the Twist, and many other songs.  The kids LOVE this part!  Boy do they like to make fun of the staff!  :)

After the talent show there isn't much left except yearbook signing and lunch.

And then we send the kids off for the summer.  This is one of my favorite traditions!!  Other schools may do the same thing, but I had never participated in anything like this before. On the first and last days of school, ALL the staff head outside with the students to help the kids get on the busses (the first day they need help finding their busses and the last day they need help getting on them...TODAY!). Once all the students are loaded and the first bus starts to pull away, all the staff line up in a huge row and wave. On the first day we wave and shout, "See you tomorrow!" and on the last day, we wave and shout, "Have a GREAT summer!" The kids smile and wave like crazy. Once all the busses are gone, as a staff we shout and whoop it up! It has brought me to tears each time I've participated. I must add that we do have walkers and car pick ups, but the great majority of our kiddos ride the bus. LOVE this tradition!!!

At the end of the day, we all are brimming from ear to ear with warm fuzzy feelings for the kids we love and the staff who support them.

I just need to stop the tradition pictured below!  I need to leave before the parking lot is totally cleared.  
That's us!  What do you do at your school?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Nick News!

Hi everyone!

Right now we are pretty much inundated with preparing for our standardized test, the MAP.  The format is changing from paper/pencil to computer this year!  If you have a similar situation, you can understand how overwhelmed we are feeling.

Well amongst all the craziness of testing prep, we received some GREAT news!  In our school district, our superintendent has a middle school and high school advisory board (separate so the middle schoolers will talk...they get a little intimidated in front of high schoolers).  One of my duties is to drive our two students to the board office and back each time they meet.  While that duty might not sound like something school counselors normally do, I have to tell you that I love this duty!!  The kids are great and we have wonderful and riveting conversations to and from the meetings

You are saying, "What is the good GREAT news of which you speak?"  Here it is:  after a conference call from Nickelodeon concerning INTERNET SAFETY last month, Nickelodeon called our district back, saying that they would like to film them for Nick News as they were very impressed with their maturity in handling the internet.  Yeah!!!  Yippeeeee!!!  Hurrah!  Hurray!!!!

So, guess what my job is tomorrow?  You guessed it!  I will be taking the kids over for their interview at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.  I cannot wait to hear what the kids have to tell me!  :)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Seize the Day!

This expression comes to mind as my mind spins out of control with thoughts and ideas from the Bright Futures Community Engagement Conference which I just attended...for free!

Let me explain...

In January 2015 I got an email from the Missouri School Counselor Association (MSCA) of which I am a member.  They had a generous donor, allowing them to send 25 school counselors to the conference with FREE registration.  Being a new counselor, I jumped on that one!

I had to drive 4 hours to get to Joplin from my hometown.  A long drive, but made much sweeter by lodging with my old college roommie who is only an hour away from Joplin.  :)

So, on day one I made it past registration and was looking for seating when I spotted my children's former elementary principal (and now assistant superintendent in my school district).  I sat down next to Mr. T and chatted about Bright Futures, an initiative that we just began in my district (like last month!).  After chatting for a bit, Mr. T asked me if I would like to be on the Advisory Council for Bright Futures.  Of course, I asked about time committment and it did not sound like it was too much, so I let him know that I was definitely interested.

Then, I started attending the break out sessions.  I learned that basically the Bright Futures framework brings community and schools together so that students can have their basic needs met and then give back to the community.  My mind was full of amazing stories and my heart filled up as I heard each one.

If you have not heard of Bright Futures...check it out!  Bright Futures USA.

I learned so much about community partnerships from this conference!  I will say that at first, I was a little scared to drive four hours away for a conference where I knew no one.  Now that I've been there and back, I am so glad I did!!!

It just goes to show how important it is to Seize the Day; to try new things.  There is so much out there for us.  We've just got to be ready to take it on!!  Who's with me?  :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Middle School Excitement

Today my colleague and I went to one of our feeder schools and talked to the 5th graders about enrollment for 6th grade and what to expect from middle school.

We had an attentive (while squirrelly) audience, filled with questions from, "How do I know what class to go to next?" to "What happens when you are late to a class?"

The kids are so full of excitement and it is so fun to meet them ahead of time and hear all their questions and concerns.

As they ask us questions, we like to subtly push a few things, like good behavior and attending summer school.

Students may not remember everything we present while visiting their school, but it sure is a great chance to introduce ourselves and hear their concern and fears.  I can't wait to work with these kiddos next school year!  :)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Crunch Time

February is a short month.  This being my 2nd year as a school counselor, I have come to the realization that February is the beginning of crunch time for school counselors.

We start out the month with National School Counseling Week, which fires us up and gets us motivated!  :)

At least in my district, we start enrollment for the upcoming school year at the end of January and beginning of February.  This means we coordinate with the high school our students feed into so that they come out to speak to our students about 9th grade enrollment.  This year the high school counselors came on January 29th and on February 6th we went into 8th grade classrooms to use the enrollment information to help students develop their personal plans of study.  I have to admit, it was a little much at once and we are re-thinking how we do this for next year.  We are thinking of starting with personal plans of study in September so that when high school counselors come out to visit in January, our students will actually have a head's up on some of the information.

Now wait!  8th graders aren't the only ones in our building.  The first week of February brought myself and my colleague into the 6th and 7th grade classrooms, helping those students enroll for next year.

We are one of six middle schools in our district.  20 elementary schools feed into those six middle schools.  My colleague and I visit three elementary schools to speak with the 5th graders on enrollment for 6th grade and what middle school looks like.  We have completed one such visit so far and have two more to go. you can see enrollment is a priority right now, but we are also about to start testing season!  Tomorrow we have meetings about what our state testing will look like this year.  It will be very different...testing is online for us this year.

Now maybe you can see why I entitled this Crunch Time.  This is a time when I write everything in my calendar and check and double check that I am doing all that is required of me.  It's not that it can't be done, but we have to be strategic with our time right now.  

It is also time for most of the 504 plans that I manage to come due so I have to keep up with those and make sure I schedule the meetings in a timely manner.

A good comprehensive calendar is essential for this time of year!  So is self-care.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE being a school counselor, and I know that this time of year can be stressful with a lot on my plate.  If I work together with my colleague, plan ahead, and take care of myself, I can also continue helping students and staff find their success.  Game on!  :)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

#SCCS15 Scholarship for #ASCA15

I just entered the 2015 School Counselor Community Scholarship for ASCA 2015 registration at… – Apply by Feb. 14th, 2015. Hosted by The Counseling Geek and The Middle School Counselor.