Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Today is a GREAT day! YOU CAN...Bulletin Board

It's that time of year again - back-to-school-time - complete with getting our school spaces ready to live with for the next school year! I'm a bit behind on my usual beginning of the year theme, but I do have a new bulletin board ready to go and a book chosen to read to my students! Let me share!

Bulletin Board


Here it is, this year's new bulletin board titled: Today is a GREAT day! YOU CAN.... This bulletin board is made for a small-ish bulletin boards (just like last year's YOU ARE bulletin board). The files include: 2 - 11x14 signs (Today is a GREAT DAY! and YOU CAN...) and 25 colorful and fun "You Can" statements. While you will be able to print this out on a personal color printer on 8.5x11 sized paper, it would be even better to email the files to a local printer and print as described in the description when purchasing. That is my secret....I've found a local printer who does a great job for a great price! I get things printed out in bigger sizes, in color and on glossy cardstock so it is all ready to cut-out and hang-up! 
Click HERE or on the picture to purchase and download!

Beginning of the Year Book

I ordered What do you do with a problem? by Kobi Yamada sight unseen. I was hoping it would be perfect to read to all of my students in September. It arrived today and didn't disappoint. Few words and great growth-mindset message! Not a real fan of the illustrations, but the written word makes up for that - big time. Way worth the purchase. I will keep you updated with my lesson plan when it's ready to go. You can find that book by clicking HERE or on the photo.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Beginning School Counselor - What You Need to Know

Heading into my 19th year as an urban elementary school counselor, I was thinking the other day about what it would be like to be a novice school counselor again. Back then, when I began, I remember feeling on my own - we didn't have a written K-12 curriculum, we didn't have suicide or threat risk assessment documents and we didn't have many guidelines. I was forced to use what I learned in graduate school and from ASCA to do what I thought was best for the students and staff. I remember feeling overwhelmed because of the lack of direction. Yet, at the same time, I could create a program that I could call my own. I was able to use my creativity, my professional judgment, and excitement to be in a job that I was thrilled about, to develop a K-5 school counseling program that would affect systemic change. A program which made sense for my students, the staff and the parents.

At the time there wasn't the plethora of school counseling and other educational blogs, Twitter and Tweet Chats, Facebook, or Pinterest to turn to for ideas and help/support. Where was Google when I needed it back then? These tech tools have really changed the game in finding tried and true ideas, but also exponentially changed professional development and networking. 19 years ago, I relied heavily on conferences, speaking to my colleagues, school counseling resource books and the catalogs I bought them from to explore the materials to create my program. As an urban educator, I didn't have a budget most years - sometimes only a few bucks. So, I had to purchase and make most of my own materials over the years. I purchased a lot of superb resources, but also, especially early on, I purchased a lot of duds because of the lack avenues where fellow school counseling folks talked about what they do in their school counseling office and in their schools. I am particular in what I want from my materials and it is frustrating when they fall short (especially when you are spending your own money). 

If you are a new school counselor or if you are someone who finds yourself in a situation with little guidance or direction in your school district, here are some learnings I want to share with you. 


Must Haves
  • Materials 
    • A Great School Bag - I love the Thirty One Zip Top Large Organizing Tote (which they don't seem sell in the 18" length any longer). So I found this one on Amazon that seems to compare - will fit all your "stuff" in it!! N.Gil All Purpose Organizer 18 inch Large Utility Tote
    • Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug - Busy school counselors never get to drink their coffee when they want to. I LOVE this mug - it will keep your coffee or tea HOT all day. No kidding!
    • Hydro Flask Water Bottle - School counselors are in demand all day long. You need to stay hydrated. Nothing worse than going for a drink of water that you packed that morning and it's warms. This is the best water bottle....ice is still in this bottle at night before I go to bed. Keeps your water or cold drink ice cold all day!!!
    • Plenty of Post-It Notes in various sizes - I go through sticky notes like crazy - should have stock in this company
    • SCUTA - School Counselor Use of Time Analysis (SCUTA) - super program to collect data on how you are affecting students. Calendar, generates handy reports and graphs, etc. AWESOME!!!
    • Stress Toys - I can't tell you how often these materials are used by students AND staff when they come to visit me. Check out my blog post on "Sensory Needs and Calming Doodads" for a bunch of my favorites! 
  • Other
    • You-Time - Being a school counselor (or any educator for that matter) can suck the energy right out of you. No doubt it is a stressful and challenging job. Schedule time for yourself - whether it be a specific time that you will leave the office, going for a walk or a hike, doing fun things with friends and family, taking yoga classes, swimming, walking the dog, working in your garden - whatever you find fun and relaxing. I can't express to you how important this is -- you MUST take care of yourself so you can take care of others!!!
    • An Open Door - Folks need to know they are welcome in your space. One great way to do this is keep your door open whenever you are not doing something confidential in nature.
    • An Inviting Office - Consciously think of your furniture and decor. Organize the furniture in a way that makes sense for easy maneuverability and access. Decorate. Don't go over the top with your decor, but make your space go from blah to colorful, interesting and inviting. Professional but not sterile; these are kids you are working with!
    • Patience and Flexibility - You will need a lot of both!!

Must Do's


Must Accomplish
  • Be the kind of school counselor you would want your own kids (or nieces/nephews, etc.) to have
  • The Art of Self-Reflecting - this is what will make you are great school counselor/educator; always trying to figure out what went well, what didn't go so well and how YOU can improve to make it better next time. The trick is to not let self-reflection consume you....
  • Make Your Own Schedule - if not, someone else will fill your day for you
  • Organize Yourself - this career is fast paced and requires a whole bunch of multi-tasking; come up with a system of how you will do it all and how you will keep track of all you do
  • Become a Leader - the person others trust, respect, see as having a valued opinion and can count on
  • With Students - Be firm, but kind and caring; give them your undivided attention, give them you; relate to them and look each and every one of them in the eyes; smile and refer to them by name
  • With Staff - Listen; support; advocate for students; be real; work hard and show your worth; get involved; speak-up even if you are the one standing alone; determine your allies and those natural born leaders 
  • With Parents - Be kind, but honest; get to the point and don't beat around the bush even if it is a difficult situation; watch body language - ask follow-up questions and explain educational jargon
A Final Thought

This is your new career - you have amazing ideas, lofty goals, crazy amounts of energy to get started, and I'm guessing, some nerves. Know that there is much to accomplish, but you don't have to do it ALL at once. I don't recommend sitting back and admiring the fact that you just landed a job in this super career field (from among a host of top-notch candidates), instead, get out there and show them WHY they hired you!! It is, however, important to know that you have to pace yourself.  At year 19, I still have amazing ideas, lofty goals, some nerves, much to accomplish, but not as much energy as I used to!
It's your time to shine!

                                                            

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kindergarten: Active Listening Skills Lesson

One of my favorite annual core-curriculum lessons for kindergartners is a listening skills lesson. It's not complicated, simple to implement, and the kids LOVE it!! I tend to do this lesson at the beginning of they year because it sets the tone for my listening expectations each time I come into the classroom over the course of the school year.


First, gather students in front of you and teach them active listening skills. When they are being "active listeners" they are hearing what is being said, thinking about what is being said, and ready to answer questions and talk about what is being said. I display this Carson Dellosa poster and ask students what they notice about the student that makes him a fantastic active listener. As students name each item on the poster one-by-one, I turn to the group and expect to see the same behavior (as they sit on the floor). While this student poster is the one I use, there are some other poster options...this Monster one by Carson Dellosa or this Whole Body Listening by Wilson and Sautter. I do use the Whole Body Listening poster for the older grades in my small support groups!



I use this book: I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie in the next part of the lesson. Prior to the lesson and using clipart on the computer, I make small versions of each item of food that is talked about in the story. The side of each picture is about 5x7 and is mounted on cardstock and laminated for durable student use. Each student in the class needs at least one of the food item pictures, so be sure to make enough ahead of time! Also, make one larger picture of each food item mounted on cardstock and laminated. The size for these is roughly 8.5x11. These pictures should look the same as the smaller ones - just bigger. I have mounted magnets on the back of mine to easily display on a magnetic easel!

This book works out well because I typically do this lesson in November before Thanksgiving. However, there are a number of other books that would also work and might fit the time of year a bit better for you: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Frog, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves, etc.

During the lesson, I tell students that I want to see for myself just how good their active listening skills are. I tell them that in a few minutes I will be reading a story about a yellow squash, pie, turkey, pot, ten layer cake, bread, apple cider, roll, salad, etc. As I name each of these, I hold up the large version of each so the kids can hear the name of each item. Then, I hand out a smaller food item picture to each student after giving them explicit directions on how I expect my materials to be treated. As a challenge, give students more than one picture. Also, I make sure more than one student has a picture of the food item. For example, 2 students have the salad and three students have the apple pie, etc. 

I tell the students that as I read the story, they must carefully listen. When they hear me read the word of the picture they have in their hands, they are to hold up their picture and show it to me.

Then we practice! I name each of the food items - holding up each of the large food item pictures and watch and monitor as the students hold up their smaller versions. Then, I begin reading the book - again watching and monitoring the students as they hold up the picture of the food item they are holding - as I read it in the story. 

PLEASE NOTE: There is a line in the story "Perhaps she'll die....." - I DO NOT read this line and I cover it with my fingers when I show the pictures. Also, as I start the story, we discuss how this story is make believe!!

After I'm finished reading, I systematically collect the pictures and direct students to return to their tables - showing me the active listening skills we learned about today and saw on the poster. If I remember my camera, I might take a picture or two of students who look just like the student on the poster. After I print those photos, I will hang them in the hallway for models of active listening!

Have fun teaching this lesson!!



Graphics and fonts by:

grab my button  





         

         

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Toilet Paper and Potty Posters



While attending Rutgers University (many, many years ago) our Resident Adviser would disperse important university and dorm information by hanging a sign on the back of the bathroom stall door. The sign included important, fun and educational information. All these years, I thought this was a clever way of keeping folks informed. Where else do you have someone's undivided attention? Introducing my version of these collegiate signs which are hung in our staff bathrooms.





Toilet Paper is the informational, educational and fun sheet. The fonts are from Kimberly Geswein.





Each Potty Poster is an inspirational, motivational, or funny quote to get folks thinking or to uplift spirits. The fonts are from Kimberly Geswein and graphic backgrounds are from Mad Scrapper on Etsy.

Each issue of Toilet Paper and Potty Poster comes out every 2-3 weeks. 


Toilet Paper contains the following sections: 

  • A Message - either a message from me, a story,or a photo
  • Uber Facts - random facts I pulled from Uber Facts on Twitter
  • Random Acts of Kindness Challenge - kindess ideas to attempt over the next few weeks
  • Healthy Tips - just that - healthy tips found via Twitter, Facebook...wherever
  • Tweets - Twitter Tweets that stuck with me and are worthy of sharing
  • Stay Current - current educational news
  • Tech Tools - handy technology tools
  • What's Happening - upcoming community events with locations, dates, times and contact information

I purchased these SourceOne Deluxe Sign Holders 10 Pack from Amazon and these Command Strips from Amazon. We have four staff bathrooms -2 sign holders and 8 command strips per bathroom. I print each Toilet Paper onto colorful Astrobrights copy paper. This Astrobright set - called Happy - from Amazon is my favorite (I use this paper for everything school related).

I have received such positive feedback from my staff! Amazing how something so small can be enjoyed and appreciated so much!

As my gift to you, get the first 4 Potty Poster signs by clicking below. You can download and print these for free! Future signs will be sold in my blog shop. Check out Kimberly Geswein's amazing fonts by clicking here!






Please note: Use my idea as a springboard to your own idea! While Toilet Paper and Potty Posters are my idea - you can come up with your own name for these documents and create a version that makes sense for your school. Enjoy!