Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tell One


One of the blogs I follow, The Counseling Geek, started this campaign to promote the benefits of belonging to ASCA and our state school counseling associations.  Read more at
tell-one-campaign.html I have only lived in 2 states during my professional career but have always been an active member of ACA and my state association.  I also belong to ASCA and VSCA. I believe all counselors should belong to ACA and ASCA and the respective state organizations.  I have served as an officer at the local, state, and national level and can honestly say, no matter how many hours you give to your professional organization you get back so much more. I encourage all counselors to join their professional organizations and take full advantage of all the benefits!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Staff Parent Book Sharing

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World

Each year at my school the Counseling Advisory Committee selects a book for staff and parents to read and then we either do an online book discussion or a face-to-face session.  This year we are trying posts on Twitter and a evening discussion in March.  We announce to book before the holidays to give folks plenty of time to obtain a copy and read it.  Chapman and Pellicane's book was released in 2014.  It offers parents help to:
  • Equip your child to be relational rich in a digital world
  • Replace mindless screen time with meaningful family time
  • Establish simple boundaries that make a huge difference
  • Read what's working for the screen savvy family down the street
  • Prepare your child to succeed down the road in relationships and life
  • Learn healthy ways to occupy your child while you get things don

Monday, December 1, 2014

Bulletin Board for National Adoption Month

Adoption is often symbolized as a triangle to represent the child, birth family, and adoptive family.  Our bulletin board (constructed by my wonderful parent volunteer) shows the 3 sides joined in love.  Surrounding the board are some of my favorite books on adoption that are listed on the children's book page of this website.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

RAMP Reviewer

 I spent most of my "free" time the last 4 days reviewing RAMP applications.  My school Re-RAMPed last year and all schools who RAMP are offered the opportunity to have one counselor be a reviewer the following year. I was happy for the opportunity to try on the perspective of the reviewer rather than the counselor whose application is being reviewed.  I was pleased I got a chance to review both schools that are attempting to Re-RAMP and those submitting for the first time.  I also got to review applications from all 3 levels. You can't review any submissions your own state to make it less likely you would know the applicants. The applications are reviewed by 3 reviewers then the reviews go to a lead reviewer who oversees two teams.  It is a very labor intensive process of volunteers.  I do believe the RAMP process has greatly contributed to making school counseling programs better.  My district now has 4 schools who have successfully RAMPed.  I am hoping after serving as a reviewer, I will be in a better position to help other counselors in my district who want to go for RAMP.

Monday, November 10, 2014


There is growing research about self-regulation, how good self-regulation has positive academic and social outcomes, and how it can be developed. Children learn to regulate in 3 main areas: thoughts, feelings, and behavior. An important key to the development of these critical skills is watching and responding to adults' self-regulation. Further, the environment at home and school ideally is warm, organized, and predictable to develop self-regulation. Self- regulation requires forethought, performance, and self-reflection from both the adults and children. There are many programs like the Committee for Children's Revised Second Step or Conscious Discipline (I Can Calm and Shubert series) that can help a school promote self-regulation.  Resources for counselors include "Helping Young People Learn Self-Regualtion" (Chapin) and "Hunter and His Amazing Remote Control" (Copeland).  There are also children's books like Zach Gets Frustrated and Millie Fierce (Manning) that can be used in individual, small group, or classroom lessons. We run groups in K-4 to teach self-regulation and do a lesson in every grade on this important topic.  Out schoolwide Responsive Classroom approach is also aimed at this important concept. One new resource I found was a site that has songs that promote self-regulation, check it out

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November is National Adoption Awareness Month

Both of my own children are adopted so I relate to this image. We also have many adopted children in my school that I work closely with their families. I also consult with teachers about how to address adoption with their students. For example, we have a new program in our school where Spanish is taught 3 times a week to all students.  They have a big unit on families and require students to do family trees for homework.  This type of assignment is often a trigger for adoptive families.  I encouraged them to teach more inclusive family terms and provide an alternative assignment if students felt uncomfortable with doing a family tree.  For resources to use in schools go to

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mix It Up at Lunch Day 2014

We participate annually in the Teaching Tolerance Mix It Up at Lunch Day held each fall.  The Student Services staff organizes this activity which includes all our students in grades 1-5.  We try a different way to sort the students on a rotating basis. Last year we used various colors of jelly bracelets. This year we had 5 colors of pencils engraved with "Mix IT Up Day 2014" and gave a pencil to each child as they entered the cafeteria.  They sat at a table that had a sign with the color that matched their pencil.  We had sticky notes on the tables and as they talked with a student they don't normally sit with or know well, they wrote down a few facts they learned.  For example, Noah plays hockey and the trombone.  These served as their exit tickets.  When they left the cafeteria they gave their sticky note to a student services staff member to be placed on the giant pencil on the windows of the cafeteria and got to keep the pencil as a souvenir and a reminder to tell their parents about this activity.  To learn more check out this site

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Free online books for iPad

Educators and parents can get free eBooks on the iPad.  There are over 5000 titles. It asks for your preferences and has many related to counseling including relationships and careers. It also targets the age of the audience. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Unity Day

Make it ORANGE and make it end! Unite against bullying!
Sponsored by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center since 2011

What are your true colors when it comes to bullying? If you care about safe and supportive schools and communities make your color ORANGE on Unity Day. That’s the day everyone can come together—in schools, communities, and online—and send one large ORANGE message of support, hope, and unity. Both counselors and our school psychologist had  ORANGE scarves on today along with over 85% of sthe students and staff.

Career Cafe

We have been doing Career Cafe in our upper grades the past few years. It is a very easy to run component of our comprehensive counseling program.  Today was our first session for the year. A parent of a fifth grader came to share his part-time job as an umpire (currently a girls high school softball umpire and summer tournaments on weekends).  He explained to the students who signed up to attend this particular session that even though he has been umpiring for over 30 years he has to take a test (now online) twice a year to keep up his certifications. He started at age 14 and told the kids about umpiring as a job since 8th grade. He brought all his gear including his 4 rule books and case study book for unusual circumstances. He used to be the head umpire for the whole area and train young umpires. It was a great example how someone who grew up loving sports could stay involved while he does another job which really supports his family (software development). Students learn so much from actually meeting and interacting with people who are passionate about their careers.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Character Counts Week

To focus students attention on the 6 pillars of character we are joining the nationwide celebration of "Character Counts Week." Today we are dressed in blue for trustworthiness, etc. On Wednesday we will wear orange for fairness and Unity Day.  On Friday we can wear either red or purple. Read more about

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Groups Galore

We have begun our heavy time of the year leading small groups because we finished Parent Teacher Conferences last week.  We started with some of our first and second grade groups this week, will do groups at all the grades next week, and finally at the end of October do the pre-assessments and begin our intervention groups.  We have 1.6 counselors and a population of over 730. Last year over 300 students participated in a small group with a counselor. That was 46 groups! For each group we lead we have a binder with the session plans, assessments, books, and activities. Examples of session plans for two of our groups can be found in the Group pages on this blog. We try to pre- and post-test all our groups.  For each group, students have a folder where we save all work done in group until the final session. We run 3-4 session" Lunch Bunch" groups for any kindergarten student whose family want them to participate.  We are able to pull groups during instructional time in Kindergarten - grade 2. All our grade 3-5 groups have to be done in conjunction with lunch. Our most popular groups have to do with self-regulation or emotion management.  Every group has a catchy title related to the topic. For example, this picture shows my emotion management group preparation for the first session of "Smiling Faces" for first graders. We are scheduled back to back with groups and lessons which requires everything to be laid out an ready when we leave for the day in order to be able to deliver this level of direct service. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bullying Prevention Month

Our newly updated bulletin board displays some of the many Apps that address bully prevention.  Some of these are for students and others are more useful to staff and parents. This reusable bulletin board background shows off our program's "brand" and is a big time saver.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Emotions Matter

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence says, "Emotions drive learning, decision-making, creativity, relationships, and health" Our theme for classroom lessons in October is Emotions.  In the early grades we are primarily working on identifying and labeling feelings.  In grades two and three we teach subtle distinctions between feelings using the Mood Meter and teach about empathy.  In grades four and five we focus on teaching the strategy of taking a Meta-Moment to reflect on emotions, thus helping with emotional regulation. Learn more about the Yale Center's curriculum the-feeling-words-curriculum/

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mood Wobblers

I bought this set of 4 mood wobblers at the ASCA Conference this summer from the ASGW booth.  You can buy a set online too. They are sitting on the ledge of my white board. Lots of kids pick up one to explain how they are feeling and why.  They can then use it like a stress ball while we talk.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back to School Night Information Table

This is my co-counselor staffing our table. It may not be clear from the picture but we choose to
"brand" our program using blue and gold as a consistent color scheme for our materials we share out whenever possible. We had our iPad running with a slide show on the table of the many pictures we have taken this past year. We also try to collaborate with our school social worker and psychologist whenever we can as the "student services" staff.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Career Cafe iHelp

My co-counselor made this for our Back-to-School Night display to help with our recruiting for speakers in grades 3-5.  We are trying to use the iHelp theme to brand the counseling program.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

iHelp Student Services Bulletin Board

Once again the counselors come up with the ideas and our wonderful parent volunteers construct our catchy bulletin boards. This board introduces the 4 student services mental health providers to the learning community. We are starting a one on one iPad initiative this year so we decided to use the "iHelp" brand or theme. Compliments keep coming in...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Welcome New Students and Staff

The bulletin board (actually 2 made to look like one giant board) says, "Look Who Has Beeb Spotted At Nottingham." Each new student is holding a white spot with their first name and staff are labeled. I see students, staff, and parents using the board as a resource to recall the names of the 60 plus new members of our learning community. Each new person is featured on their own lady bug. Of course our WONDERFUL parent volunteer who did this creation also added lots of finishing touches like flowers and bees. I can't wait for all parents to see it tomorrow at Back-to-School Night.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Start of the School Year Is All About Building Relationships

Like most school counselors I spent preservice week and the first two weeks of the school year building relationships.  We have over 20 new staff members who are professional educators, but do not know our learning community.  I try to reach out to 2-3 of them each day so I can establish a positive relationship.  We have 40 new students in grades 1-5 and over 100 new kindergarten students.  We did orientations for the new students and followed up through a bingo activity (find 5 staff members then bring Bingo card back to me for a prize).  This week we will be doing follow-up lunches with the new students.  I have been spending any free block of 15 minutes in one of the kindergarten rooms to learn names.  I hate going into a class to teach when I don't know everyone's names.  It helps because each teacher takes a class picture and labels the students for the administrators and counselors.  I look at the class pictures before I go into classes to teach the first few months of school. My part-time counselor does the 6 first grade classes and those teachers which leaves me with 600 students and more staff than I want to think about. As school counselors we need to be approachable to students, staff, and parents to be effective.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Diversity Lessons

One of the major themes we teach in our curriculum is Diversity.  We choose to start the year on this important topic but you could also do it in October which is Diversity Awareness Month.  We use the Teaching Tolerance Anti Bias Standards and the resources on this fabulous site

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Buddy Bench

I suggested last years Fifth Grade gift to the school be a Buddy Bench. We are now training our students that if they are lonely or can't figure out how to join in a group or game they can sit on the Buddy Bench. The expectation is another peer will notice and go up and invite them to play or engage with them in conversation. The concept was "invented" by a young boy.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Beginning of the Year School Safety Video

The administrators, PE teachers, and counselors along with other staff teamed up the first week of school to make an engaging video modeling correct behavior. In the past, we have done grade level meetings, but they were BORING. This year our Library Media Specialist offered to video each of us doing our part and my co-counselor (enjoying herself going down the slide) offered to take still shots to match what we expect students to do.  We follow the Responsive Classroom approach so we are all about interactive modeling. The result was far more engaging than the assemblies and took up a third of the time. 

Where is the counselor?

We are using the iHelp theme with an iPAD as our new motto and brand for the school counseling program. We have added to our brochure, bulletin board, and this is the sign I made for the door of my office. I have gotten several compliments already.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Attendance Awareness Month

Attendance Awareness Month is a nationwide event recognizing the connection between school attendance and academic achievement. The goal is to mobilize schools and communities not only to promote the value of good attendance, but also to take concrete steps toward reducing chronic absence. More than 40 national organizations are working in partnership on the event.
My school is participating for the second year. See the Attendance Works website for a free /toolkit/\

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reaction to Video

Yesterday I introduced my presentation on Bullying Prevention by showing the Conscious Discipline video "How to Build A Bully from Scratch." I got more positive feedback on this presentation than any I have ever done for staff.  I highly recommend using it to educate your staff about what bullying is and is not.  It would be good for a parent presentation as well.

All Staff Training on Bullying

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Diaphragm Breathing

Here is a well done brief video to teach breathing to get calm 4-7-8 It is important to teach students to breathe from diaphragm not the chest. The video and a brief practice could be done at the beginning of a lesson or group session.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cyberwise has lots of resources for educators and parents.  Check out some of their videos about digital citizenship.

Managing Anxiety

If you are looking for a good resource for parents with anxious children check out this video from Conscious Discipline Managing Anxiety It stresses the importance of name it, claim it, and tame it.  Shows actual case of a girl who carried a card with her affirmation (I'm safe, I'm calm, and I can handle this) until it became a part of her affirming self-talk.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Counseling Advisory Committee

Even though we don't go back to school until after Labor Day I have been getting my "advisory council" organized.  I asked, and they agreed, two new teachers to serve and 3 will return.  We have 2 parents returning and we will recruit 2-3 more when I return in 2 weeks.  We try to have about 1/3 of the committee be new each year.  We are fortunate to have most of our parent members with mental health related field backgrounds. We also try to invite at least two minority parents since our staff is 90 percent Caucasian. We also invite two fifth grade student representatives who are SCA officers. We have always met once a quarter. That keeps the committee in the loop all year but is not a huge burden. We meet before school and the meetings are only 40 minutes long ( and then we generally debrief with the parent members for about 10 minutes longer).  The first meeting of the school year is always in October (then December, February, and April).  We propose draft counseling program goals and solicit other ideas for the year.  We also share the evaluation results from the previous school year.  For example, suggestions for books for our parent-staff book discussion.  Each subsequent meeting we update the committee on the goals. I sent out tentative dates for approval by our administrators.  Officially both our Principal and Assistant Principal are on the committee but they take turns actually attending. We send out an agenda before each meeting with handouts and follow--up with minutes about a week after each meeting. Last year a big part of the Committee's work revolved around our applying to Re-RAMP.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Measuring Elementary School Students' Social and Emotional Skills

A newly released report by Child trends identifies 5 groups of social emotional skills and provides educators with tools to measure and monitor social and emotional skills that lead to academic success.  The skills are: Self-control; Persistence; Mastery Orientation; Academic Self-Efficacy; and Social Competence.  The report recommends measuring these skills with either teacher and/or student surveys.  They provide the surveys in at Appendices and scoring guides.  I plan to use the student survey with all my grade 3-5 students this fall.  I highly recommend you download this report at

Monday, August 11, 2014

ASCA Scene

Connect and Compare
Are you a member of the ASCA SCENE, online professional networking site? If not, you’re missing out on a valuable benefit. The SCENE lets you share your experiences with others in the field and, even more importantly, get help with your problems or concerns, advice on new products and programs and much more. With the SCENE, help is as close as your computer or mobile device. I use PowerPoints and lesson plans from the file cabinet all the time.  I also check the ASCA Resource Center periodically for ideas and resources other counselors have shared.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Teaching Kindness

How can we teach children to be kind in a culture that glorifies meanness? Sue Stephensen uses positive psychology to promote kindness, humor, and laughter in  a school-wide approach.  Other schools like the one this article discusses teach kindness as part of their bullying prevention and character education programs preventing-bullying-through-kindness/ Another great resource for bringing kindness education into schools is I am incorporating some of the ideas in these resources into my bullying prevention inservice presentation for teachers during preservice week and in social/emotional classroom lessons.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

School Refusal

Most kids at some point say, "No. I don't want to go to school." This is a common occurrence especially at the beginning of a new school year or after some other transition.   This should go away once the child gets used to the new class and routine; however, there is a sizable portion of students who suffer from some degree of school refusal behavior.  This used to be called school phobia but it really is not a phobia (but some kids do have phobias of things that might happen at school). All school refusal is not the same and it does not respond to the same type of intervention. Kearney identified four functional reasons for school refusal behavior. I highly suggest all school counselors read this article Understanding School Refusal I recommend all parents who fall into the third type described in the article "Pursue attention from significant other" read the Eisen, Engler, and Sparrow book shown above.  With this type involvement of family members is key - they must learn contingency based reinforcement.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Welcome New Students

Each year we have about 50 new students start at our school in grades 1-5 and over 100 kindergarten students.  Each new student in grades 1-5 is given a button to wear the first week of school that helps remind returning students and staff to introduce themselves and make them feel welcome.  The counselors and pupil services staff host several "Welcome New Nottingham Knights" the first week of school.  Depending on the numbers at each grade level we typically do 3 sessions: grade 1; grades 2&3; and grades 4&5.   At the Welcome Reception all students get their picture taken for the bulletin board in the lobby, receive a New Student Survival bag, get a Passport, and play school trivia. We have gotten very positive feedback about our new student activities so we will repeat them again this fall. The Passport has pictures of staff in the building that work with the whole school. In the picture above I am helping some new first graders complete a page of the Passport so they know what is expected. This activity helps new students get to know something about staff and for the staff to get to meet the new students.  Our office and clinic staff always appreciate the Passpost activity.  It usually takes about 2 weeks for newcomers to complete the passport.  The classroom teachers assign new students lunch and recess buddies as long as needed and their buddy walks around with them while they complete the passports.  When they are completed the Passport are shown to the counselors and the new students select from the prize box.  The counselors invite the new students by grade level for a follow-up lunch later in September.  Since we typically have over 15 new first graders we host the boys and girls separately for the follow-up lunch.
Here is last years New Student bulletin board (it includes new staff as well as students):

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Virginia School Counselors: The Bridge to Student Success


Mindfulness is a growing field that I think most counselors should explore.  Here is a good research
ARTICLE-IN-JOURNAL-MINDFULNESS that overviews the research in using mindfulness in K-12 settings. ACA in Counseling Today(October 2013)  also recommended mindfulness and meditative exercises as preventative practice against compassion fatique. I know personally after two very rough school years with too many deaths it is something I really needed this summer to restore myself. There are of course many apps for mindfulness, try I Can Be Fearless.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Incorporating Mindfulness Into Class Lessons

Mindfulness is a way of exploring the world with a fresh set of eyes. I attended a few sessions on mindfulness at VSCA's Spring Conference and have been doing a self-study of mindfulness this summer and meditating daily for the first time.  The concept can be broken down into a three part equation, or what The Mindful Child author Susan Kaiser-Greenland calls the ABCs: Attention, Balance, and Compassion. I am now planning ways to share what I have learned with my staff and students when school resumes.  For example, I will do a standing mindfulness exercise with my staff when before I do our annual bullying refresher training during preservice week. Mindfulness in schools, the workplace, and the larger world is growing as a way to deal with our increasingly stressful lives.  I know it is helping me and it can make school a more peaceful environment.

According to the University School’s mindfulness coordinator, Mary Agee,
“It’s not about clearing your mind; it’s just about becoming aware.” Helen Tarleton, school counselor, illustrates mindfulness by shaking a snow globe. “When you shake the snow globe, it’s really hard to see what’s going on in the present moment clearly. What mindfulness does is, your mind is cluttered like [a shaken snow globe], and you stop and pause, and take time to really focus. All that clutter kind of then settles, so you can see clearly what’s right in front of you.” Others use the analogy of stirring sand in a class.  The sand represents thoughts and feelings, let them settle to the bottom.  They are still there to go back to later.

At the start of a lesson invite the students to participate in a brief (3-5 minutes) mindfulness practice.  Just explain that before beginning a lesson on ___ this exercise will clear our minds so we can pay attention and learn.  There are an infinite number of ways to do a brief practice but because children are asked to sit so much of the school day I recommend a standing meditation. Simply invite the class to stand in their own space in Mountain Pose. Stand with feet together, arms at your sides, arms at sides pointing inward or forward. Press weight evenly across the balls and arches of both feet. Breathe steadily and rhythmically. Remain still and quiet, breathing naturally for at least 1 minute, as the mind and body begin to relax. Invite the children to close their eyes or focus on a still point in the room that is slightly above eye level (helps keep chin up). Draw awareness inward to the small adjustment the body makes to maintain balance. Focus on the present moment, letting all thoughts and feelings fade away. This can be a quick take 2 deep breaths or a longer exercise letting the students explore a movement (like be kelp floating in the ocean). Ask the class to return silently to sitting being aware of how the body moves as it sits down.

There is a sample listening mindfulness practice available at

There are also several good videos on You Tube that show exercises...

Friday, August 1, 2014

Grief in Children

The Copper Tree Class is a series of books following the lives of a small group of children and the lives of those around them. The creators, Hilary Robinson and Mandy Stanley, have addressed critical topics and themes that affect small children, such as bereavement, and interwoven those strands into accessible and charming picture books. The Copper Tree is my favorite of the books.  It is a beautiful book about the death of a teacher.  Another resource for grief is the website Cove Center for Grieving Children.