Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Review: The Invisible Boy

The invisible boyAs you have come to know by now, I usually post about great children's literature and how I'm going to (or have) used it with my students. Today, I'm writing about a new book I was so very fortunate to receive last week...a book too good to wait to share with all of you. I will eventually figure out what my lesson around this book will look like and I'll share that with you someday. Actually, I may have just found my "theme" for next school year...

The Invisible Boy, written by the amazing Trudy Ludwig, is one of those books you need to run out to buy. The story line is so spot on and the illustrations are really just perfect.

Brian is not noticed or included by others, so he gets lost in his incredible drawings. Brian's brief smile leads to a potential friendship and his hand drawn gift for Justin, a new student, got him the notoriety he was longing for. Justin knew that Brian would be an important contributor to a group project and made sure Brian was included the formation of a group. Justin helped Brian feel like he belonged, like he was worthy, and like he deserved to have friends. Brian was no longer "invisible."

Here is the review I posted on Amazon:

As an urban elementary school counselor, children’s literature is an important staple in my programming. The picture books I choose first speak to me and then, upon reading, I facilitate a process in which they speak to my students. I love books and my students love when I read to them!

When choosing quality children’s literature, I look for a strong, meaningful message, characters that my students will identify with, and a story line that not only tugs at your heart, but also may include some comedic moments. Never do I miss purchasing children’s literature by Trudy Ludwig – I own all of her titles. In my eyes, she meets all of the above criteria (and then some) in her literary works of art.

The Invisible Boy is an exemplary example of quality children’s literature. The story is quite touching and very pertinent to elementary educators and parents everywhere. The illustrations by Patrice Barton bring the words on the page to life. She captures the nature of childhood – so innocent, so expressive, so honest.

I couldn’t believe how the very first page of this story set the tone for the whole book and “said” so much – in the words on the page and in the illustrations. It speaks to teachers, school counselors, parents, children…”Can you see Brian, the invisible boy? Even Mrs. Carlotti has trouble noticing him in her classroom. She’s too busy dealing with Nathan and Sophie.” On the first page, the “invisible Boy” is first in line behind the teacher (illustrated in black and white) and part of the class is seen in line behind him (illustrated in color and either acting up, whispering, staring, laughing, or looking with amazement). You too, will be loving this story from page one…

I highly recommend “The Invisible Boy” to school counselors, teachers, parents, and others who work with children. The story will help in your teachings about kindness, anti-bullying, empathy, and including others (to name a few). This book is a must buy!

Look for a future post on how to use this book in your school! Thank you, Trudy, for another great story!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Linda's Lessons #3 - The Importance of Daily Reflection

After teaching a number of years, I began to recognize the importance of daily reflection.  Each day, I would look back and go over the positive and negative parts of the day in my mind.  I’d think about lessons, behavior management, interactions with colleagues and parents….the things that went well and would do again, and things that didn't work and needed to be discarded or changed. 

  In my early years it was easy to blame those factors that were beyond my control such as, lack of parent participation and discipline, poverty, and class size for the failure of a lesson or poor behavior management.  However, I eventually realized that although many factors in teaching urban children were beyond my control, I needed to say to myself, “If this is the reality, what am I going to do in the classroom to change the situation?”

  Some changes were easier than others: initiating parent contacts with a positive comment about the child, documenting all behavior issues, swift parent communication as soon as problems arose, keeping professional conversations with colleagues as positive as possible to avoid too much venting my frustrations on one or two people.

   However, changes in other areas such as lesson planning, behavior management, and classroom management were much harder and took much greater effort on my part.  Sometimes, change came from learning something new each year: taking a workshop on a behavior management strategy, learning about and being mentored in cooperative learning strategies, and visiting other classes to view reader’s workshop in action.  Implementing each one took extra work and planning on my part.  However, with each new thing I had learned, I had grown as an educator.   Ultimately, my class benefited from my efforts.   Also, by implementing each strategy gradually into my classroom routine each year, my workload was more manageable. 

  Ideally, daily reflection should be part of every teacher’s routine.  It helped me set goals and provided an opportunity for growth.  Some days, I felt like the worst teacher in the world, but those days made me work harder and/or change.  Other days, I felt like I had “nailed” every lesson and was on top of the world. 

  At one of the workshops I had attended many years ago the presenter left us with something that has always stayed with me.  He said, “The name of the game is WORK!”  That really says it all.


A Note from the School Counselor:
Daily, hourly, in the midst of an individual session, in-the-middle of a small group, during a meeting, or during a phone call, self-reflection is so, so, so very important. I always teach my graduate students that the ability to accurately reflect on your actions, take responsibility for your actions, and then making necessary changes will be the keys to becoming a great school counselor. No one said it would be easy, but it sure is a necessity. We have all met folks who seem to lack the skill of self-reflection or the ability to self-reflect. We have all been faced with the nay-sayers, the folks who always say "I've tried everything," and those who blame the lack of progress on the student instead of figuring out how to improve instruction and management, how to intervene in a different way, or how to reach a student by building relationships. 

For me, I feel my self-reflection abilities are on hype-drive. I sometimes consider it (and my perfectionism) my weaknesses. Funny to say, but many times I have to reign it in a bit and remind myself that I am human. I will always be my own worst critic...

I have often felt that the ability to self-reflect is somewhat innate - you either have it or you don't. Again, because we are in the people business, we witness this first hand daily. Think about some of the student's you've worked with...for me, some of my most difficult cases have involved students who lack the cognitive skills to self-reflect and take responsibility for their actions. Because of this, they rarely recognize that the choice they made was a poor one and in turn, are unwilling explore alternative behavioral choices. Think about some of the adults you've worked with...for me, my most difficult consultation situations include those times when the adult isn't willing (or able?) to reflect on their choices or alter they way they are currently doing things for the benefit of the child involved.

I found this interesting article in a recent search. It doesn't answer my question if the ability to self-reflect is innate, but it sure does offer a bunch of information to think about.


Sunday, October 06, 2013

Bullying Basics

I have an interest in bullying behavior. I experienced it first hand as a kid. As a school counselor, I experience it from a prevention/intervention point-of-view. I decided early on in my doctoral program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that my dissertation focus would be bullying behavior - primarily because I was a school counselor struggling the best ways to prevent and intervene. As a doctoral student, one of the first things that happens is that your doctoral committee is formed. I researched, personally met, and asked those professors I wanted to surround myself with as I made my way through the program and the dissertation process. I secured quite a fantastic doctoral committee and had the fortunate opportunity of having Dr. Susan Swearer (Target Bullying Intervention Program, Nebraska Bullying Prevention and Intervention Initiative, Bullying Research Network, Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation Advisory Board Member) as one of my committee members. What a blessing it was to work with her and her research! In fact, I recommended her (more than once) to be a Keynote Speaker at ASCA 2014!

As I planned in year one, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on bullying behavior: 
The effects of a school counseling bullying curriculum on bully behavior in an urban K-5 elementary school. Through this work, I was able to combine my love for school counseling and interest in teaching, curriculum, and learning. What a process that was!! Full-time school counselor, full-time doctoral student, and carrying out this huge research initiative with all of the children in the school!!! I must say, I'm awfully proud of this accomplishment and the lengthy document/book I produced. On a side note: I haven't really opened up my dissertation much since I defended it. Why? The few times I did, I've found typos!!! That thing was read time and time again, proofed time and time again by me and a number of neutral parties and STILL there are typos. Ugh....that really bugs me!

If you would like to read my dissertation, please email me at: sue@entirelyelementary.com and I will get you the link.

Following my doctoral work, over the years I've been involved in the fight against bullying behavior. I've held parent workshops on what bullying behavior is and strategies to deal with bullying, parent workshops on the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and the process of handling bully behavior in our school, and parent workshops on cyberbullying/internet safety. I taught many lessons in every grade level, developed literature for parents and teachers, trained staff on these topics, and of course I've done my share of interventions. Here are some other bullying prevention activities/initiatives that I have been a part of. 

34 Days of Anti-Bullying Morning Announcements

In 2010, I wrote 7 weeks worth of morning announcements titled: Bullying Basics. Each week had a theme and each daily announcement supported that theme. I originally wrote these not for Bullying Prevention Month, but instead wrote them in response to springtime behavior. 

These documents still have the dates listed (Spring of 2010) for each announcement, but it gives you an idea of what the announcements sounded like for elementary aged students.

For the Bullying Basics Announcements, click below!
Week #1
Week #2
Week #3
Week #4
Week #5
Week #6
Week #7

PBS39 Tempo In Depth

In October of 2011, I was asked to be a panelist for PBS39 Tempo In Depth television show on the topic of bullying. The person who would have typically represented the school district was unable to attend the taping. After realizing this was an opportunity to talk about this very important topic, an opportunity to represent my school district in a positive way, and an opportunity to represent the work elementary school counselors do, I reluctantly agreed to participate. I remember that day vividly; I was so incredibly nervous and was so thankful that I didn't stumble on my words.  In the end, I don't think I will ever be doing something like this again:)!

Olweus Bullying Prevention Program 
Kick-Off Performances

For the past 5 years, our school has partnered with a local university to kick-off our Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Knowing the Performing Arts Division Head at DeSales University, I put myself out there and asked him if he would be willing to volunteer (for no charge:) to have his students perform for our students. He said "YES!" I couldn't even believe it! I knew the work it would take on their end to rehearse to put on a performance like this and each and every year I am so touched by their generosity!

So, I wrote 2 sets of scripts with each set containing skits for grades K, 1 and 2 and then grades, 3, 4 and 5. We have used one set of scripts on year and the next set of scripts the next year. I know nothing about acting, writing scripts, or performing -- so thankfully, Mr. Bell pulled out his expertise and created the most amazing short performances! We schedule the performances for an hour block because the student volunteer actors/actresses need to return to class; K, 1, and 2 attend the first performance and 3, 4 and 5 attend the second. The actors and actresses perform a bullying scenario and then they FREEZE. It is now my turn...I do the education piece. I walk around the stage, talk about the bullying behavior, talk about the characters (he/she doing the bully behavior, the victim/target, the bystanders), and discuss the feelings. Then, the actors/actress REPLAY the skit...showing how the bystanders are the true heroes in a bullying situation. They FREEZE again and I discuss what the students just saw.

After a visit by Olweus SuperHero and a review of the Olweus Anti-Bullying Rules, we have a meet and greet with the actors/actresses. My students have the opportunity to ask them questions....this portion of the program is so touching and so personal and so awesome!!

Hopefully I will be able to post some pictures of our performance in a few weeks!

You too can do this very thing!! Take a risk and ask a local college or university if they are willing to do something like this in your school. It is best to ask the year prior to when you want your performance to take place because a lot of planning, volunteering, rehearsals, etc. goes into this for the students and the faculty member in charge.

Some of My Favorite Bullying Resources

It wasn't too many years ago that there weren't too many anti-bullying resources for elementary aged children and staff members. Now, there are so very many! I have a bunch of favorites and I list a few of them below:

For Students
Trudy Ludwig:
Maria Dismondy and Bob Sornson
Becky Ray McCain
Margery Cuyler
Jacqueline Woodson
Clair Alexander
For Staff
Stan and Julia Davis