Monday, August 31, 2015

Book on Grief

This book is perfect for sharing with a child after the loss of a parent or grandparent.  It expresses through words and pictures when someone a child loves is gone.  It is a sad book but ends with a message of hope and coping. I also recommend Jeffers book Stuck.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

3rd grader introduces the 12 tools in the Toolbox Project's curriculum.

Building Social Emotional Tools in Children

As counselors we know how important social emotional learning is to laying the foundation of academic success. The Toolbox Project features 12 capacities that reside in all students; teachers provide instruction in how to use the tools (example empathy). Check out this overview http:Toolbox

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Year New Books

Today was our first day of preservice and I was excited to unpack my first book order of the year. I am fortunate to have a PTA who gives me a generous budget with which to buy books for the school counseling program. I have a continuous wish list going in Amazon where I buy most of my books but I also get some donations from other staff and parents who find books they think I might like to share with students. These are all children's books but I also purchase books for our Family Resource Packs I have described in the Parent page of this blog. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Helping New Professional School Counselors Have an Ideal Induction Experience

My first year as a school counselor I had an administrator who had never done the job I was doing and no mentor assigned by the system.  I know I could have done better and not felt so lost if I had a mentor, coach, or just someone else in the same position I was for advice, collaboration, and support.  My school system has a Teacher Mentor Program and counselors get assigned another counselor as a mentor. However, all mentors are trained in a basic model that is designed for classroom teachers. I have also supervised many practicum and interns for various universities so I have had training to do that type of counseling supervision. I have also attended supervisor training at our state counseling association conference. I have taught practicum at a local university in the school counseling program so I have many ideas and experiences to reflect on what works and what does not.
Here are my main thoughts about what a mentor can and should do for a novice school counselor to make the induction experience ideal:
1) Don't agree to be a mentor/coach unless you have the time to commit.  The past few years my school was over-crowded so I did not mentor; however, this year our enrollment is much lower and I feel I have the time, energy, and desire to do so.
2) Teach novices routine school procedures and district policies and best practices.  Hopefully the district provides all new counselors training on risk assessments and referrals for child abuse, if not that should be a priority.  If the counselor is in another building, encourage them to identify someone in their building who has been there awhile to seek guidance about building specific routines and expectations.  At my first elementary school I asked the librarian most of my questions because my office was right next to the library.
3) Provide ongoing guidance related to lesson planning and classroom management. Unless the novice is a former teacher, this can be a struggle.  Encourage them to use the ASCA Model lesson plan template unless the school requires a different format.
4) Provide observation, sharing, and collaboration throughout the first year.  Offer to let the novice observe you and then observe them and provide lots of feedback.  An alternative is to video lessons and review them together at a convenient time.  Video seems awkward but it provides such great feedback and opportunity for professional growth.
5) Be transparent about how you organize and conduct your school counseling program.  Share copies of letters, agendas, session plans, calendars, so that the novice has a starting point to make their own.
Finally, be available to just listen. Encourage the novice to share and reflect as they learn and grow throughout the year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bad Signs

Alfie Kohn in his book Feel-bad Education (2011) has a thought-provoking chapter regarding what is on the walls in classrooms (and I think it can be applied to counseling offices as well). He believes that putting students on notice that they must have a positive attitude, etc. is not providing kids the safe place to learn that they need. He also feels the posters are too generic to be of any value. Kohn believes that if these posters are to be hung at least the students in the class should get to choose which ones will hang on the walls.  He thinks "Good Signs" in the learning environment are done by students, selections of their best work or information about them or the teacher. Kohn thinks its the students who should decide what goes on the walls, not the adult. It did make me stop to think about all the Pinterest inspired signs hanging on bulletin boards and in counselor's offices. Are they good or bad signs?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New Book to Teach Growth Mindset

If you are trying to promote a growth mindset at your school you will want to add this book to your shelf as a resource.  It is an engaging story based on the research of growth mindset. It also has information for parents on this important concept. I am planning to use it in a classroom lesson on academic success, probably in first grade depending on what other books I find.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mind Jar, Glass, or Bottle - Video or Prop to Explain Mind to Children

I am sure most of you have a glitter filled bottle or jar in your office that can be used as a calm down tool or like a timer (breathe until the glitter settles). This short video explains how thoughts and feelings are swirling most of the time in our minds, but mindful breathing or meditation can calm the mind. I am going to use this with my group for G 1 &2 who need help with mood regulation.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Incorporating Mindfulness in Lessons and Session Plans

These are the main resources I am using to incorporate mindfulness into my lessons and some group sessions along with some of the activities from  I began to dapple in adding some mindfulness last year after starting my own mindfulness practice. I gathered these resources a year ago but this summer I have really reread the books and thought about how to best introduce some of these concepts and skills to my students.  I am using mindfulness in my lesson on EMOTIONS and SELF-REGULATION which are 2 of the counseling program's main themes.  I also am using mindfulness in my groups for students who need help with emotional regulation and my resiliency groups.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

September is Attendance Awareness Month

I hope everyone is planning their campaign for Attendance Awareness Month. Pictured above is the darling bulletin board my wonderful volunteer made for me last September that I will be putting back up with a new background. We also laminated copies of the banner available for free download at along with lots of great ideas and research.  Attendance is an area in the ASCA National Model that counselors are tasked with addressing.  Encourage all students to come to school on time every day (unless they are seriously sick or there is a family emergency).  I encourage staff not to send the message taking family vacations is an excuse for being out or providing busy work packets for the plane can possibly makeup for missing what happens in the classroom. Children and families need clear messages abut the importance of regular school attendance. The Attendance Works site makes a point to say start reinforcing good attendance in kindergarten!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Teach Mindfulness with Music

Most children like music. It helps them remember important concepts. I am going to use a few of these in classes and groups.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Share Video with K Parents

This is a great video for new parents of kindergarten students. It comes from this terrific website

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What to buy if setting up a counseling office from scratch

I would start be purchasing 5 good counseling games including:
Totika (which is counseling Jenga and has various decks of cards i.e., self-esteem, divorce)
Therapeutic/Counseling Dominoes Game Set (there are 7 - I like the Anger Control the best)
Talking, Feeling, Doing game
Face It! Feeling cards
I would buy a silent timer, markers and colored pencils, dry erase markers and some small white boards, art paper, and a few fidget toys.
I love books but they are expensive and you can borrow them from school library, interlibrary loan, and some are available free online.
All counselors need a locked space to store confidential information but hopefully the school would provide this.