Got to come home from work to this beauty!!! So exciting, and can’t wait to connect with educators that find it helpful! 😍😍😍 Thank you Free Spirit Publishing for making a dream come true!
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!
I am so in love with Twitter. Still. One of the things that have been my favorite part of joining is growing a professional network through Twitter chats! (Hmph. My Middle School self is rolling her eyes at my dorkyness. As per usual.)
I like to hop on and off of chats, and have made a small chart of chats I have participated in or have been recommended because my brain is on beginning-of-the-year overload and I can no longer think in linked strands of thought. <—that was a run-on sentence but I am too lazy to think through a restructure. See?
Twitter chats move quickly, but if you don’t get caught up in trying to keep up with every detail, it gets easier to participate. Questions are posted in sequence every 3-5 minutes, and you respond with the hashtag associated with the chat you are on. Check one out and get involved! Even if you can only answer a question here or there, I promise you will gain insight and ideas for your school!
I HAVE FOUR MORE DAYS OF SUMMER
Yep. Four more days. What a Summer it has been. We have had some serious changes this Summer in my family, some super sad and some exciting. It always seems to happen that way that the Summer is so seldom a slow burn. I can’t decide which way I like more. But I am ready to head back.
The crazyiness will begin soon, as I step into a new school. After my babies left for High School I’ve decided to take the leap and start a new adventure. As sad as I am to say goodbye to my old school, I am really excited to get my hands into a new place, new population, and forge new friendships. I get so much inspiration from the people around me, sometimes I think they get fatigued from my harassment! So now it’s time to give someone else a turn.
To prep for returning, I started reading The Balanced Teacher Path which has really helped me get into the mood to set my mind right, and remember to support the teachers on my hallway. It’s such an easy read, contains personal stories, and suggestions for the classroom and home. I seriously recommend it, and think it would be an amazing all-school read.
I also got to spend today in training with all of the secondary counseling peeps in VB. It was tough to wake up early, but it was so perfect to get me reignited and ready for the year. I am itching to get in, take care of scheduling conflicts, and get the year rolling. It feels so good to be in a profession that excites me enough to get my tail out of yoga pants and into business.
I have had the most exceptional, fun, laid-back, good kids for the last three years. I cannot even begin to imagine what work will be like after this year as I
tearfully drag my feet and throw a fit the size of adolescent attitude move forward and usher in a new group. We rotate at my Middle School, so I will also be back with the littles. It takes adjustment, but it is really exciting to meet a whole new group and start the puzzle all over again.
The 6th graders are so crazy different from 8th graders. It is hard for me to remember my students being those little minis only a couple of years ago. A handful of them cried at the mere expanse of the school, some of those quiet mouths have blossomed, and others walk taller every day. I have also had plenty of time to think about things that may have helped them transition to Middle School and be more successful while there.
One of the things that I would love to know in advance is who will be my frequent fliers from the beginning. How can I help them? I look at plenty of data to get ideas, but who can I keep from flying under the radar for a year causing me to lose essential support time. So I got an idea to send some SOS packets to Elementary counselors. They know them best, they have lived with them for the last 5 years and they have all the dish I need to know who to approach and how. Imagine the time saved in rapport building to already have an in!
I gave each of our feeder schools’ counselors a couple of SOS envelopes, and asked them to write their frequent flyer students a letter that might help them when the hormones hit the fan in Middle School. I can pull them out and have a link for the kid to an easier, more familiar time. I also included some CLMS swag so that they can give some away and also have Middle School stuff around their offices. I figured this might subliminally add some face-time for us.
When I’m not
wagging my finger speaking with my 8th graders, I start to imagine students in 5th grade and what they are doing. They have no idea how different their life will be, and I can’t wait to see another group grow and experience.
We are knee deep in prepping for our Writing Standard of Learning, and I am seeing all kinds of crazy and creative ways that teachers are trying to make this material less tired. I started to realize that there are a lot of things I use with students, and keep in my office, that could easily be part of an English lesson. It makes complete sense too, after all, Guidance is about understanding, perspective, and communication. As I wished that I could share all of my office toys with the teachers, I realized that there might be a way to get some for everyone!
If you haven’t checked out Donor’s Choose yet, you totally should. It’s so easy to use because it’s a simple template. Then they are really helpful in making your project professional and marketable. Check out ours here and share if you’d like!
Everyone knows education is a real big fan of acronyms. I’ve definitely found one I like with PBIS. Side note: our high school students particularly like SOL (our standardized state tests) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)…those clever little students like to quote them as something quite different than intended. Our school is piloting this new popular initiative and embracing (let’s be real, change is a struggle!) it’s techniques.
The rumor mill went around for a while that it meant no discipline, free reign, complete anarchy and chaos. But luckily our administration has been smart about how they roll it out and how they explain the different concepts. My favorite part about PBIS is that it truly models a mind frame and perspective shift from focusing on the negative to focusing on the possibility of fellowship and equitable productivity. It creates a much more harmonious atmosphere and encourages a stronger community. Especially in Middle School, when everyone wants to blend in and feeling safe from emotions and embarrassment is nearly impossible, it really makes a safe haven for students to exist and work in. Quite frankly, if I had my way, our whole American society would be on a PBIS track and learn to chill out a little (oy vey, social media).
I created a bulletin board to highlight one of our components, which recognizes students for every day opportunities they take to have a positive impact on their hallways. Student receive a PRIDE slip from their teacher when they exhibit one of our goal characteristics and bring it to their School Counselor. I’m then displaying them on the board, but I’m shooting for a visual of how our good deeds are not for the benefit of one, but rather that we make up a whole. And of course, I threw in some collegiate flair to keep our eye on the prize!
I know sometimes bulletin boards are a pain in the butt, especially when there are a million other things to do, but I think they can be really powerful. Middle School kids need visualization and engagement to catch their eye. It’s like a little subliminal every day when they pass by. They’re not the only clever ones around these parts, no sir.
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.
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.
4. OK, one more. What. (I also have a voyeuristic obsession with reality TV, particularly on Bravo).
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.
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).
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.