Friday, December 27, 2013

It Stuck With Me #5: A Letter From a Heartbroken Parent

When scanning Twitter, I came across a link to this amazing letter - written by Nelba Marquez-Greene, a heartbroken Mom who lost her beautiful daughter in the Sandy Hook tragedy one year ago. The letter was originally written to teachers as they began this school year, but I feel the message is so touchingly powerful that it will help all of us recharge our batteries as we head into 2014!

Be prepared - this letter brought tears...
A Sandy Hook Parent's Letter to Teachers

While I remember that horrific day so vividly, this mother has to endure the pain of losing her child so suddenly and so tragically, each and every day. Today, as the police report was released, I couldn't help but think about how these families are being forced to relive that day's pain over and over again with each new "press release" - from the 911 calls, to the police report. It struck me how, in the midst of her pain, that she could so eloquently write to those of us who head to work to educate young people each and every day. She reminds us that we have a very important and meaningful job to do - teach and educate, heal, support, keep safe, encourage, comfort, connect with, bring the fun, embrace, and find the strength each day to do it all over again tomorrow. 

Thank you, Mrs. Marquez-Greene, for sharing a piece of Ana Grace with us. Thank you, Mrs. Marquez-Greene, for acknowledging what we do and for encouraging us to carry on with compassion and fun!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays!



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

3rd Grade Career Awareness Lessons #1 and #2

Some of my favorite lessons to teach are the career lessons in my 3rd Grade Career Awareness Core Curriculum. I think I enjoy them so much because they have nothing to do with solving conflicts, friendship troubles, or bullying - but instead, the lessons are about the excitement of the future! It is so much fun to see the sparkle in my student's eyes when we talk about opportunity and options. I feel that these lessons help them to begin to learn about all that is possible and sparks some dreaming. Here you will find two of my favorite career lessons. You can download the lessons themselves for free and then head on over to my Blog Shop to purchase the printables that go along with the lessons!

Lesson #1 is about introducing the students to the concept of careers, gender stereotypes and careers, and tools and uniforms needed for careers. I love this lesson because it wets their appetite for all types of careers that are available in the community. Also, this lesson lends itself to exploring gender equity and access.

Click below to get the lesson plan for the Career Awareness Lesson #1.

Lesson #2 is about types of education and training needed for careers and being able to to gather helpful information about careers from adult family members and family friends. This is one of my all-time most favorite lessons. I am so, so thankful that I saved all of my graduation mortar boards and robes! They are coming in handy all these years later!

Click below to get the lesson plan for the Career Awareness Lesson #2.

Click below to purchase/download the Career Lesson Printables!

Have fun using these first few Career Awareness Lessons with your 3rd graders!



Monday, December 02, 2013

Spread Kindness and Grow a Heart! The Grinch!

Instead of doing all of the work I needed to do before returning to school tomorrow, following the Thanksgiving Break, I made this guy!

I have always wanted to do some sort of kindness - grow a heart - activity during the month of December. So, I put-off all the other stuff to work on this little project! You too can put this together in no time!

  • Get some green poster board and use a pencil to free-hand the Grinch. Outline everything with a Chisel Tip Sharpie marker. I love Sharpies!! Also, the best eraser of all time is the Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser. I am NOT an artist and I do a lot of erasing. This eraser erases like magic!!! See the links below for these products on
  • Use fade-less construction paper to make his hat and crazy eyeballs!
  • In Target's dollar section, I purchased these place-mats sometime ago. They had green polka-dots and blue/white snowflake patterns as well. At the time, I had it in my mind that I would eventually use them for some sort of signage at school. 

  • This is what I made using this place-mat!

  • Create the Title using your word-processing program. Print on patterned cardstock and tape on the place-mat.

  • Using your word-processing program, make a heart shape and add text. Print on white cardstock and tape on place-mat.

  • Using your word-processing program, make directions for the kids to follow in order to take part in the "Spread Some Kindness and Grow A Heart" campaign!

  • Using your word-processing program, make a sheet of hearts. Print out a bunch and cut out.

  • Take to school and laminate the Grinch and the place-mat sign. Hang in the hallway. Put the paper hearts in an envelope and and hang near the Grinch.
  • As the hearts start to come in, hang them up near the Grinch. Enjoy reading all the kind words!

Now go - Spread Kindness and Grow a Heart!!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Introducing the Blog Shop!

The time has finally arrived! The Entirely Elementary...School Counseling Blog Shop is now open for business! 

In the Entirely Elementary...School Counseling Blog Shop, you will find educational materials (for school counselors, teachers, or anyone who works with children) for sale. These materials will be made by me and used by me in my work as an elementary school counselor. For a nominal fee, the files can be purchased for download and printed by you!

As time goes on, I will add more fun materials. I have a whole bunch of ideas stirring around in my noggin and I'm very excited to bring those ideas to you! Usually these materials will first be written about in a blog post and then made available through the Blog Shop. As I have always done, I will make every attempt to post pictures on how I use the materials with my students.

I have always loved making great materials to use in my school! I enjoy using fun fonts, color, and great graphics, to bring my ideas to life. In fact, many of the ideas I've shared on the blog (and included a link for free download) have been accessed by thousands and thousands and thousands of folks! It is so unbelievably humbling that school counselors and other educators find my materials useful and continue to download them like crazy! Keep reading Entirely Elementary...School Counseling for more great ideas!

Don't you will still find a number of items for FREE on the blog and through the Blog Shop! Keep reading.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Boggle and Moggle: Weekly Challenge Perfect for the Hall!

In my building, some of the classrooms have their own bathroom facilities and other classrooms need to use the hallway bathrooms. It always seems to be a challenge to keep our students quiet and occupied during classroom bathroom breaks so that they don't disturb other classrooms in the hallway. So, I decided to pair a beloved word game (and my twist to make it a math game) with bathroom break time into a Weekly Challenge - Perfect for the Hallway! 

BOGGLE - a word making game and MOGGLE - my twist of Boggle made into a math equation game - are displayed on a hallway bulletin board nearby my office. Students have the opportunity to compete in this weekly challenge (once per week) while sitting in the hallway waiting to use the restroom or waiting for their classmates to finish-up. The bulletin board will be rotated between BOGGLE and MOGGLE every few weeks. Each week, the letter and number combinations on the large game board will be changed.

Letter cards and number cards are displayed in clear CD plastic sleeves (in order to easily swap out letters and numbers). Students have the opportunity to complete one scoring sheet each week and submit it in the folder displayed on the bulletin board. A student helper or two will score all of the sheets at the end of the week in order to determine a weekly winner. The winner's name will be posted on the bulletin board and he/she will win a a small prize from me. This is what the bulletin board looks like in my hallway!

Click on the pictures below to purchase each printable bulletin board kit!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

November 14, 2013 #escchat

Join me as I moderate the November 14, 2013 Elementary School Counselor Twitter Chat #escchat! It will take place from 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. EST over on Twitter. 

Topic: High Expectations with a Kind Heart

Join us as we chat about creating meaningful relationships with kids where they know you expect their very best and that you will still care for them when they mess up! Some call it “tough love.”

Use #escchat in order to participate in the discussion! It is best to use a columned format such at Tweet Deck to follow along!

See you on the 14th!

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: 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

Friday, September 27, 2013

It Stuck With Me #4 - Kindness!

One evening, not too long ago, I watched this video of a young baseball fan, who had his hopes dashed of catching a major league baseball when another child snatched it away from him.

Watch the clip here... Disappointed Baseball Fan -

The poor little guy was so crushed! The two older kiddos, sitting right in front of him and laughing at this little guys' disappointment, could afford to learn a lesson or two about empathy, appropriate reactions and social skills for situations like this.

Then comes the older kiddo who graciously gave his purchased ball to the little guy. The kindness he displayed comes right from the heart. An act that most certainly made a difference in that young child's life, but also made a difference in the lives of those of us who witnessed such an act.  The handshake of the father to the hero was touching and the high-five the hero received from a fan when he returned to his seat was fantastic.

This is the type of kindness that I want my students to learn and to spread. This is the type of kindness that makes a huge difference in the life of someone else. This is the type of kindness that is the nemesis to bullying behavior. This is the type of kindness that is taught and fostered at a young age and reinforced as the years go by. This is the type of kindness that the little guy and his dad will never forget. This is the type of kindness that the hero and his dad ought to be very proud of. This is the type of kindness that school systems should strive for, teach, and expect.

If "You Rock Kindness" (or if you choose not to) your students will be 
watching and learning! We owe it to them to expect this type of kindness!


Monday, September 23, 2013

October Tweet Chat #SCCHAT

How excited am I??? I've been asked to moderate the upcoming October #SCCHAT! It will be held on October 1, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. EST. This month's topic is: Bullying Prevention Month Ideas and Resources for K-12. Join fellow school counselors to chat about Bullying Prevention Month ideas, events and resources, etc. We'll also explore how to continue these bullying prevention initiatives throughout the school year.

#SCCHAT occurs on the first Tuesday of the month unless otherwise specified. To add the #SCCHAT schedule to your calendar, click here.

Join School Counselor Blog and SCOPE for #SCCHAT the first Tuesday of the month at 8:00 p.m. EST. For transcripts of previous #SCCHAT's, schedules for future School Counselor Tweet Chats, and information on how to participate, visit #SCCHAT INFO at:

I look forward to chatting with all of you on October 1st at 8:00 p.m. EST on Twitter!!!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Open House Night

My Open House night usually consists of a couple of parents coming to my office and discussing their concerns for upwards of 30 plus minutes each. Because my office is tucked away on the second floor, it is difficult to keep folks moving even when I have asked them to call me tomorrow or to schedule a future appointment with me. One year, years ago, a parent continued to talk to me LONG after Open House was over and everyone had left the building. My principal forgot to check on my that year:):) This has always bothered me because this is not what Open House night is for...I wanted to meet and chat with everyone!

So this year, I had a bright idea. I closed my office door and put a sign on it indicating where to find me. I set up a table by the front door, made a few really cute signs, had a bunch of handouts (including my business card), had some give-away chocolates, a notepad and pen, and planned to speak to a whole bunch of parents/guardians that eveningMany students came along with their parents and they introduced their parents to me. I had face-to-face meetings with a number of parents I've only "met" over the phone. I got to catch-up with quite a few parents/guardians and it was so great to see a number of faces that I haven't seen in awhile. Many took handouts and a few told me they'd be calling to chat soon. Most of the chocolate was gone...guess that's a good sign!

Regardless of the location, a few folks still wanted to talk extensively about concerns, etc. When I suggested that it wasn't a great place to talk and I would be happy to talk to them or meet with them at some other time, I was hit with resistance. A number of these folks didn't mind they were sharing confidential information with the whole school lobby or that they were consuming others' opportunity to say hello. I minded; I told them I minded and I told them it would be better to chat when I could give them my undivided attention. Didn't matter to some. The outcome, a number of parents/guardians walked on by and I didn't have the opportunity to say hello, introduce myself, or tell them how great their kids are. I really liked the location - a lot of foot traffic. So next year, my plan is to be firm about not being the right place or the right time... right from the beginning of their story.

Nonetheless, I am glad I made this sign to set by the basket of snack size Almond Joy candy bars. This is what I truly feel about my job and the work I do with students everyday. A message from my heart...                                                                                                                       

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Needs Assessment

When attending a conference like ASCA 2013, there is a lot to learn - including learning about a whole bunch of things that I "should" be doing that I'm not.  I welcome the growth opportunities....but at times I felt myself saying "where have I been?" Completing a needs assessment is one of those things that I "should be doing". I found myself asking why I never did one of these. Maybe it was because I felt like I was so involved in the school community that I had a handle on the needs of my student population and the needs of the staff I was working with daily. Maybe it was because I feel, at times, I'm doing as much as I possibly can on any given day. Maybe part of me was concerned about the response I would get (a scary place for a perfectionist to go). Whatever the reason, this year was going to be different.

After ASCA 2013, I began searching for some needs assessment examples and much to my delight, I came across an assessment created by Tabitha over at Scrapbook of a School Counselor. Thank you, Tabitha! You were my saving grace! I was so thankful that she shared her work - I didn't have to start from scratch! I loved the wording of her items so much that I combined her needs assessment and added my own questions to create what I ended up using with my staff. Click on her graphic to view her needs assessment!

I used the "Form" option in Google Drive to create my needs assessment/survey. It was so incredibly easy to do! 

  1. Go to Google Drive
  2. Click on Create (upper left) and choose Forms
  3. Pick the design you would like for the background
  4. Add a title for your needs assessment
  5. Add your items and responses. There are so many different item options to use when setting up your survey. Really, they are easy to enter, easy to view, and easy to edit.
  6. Click on "Response Destination" above your form to decide how you want responses to be collected. I chose the spreadsheet option.
  7. When you are finished creating, click Send Form (upper right). Copy the link to include in your email or correspondence to staff members.
Staff have until Friday to respond, but I am really learning a lot by reading their responses. I already have ideas brewing and some changes I would like to make just from the responses I have received thus far. 

To access my needs assessment to get some item and response ideas to create your own, click on the graphic to the right.

I highly encourage you to take some time to create one of these and to get it out there to your staff. I have received such valuable feedback through this technique. Once I got past the initial nerves of opening up the response spreadsheet, I have been validated, challenged, and comforted by the responses I was reading. You will too!


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Linda's Lessons - Creating a Learning Community

Every year, as the new school term began, one of my main goals was creating a community of learners where all of my students felt completely safe and free to take risks.  The first step towards this goal consisted of having no more than five classroom rules that were positively stated and composed with the class on the first day. We always discussed the reasons for the rules and even modeled how each one looked, and did not look, in class. By discussing the rationale for each rule they made more sense, and the children were more apt to buy into following them. We often revisited them together throughout the year. Included with the rules were a system of rewards and consequences.  It was vital in creating an environment of fairness that I consistently enforced the rules and rewarded and reprimanded fairly. 

I had a few guidelines that I followed in my classroom that I verbalized to the students:

#1: I never disciplined a student solely based upon what another child told me. I had to see it with my eyes and hear it with my ears. If students were being bullied behind my back (as is usually the case), I let everyone know that I would be watching, listening, and investigating. I would NEVER simply dismiss what a student told me, but I would only reprimand when I had the absolute proof. This often took lots of questioning other students privately. 

#2: I made it clear, when going over the rules, that I would never tolerate any student being shamed, embarrassed, humiliated, or being made to feel guilty for anything - by other students….or by me. I emphasized that this behavior would never be appropriate in my class or at any time. Children needed to hear that it was fine to make mistakes because everyone made mistakes, including me.

#3: It was important to me to make it clear to students who had experienced a rough morning that they still had a chance to have a great afternoon. Students needed to know that misbehavior did not mean I did not like them. I would often speak privately to them about why I was reprimanding and have them verbalize it to me. They usually were able to tell me the reason for the consequence. Many times I would also ask if this meant I did not like them. Occasionally, they gave me a blank stare in return, as if they did not know. I then had to state that no matter what they had done, I would ALWAYS like them.  This was why I had to discipline them, because I cared about them.  Many of my students never had heard that at home. 

#4: I found that by acknowledging the behaviors of positive role models, more students would exhibit appropriate classroom behaviors. It also helped keep the classroom emphasis on positive rather than negative behaviors and aided in creating a happy environment.

#5: Finally, it was imperative that along with consequences, I utilized my own system of rewarding students who had followed the rules. In the beginning of the year I rewarded often, along with consistently enforcing the rules. I used many rewards: prize boxes, lollipops, educational games at the end of the day on Friday, and lunch with the teacher. Across the board, all of my students LOVED having lunch with me in the classroom. For them, it was special having my undivided attention and just talking about their interests and lives. They always received a special “treat” at the end, too!

Creating a community where everyone was valued and belonged was just as important as teaching my daily lessons. Everyone had to understand that we were ALL learning together, including me. It was each student’s job to help those in need and encourage them.  In this way, coming to school was not only coming to a safe place, but also coming to a place where they could attempt to reach their fullest potential.