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.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

First Day of School Staff Gift

Our students will be making their way through our school doors on Tuesday and of course, there is much anticipation in the air. I'm enjoying these last two days of summer (even though the weather stinks) and putting the final touches on getting ready for Tuesday.

Teacher Appreciation Printable Freebie BNothing like waiting until the last minute (some things will never change) to come up with a small gesture (for staff) for the first day of school. I looked back on some summer finds and came across this free printable by Bitsy Creations. I printed out the 8x10 version on cardstock and put it in a clear plastic table top frame. These clear frames are so incredibly handy for table-top signage for any occasion! Also, Bitsy Creations has a bunch of really cool freebie signs!

I found some teacher appreciation cards on Pinterest that said: You Were Mint to Teach. But, I wanted something with a heart to match the sign. 

Using the "Mint" idea, I created a graphic with a heart on it using Free Fonts - Janda Safe and Sound, KG Ten Thousand Reasons, and Pea Katrina! I decided to stick with "Teach" even though various staff members will be receiving this. My thinking was: every school staff member is responsible for teaching our students in one way or another. Plus, I thought it would be way too confusing to make different graphics with different job titles. Click here to download a free printable that includes a sheet of this graphic!

Next, I put some Life Savers in small gift bags and tied off with colored ribbon. I also bought some Orbit gum packs. Using, I put this graphic along with a personal message on Avery 2x2 inch square labels and printed them. Finally, I stuck the labels to baggies of Lifesavers and to the individual Orbit gum packages. Click here to download a free printable that includes a sheet of this graphic (you can cut apart and tape on whatever).

Here are the final products.

On the first day of school, I will display the sign next to this basket for staff to help themselves.

While it is certainly a very small gesture, I want my staff to know I'm thinking about them on the First Day!

I wish for all of you a fantastic First Day (if you have yet to have yours) and a wonderful school year!