Monday, September 24, 2012

Why we should celebrate the 40th Birthday of Title IX

When we here Title IX most of us think about the impact on sports; however, it was initially intended to give women more opportunities in higher education. By opening the gates to gyms, stadiums and playing fields, Title IX changed the way women in America see themselves.
The groundbreaking legislation is about a lot more than sports; it also lays the foundation for equity between the genders in access to higher education, career education, employment, learning environment, sexual harassment, standardized testing, STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — courses, and education for pregnant and parenting students. Because of Title IX, young moms and parenting fathers must have equal access to school programs and extracurricular activities. The same attendance policy applied to students with medical conditions or temporary disabilities must be applied to pregnant teens and those recovering from childbirth.
The federal Office of Civil Rights collects data from schools nationwide and recently started asking about bullying and harassment. Title IX requires schools to provide a safe environment where sexual harassment does not interfere with learning. However, when the AAUW looked at the 20 largest schools in the country, 14 of them reported zero cases that academic year. The group is trying to draw attention to the implausibility of those numbers and push for more accuracy in reporting.
Career and technical education classes — such as wood shop and home economics — that were once gendered as a rule now are not because of Title IX. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education report found the percentage of career and technical education classes leading to nontraditional careers went from zero when Title IX was first passed to more than 25 percent in the 2009-10 academic year. Huge growth also has come in the number of female students on college campuses and the number of women teaching on college campuses.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


The Pupil Services Team at my school teamed up to provide Tea and Loving Care to our families at Back-to-School Night.  We always do an information table but our social worker decided we would attract more traffic if we served a variety of teas and my part-time counselor came up with our cute slogan.  Our table was on the main hall and we got plenty of takers for our tea and literature.  It was such a success that we are going to set up the table the same way during Parent-Teacher Conferences in October.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Counseling Office Word Wall

I am building a word wall on the cabinet doors in my office.  All our teachers are required to build word walls for vocabulary development.  This year I decided to do a counseling word wall.  I think it will be useful particularly during small group session.  Right now it has our 6 character traits and words I know will come up immediately.  It will get filled in as the year progresses.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude

"Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation." I thought of this Brian Tracy quote as I was wrapping up the first full week of the school year.  As elementary counselors we learn every day from the students we work with, the parents, and the staff.  This week I learned from several students that the second week of school is less scary than the first.  A teacher at our staff meeting shared an excellent way of shaping appropriate line walking.  She tells her students that are not doing a good job, "I see that you need to watch others a little more walking using our rules, just go to the end of the line and your classmates will show you."  A parent was in a meeting yesterday quoting several ideas I had shared with her when we consulted about her socially anxious child in the Spring. She taught me how powerful offering parents some new strategies can make them feel supported and reshape their child's experiences.  We touch lives every day and these experiences change us.  I am grateful for all the opportunities being a school counselor gives me to continue to grow and develop.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Eating Disorders in Younger Children

According to statistics on anorexia show that between 1 – 5% of all female adolescents and young women are anorexic.  The average age of onset is 17.  It is rare, but not unheard of, for children under the age of 10 to have the condition. Ninety percent of people with eating disorders are female. Girls as young as kindergarten express concerns about their weight.
In the book The Slender Trap: A Food and Body Workbook Laura Stern gives young girls the opportunity to explore how they feel about themselves. Stern discusses the attention given to food and body size in elementary school. According to Stern, in the United States, 42 percent of girls enrolled in first, second or third grade reported that they wanted to lose weight. As children get older, things get worse. Among third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders, 45 percent of elementary school students wanted to be thinner. Stern reports that approximately 9 percent of nine-year-olds have vomited to lose weight.
If this data is correct, what are elementary counselors doing to address this concern? Body image is an area of particular importance. Pointing out to children that a variety of body types are valued in various cultures, and making sure that they are aware of pop icons who do not have perfect faces and physiques maybe helpful. Helping children to choose appropriate role models is one key to good self-esteem, and playing team sports has also been found to be beneficial. Counselors should also inform parents that eating disorders can occur in elementary age children and if they suspect a problem a physician should be contacted immediately.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Math Anxiety in Grades 1 & 2

New research by the University of Chicago found students report worry and fear about doing math as early as first grade. Most surprisingly math anxiety harmed the highest-achieving students, who typically have the most working memory.  The research team showed that a high degree of math anxiety undermined performance of otherwise successful students, "placing them almost a half a school year behind their less anxious peers." The researchers recommend trying to reduce anxiety by allowing children an opportunity to draw or write about their math worries before a lesson or assessment.  The researchers note that math anxiety comes from a variety of sources: teachers' anxiety about own math ability; parents' anxiety about their own math ability; and a student's own numerical and spatial competencies. This information is useful to share with staff and parents as well as teaching students ways to manage anxiety.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Its been 11 years since I felt the plane hit the Pentagon and watched the black smoke from a school a mile away.  I come to school today remembering the heroes on that tragic day here in Virginia, in Pennsylvania, in New York, and the many military who sacrificed in the ensuing war. The children in my school today were not even born then.  I doubt if more than a few bring up the anniversary today.  But if they do i want this generation of kids to come away from the story not with the images of the tragedy, but with the images of the human triumph of spirit and the unity that came after September 11th

Monday, September 10, 2012

 Walter Was Worried by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
A colleague gave me this clever book as a back-to-school gift. On the first page the reader is greeted by the title sequence.  Opposite the text is a portrait of a very worried Walter.  But wait!  The very letters that spell worried form his facial features as well as his expression!  Gradually a simple story unfolds as other characters are introduced, and the sky grows dark, the fog rolls in, lightning strikes, and thunder shakes the trees.  Later the feelings CHANGE and pleasant feelings replace the unpleasant ones.  This book could easily be used in the lower grades for a lesson, with a group, or in an individual session.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Data Notebook

Its amazing how much data is in our Notebook as we wrap up the first week of school.  It is so important that counselors plan, collect, and analyze process, perception, and results data.  It is always busy but keep sign in sheets for parent events and staff training.  Use Google Docs to do pre and post surveys with parents and staff.  Design pre and post lesson unit surveys to show that students are learning as a result of the lessons counselors teach in the classrooms.  Keep track of how you spend your time (we are using a new Excel spread sheet).  Where possible plan to capture data so it can be disaggregated, that is separated out by ethnicity, gender, teacher assignment, etc. We are trying to do this this year for referrals to counseling and bullying reports. Stone and Dahir's "School Counselor Accountability" is an excellent resource.  They say, "Data is a counselor's best friend."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

College and Career Readiness Begin in Elementary School

                Own the Turf is the National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA) advocacy campaign to galvanize and mobilize school counselors to provide every student with the inspiration, planning, academic preparation and social capital to graduate from high school ready for college and careers. NOSCA’s Eight Components of College and Career Readiness Counseling are the road map for this work. They outline an effective path toward creating a college-going culture in schools, districts and communities. Download your free guide to the Eight Components of College and Career Readiness Counseling at
                In our counseling program this year we are doing several things to promote college and career awareness.  We organize a large Career Fair every other year for our upper elementary students and last year we asked each presenter to highlight their college experience in addition to sharing about their career.  We also arrange a few career visitors for the early childhood grades every year during November, National Career Development Month. Our principal had banners made for our cafeteria with the year the current students will graduate from college. This year we are piloting a Career CafĂ© program in fifth grade where once a month we bring in a career visitor to share about their college and career over lunch.  We have every third grade student interview someone about their occupation, summarize the interview, and present it to the class.  To get staff to recognize the importance of a college ready environment we all wore our school college wears the first day of preservice week.  It served as part of the “icebreaker.” Our staff was all asked to highlight their college on the posters we display in the hall to share with students and parents.  The entire school will wear “College Spirit Wear” the first Friday of every month.  We are collecting college banners and will unveil them on a bulletin board later this fall.
                Do you have any good suggestions for building a college-going culture based on early college awareness by nurturing in students the confidence to aspire to college and the resilience to overcome challenges along the way?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Welcome New Students: Transition into a new elementary school

Today I met in the gazebo of my school's beautiful courtyard with 13 new fourth and fifth graders.  I met with the new families yesterday to help build a sense of partnership and today with this group of learners.  I will do grades 1-3 the next two days.  Switching elementary schools generally means a child is adjusting to a new house, new peer group, new teacher expectations and the loss of the familiar.  Sometimes the change was caused by a major change in the family (e.g, new job or parents separating).  Research indicates more than 40% of students will have a moderate of serious adjustment to a new school.  The welcome reception is designed to help newcomers begin making positive peer group connections as well as get to know the counselor. Sometimes there may be only one or two new students in a class but if you put a grade level or tow together, they can see others who are experiencing being new as well.  For introductions today we did the ice breaker two facts and one fiction about ourselves (I like calling it that better than two truths and a lie) to look for commonalities.  We are only allowed to provide healthy snacks but I can report I did not have anyone pass up on either the animal crackers or bottled water since we met at 11:15 right before lunch.  I make up trivia questions about the school (school colors, mascot, how school got its name, etc.) to facilitate them knowing more about the school as a whole. I took individual pictures of all the students that will be displayed on the front hall bulletin board.  We are using the theme "Mirror Mirror on the Wall Who's New at Nottingham This Fall."  I will be following up with lunches the next two weeks to assist these newcomers make a positive adjustment to a new school.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back-to-School First Day

Our Pinterest inspired hallway bulletin board is the counseling program theme we use every year.  It certainly is bright and cheerful (and 3D).  It was a joint effort completed by members of our Pupil Services team.  Our school is blooming with a fast growing population.  Many of the new families joined us at our Boo Hoo Breakfast this morning at drop off. So far I have gotten into 3 classes to introduce myself, 26 to go... In first grade I am reading "Who's Ms. Sand Dollar? A Visit with the School Counselor.