Friday, March 22, 2013

Mix It Up

Our school psychologist organized this annual event and the counselors helped staff the cafeteria.  It was originally scheduled on the national mix it up day started by Teaching Tolerance, but we had a weather closing that day so our celebration got postponed until today.  Our psychologist made every student in the school a ticket with one of our 6 character traits on the front and discussion questions on the back.  She made signs with the character traits for all the lunch tables.  Sitting at a different table with people you don't normally eat with makes it a little awkward so having the questions hopefully starts a conversation.  Several students came up to us and said they made a new friend today which is the purpose behind the activity.  Last year we had students sit by the month of their birth, there are many ways to divide them.  Ee rotate our ideas, save the signs, and at least once every three years try something new.  This was our first time using the character traits and it seemed to work well and reinforce these key values.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

the 5Rs of Bullying

I had the idea for this bulletin board and did the lettering and banner but a fantastic parent volunteer at my school made the kites, birds and clouds for me.  Our school has WONDERFUL parent volunteers.  This board in a busy hallway is a beautiful visual reminder of what Steps to Respect teaches are the keys to bullying prevention and intervention:
Recognize - all students, staff, and parents know and understand a common definition of bullying;
Refuse - we train students to refuse bullying if they are being bullied or they are a bystander;
Report - bullying is a mean pattern of behavior that needs adult intervention.  Again students who are bullied, bystanders, and parents/guardians are encouraged to tell a trusted adult about bullying.  If they are afraid to report our school provides an option to report annonymously via our bullying box;
Record - when bullying occurs via electronics it is critical to the investigation to record (save) the evidence.  Students are taught not to delete mean postings, voice mail, etc. before showing it to an adult who can document exactly what was sent; and
Receive - if we want students to report bullying then the adults must receive the reports in a manner that lets reporters know their concern is taken seriously.

We know that the reason students give most often for not reporting bullying is that the adults won't (or can't) do anything. It is vital to the success of a bullying program that staff, parents/guardians, and others to whom young people come for help know how to listen and respond effectively.  The 5th R (receive) urges adults to plan ahead, stay clam, listen and look patiently, and support the young person who comes to us. For more information see the Committee for Children web site steps-to-respect.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

State School Counseling Conference

Last week was our annual school counseling conference.  As a Virginia counselor I feel very lucky because we always have over  500 counselors attend and the program is very strong.  My itinerant counselor and I presented the action research we have been doing on our bullying program.  There were many informative and fun sessions.  One elementary counselor shared her whole group curriculum built around "A Good Egg vs. slightly cracked egg" theme.  Professional development at this conference has given me renewed energy and some new ideas when I go back to school tomorrow.  I am deeply appreciative of the conference co-chairs and the Board of VSCA for all the work they did to put on such a great conference. VSCA rocks!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spread the Word to End the Word

Just yesterday a teacher and I were talking about a student who needed a lengthy explanation why it was not OK to label something "retarded" and use that term in public. Today is the fifth annual “day of awareness,” a national campaign to stop the use of the word “retarded” and its variants. As a medical label for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the R-word used to be neutral, clinical, incapable of giving offense. But words are mere vessels for meaning, and this one has long since been put to other uses.
“Retarded” and “retard” today are variations on a slur. Young people especially like it: as a weapon of derision, it does the job. It’s sharp, with a potency that words like “moron” and “idiot” lost sometime in the days of black-and-white TV.
The campaign against it, called “Spread the Word to End the Word,” is heartfelt and earnest in a way that makes it vulnerable to ridicule. If you or someone you care about has intellectual disabilities you would not want to hear this label used.  Like all labels, the R word hurts.  
“Once you label me you negate me.”
Søren Kierkegaard

Monday, March 4, 2013

Parent/Guardian - School Counselor Collaboration

Our school counseling program offers the following activities to facilitate parent-school collaboration:
Boo-hoo breakfast the first day of school (kindergarten and new parents)
Communication/networking opportunities for parents 
Informal "chats" for each grade level 
Information table at Back-to-School Night
On-line parent-staff book club 
Family Resource Packs (available for check out)
One-on-one conferencing
Resource referral information for parents

Academic planning programs for parents and students (fifth grade)

As counselors we also attend Intervention Assistance Team meetings and Parent-Teacher Conferences.  Our district requires two P-T Conferences a year at the elementary level.  Later this week we will be doing round two.  The counselors go to the conferences if invited by either the teacher or parent.  Sometimes we go on our own if we want to hear about behavior or social emotional concerns primarily.  However, generally we have parents come to meet with us before or after their P-T Conference if a child is in small group or individual counseling.  These days are long and exhausting but we get to work directly with families and teachers to maximize student growth (and of course many referrals too).

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Promote in Schools

Screen-Free Week

The third annual Screen-Free Week is April 29 to May 5. Challenge staff, parents, and students  to turn off your cell phones, TVs, and iPads to spend more quality face-to-face time.
Screen-Free Week (formerly TV Turnoff Week and Digital Detox Week) is an annual event where children, families, schools and communities are encouraged to turn off screens and "turn on life." Instead of relying on television programming for entertainment, participants read, daydream, explore, enjoy nature, and spend time with family and friends. Over 100 million people have taken part in the turnoff, with millions participating each year.
In 2010, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) became the home of Screen-Free Week at the request of the Board of the Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness (CSTA), which ran the initiative since 1994 (first as TV-Free America). CCFC launched a new website and developed a new Organizer's Kit, fact sheets, and other materials for Screen-Free Week 2011 and beyond. The Screen-Free Week Organizer's Kit is available as a free download.

Excellent Resources

Common Sense Media 
The Common sense media website and blog are excellent resources for counselors.  They have a whole curriculum but I will be using their cyber bullying lessons (and showing their videos) next year to our fourth and fifth graders.  They also have excellent resources for parents who need all the quality resources they can get to help todays' children who are living their lives online!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cyber bullying

We spent the last two days dealing with a cyber bullying incident with our upper grade students using Instagram.  Yes Instagram is a fun social media site but it is suppose to be for ages 13 and up.  Our students did not have the judgement to use this site responsibly even though the parents of the students doing the online bullying knew their children had accounts.  Fortunately at least one of the children who was bullied shared the inappropriate comments immediately with a parent and accounts were shut down.  Unfortunately the hurt had already occurred and was the source of gossip, rumors, and accusations yesterday.  Our school uses Steps to Respect so today I taught the lesson available through the Committee for Children Downloads (at bottom of page) on social media and the AP and I coached all the parties involve.  We also spent lots of time meeting with parents.  We sent home a version of the letter and recommended (again) parents have a contract for use of the internet that details expectations.  We were lucky that one of the parents contacted the school right away once they had the sense it was more than the parents could work out among themselves.  Elementary schools have an obligation to their students to deal with bullying issues, and all incidents should be reported. Any child who is bullied needs to know that these incidents will be taken seriously: a) that their parents will receive the report and record the bullying; and b) that the school will do everything possible to make it a safe environment for students.The Stop Cyberbullying toolkit is available free to schools.