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Tracking Time

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Sooo…Today I had to start tallying my time for work, delineating how I spend my time (e.g. P/T Conferences, 504 meetings, one on one, group, department meetings, etc).  It is sort of hard to break apart all of the components of such crazy, moving days.  You sit down and start responding to parent e-mails, start to organize classroom student response forms, get called down for a registration, get stopped with a class change form on the way, get an impromptu lesson on departmental goals upon walking into the office, talk with a family about a student’s history and choose classes, stop in at the lunch room on your way back and discuss some friend drama-rama, offer consultation on a student with a teacher picking up their class, speak with a student in the hall who has been put out and reiterate behavioral goals, return to a ringing phone, and then try to remember what it was you were trying to do before you left your office 15 minutes ago. How in the world is it possible to outline the tasks that you do all day, every week, within a month, throughout an entire year?  And when we don’t record everything, we feel as though on paper we look like we may not be doing enough to justify our profession.

But alas, it must be done.  Recording what I do throughout the day has saved my butt plenty of times.  In going over a student history, recalling why I made one decision over another, catching a student not living up to the things they agreed to; I refer to my notes all the time.  But still, I find myself thinking, ‘wait, I remember talking to that parent, what was it that they called about? Or, I did talk to that kid, but I never agreed to change his class past the deadline, or did I?’  One thing I have learned through internship and counselor subbing has been to make my own worksheets for processes that help me get the job done.  In Grad school, I remember professors encouraging having us make worksheets in class, and begging us to really get cozy with Microsoft applications that can be helpful.  Well let me tell you, I spoon those puppies now- and Word and Excel are the big spoon.

This is the Daily Log Sheet I created to keep record of everything I do.  It is based on a sheet one of the lovely ladies had made that I subbed for when I was on the maternity circuit.  I keep it on a clip-board that I bring with me everywhere like a besty.  Then I move it over to a Daily binder, and have a running log.  This way, if I so happen to forget to record my goings ons daily like I am supposed to (which I typically do), I have a reference to go to.  Between this, and appointments in my Outlook Calendar, I can usually get the majority of my time down.  I love to hear how other people track there time though, and like to take bits and pieces as I alter things.

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Time to Pay

So, I woke up at 6:30am this fine Saturday morning thinking about something to make for the teachers at my school.  Why so early?  Because soon, we will all be together at the same time- also on a Saturday- for a…DUN DUN DUUUN…Saturday Snow Make-Up Day!!!  Eeeek!  That one hurts, doesn’t it?!  I have to say, I made sure to thoroughly enjoy my snowcation, so I can’t be but so disappointed.  (Plus, half of the kids won’t be there, and I will probably happily gain 15 pounds eating all day).  Anywho, the teachers have been really upbeat about it (at least around the nerdy, annoyingly sun-shiney School Counselor 😉 ) and I wanted to do a little something to perk them up for the make-up day.  I am thinking I will get packets of Lemonade mix and attach them to a little note — get it?! Make lemonade out of lemons??? Nothing like a freebie with a schtiky joke, right?

This week’s therapy has been some little stuffed fur-babies to send to my awesome cousin who is currently traveling abroad.  They were supposed to be mice, as shown in this pattern.  I, of course, hastily went through the pattern without reading the directions and came out with these, what I choose to call, “arbitrary woodland creatures”:

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Still plenty cute, just a little bit more in a ‘made by my child’ sort of way.

Oh! And I forgot all week to post this–

HAPPY SCHOOL COUNSELING WEEK!

WHOOP WHOOP!

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Mechanisms and Distortions

Soooo…still more snow time, and I have done some counsely web surfing and some weekend therapy crafting (snow addition). Here is a mini, mini quilt I made for my magazine fairy friend who is a total enabler in giving me her good reads, which only further deepens my magazine addiction (including ridiculously priced Euro craft mags).

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I first must say that I pinned this amazing post on printing post-its.  How insanely cute are these?? I’d like to alter the template a bit and have it say cutesy little things like, “Remember you promised Mrs. Counselor you would do this- Get it done!” or “Read this so you can pass your test.” or “Write stuff out so you don’t get all angry-teen!” (these are my versions of pep-talks).  But really, I’m thinking there are a lot of things that could be done with these.  I might start with making a few that just say “Get this done before:___” to attach to assignments.  I am so excited

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Lastly, but not leastly, I perused my “School Counseling Hoohas and Doodads” Pinterest board and came upon a list of cognitive distortions.  I have always loved distortions, because I find them fascinating, in that it happens all of the time, and I am amazed at how us rational beings can’t see them! Really, I think we all do them, and they are ultimately at the root of my job security!  Coupling this with some crazy defense mechanisms, and you’ve got yourself a life pie.

I mean really, how much of our students’ behaviors are actually manifestations of other things going in their lives or other stressors?  I mean really, I don’t know about your school, but some of the kids over my way have some real stuff happening at their houses- stuff that essentially makes them more grown than I am. One of the things that fuel my love for counseling is that light bulb moment when a student becomes a frequent flier because they have been angry, upset, getting in to trouble, etc. – and then they talk.  They talk and they talk, and through side notes and behind a bunch of conversation about who they are fighting with or who they are angry with, or what teacher is mean, they mention a parent deploying or moving, a mom having a baby or getting a new job, a sibling leaving for the military or passing in recent years.  And it all just starts to make sense, and you can start to respond to their quasi-issues in a way that addresses the real heart of their behavior.

But all of those side actions are weighed down by defense mechanisms and cognitive distortions. I mean, I do all of the time.  Take my snowcation, for example.  Because I am obsessive about my planner (same one every year: Moleskine extra large monthly like this one), if I don’t write something down, the plan does not exist.  Because I did not get to write down all of our holidays yet, when our snow make-up days are called, I will not be disappointed because I am choosing to experience some sort of false reality. 🙂  But really, adults do this just as much as kids (if not more, which is why I work with kids).  For this reason, I really liked this list of distortions.  I think that it could even be a cool tool to point out to kids when you recognize one of these occurring.  I think when I get back I will make a laminated copy, and maybe middle-schoolize the verbiage so that I can have a quick reference.  Here is a cool PDF version that also identifies relational comebacks for each distortion.

I got these awesome thought changing cards for Christmas last year (I think the anxiety deck), and they are so cool and relatable to this.  You can use them with students, but given my early professional greenery, I usually just refer to them for tips, examples, and reference.  However you use them, they are great.  I have thought about making my own list/deck but real-life middle school style (because ya’ll know things that claim to be tailored to adolescents very rarely really capture the charm and, um, determination of real middle and high school kids).  Here are all of the sets below. Hope you find time for some weekend therapy this weekend!

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Linkity Links

So, getting to be a part of the Sunshine Awards has made me a bit more aware of some of the blogs and links I frequent.  Since grad school I have been obsessed with counselor blogs (after a long love affair with crafty and food blogs).  As I started to sub, my addiction increased, but I also got bitter not knowing what age I would be working with, or whether or not I would even ever have my own office (I tend to get quite dramatic when I worry).  But for now (technically I am able to get axed for my first three years-yikes!), I have found a considerably constant home in Middle School, and can thus be free to waste as much time as I want on blogs that address my semi-focused population!  This is especially fun when we have impromptu days off.  We are currently on snowcation #2, and I am happy to report that I have completed my annual mandatory online training, which means I have been productive!  Besides the irrelevant fact that I was late, and had gotten e-mails from three different people, I can check training and bloggishness off of my to-do list.

But back to my point, I read some sweet links that peeked my interest, and some that made me excited to get back to the grind.  This is even despite the way I almost had my first crunch-cry before the snowpacalypse hit, as I tried to drudge through the first day of the semester: steady flow of students with wronged schedules, reminders for upcoming High School applications to distribute, students turning in said applications which have to be checked, necessary lunch visits for my grade-level with permission slips for a workshop to hand out, 3 new student registrations, two way too long parent/teacher conferences, a locked-out system leaving me to have to hand-write schedule changes, parents questioning 9th grade class choices, teachers requesting moves, and so on.  Of course, I would never go there because I ugly cry and it would scare the children.  Anywho, here are some interesting tidbits I learned today in between snow-ball fights, shoveling, and dryer loads.

1. This article/video was interesting as a parent and school counselor.  My kids’ timeline would be overwhelmingly red- crap!  I like the idea though, and I like that it reinforces the importance of teaching mindfulness to kids.  I’ll probably expand on this in a bit, as I have been trying to put together a little teacher info-e-mail on incorporating mindfulness lessons into the classroom.  Cool stuff.  I was also thinking about how the story mentions that stress can cause mimicked ADHD symptoms…Re-he-heally??! I mean, any school system worker will give the same shake of the head if you ask them if there has been an increase in kids with ADHD, and it makes me wonder if some of them have symptoms that are manifestations of stress, adjustment difficulties, anxiety, etc.  Not to say that all students have a misdiagnosis, but is it possible that some students’ needs are far different from our typical ADHD bag of tricks to yield academic achievement??? Hmmm…

2.  OK, then there was this really awesome blog post on First Grade Critter Cafe with a really awesome and advanced system to track a few academic initiatives in her school/classroom.  If you remember, I also have an obsession for organization, and well-oiled binder systems!  I just become very giddy when I see someone else who understands how lovely a good binder is.   And I’m totally thinking, some of the great stuff she’s got could translate well to school counseling and middle school.  I love the “Critter Cafe Menu” and it got me to think about how I could fashion some sort of ‘menu’ of services for students to choose from (e.g. mediation, one-on-one, group, etc.).

3.  Lastly, The Helpful Counselor (who seriously runs a nice blog and is genuinely helpful fo’ sho’) had a great post on Pinterest about needs assessments.  This was especially pointed for me since one of my goals for snowcation was to get my work goals and yearly assessment measures for my school system typed up and submitted (which may also be a tad late. may).  I definitely pinned this sucker so that next year, when I’m constructing my own goals from scratch (I inherited the goals from the previous counselor for this year) I can grab some of these tips.

All in all it’s been a crazy semester change but I’m surviving.  I leave you now with my kids enjoying some snow, just because pictures are fun.

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4. OK, one more. What. (I also have a voyeuristic obsession with reality TV, particularly on Bravo).

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Say Whaaaat?!

I am way super excited because MusicMovingForward nominated me for a Sunshine Award!  It just goes to show even a newb-tube like this counselor lady can make a tiny ruckus.  Seriously though, I really appreciate the recognition Miss Music, it is awesome encouragement to keep on trucking with this here interwebs site.

SO, as I understand, I have to say ten things about me that others might not know, and then link to ten other blogs that interest and inspire. SO, here goes with ten new (albeit probably boring) things about me:

1.  I have a puppy who is both the best dog in the world and biggest jerk ever.  I love her, and she is intriguingly hyperactive at all of the right and wrong times.

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2.  I love Spring and gardening, both inside and out of the house.  I have been obsessed with succulents for the past few years, and love working in my yard, even if my plants suffer for it.

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3.  I have wanted to be a School Counselor on and off since High School.  There may have been other loves in between, but I always went back to that dream.

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4.  My mamma raised me to smile and greet people- it is still crazy to me that people are really taken back by these simple things!  You can walk around smiling, or walk around frowning- either way you’re going to be walking around!

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5.  I like to get my craft on every chance I get.

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6.  I like an orderly and professional school- I feel like this type of environment show a kid a reflection of expectations, and a promise that the staff believes they are capable behaving accordingly.

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7.  I loves me a good Parent/Teacher Conference.  It is the best way to get all parties together and get on the same page- and quicker than e-mail threads.  I try to keep it sweet even if the air is stiff- often defensiveness dissipates when I earn the trust of the others involved.

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8.  One of my favorite things to do is take pictures.  My Olympus Pen is my bestie.

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9.  I am obsessed with Pinterest, and not ashamed of how much time I spend on there because it is so amazing.

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10.  One of my biggest fears is that I will get bitter- at work, home, and in life.
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Whew! That was slightly more difficult than I thought it would be!!! OK, now here is a countdown of some of my favesy blogs, in no particular order.  I know they may not all be able to participate, but I hope they feel the love!
KT in Kigali (she’s my amazing cousin!!)
Thanks so much again MusicMovingForward– this was fun and now I feel super special!
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Time, Times, and Timers

What has my weekend therapy been this weekend? Online shopping.  Usually this means that I look at unattainable things on my favorite sites like Anthropologie …I mean, who can resist the ridiculous detail that you can find in those clothes?? But, as I have mentioned, I am a public school school counselor, and let’s face it- we don’t go into this profession to get rich monetarily!  So I like to add $500 worth of clothes and shoes (approximately two shirts and a pair of flats, no?) to my cart, only to slowly dwindle them down to almost nothing, and eventually receding like a toddler to erasing everything.  But I’ve sure got one hell of a wish list on the puppy, I tell ya.  My husband bought me a $50 gift card once, and my daughter joked me for waiting three months to find the perfect sale items.  It’s how I roll, it’s my internal conflict; I loves me some expensive taste, but I’m cheap the way us 80’s kids were raised.

Such sad 1st world problems lead to my addiction to buying work related items.  I know very well that I justify the purchase because it is for work, even though it is absolutely unnecessary.  It’s what I do, and I’m ok with it- don’t judge.  Here are a few of my purchases from this weekend’s therapeutic tryst on Amazon:

1. I have been wanting to get some hourglasses since a few years ago when I started to realize how some frequent fliers need to be validated, but don’t need to miss their entire bell as they would like.  I like these because you get varied times.  This being, when one of my little babies comes in with a traumatizing (not) weekend friend fight or light vs. dark jeans debacle, I can pull out my hourglass and let them know just how much time they’ve got.  I like to have an open door policy, and I like for the kids to get to talk about anything they find relevent to life- even if it is very adolescent appropriate, which means it might not seem like a big deal to us big kids, but it is truly at the center of their little developing world.  But a woman’s got to get some work done too!  I’m hoping this will be a nice boundary we can all delight in.

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2. I also got this little bad boy.  When I worked in elementary, I would pull out all of these picture books to help the kids bring their tootsies back down to the ground, and remember how to behave like civilized 2nd graders (if there in fact is such a thing).  I have a collection of a ton of cool (and sometimes odd) picture books, that I was saddy-face about when I realized I would not be working in elementary school any time soon.  To my delight however, in a slightly sarcastic and patronizing way, I have fond that doing the same to a fit-throwing middle or high schooler can also strike a bit of a cord.  Whether it makes them realize they are acting like a 7 year old, or it reminds them of an easier time in elementary school (before the hormones and pressures, and added social scene), or it just offers a funny time-out, some bigger kids enjoy a moral-filled story from their youth too!

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OK fine, I did also get a new bag and treat for the pup, but I’m sure I’ll find a way to tie that in with a work necessity.  Back to the hourglass- I’m wondering how other counselors decide when student visits are appropriate.  How do we make time for the kids, while not taking time away from a very busy academic day?  Should they have to make an appointment (barring an emergency- and how do you define emergency when it is different for each kid?) or walk in with teacher permission? Ah time, times, timers.

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Mmm…binderssss…

Well, I’m not sure what my weekend therapy will be this weekend.  The only thing I can hope is that it is NOT food-craft, since I spent the last two snow days eating and cooking, and cooking and eating.  I returned to school today mainly to run from the sugar-induced chronic heartburn I developed while gouging on comfort foods.  I mean, in part I think it was a reaction to fight or flight impulses- must isolate! On the other hand, snow days are akin to summers; you are on vacation and thus do not retain calories. Except you do and I gained ten pounds.

Anywho, I should find something relevant to talk about. Got it! Binders!  I have always had a second, very type-A  personality at my work places.  With two kids, a puppy, and a husband,  I clearly have very little control over my environment, so when I am at work I am a neurotic organizational freak.  I know the topic of binders does not seem exciting- and now that I can see my enthusiasm from an outsiders perspective, it does shame me a bit- but they are my life!  Ever since I started working in the school system, I have found that good binders can make your day insanely more time-efficient.  This, as we know, is the key to the educational job- because just as you gear up for one task, you just know a kid is going to be referred in crisis, or  an upset parent is going to call, or an impromptu meeting is going to be added, or an administrator is going to need to have something investigated, or you are going to remember a training or task that is almost overdue, or you can just take your pick.

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Those binders look so good I can hardly stand it. I really am sick, I know.  The mini one is my binder for quickie and informational meetings, and a place where I keep smaller bits of informaiton like class IDs or phone codes.  I like pretty colored binders because I like to have happy things in my work environment.  I know how trite that sounded, and I am ok with it.  The Daily Record binder has all of my daily notes sheets (I plan on sharing this later) so if I need to reference something in the past I have everything right there. The 504/SRT/SST binder houses all of my extra sheets, instructions, etc for these types of plans, so I can grab everything together when I’m running out of the office to meet a parent or team.  The Handouts binder keeps extras and master copies of things I use, mostly of which I have made (for every handsome binder I enjoy, I equally love to make informational handouts and worksheets- one of the most valuable things I learned in grad school). 

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The General Information binder is my baby.  My Queen B. My BFF.  The pages have changed for different sites I have been in, and the tabs have changed for different jobs, but it travels with me.  I really vamped this bad boy up after my internship, in which my site supervisor showed me what she calls her “Bible.”  So true.  This has my master schedule, meeting notes, registration information, school specific information, state information, resources, and core team specific information.  I yank this thing out several times a day, and again, can grab it as I glide over to a meeting or P/T Conference and have all of the sources I need.  This was especially helpful when I subbed at different schools, and started in my new school.  Let’s take a second to honor my Ace, my binder.  It just…it just makes me happy.

I have to recommend finding a system that works for anyone working in the school system.  It is the same as we tell the kids- when our work space is less cluttered, so too is our brain.  Seriously, I think having a binder system helps me to keep the many tasks we are responsible for separate, while also making it easier to find the things I need in a pinch.  I certainly have gone to the dark side before, over-complicating my process, and have since paired it down to make things work for me in the moment.  I’m sure this will change as I do as a professional, but for the moment I know what I need and where to find it. Now that’s some good workday therapy right there. 

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Snowday Therapy?

Impromptu snow day two days before the end of first semester?! Yes!!! and Nooooooo all at the same time.  I woke up contemplating getting some class changes done from home so I didn’t have to stay late the rest of the week.  But only for just long enough that I didn’t feel bad when I didn’t.  Instead, I had a non-productive, but therapeutic day of snow playing with kids in exchange for magazine time and some english paper pieces.  I have a feeling it will be well worth the extra end-of-semester craziness.  Wow, I never realized how much I’m committed to a ‘pay to play’ pattern…See? The therapy, it’s good.

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My good friend loves me and brings me her old magaizines for weekend therapy. My faves are Japanese and Euro home and crafty magazines. I could make an anti-bullying poster out of that kind of friend.
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I mean…need I say any more?
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Theme: New

New seems to be the theme of my past year or so:  I started a new career in school counseling, met new kids, played with new coworkers, made new mentors and friends, became a new grad gradate, and –aaahhh full circle tie in– now I’ll start a new blog. Scary, lovely, anxiety-provoking, and inspiring to have so many changes, but I am starting to feel a settle coming sometime soon. Ish.  In my new best-job-ever, I am learning so much, as I sift through information I learned in school, past jobs, and substituting.  I dig out articles and Powerpoints I made, while smothering the voice that threatens me if I put two spaces after a sentence.  Likewise, now that I have moved on up to my own office, I am using techniques I observed as a sub and throw out acquired habits to develop my own processes that work better for my communication style.  Anywho, I hope to discuss some of this here, and touch on some things that help me make nice while I’m waste deep in hormones (like meditative handquilting and other holly-hobby crafts I get made fun of at home for partaking in), all the while hopefully becoming part of the online counseling community for some by-proxy first year supervision.  Hope I can keep up!

PS- I did take a few minutes today to hang some super-cute Kind over Matter ‘take-one’ posters.  I think these are awesome for hallways, office doorways, and teacher’s lounges alike! She’s got a ton of free print-outs over there, and this one I’ve gone to at each stop I’ve made.

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