Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Definition of "Summers Off"


More than ever, I seem to be bothered by the sarcastic comment "...YOU have summers off!" Usually this phrase follows any number of snarky statements such as "What a cake job you have..." or "You get paid for not working,..." or "Of course you are free,...", etc. etc. etc. Ugh! Drives me nuts! 

Regardless of the negativity out there, summer is my favorite time of year - for a whole bunch of reasons that I will be sharing below. I must admit, I don't think I know a single educator who doesn't love this time of year:) 

My definition of "Summers Off"
  • Time to restore a healthy balance. This year I calculated how much time I spent beyond the school day doing school work. In the blog post, The Wasted Day!, I spoke about a healthy balance and in order to do so, I began to gather data on the number of hours I was working.  I really wasn't prepared for just how many weekly hours I was putting in! Most weeks I was putting in 50-60 hours and some weeks closer to 70! While I love my job and giving my all for my students -- but truth be told, those hours are crazy! 
  • Time to get my stress level back in check. No matter what is done to de-stress during the school year, I can never outrun stress in this job as a school counselor. I was once told by a friend going through a medical crisis, that her doctor told her that our bodies are not made to maintain high levels of daily stress. Our bodies are made to deal with fight and flight responses during times of stress, not keep the adrenaline pumping day in and day out. It takes me about 2 weeks to decompress after the school year -- then I start to feel like I can breathe.
  • Time to clear my mind. I don't know about you, but I welcome "mindless" during the summer months. 
  • Endless time to spend with family and friends. Summer is busy. Always something to do and people to see! These are the times that rejuvenate me because I can relax and not worry about the next crisis, lesson, or tricky situation! So fun to make plans for the random trip to the beach or Sesame Place with my sister's family, heading to NYC for the day with a dear friend, meeting up with friends for lunch and/or beverages...
  • Time to reflect on the past school year and plan for the one to come. An educator's work is never finished. So, right around mid-July (actually when all the school stuff starts filling the shelves at the local stores), I begin thinking about the highlights from last school year and start to think about what the upcoming school year's highlight could be! First on the list is to tie up any loose ends as far as the school work from the prior year. Next, I begin thinking about what my introductory lesson and year's theme will be. For all who are wondering, I found my book and I'm just trying to finalize my approach. Will be sharing soon! This summer I am planning on figuring out how to do my mini-meetings via the I-Pad for quick data collection. I also want to finalize any other "tech" stuff for this coming school year. Finally, I begin thinking about my K-5 core curriculum and changes that need to be made, office set-up, organizational tools, and attending the Teacher Appreciation Days at Office Depot and Staples (FREE IS FOR ME)! 
  • Time to walk my dog, Izzy (when it is not 100 degrees). She loves going to the park and so do I. We make a couple of loops (exercise for us both) and then she gets to run like a maniac on the retractable leash! She has been missing this (I've been missing this) part of our summer routine - it's been so crazy hot, too dangerous to take a fur-ball out in this weather.
  • Time to work in the yard. I love yard work! I may be hot and stinky sweaty -- but I feel like I'm accomplishing a lot that way! I'm out there either at 6:30 a.m. or after dark watering all the flowers and plants. In the morning opening up the deck umbrellas and closing in the evening before any evening thunderstorms. Plucking the dead heads off of the flowers, pulling any pesky weeds...it is quiet and leisurely
  • Time to leisurely wake-up in the morning, make myself a cup of coffee and read the newspaper (on the deck if not too scorching hot). There is no rush or hop-to. Even though I wake up (early) at the same time I do during the school year (via Izzy staring at me, dancing and tapping her nails, and her licks and hot breath), I'm not tired. Cereal, coffee, toast, orange juice - relaxing!
  •  Time to be creative and develop cool stuff I can use and do with my students. Summer is when I develop most of my crazy ideas. I might see something on Pinterest and tweak it for my purposes. I might read some great ideas on school counseling or other educational blogs and figure out how I could make that work in my situation. I'm looking for and creating fun stuff; stuff that will grab the student's interest and jump start their learning. If I have to make any props or materials, summer is the perfect time to do that.
  • Vacation.The beach! It's my peaceful place.  Quiet time, with my family and the dogs...shopping, walking, eating good stuff, swimming, etc. Love it! My vacation time is bitter sweet - when this vacation comes around it also means that summer is winding down. 

  • Time to clean. Time to clean my home closets, filing cabinet, pantry, garage, and other cabinets. It's too hot to go up in the attic and tackle that mess, so besides the garage, I stick to where it is air conditioned! A few days ago, it was time to part with the shoes that are so darn cute, but hurt my feet. They are in a bag ready to be donated. It is very gratifying to have a de-cluttered, neat and orderly space!
  • Rejuvenate, recuperate, and re-energize to give my best for another school year. It is not easy to be a teacher or a school counselor in the United States today.I won't go through the list of what challenges will be facing us when we return to our schools in a few short weeks, but a number of these challenges are a direct result of budget cuts and teacher/school counselor layoffs. I am thankful to still have my job, but certainly the job doesn't get any easier. Summer is the time when I take the time I need to get myself together again so that I can begin another school year with a bang. 

I hope you all doing what you need to do to have a fantastic "Summer Off" and are rejuvenating for the upcoming school year!

You can find the graphics used in this post at:
Ashley Hughes

You can find the font used in the above graphic picture at:
Kimberly Geshwein

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It Stuck With Me! #2

My Twitter Feed really keeps me in the loop with the latest educational stories. Follow me on Twitter - @EElementarySC. This particular Tweet and Blog Post "Stuck With Me" because it speaks to urban school counselors and collegiate sports.

Diane Ravitch's Blog Post: How Do You Measure Dedication?   briefly talked about a moment that made an impact during ASCA13. A recently laid-off Philadelphia School Counselor attended the ASCA Conference and the NCAA session in order to get information for "her students" -- even though she no longer was employed at the mentioned high school. My heart breaks for the students in that school...they need her in their ball court! I strongly feel that her students (and any other urban or rural student being affected by drastic budget cuts and staff layoffs) deserve to have the same opportunities as any other child, in any other town. When will the masses stand-up and fight against the inequity in public education?  Nonetheless, I had the privilege of meeting a number of dedicated Philadelphia school counselors during the conference - all there for professional and personal development and for their students - regardless of their employment status! 

In this case, the school counselor sought information about collegiate athletic scholarships for her students -- students who will not have a professional school counselor at their fingertips to "coach" them through the process. I am sure she is keenly aware of the opportunities sport will afford a number of her students will/may be life (and family) altering. Furthermore, I am sure this very school counselor is focused on keeping the "spark" of playing sports lit within her students athletes. A spark that could be the springboard to bigger and better things in their future. 

I was an athlete growing up as a kid playing the sports that were available to me as a female - a product of Title IX, a product of educators and coaches guiding me and challenging me, and parents who were supportive.  The hard work paid off and I was fortunate to have earned a partial athletic scholarship to study at Division 1 Rutgers University. I am a firm believer in the power that sport can have on today's youth. Physical activity, time management and organizational skills, a sense of belonging to a team/group/school, setting and meeting goals, teamwork, healthy competition, perseverance, conforming to rules and coaching, building internal motivation, needing the grades to play, handling constructive criticism, communication skills, and being connected to the school community are all just a few of the benefits/skills that playing an interscholastic, community, or intramural sport gives to students. Clearly, these are all skills that would help a student become college and career ready. 

All of this "Stuck With Me" this past week when I read Diane's blog post: the role of urban school counselors, an example of the consequences of eliminating school counselors in Philadelphia, the dedication of school counselors everywhere, and the power of sport with today's male and female student-athletes. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It Stuck With Me!

Introducing a new blog page - "It Stuck With Me!" I will be posting any number of things I've seen, read, heard, watched, or listened to that "Stuck With Me!" I want to share with you those moments that have made me think, pause for a moment, or made the lightbulb go off! We've all had those moments that make us say, "Hmmmm...." and I will share my moments with you - right here on this page! Today, moment #1!

Recently I watched an Oprah's Lifeclass episode on "Fatherless Sons - The Reaction." The episode included Oprah herself, Iyanla Vanzant, Dr. Geoffrey Canada, and Dr. Steve Perry. Click here to go to some segments from the show, but if you have an opportunity to see this entire episode and the prior episode - "Fatherless Sons" watch it. It is extremely powerful!! 
Much stuck with me during this program. There were A LOT of excellent, excellent tips that we as school counselors could use in our work with parents and students. However, one comment from a panelist rang true in our work with young boys that just made me pause to think for a moment. Paraphrasing - "We teach girls from the time they are very young to be a parent (mother). We don't teach little boys how to be a parent (father)." Think about it for a few seconds...think about the stereotypical play of young children. Think about how adults encourage this stereotypical play. Think about girls playing with their dolls, dressing them, feeding them, changing them, nurturing them, talking to them, comforting them, carrying them around, etc. I do think boys are interested in this type of play too, but may be discouraged by the adults around them. Can we do better than this? Maybe this moment will "Stick With You" too!

Quick Tips

Introducing Quick Tips! Handy ideas for busy school counselors! On this new blog page, I will be posting some easy ideas that you can put to use with minimal effort. Today, Quick Tip #1!

Who likes to take the time to jot down their contact information on random pieces of paper? I would imagine that many of those notes, along with your name and contact information, find their way into the garbage can. Always have your contact information handy! Get yourself some free to really cheap business cards at Vistaprint! Go to www.vistaprint.com and scroll to the bottom. Enter your mail address to receive some great deals! Once you receive their emails, through the email - click on their sales and start creating. The more colorful and interesting the better! It's all about the details and folks will remember you for that. Not only did I make some cute business cards for school, but I also made these blog cards. I give out my school cards during some major school events such as Open House, Kindergarten Registration, and Career Day. Also, I give out my school cards frequently in correspondence sent home to parents/guardians, with community members, at professional development workshops, and any other folks that are interested! I took the blog cards to the ASCA 2013 conference and will also be taking them to professional development workshops, etc. These cards are an easy way to promote your role as a school counselor.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Post #2: ASCA 2013 "Quote Notes" and Other Learnings

Time to share with you some more of the thought provoking speaker quotes and other learnings from the ASCA 2013 Annual Conference. Check out Post #1 for information regarding Day 1 and part of Day 2 of ASCA13!

Monday, July 1, 2013

1. Working With Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (Dr. Stephanie Carter-Larson)
  • Access the handout on the ASCA website. Click on the conference picture and then click on the mobile app. You can search for handouts based on Day and Session.
  • "Severity is in the symptoms of the disorder - not the disorder itself"
  • So, state, "The symptoms are severe." Better to use the descriptors High Functioning and Low Functioning
  • Toys - "average kiddo (when given a toy) uses the toy as it is to function and look at others for their reactions and support. A child on the Autism Spectrum will dissect the toy's details."
  • Developmental Trajectories - 
    • Typical trajectory - become experts on people
    •  ASD- become experts on things (objects, history, stacking, parts of world, areas of interest, etc.)
  • Asperger's (in DSM-V not a separate category - Autism Spectrum Disorder)
    • "Want desperately to have friends but miss the mark with social cues. Miss the understanding in the different meanings. Don't hear the nuances in voice." 
    • "Problem - if you are not interested in dinosaurs and you come play with me (an ASD kiddo) - we have a problem because I am playing dinosaurs (dinosaurs only)."
  • No medication for ASD. But, co-morbid disorders may be medicated (anxiety, depression, etc.)
  • High correlation between ASD and gastro-intestinal problems
  • The earlier you intervene the better the prognosis
  • RtI does NOT apply for ASD
  • Higher functioning ASD kiddos usually not identified until 1st or 2nd grade
  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) strategies - most significant, highly effective technique; teachers need to go to ABA workshops
  • "(In schools) there is a disconnect between what I'm supposed to do in reading/math and getting behavior and communication under control."
  • CDC numbers - 1:88 children affected; Recent government survey of school age children 1:50 children affected
  • A number of interventions listed on handouts. Here are a few examples...
    • Bring students in before school starts to tour building
    • Assign a peer mentor
    • Assign these students into "community classrooms"
    • When working with these kiddos, have them use something in their hands: fidget, other play-modalities, Play-Doh/Model Magic, clay, etc.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

1. Keynote Speaker - David Marcus - Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist  (www.davemarcus.com)
  • Wrote the book Acceptance (see link below)
  • "It's about educating the whole kid."
  • "Many stories have negative beginnings with amazing results."
  • What do we need to do...
    • "We have to get beyond labels."
    • "We have to do a better job engaging kids who are disengaged."
    • "We have to let others know what we do."
  • "Accountability by the way the government defines it is NOT going to engage those 20%-30% of kids who are disengaged."
  • "(When people suggest ideas for substantial/real change) We spend so much time saying NO! Why don't we find ways to say YES?"
  • Do practical things - hands on learning
  • Question from a school counselor in the audience - "How do we engage the disengaged teacher?"
    • Response - "Elicit parents to do this work." "You pick up the crap when there are bad teachers."
    • www.ratemyteacher.com
  • "What you are doing as elementary school counselors is vital."
  • "We need to change the way we are educating school counselors and how it (school counseling) is taught. School counseling has changed - dealing with more family issues."
  • Question from a school counselor in the audience regarding the media
    • We could use a media relations workshop
    • "Need to get good news out to journalists."
    • Bloggers - School Counseling and Education
    • "Education is fundamental to our success in our country."
    • "We need kids who are critical thinkers and who are well emotionally and socially. YOU go beyond filling in those little circles."
    • "Pull off labels."

    2. Creative Counseling Techniques for Working with Parents (Dr. Chris Schimmel and Dr. Ed Jacobs)
    • Get the handouts from the ASCA Website.
    • Four M's of Impact Therapy
      • Multi-Sensory - mind and ears
      • Motivational - use your voice, face, passion and energy
      • Marketing - sell the idea you can be helpful - I can help you.; Need to believe in your product; Need to present it that way
      • Maps - THEORY; need to have that map in your head (for example, Adlerian)
    • "You may only get one shot with a parent. When he/she leaves you, you need to make sure they left with something. This is not just YOU listening."
    • When closing the session ask - "Tell me what was helpful today. Tell me 2 things you will try this week. When I see you in the hallway next week, what will you tell me you tried?"
    • Need to know the Stages of Change (Prochanska) because you need to understand what stage of change the parent is in to determine if they are really ready to make a change.
      • Pre-contemplation - Parent might say - Why are you calling me again? You need to do your job and fix this problem!"
      • Contemplation - Parent might say - I'm not quite sure what is going on with my kids. Maybe they are disrespecting me...
      • Preparation
      • Action - So, you would do an action activity with a parent in pre-contemplation stage
      • Maintenance
      • Termination
    • Questions to ask parents: 
      • "What piece do you want help with?"
      • "Are you willing to learn some new things about parenting that may be helpful?"
      • "When kids misbehave, there is a purpose and we are going to work together to figure out the purpose."
      • "Where did you learn how to parent? Is there a manual?...."
    • 4 Goals of Misbehavior: attention, power (intervene by giving choices), revenge, displaying inadequacy
    • 3 Parenting Styles: Giving In, Giving Orders, Giving Choices
    • All kinds of visual techniques (this is KEY) and hands on techniques in the handouts and in the book - Impact Therapy (see link below).
    • "You need to get their attention."
    • The book: Creative Counseling Techniques (see link below) has many of the same techniques and clearly explains their use with students.


    You can find the graphics/fonts used in this post at:
    From the Pond - www.fromthepond.com
    Kimberly Geshwein - 

    Friday, July 05, 2013

    Post #1: ASCA 2013 "Quote Notes" and Other Learnings

    I just returned from my very first ASCA Annual Conference! What an fantastic adventure it was! I am so thankful for all the professional development opportunities and all of the amazing school counselors I met over the course of the 4 days. 

    Below you will find some of the "Quote Notes" I took as I was listening to the various speakers (from Keynote Speakers to Breakout Session Presenters). I jotted down some of their most thought provoking statements and decided to share some of them with you. The "Quote Notes" are italicized below! Also, below you will find some other learnings I took away from the conference - in hopes that you too will benefit from my time in Philly. 

    Also, if you go to the ASCA website you too can access the handouts of various speakers. Click on the ASCA 2013 picture, under "Conference Mobile App" click on the link and search by day.

    Sunday, June 30, 2013

    1. Red Cross Training: Foundations of Disaster Mental Health (Dr. Ruth Hoskins)
    • This was the perfect way to begin ASCA13! I left here feeling inspired and ready to explore disaster volunteering with my regional chapter of the Red Cross. 
    • Consider reaching beyond your school walls and volunteer for a disaster action team or as a disaster mental health volunteer. The Red Cross AND the folks in devastating situations need you and the unique set of skills you have.

    Monday, July 1, 2013

    1. Let Me Show You What I Do: Evidence and Evaluation (Dr. Nicole Cobb, Dr. Carol Dahir, Leigh Bagwell)
    • Burning Question: How are students different because of the school counseling program?
    • "(School counselors) need to be seen as an integral part of the end goal."
    • "You have got to speak this language!"
    • Deliver your program (not just curriculum) with intention and purpose 
      •  Program Mapping - use district plans, calendars, list every activity accomplished by counselors; map to the ASCA standards and the Common Core
      • "We don't have time not to be effective!"
      • Use Delivery System: Services Results Report (ASCA)
    • Management System Evidence 
      • "It's about organization!"
      • Calendars and Schedules (yearly department and individual schedules)
      • Advisory Committee
      • Keep/Collect anything that will document the success of the program 
      • Ask: "Is this something I can use to prove the success of the school counseling program?"
    • We can no longer say, "In October, we do _________ . We need to have the data to prove that when we do things and how we do things is effective."
    • "(We need to have) Intention in our work!"
    • Administrators often think: If it can't be measured....it's not important
      • SLO - Student Learning Outcomes
      • Ask - What do I want my kids to get out of this?
      • Ask - How are students different because of what counselors do?
    • Counselor Evaluations - "Counselors should be able to speak to how they use a variety of documentation, experiences, evidence throughout their program as it relates to the individual rubric indicators."
    • Use ASCA Program Audit for baseline data
        Other Data Resources:
    • Karl Liedtka spoke about Ready-to-Use Data Templates and many I spoke to were raving about his presentation and his templates. Click here to go to his website!

    2.  Web 2.0 Technology Smackdown (Julia Taylor, Dr. Russell Sabella, Dr. Erin Mason, Danielle Schultz, Andrea Burston)
    • Click here for the handouts for this session!
      • Everything you need can be found on this handout.
      • Really, really cool tech stuff!!
    • Side note - If you ever have the opportunity to hear any of these folks speak, drop what you are doing and GO! Fantastic way of presenting and you will learn so very much!

    3. Keynote Speaker - Chef Jeff Henderson
    • He was so inspirational! I will be reading his book sometime soon!
    • "We need to recognize the SPARK in kids and help them make the connection between education and earning money the honorable way." (paraphrased) 
    • In other words, we need to really pay attention to the strengths, passions, and skills in our students and foster them. Then paint a picture of how those sparks can lead to further education and career choices.
    • Our students can overcome the toughest of situations. It starts with someone who believes in them!
    • Check out his TV show, The Chef Jeff Project! Awesome!

    Exhibit Hall Purchases

    These were the items I purchased from a few exhibitors in Exhibit Hall! The ASCA Model you can order directly from ASCA's website. The Stop the Drama Thumball and Operation Break the Boy Code can be found at Youthlight. The others you can find at Amazon (see the links below)!

    Keep watching for Post #2 about the final days of ASCA13!



    You can find the graphics/fonts used in this post at:
    From the Pond - www.fromthepond.com
    Kimberly Geshwein -