Thursday, February 14, 2013

Office Final Touches

 I shared an office space for a few years and this year I had the wonderful opportunity to call my room my own once again.
This is my office with a second large desk.

So, after my intern finished up, I asked to have the desk removed from my room. What an amazing difference! I couldn’t believe how much larger my room looked!!
Then, I went shopping!
I purchased the white table at IKEA - it was very reasonably priced!!

The 2 white boards I got for dirt cheap at Walmart. They are secured to the wall with Command Strips. The magnetic smiley face eraser is from Becker's Teacher Store.
The white "planters" are also from IKEA. They hold my materials, dry erase markers, and Mr. Sketch markers.
The white plastic container is also from IKEA. Inside the container are 10 bath mats (IKEA). I decided to get these cute bath mats so the kids have a warm place to sit when I have them gathered on the floor. They are cheaper than carpet squares, can be washed, and they can be folded and tucked away in the container!

On my travels around the building, I spotted this green chair and I've been keeping my eye on it. They don't make them like these anymore! It is sturdy and knew it would go perfectly with my other green "decor." So, a fantastic colleague/friend did some swaps and fast talking. Before I knew it, this chair found a home in my office! The cute striped cushion is also from IKEA and is an exact match to the green chair covers.

Finally, I hung up the sign I purchased over the summer from VistaPrint. I think this is the perfect spot for it! That same colleague/friend helped me to ensure that it was level (because I know it would have driven me nuts if it was noticeably crooked)!

I wanted to share with you a find I found years ago at IKEA. I purchased 2 of these blue plastic folding chairs. I use one by my desk for students and staff. The other one I have stored behind the easel to use as extra seating for large groups, meetings, etc. The color is fun and they are easy to tuck away when not in use!
I am loving the versatility of my office space! Happy Decorating!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Random Acts of Graciousness!

As I mentioned in the prior post about National School Counseling Week 2013, I was so thrilled and humbled by the feedback that I received from the students and the staff. I wanted to write this post about the thoughtfulness of the staff.

It doesn't take much to let someone know that you appreciate them or appreciate something that he/she did. The small unexpected gestures are so meaningful and quite magical that I find that they stick with me. An educator's job is so demanding and often thankless. So when these moments of gratitude do happen, they mean so very much.

This week I received countless emails and notes from staff members (and students) commenting on the morning announcements, thanking me for the job I do at our school, and thanking me for being me. As you all know, the job as a school counselor can be quite a stressful one...but during these memorable times I am reminded of why I have chosen to do the job that I do. I am also reminded of why I work my tail off!

So, today, I was called to the office. I was in the middle of something at the time and stopped by later (actually forgetting that I was called down earlier). There sitting on the office counter was a floral arrangement. I couldn't believe it...who in the world would send me flowers? The office staff were anxiously waiting to see who they were from and encouraged me to open the card. The card read:

You Make Us Feel Like Dancing!
 -- The 4th Grade Team

I was so touched that I teared up. This gesture was so surprising and so much appreciated that I quickly went to each of their rooms to thank them. They will never know how much their gesture touched my heart, but I wanted them to personally know that I was so grateful. It was at that moment that I felt like dancing...

When I got home, I quickly took the flowers to the sink for a drink of water. I unwrapped the box they were in and found an additional surprise; the flowers were in a large, yellow, smiley face mug. I began to giggle...that mug exemplified how I felt this morning at school...cheery, bright, and all smiles!

National School Counseling Week 2013

It was a great National School Counseling Week! For the first time in quite some time, I recognized the week. I'm feeling quite busy and overwhelmed right now, so I decided to only do morning announcements. Rather than have the student announcer read my announcement each morning, I decided to get on the microphone myself. I'm not comfortable on the microphone and I didn't think I could speak only from my heart each morning, so I wrote a script for each day. I deviated a bit - here and there - but overall I stuck to my original script.

National School Counseling Week 2013 
Morning Announcements

I posted about my Day 1 Announcement in my prior post. Click here for access.

Day 2: Responsibility

Good Morning! It is Day 2 of National School Counseling Week and today I’m going to be talking about responsibility. Part of my job is to help you understand how you as students have responsibilities. All of us have responsibilities – kids and grown-ups. While adults are responsible for keeping their children safe, paying the bills, going grocery shopping, driving the kids to fun activities, taking care of their house/apartment and on and on, kids have kid responsibilities. Kids are responsible for completing and returning homework; responsible for putting in effort when completing school work to the best of their abilities; responsible for being a good listener and participating in class; responsible for keeping themselves and their things organized; responsible for their actions – that is responsible for what they say and what they do; responsible for looking out for others; responsible for brushing their teeth and having good hygiene; and responsible for having safe kid fun – to name only a few! I say often, YOU have the ability to make quite a difference in this world. YOU have the ability to graduate from high school, attend college or technical school, and get the training you need to be successful in a career. YOU have the responsibility and ability to treat those around you with kindness and respect. YOU have the responsibility and ability to be a responsible citizen who makes good choices and looks out for others. YOU are responsible; YOU have the ability; YOU are capable of doing wonderful things and I so look forward to cheering you on along the way!!

Day 3: Bullying

Good Morning! It is Day 3 of National School Counseling Week and today’s topic is bullying. When I was having my mini-meetings with kiddos, many students asked me “Were you ever bullied?” Yes, yes I was – I will never forget it, but it made me a stronger and more determined young lady. I was a 5th grader when girls really started getting involved in sports (following the enactment of the Title IX Law). I joined my elementary school’s intramural basketball team and really loved the game. I loved playing so much that after being encouraged to do so by my physical education teacher, I wanted to play on a traveling basketball team. At that time there were not any girls’ teams – so if I wanted to play, I would have to play with the boys. I was the only girl on the boys’ team. The boys got very upset and angry with me when I played. They called me names, relentlessly. Thankfully, I had wonderful coaches who did not put up with that nonsense and encouraged me to play my hardest. That first year playing basketball made me stronger! 7years after that, I was a 12th grader in high school when I was the first girl to score 1000 points in her basketball career at my high school.

All these years later, I remember how hurtful it was to hear those mean words.

If you are someone who hurts others with your words and behavior, you are affecting someone for the rest of their life. Come on – you are better than that - you can change your behavior. If you are a victim, you are strong enough to not believe the mean things that you are hearing. Be yourself. Be proud of yourself. If you are a bystander, you are courageous enough to stand up for the person who is being bullied. Tell those who are doing the bully behavior that it is unkind and include the victim to let him/her know that you care.

Day 4: Friendship

Good Morning! It is Day 4 of National School Counseling Week and today I’m going to talk about friends. We all need TRUE friends. TRUE friends accept us for who we are, so it is easy to be ourselves with a TRUE friend. TRUE friends are those who have fun with us, talk kindly to us, help us, include us, make us laugh, and look out for us. A TRUE friend is happy that we have plenty of other friends to share our time with. A TRUE friend is someone we can trust.

 A TRUE friend will NOT make you feel badly about yourself. A TRUE friend does not want you to make poor choices. A TRUE friend will NOT encourage you to hurt others. A TRUE friend will NOT talk about you behind your back. We all want friends, but we don’t need friends who are hurtful to us. Even if we may not be best friends with someone, we still need to act friendly towards everyone.

Choose your friends based on their character (how they treat others). Spend time with a potential friend to get to know him/her. You and your TRUE friends will have disagreements because you are spending a lot of time together (remember conflict is a normal part of life). But, TRUE friends solve their disagreements peacefully. They talk it out and find a way to make each person feel better.

Something I know for sure – Life is definitely better with TRUE friends!

Day 5: Let's Dance!

Good Morning! Each evening when I sit down to relax; I turn on the day’s episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show that I recorded on my DVR. Why? She has the very special gift of helping others – helping others to smile and laugh, helping others to feel good about themselves, and helping others with her kindness. Ellen loves to dance and she always plays fun dance music on her show which makes me want to get up and dance too! After a long day at school who wouldn’t like to watch a TV show that touches your heart and mind – and makes us want to dance? Many days, Ellen reminds me of what I want to do for all of you – help you smile, help you laugh, help you to be proud of yourself, and help you be kind to others. A school counselor’s job is to help with all of those things! So in honor of Ellen, I would like to start your day off on a smiley note….so how about we get up and DANCE!!! (Introduce and play song)
Play: Wings by Little Mix – starting at second 20.
Click here to see the video of Wings by Little Mix. I chose this song because it has a great beat, has an anti-bullying message, and was appropriate for children K-5. I started playing it at :20 seconds in....just past the "If they give you SHHHHH..." lyric.

The day before I emailed the teachers to let them know that I would be playing music during Friday's morning announcements and to encourage the kids to dance.

During the song, I could hear the students dancing in the classrooms above me. After the song, I opened the classroom door where we were doing the announcements from and I heard classes applauding!!! I ventured out to "do my job" and the kiddos energy was contagious. They were saying: Thank You, That was the best, Let's do that again, That was so much fun, and I had a great time dancing! I had students asking me to make that a Friday tradition. I felt like I was a DJ - many were requesting future dance songs that could be played. The staff...they had a fantastic time as well! Many had such a great time dancing that they reported they had a great workout! Day 5 was the BEST morning!

Oh my gosh! It was so incredibly rewarding! It was so much fun to hear and see their excitement and smiling faces!

National School Counseling Week 2013
What did I learn?
I certainly wasn't planning on the response that I received. "They listen, they really do listen," I kept thinking to myself. During the school day following each morning announcement, students would stop me in the hallway and as I visited classrooms to comment on something that I said, tell me about a connection they made while listening, or to thank me for the message. Staff sent me emails thanking me for the announcements or commenting on what I had said. This is the first time I did morning announcements and I believe it was a huge success! The kiddos have been asking me to do them more often! Hmmmm....
I hope you all had a fantastic National School Counseling Week!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

National School Counseling Week and Day 1

National School Counseling Week is here, once again! I have to admit that this week usually sneaks up on me every year and after it goes by without a second thought I say to myself, "I should have...."

Although it snuck up on me again this year, I decided I would do something. At first, I had big plans - school counselor trivia with prizes. I bagged that idea when I found myself stressing out about the details of the logistics. Then I thought I'd do something for the staff as I had years ago. I bagged that idea too when I just didn't feel like I had the energy to conjure up something cutesy or creative for them and then "make" whatever it would have been. So, I am just going to do "simple" - a morning announcement each day this week.

I decided I would read each announcement (even though I'm not a fan of being at the microphone) - to ensure that is read how I intended it to. I'm in the process now of writing up each day's announcement. I decided to write my own instead of using the ASCA samples for this year.

Here is my Day 1 Announcement:

Good Morning! It is National School Counseling Week and the perfect time to remind all of you about my job as a school counselor, how I can help you, and some tips for us to remember. Each day this week, I will have a message during morning announcements.

What does a school counselor do? I help students when they are feeling upset, scared, angry, or worried. I teach students skills that are important to be successful in school and in life such as how to work with others, how to treat others kindly, how to be respectful and responsible, how to be a successful learner, how to be safe, and how to help each other. I help students begin to think about their future by talking about careers, talking about interests and hobbies, and understanding how careers and doing well in school go together. I work with students in classrooms, in small groups, or by themselves. I also work with grown-ups such as parents, teachers, and folks in the community. If you ever need to talk to me about something that is upsetting, worrisome, or scary or if you need my help to solve a problem, you can fill out a Talk Time slip or tell your teacher. I will speak with you as soon as I can.

Also, this week I have the opportunity to attend a networkshop and luncheon that our local School Counselors Association holds three times a year. The second networkshop is always planned during National School Counseling Week. At this networkshop, besides lunch, professional development, and networking, the Annual Counselor of the Year Award is given to a deserving professional school counselor from one of the two counties our Association serves. A few years ago, I was blessed to have been nominated for this award and was completly shocked to learn that I had won the honor. It is quite something to be recognized by your peers! Next year, consider nominating a school counseling colleague for your local School Counselors Association, your state School Counselors Association, or the ASCA Counselor of the Year Award!

Happy National School Counseling Week!