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!
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!
Such a busy year! We have started a new section in our library- so exciting!
We ordered a bunch of books through Free Spirit Publishing with the remainder of our services budget. I’m in love with their books because I think they do a great job of writing in a way that is in touch with all ages of students. It’s really hard to find books for middle schoolers that aren’t too young or too old in content and verbiage. Small now, but I love the idea of having a place to bring students to suggest something that might help them. We have even talked about hiding small notes in the books to brighten the day of the reader. Adorbs!
We are also gearing up for the testing season. This always crazy, hectic, stressed-out time is ripe with counseling opportunities to calm down students and get them in high confidence mode. As much as we try to seperate the school counseling profession from the dry necessary, political growth mindset centered scored standards, I try to remind myself that it is a reality for students. School Counselors can really change the overall environment during testing to be positive and productive, easing students’ anxiety and helping them realize their potential. One of our counselors bring in Pom-poms and cheers for her students as they come in, one of our teachers gets donated fruits so students can have a bite to eat. These small things make such a huge difference. I like to go to each classroom in the morning and spread a little cheer by telling students they should smile because it has been shown to increase test performance (I’m pretty sure I read this somewhere, but in all actuality I have no idea).
My principal shared the Larry Bell testing strategies and they really make sense. It breaks down the processes of testing very well. He encouraged us to find ways to make sure the concepts are part of our students’ everyday language- I took that to heart with a bulletin board project meant to trick students into learning about the 12 steps…when in Rome, right?