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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.

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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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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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Late Post on Leadership

I have been meaning to post about my November lesson on leadership- it was fun and I really had some good kid participation.  Having never been a classroom teacher, I am certainly a work in progress on creating lessons.  I can make things graphic enough to draw kids in, and my babies and I have good rapport to banter and keep the convo engaging, but the actual *teaching* part is definitely something I struggle with.  First, I have attention issues, so I am easily distracted (pair that with less-than-stellar classroom management and basically the kids rule the roost), and second, there is a reason I’m not a teacher.  I am so in awe by these dang teachers and their endless energy and self-control…for me, my family knows the frazzled look in my eye on those loooooonnnng classroom lesson days, and I have to decompress after being in the classroom all day.

So, it was a light-bulb moment when last year my principal (a previous outstanding teacher) told me he thought I was working too hard- bogarting all of the talking, and not having more participation. He suggested I play with incorporating asking questions instead of telling, having students work in groups, and checking in with “shoulder partner” moments.  WHAT a difference that made this time around!

Being that this was a November lesson, and we were knee-deep in the crazy election process of 2016, I knew I wanted to cover leadership.  These kids were witnessing some stuff, hearing a lot, and, I can only assume, feeling more disconnected from democracy in the midst of one of the loudest and in-your-face elections we’d ever seen.  I wanted to draw them in; my goal was to introduce them to leadership on their terms and invite them to reconstruct the concept to their own definition.

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We started by warming up with Free Spirit Publishing’s Everyday Leadership Cards .  I love these because they are really engaging for multiple age groups.  They are perfect for whole classroom discussions and activities, individual and small groups, and apply to multiple different topics (I can think of ways to use them in all counseling domains!). For this lesson, they were in small groups, and then when we came together as a class, a couple groups shared their Q&A.

Then we touched on the current events in politics.  Now, I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole and hear about different views and whatnot, so my questions came with a disclaimer about not revealing which candidate they (or their parents) were rooting for.  I told them my core question was, “what makes a leader?” They talked with their shoulder partner and also came together as a class.

The next and best part: movie time!  I played three movie clips, and after each clip I asked them what examples and types of leadership they saw.  The three clips were:

  1. Cinderella (my favorite, the dress-making scene)
  2. Remember the Titans (various clips since the entire movie is every counselor’s dream-boat)
  3. Lion King (Scar’s song where he takes over the kingdom) ***WARNING: the clip that auto-starts after this scene is Hakuna Matata so you MUST quickly drop the browser, as students are nearly violent if you take away Timon and Pumbaa.  I learned this the hard way.***

I won’t go into my main points for each one, because they’re pretty obvious.  After movie-time, we then started talking about the broader concept of leadership again.  I had them use their devices (if you can’t beat ’em join ’em, right?), and discuss two main questions in pairs, then enter their answers using the Poll Everywhere app.  This thing is awesome and super easy to use by the way (or BTW if you prefer).  They were asked to use one word that was described a leader, or was the main quality a leader needed, and also what their platform would be if they were president (I only had to toss about five of the roughly 250 responses, which I think is pretty good!). I love some student voice, and so I printed their responses and stuck them on our hallway board.

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Hope your lessons have gone well, and your break is lovely and relaxing! Cheers!

 

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How My Principal Made Me Socially Awkward

@SteffSchoolCoun is where it all started.

When I am speaking with you in line or while we are drinking coffee (even though I do not like coffee), I just might have a compulsion to tweet things like: Cereal is my favorite food and Serial is my favorite podcast. Weird.

And I am sorry for that.  But it’s my principal’s fault.

I do try to keep my Twitter feed content school-related, but if it’s the night of a Project Runway finale, or I spot some poorly-timed irony around me I may need to scratch that itch while we are supposed to be working on a worksheet’s formatting or planning a meeting, and tweet that tweet.

And I am sorry for that.  But it’s my principal’s fault.

During in-service week, we were encouraged to start a Twitter account in order to share photos, events, ideas, etc. of things we are doing in our schools and in our career. As you can imagine, there were many, many scowls received in the cafeteria that day.  I would venture to say that Twitter received at least 30 new accounts that have been inactive since that very day.  Really, I was nervous myself.  I can hardly keep up with Facebook and Pinterest, let alone this new-fango-young people social media.

But as I was instructed, I created an account a posted a few things. I’m not really sure if “posted” is the right terminology, because that’s how dorky I still am with this tool. Either way, very quickly, I was hooked. I love the small post format- I clearly like talking, so this has helped me communicate in a less dramatized fashion. I also like the networking aspect. I have followed, been followed by, joined chats, been retweeted and commented by people in the school-system and education community I would have never crossed paths with had it not been suggested that I join Twitter.

But I am learning (as I do often) that I am needing to listen to my own advice for students and my own kids regarding technology, respect, and finding a balance of not letting these great tools take over, while still being brave enough to completely submerge into them for professional development and personal growth.  They do offer a lot, but I am learning how to not be socially awkward as a result.

I am so glad I was twittered!

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Technology!

So my department wanted to make a video for our 8th graders to go over the logistics of their registration for 9th grade. We’re having the department chairs from our feeder high schools talk about everything, so they also get some face time. It’s an awesome idea because there are lots of tiny things (how many classes, selections, section availability, etc) that we end up saying over and over in the registration lesson. What we would rather be an interactive lesson ends up being droney and lecturey. This is tough, especially when our face-time is important for report building- basically, us counselors like to be the fun ones. The video will also allow us to disperse the information much more quickly.

The videos turned out great, but it is so much info, and I hated the idea of not being able to “check in” with students as different points were being made. Luckily, our computer resource lady showed me an awesome app that I used in between takes to do just that! It is called Tellegami, and allows you to do short clips of an avatar that has your voice. It’s incredibly easy to use. If you have iPads in school I would highly recommend it! If you are already using it, good on ya!

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