Monday, September 30, 2013

Saving Time

September has flown by and with 750 students I am searching for time saving tips.  My part-time counselor helped recruit parents for Career Cafe at Back To School Night and we got many parent volunteers.  To save time I used It took me less than 20 minutes to enter the possible 15 dates for career cafe at a grade level and enter the emails of volunteers to speak to that grade.  Within 2 hours I had my first 3 slots for the year (for the grade level) filled and I could move forward to make signup sheets for the classes.  I like the students to have 3 choices at a time so they can make a choice that will hold their interest. We try to do 2-3 speakers a month from October-April in grades 3-5.  I highly recommend signupgenius!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"What are your hopes and dreams for this school year?"

I observed this faculty and staff hopes and dreams display near the front entrance at Hawkins Mill Elementary in Memphis.  It creates such a welcoming and positive tone for students, families and visitors, and communicates that our positive intentions and hopes for the school year guide everything we do in school.

Many schools, including mine, using the Responsive Classroom approach ask students this question at the start of every school year. While the question may seem simple, posing it to students and asking them to share their responses can have a profound effect on the classroom. Just think about the messages inherent in the question: what you care about matters at school; your hopes and goals are taken seriously; you have a say in what we'll learn. I have enjoyed reading what the children in the grades I work with have written this first week of school. We also send home a form and ask parents to write their hopes and dreams for the school year.  Reading these responses is very enlightening.
Taking the time to articulate "hopes and dreams," sets a tone of collaboration and mutual respect. It fosters reflection and self-knowledge by prompting children to ask themselves questions such as "What’s important to me at school? What do I want to learn more about? What’s easy for me? What’s hard for me? What do I want to get better at?" Sharing hopes and dreams also creates a meaningful context for establishing classroom rules. Once hopes have been written, discussions can begin about what rules will be needed to help everyone’s hopes and dreams come true.
Some schools also have the staff write and post their hopes and dreams (see sample in picture).  We did not do this but I think it is a great idea.  Even if your school does not use the RC approach, as counselors I think taking the time to focus on what we want this school year is an exercise worth doing.  This weekend I am taking time to reflect on my hopes and dreams for this school year before I get bogged down writing SMART program goals for the year. I'd love to know what your hopes and dreams are for the school year...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September is the time to focus on attendance

It is so important to start the year off with the message to families that students need to be in their seats on time every day they are not sick.  Have you looked at your school's data to see how many students missed more than 10% of the school year last year?  I did and most of those who were absent (and many of them had lots of tardies too) do not have any significant health challenges.  We are going to pilot one of the strategies from the attendanceworks web site.  At the end of each month a kindergarten teacher will send a short note thanking the parents in her class that got their child to school every day on time.  The research is clear that patterns of attendance start in kindergarten.  This site has lots of good ideas.  Remember if you are thinking about RAMP attendance makes a great program goal for closing the gap.