Needed a little reminder card to slow down the phases of anger in some stressed kids today. We talked about the process and how slowing down in the moment will help to figure out when to reach out for help or a cool-down.
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!
Check out my latest post with Free Spirit Publishing for a lesson you can use with your kids (or staff!) to combat trauma response and learn self-care! ❤️
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!).
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!!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
My school is lucky enough to have a school incredibly close to several military bases. We get to see jet formations all day, we have resources to help with mentoring and presence, and we get a divers student body that has seen the world. For Month of the Military Child, our School Counseling team decided that this year we would thank our military students by sponsoring and inviting them all to an after-school military social.
Fun fact? Kids don’t know what K.I.T. Stands for anymore, but they came up with some good and interesting guesses. Noted. Anyways, we got about a quarter of our invited students to participate (which is a ton), and I think the chaperones may have had just as much fun as the kids!
I found some of the
ancient maps that used to hang in classrooms, and we used one for students to sign in and write all of the places they have lived in.
We also did a chalk-walk, where students decorated our bus loop with inclusive and military inspired messages, to greet other students when they walked in the net day. These activities, coupled with music, ping-pong tables, freebies, and (most importantly) ice-cream made for the perfect afternoon! The only criticism we received from he students was that we had waited so long to provide such fun.
Did your school celebrate Month of the Military Child?
I was listening to an NPR recording on how companies correct their image and consumer trust after there is some sort of mistake or public controversy. It got me thinking about how much damage control we do in the school system and as School Counselors. The interviewee was talking about specific steps that they take with the public to get them back on “their side” and ultimately start to buy their products again. So I, always a fan of lists, decided to break down my usual process. This was particularly time-appropriate since today was especially trying with a few teachers, students, parents, and situations (I’m taking a half day tomorrow, so I should have known I would be paying for it).
Anywho, bitterness aside, I think this is the typical process I take when talking with upset parents (and sometimes teachers):
1. Make sure I start with a super pleasant and positive voice, even if I know the person on the other end is anxious, seething, and/or in manic mode.
2. Ask them to address their concerns. More specifically, I give them a chance to define the circumstances before I do. This helps to not start the conversation with possible defense.
3. Acknowledge their concerns and make sure they know I am concerned about the situation, understand their concerns, and am invested in the success of their child as well. I think this validation goes a looooong way, and also becomes part of every step (sometimes needing extra emphasis at different times). Just like we encourage with students, there is surely always other perspectives to consider and things that could have been handled differently on either side (even the side of the teacher who is amazing and dedicated, but at their wits-end with a challenging student nonetheless).
4. Address inconsistencies, but not the emotional side. I do think we should not take charisma to the point that we compromise the reality of the educational environment. As a parent myself, I know that I can sometimes be blind to specific- er- particulars about my kid that others might not appreciate as much as I do. So I am real about bringing out discrepancies, but I try to do it in a way that states facts or data, not what my personal judgements or the teacher’s emotional responses are on the situation.
5. This is a good time to reassure them of your understanding, and validate their concerns again. If you are on the phone, they better feel your smile through the line.
6. Now we start to brainstorm solutions. Truth be told, if the other party appears way off base, I have found that (excuse my frankness) humoring their claims seldom hurts. Example? When a student has crazy truancy issues, and the parent tells you it is because they have had a cold or get headaches. Riiiiight. Well, even if I know the student simply stays up all night and then whines until they can stay home, I entertain the idea (in counsely terms, I meet them where they are) and mention services reserved for students who are gravely ill (such as cancer treatments, scoliosis surgery, etc.) in which the student can get education at the home. Typically, when the parent knows their students is not quite there, they will balk and either throw the kid under the bus, or backtrack to accept more appropriate solutions.
7. At this point, the reassuring and validation returns, and I use student-centered angles to push solutions that I think are good ideas, or that teachers have urged.
8. I leave the final decision open-ended. I have found that if the solution is agreed-upon, offering other steps ends the call much more nicely. For example, you might resolve that the student will attend tutoring, change classes, or attend a P/T Conference- but you note that you will reconvene and if the circumstances have not changed, you will try an alternate intervention.
And then, everyone becomes best friends and makes Starbucks plans and lives happily ever after! Well, not really, but the hope is that, even if for that moment, the fire is out and the damage has been controlled.
If at some point you can find something to connect (e.g. you also have a child, you both work in high-stress environments, there are a million things to do before a holiday, you were an only child as well, etc.) it is a REALLY good idea to play on this and find a common ground outside of the situation.
I really do love working with parents. Even some of the tougher ones are really only trying to advocate for their child the best way they know how. When a relationship can be forged, there seems to be no better way to see success in a student, than when there is a united front. Sometimes it feels like putting a puzzle together, but when the pieces fit, I sleep so much better!