Friday, August 31, 2012

Metaphor (Fiddle) Basket: Parent Consultation and Individual Counseling

Pam Dyson in a Play Therapy Tip of the Week: Parenting Metaphors  explains how she uses a tray of objects to understand how parents currently represent where they are in their parenting journey.   Michele Strangline , a creative counselor, explains how she uses a “ fiddle basket” to begin conversations with clients of all ages and start the play therapy process.
I use metaphors a lot with individual students and parents.  I know it is better for the “client” to select his or her own metaphor.  Counselor generated metaphors have been around for many years, but newer theories and research suggest client constructed metaphors facilitates expression of inner viewpoint and emotional experience.  It is also less risky. I have made mistakes when I select the metaphor, especially with parents. The counselor’s meaning of the metaphor might be very different from how the client interprets it.  If a student or parent you are talking to is having a hard time explaining what he or she is experiencing or feeling you can construct a simple question, “Could you select one of the objects in the basket that best symbolizes what you are going through and explain the connection for me.”  Using objects is a play therapy technique that makes the metaphor concrete.  Having a student or parent select an object and use it to construct meaning can help the client feel understood and accepted by the counselor and facilitate change.
The objects are just a collection of odds and ends that I add to if I find something that might be useful. Some items to include are: a slinky, bubble bottle, balloon, ball, kaleidoscope, rocks, shells, die, bobber, rubber band, and some miniatures.  Add items to the basket frequently to keep it fresh.  You can also add items reflective of some of the specific countries or cultures in your school.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tech Tools for School Counselors

I spent some time this summer exploring various Web 2.0 tools that might be useful to school counselors.  I have done a post on tech tools before where I talked about how much I use Live Binder It to save useful articles and web sites, replacing 3-ring binders with saving on the Web.  I recently discovered another social bookmarking site, www.Delicious.Com. 
Delicious is a bookmarking service specifically designed for saving and sharing bookmarks. It is useful tool for counselors because the software application allows for the storage and categorization of hundreds of links to interesting web sites. Delicious makes it easy to store links all in one place. The power of Delicious as an educational tool is in making  bookmarks accessible to other members in a learning community, and makes everyone else’s bookmarks available to those who are invited to join the learning community.  Delicious could make sharing links with parents very easy.
By ‘tagging’ your bookmark on Delicious with brief one or two word descriptors, enables a search to be conducted across the entire site for bookmarks others have labeled with similar interest. Therefore if you have a particular interest in say ‘Bullying’, and you do a search across Delicious, you will aggregate all of the sites that have been tagged ‘Bullying’ by popularity. The process of searching by tags leads to the discovery of content rich environments where in-depth learning can occur. Delicious can be used then as a research tool.
When you save an article or web site Delicious will offer suggested tags. You can select one or more of the provided tags or give it your own. You can give an article or site multiple tags.  Later if you want to go back and see all the sites, you’ve tagged by topic (exp.  “anxiety” )they are already organized.  Delicious also makes it easy to make individual bookmarks public or private.  If you wanted to share resources with a group of elementary counselors, I think is a great tool.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Research on gender: Should we be doing single gender groups?

Why Gender Matters, Boys Adrift & Girls on the Edge, by Leonard Sax
This summer I read the 3 books written by Leonard Sax, the founder of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education.  I found each of the books to have some very important concepts for school counselors and I recommend they be read in the order they were written.  I especially value that they are based on research and that when new research is available he updates his books on his web page

Just a few things I found important, first in Why Gender Matters he reviews the research showing that girls are born with more sensitive hearing than boys, and that the difference increases as children grow up. So if a male speaks to a girl in what he thinks is a normal voice, she may hear it as yelling.  When boys appear to be inattentive in class, they may need to be closer to their soft spoken female teacher. It also explains the brain research that explains why it is so hard for males to express feelings.

In Boys Adrift he explains that the main reasons for male disengagement in the real world is mainly due to 5 causes: 1) Video Games; 2)  Teaching Methods; 3)  
Prescription Drugs; 4)  Endocrine Disruptors; and 5)  Devaluation of Masculinity

Finally, in Girls on the Edge he outlines four points that need to be addressed to combat problems facing many girls in our society: 1) sexual identity; 2) the cyberbubble; 3) obsessions; and 4) environmental toxins.

Overall, I recommend these books to teachers, counselors, and parents raising boys and girls in America today. He challenges the reader to consider holding many children out of kindergarten for a year, the value of sports, how to problem solve with girls vs. boys, and many other practical matters. In thinking about his research I am going to offer more single gender small groups this year.  For example, if I have a second grade boys social skills group I can select materials and activities that appeal to most boys and modify my own delivery to accommodate learning style.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A New School Year: School Counselor Helps Newbies

I love the beginning of the school year.  I especially enjoy seeing how the students I worked with the previous years have grown and developed.  I also appreciate catching up with returning colleagues. The counseling program needs to have a plan in place to support new staff, students, and parents.  I thought I’d share some of what we do at our school.
New Staff  We have over a dozen new staff every year so it takes time to simply get to know each person.  It is critical to establish a working relationship with all new classroom teachers whose classes we will be teaching. We provide teachers a one page description of the counseling program in their back to school packets and include more information in the staff handbook.  All our forms are available on Blackboard but it is sometimes useful to hand new teachers a hard copy (exp. Referral form) and let them know more are available online.  We want a collaborative relationship with the teachers so we need to take time to meet with them.  It is important to remember what new teachers fear most, typically classroom management and parent relationships.  We tell teachers we will assist in these areas in any way they need.  We try to minimize any paperwork we ask of teachers because that is an area that many new staff already feels is overwhelming.  We also want teachers to see us as experts and resources.  We do a training for all new staff in our schoolwide bullying prevention program during preservice week where we provide a healthy snack because this group frequently is so overwhelmed they don’t even take time to eat. We go back to coach them on the implementation of the bullying program during the first quarter. Some years we give new staff a small gift from the counselors. We also take their pictures.
New Students During the first week of school these children are our primary focus.  The first day of school we give them buttons to wear so all staff will know they are new and should introduce themselves to these children. During the first week, we host 3 sessions to welcome our new students in grades 1-5 (we generally do a session for grade 1, one for grades 2&3, and finally grades 4&5).  During these sessions (held in our beautiful courtyard weather permitting) we do an interview activity, share a healthy snack, play a trivia game about our school, read a book about being new, take their pictures, give them a “New Student Survival Bag”, and Passport.  The Passport contains pictures of staff in the school who work with all the children.  The new students are assigned a buddy who helps them find the people in the passport and ask them two questions and the responses get recorded.  They are given 2 weeks to do this activity and then they bring the completed passport to one of the counselors for a prize.  We follow-up with new students and have lunch with them one or two times during September.  During the first week we also go into every class to reintroduce ourselves to all the students and we always try to include the new students in that introductory lesson. Finally, we do a large bulletin board display to welcome our new staff and students that is displayed in the main hall during September. Many of our new students end up being in friendship groups that start in October.
New parents We make our program visible to new families at the Open House during pre-service week via an information table and just being available near our offices.  The first morning of school (right after drop-off) we co-host a Boo Hoo Breakfast for parents of kindergarten and any students new to our school.  We talk about the counseling program, adjustment  to a new school and school year, and a little about separation anxiety using a brief PowerPoint. We explain the resources and services we offer parents. Our PTA offers new families a buddy family to help them become part of our learning community.  We continue to outreach to new families at Back-to School Night and Fall Parent-Teacher Conferences.
New beginnings offer new challenges.  Because the counselors share part of the responsibility for school climate, it is important to help new staff, students, and parents feel welcome and begin to build relationships.  What good ideas do you have to assist the newbies?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Open House: School Counseling Program Public Relations

It is very easy to get caught up in setting up your office, meeting new staff, and planning lessons during preservice week; however, it is very important to take every opportunity to reach out to parents especially as the school year begins. I am fortunate to have an office on the main hall of my school so many parents walk right past my door.  Before the Open House begins the student service staff set up an information table.  We have our brochures, hints for parents about the start of the year, and the flyer for our kick-off Boo Hoo Breakfast. We also display some of our popular Family Resource Packs that parents can borrow on common topics. This year we will also be soliciting volunteers for our Career CafĂ© initiative in grade 5.
Finally, we display a few “tools of the trade” so families begin to see our role: a few colorful stress balls, college banners, "New Student Survival Kit", passport, and character education book marks that the students can take.  I don’t stay with the display because I usually end up giving directions and talking to families.  This year I am wearing my new “Counselor” t-shirt I purchased at the ASCA National Conference.  The goal is to make the counseling program visible and accessible to the entire learning community.