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I wrote a book?! I WROTE A BOOK!

My. Mind. Is. Blown.

My quarantine baby is finally coming along! I have had the pleasure of working with Free Spirit Publishing, who has helped me make one of my dreams come true! Read, reach out, and let me know what you think!

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Offering a Sense of Control

We have very little control these days. This can feel a bit claustrophobic, and makes a scary pandemic situation even scarier! One way you can help students feel more in control is by arming them with information about biology and the ways that our bodies work for us without us even knowing. I’m looking forward to finding a way to embed these videos into a lesson for students to learn more about immunology so I figured I’d share! (how cool is this chick by the way??!)

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Check My Kids Out!!

Clink the link above for some amazing student comments on race and the classroom. These kids are also working with another teacher and I and developing a professional development opportunity for our school. I WANT TO BE THEM WHEN I GROW UP!!!

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Virtual Classrooms

Ok, the verdict is in for my city. We will begin the year virtually, and see where the virus takes us. I know that the emotional fallout from not getting to be with kids will happen in due time, but for now, I’m obsessing my brain is in overdrive trying to think about how I will establish my presence and connection with my new 6th grade babies this year!

Because we rotate with our students, 6th grade is so important for me to be able to build strong rapport with my kids so I can set my tone, expectations, and norms to ride us out through 8th grade. Luckily, my mouth (and hair btw) is big enough to reach them even through my computer screen!

One thing I have wanted to do is set up one of those fancy Google Bitmoji virtual classrooms I’ve been seeing. I’m still trying to figure out how I will get it to them, but the fun part is in the design by far! I started with these two resources and they have provided everything I have needed to create my room:

Take a look at my virtual classroom below and let me know what you think! Click on some of the little images for an interactive experience.

https://weekend-therapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/mrs.-filios-virtual-office.pdf

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Linocut Therapy

I’m participating in my second linocut print exchange! This one is inspired by a student from a couple of years ago. The title is 8th Grader, and I drew an image of her that haunts my mind often.


She would sleep on my office couch during times when her home was particularly unsettled. She had more life experience than me and taught me a lot about struggles that had previously felt so far away from my world- intense familial drug use at young ages, assault, generational prostitution, addiction, abuse, and the many things a family will go through to get by. I have unfortunately had many students who live in crisis, but her situation was a different universe of normalized trauma. She never disclosed these circumstances as complaints, they were peppered throughout our everyday communication. It was no different from other students who stop in daily to tell me about their relationship.


She disappeared to Florida, had said she would be fine once she could secure a financial set-up like her mom and the trucker. I think about her almost daily still. I miss being able to put eyes on my students to see that they’re still safe, or still there.

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Tackling the Weight of the World with Groups

Being that I moved schools this year, I have only had this short year with my great new group of kids.  Next year they will go off to high school and need the skills and good stuff to be ready to tackle the challenges they will find there.  We spend so much time prepping for registration and talking about classes, graduation requirements, and logistical transition needs, that we forget that if the kids don’t have the skills to carry out these more mundane check-boxes, it’s nearly pointless! With all of this in mind, I started to freak out that I wouldn’t be able to get them properly prepared for their next phase, and that old feeling of letting them down started to creep in.

After getting a hold of myself and realizing I was being melodramatic (the hallway hormone osmosis factor), I thought back to a session I attended at the Virginia School Counselor Association this year on small groups.  And viola!  I decided to go in that direction.  I started by establishing a couple of groups based on things I have heard through conferences, parents, and teachers as being barriers to success.  And came up with five groups (the four here and one more for my perfectionists!).

groupgift certificate small group

Currently I am developing the each lesson.  I settled on four sessions each so that I can try to do it twice before our standardized testing starts.  In the meantime, I sent a letter to teachers outlining the project, and included an easy strip of paper that they could use to suggest kids.  These groups are turning out to be so fun to plan, and I am really excited to get started with them in February.

Next up, I need to develop and permission slip for kids and start to get information out and lock in a schedule. My hope is that these groups can be part of my larger effort to help kids start to learn skills to help them operate without the assistance (corner cutting, entertainment, or otherwise) of technology. Updates to come!!

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Screen Time

During Winter Break I got to regroup with family and become re-energized by searching out new books and resources for good information that I can return to school with and hit the ground running.  This break I was delighted to find a series called “What Were You Thinking?” on the Audible audio platform.  If you haven’t listened to it yet, you HAVE TO.  It was just what I needed to be able to take a step back and get my head back in the crazy mind of my middle school kids.

capture

In every language and for many generations parents have been asking their children, “what were you thinking?!”.  I know I heard this repeatedly in my own teen years, and now instinctively say it to my 12 and 7 year olds. Spoiler alert: they’re not thinking.

It really got me thinking about just how much technology and sleep deprivation plays in the decision making of students.  Every generation has it’s own level of knuckleheadedness, but with the advent of accessible and constant internet (think: smartphones, tablet, gaming consoles, Google Docs, social media, oh my!) has added a whole new layer, and we’re not even close to being in control.

I started thinking about all of the educators who have said “I can’t do this forever” burnt out from constant 504 meetings, student apathy with assignments, and unfiltered student communication.  How much more can we handle?! But alas! We are only in the infancy of seeing the ramifications of putting an iphone in the hands of a toddler, and as we learn more about that, we may also learn more about how to curtail these hazy side-effects and rise our kids up to their true potential.

More to come on this, as I was so inspired I had to write it out. I submitted a blog post to my beloved Free Spirit Publishing and can’t wait to hash out the details!

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Transitions

I returned to work last week, ready to tackle the last semester of the year. The first day back is often lacking a little energy with everyone break hangover so it’s always a nice catch up day in the Counselor’s Office, save a couple of years from leaving estranged and divorced parent visits and rapid enrollments for a clean cut. Luckily for me, my teachers are awesome and open to classroom visits right when we return (my last holiday gift for them to return to a little hold). These 8th graders are now entering the realization that they will be moving on to High School and making the big transition.

Having been on the 8th grade hallway a couple of times now, I’ve noticed that 2nd semester has this veil of docility to it. The students are really spending more time processing what is about to happen in their lives than talking! The lull is a double-edged sword though. Even though they’ve grown a lot, the quiet doesn’t mean the kids are magically matured into silence, it typically is a sight that they are FREAKING OUT. In fact, that becomes my leading question- “you’re feeling out. What’s up with that?” And they just nod and sniffle. A lot.

This transition is one of my favorite parts about working in Middle School. It’s biologically a changing tough time, and we get to act as bumpers to get them to their next phase in High School. I try to give them as much information about what they can expect, but the biggest thing I can do is teach them to be open to experiencing change and let go of trying to fight what they wish was true and just roll through what is.

I try to incorporate this into all of my interactions with students. From class choices, to friendship squabbles, to parental relationships, I remind students that they are always changing. “What were you like in 6th grade? Are you different?” Is always a go-to for them to remember that as time keeps moving so do they, and it’s ok to change.

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Selling Ourselves

As far as I’m concerned, any day where I get to watch a Family Vacation scene with students is a good day.  Today we worked on applications for High School Academies (something in our division where students can attend another school, if accepted into a high caliber program). I get a little competitive of my kids during this time when I am in 8th grade, and so I try to provide as many opportunities for perfected their applications as possible.

Academy pop up series

Although crazy, filling out these applications is much like filling out a college application (minus the charge, and FAFSA, so better really). Today’s pop up session was regarding short answer questions, such as future goals, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, etc. I am trying to get the kids to realize that for any application, we are simply selling ourselves so that they stand out against other students from across the city. For Middle Schoolers, I find that just about anything where they get to be social can become engaging.

So alas, I decided to relate how to sell yourself in short answers to how to make a great speech.  We started with talking about the Elevator Speech (which is essentially what we are doing on paper for short answers), and then we discussed a Banquet Speech. That is, how to wrap things up in a really pretty package to make everything sound magical and amazing.

Academy Pop Up 2

Before we ended the session with an open lab where they worked on their application (thank you Google Docs for allowing me to say “share it with me and I’ll read it later” when I Have 60 kids ready for attention!), we make our own toasts; we make them specific and detailed and beautiful.  It is so fun and one of my favorite lessons!

*** This is easily adaptable for High Schoolers in college application workshops, or for career and networking lessons in all grades!

Academy Pop Up 2_

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Bullying Prevention and Changes

Hello hello! It is still feeling like Summer here, but the bags under my eyes are a giveaway for September! What a great year start it has been too. A new school, New challenges, new kids, New team- and I have loved every second. I’m still missing my lovely and homey old school, but the change has helped me get over the ABANDONMENT of my newly high schooled babies. They are thriving, of course, but I still look for them in the hallways.

Anywhoooo here is my latest blog post with Free Spirit!