Monday, August 22, 2016

Working With Parents of Anxious Children

Anxiety symptoms are one of the top reasons parents at my school seek my advice. Working with parents of anxious children often requires unpacking problematic parenting behaviors like feeding avoidance. This book covers overprotection, intrusiveness, poor communication, and poor contingency management. It gives counselors strategies to support good communication and emotion-regulation strategies. The techniques recommended draw from cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as acceptance-based and mindfulness therapies. McCurry (2015) has provided school counselors with a valuable resource.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

New Year, New Books 2016

Its is fun to start a new school year with lots of new books to use with groups. We are moving toward evidence-based Tier 1 so I will not be using many books in classrooms this year. However, what is a better way to start a group that must occur during lunch than reading a book while the students eat? I categorize books in an excel sheet and on my book shelf so I can find what I need by topics like Friendships, Self-regulation, Grief, and Families.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Bullying Prevention

Nationally 1 in 4 students report they were bullied during the past school year. I have coordinated our school's bullying prevention program for the past 8 years. When I went to my current school 9 years ago there was a lot of social and verbal bullying that was mostly being ignored by staff. We began using the Committee for Children Steps to Respect program in grades 3-5 and I developed materials for counseling lessons and teachers in grades K-2. Despite a comprehensive program, 23% of our students in grades 3-5 last year reported they were bullied. Bullying is a social and environmental phenomenon that happens in schools. My major focus is to train all staff to listen and empathize when students report bullying so they continue to report and to train students to be helpful bystanders. Research has shown over and over again that those are the most important components of a successful bullying program. 
Last year I developed a Google Form with the information on the Bullying Report Form shown above. It is on the Counselor Corner part of our school web page and students, staff, and parents can use it to document reports of bullying. It comes directly to my confidential school Google folder and generates all the data reports I need. Last year I received 33 reports online. We still have paper and pencil copies available (our cafeteria and recess monitors carry these on a clipboard). Students can also complete a paper form and put it into a Bullying Box outside my office. Staff provide their name but parents and students can make anonymous reports.
This year our district purchased the Committee for Children Bullying Prevention Units for all schools K-8. It uses the same language and tools as the older Steps to Respect materials but does not rely as heavily on the literature-based component. We will continue to use read alouds and discussions led by teachers in all grades at my school to ensure total by in and an ongoing message that bullying of any type is not allowed at our school. My favorite part of the new Bullying Prevention Units is the 3 online training modules.
We are providing "flipped" professional development for our staff with these training modules. All staff will use Module 2 on their own time which trains them to take a bullying report and if a situation is determined to be bullying develop a safety plan for the students being bullied and a behavior-change plan for the student doing the bullying. As the training administrator I am notified when staff have completed the training. We are requiring all new staff to come meet with me for 15 minutes for a discussion about our school's procedures and so I can answer any of their questions. This is a big time saver because in the past all staff sat through a 45 minute presentation by me and new staff had to come to my office to watch the Steps to Respect DVDs which took an additional 2 hours.
Check out the Committee for Children materials here Bullying-Prevention-Unit

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How and why to use Twitter

Twitter is a real-time information network that connects people to the latest information based on who or what associations and organizations the user chooses to follow. Each user gets to develop a profile and banner to represent themselves.  I use Twitter professionally and do not have a separate personal account. I follow and am followed by my Superintendent, School Board members, district staff, and parents. I also follow any counseling organizations I find, many mental health and education groups, and school counselors and related providers of mental health services around the globe. I use Facebook as my personal social media platform and never friend parents from my school. Twitter is a great free tool to:
1) Market your school counseling program. Twitter provides a vehicle to advocate for our profession,
educate our stakeholders, promote our activities, increase appropriate use of our services, and builds productive community relationships.
2) Get your message out. The content that is important to your counseling can be pushed out by using key words after the # symbol. For example, if one of your program goals is to improve attendance you can use #schooleveryday or #everydaycounts.
3) Provide access. Twitter gives you access to unlimited professional development like free webinars, podcasts, articles, etcetera on topics that interest you. Being on Twitter also gives others access to you as a resource.
4) Communicate and collaborate. You can communicate through postings to all your followers and you can send a tweet to a specific person using @mbmccormac. You can encourage your followers to take action based on the nature of your message.
5) Learn. Twitter is a huge part of my own Professional Learning Network.  I discover new ideas that help me improve my program and practice every day.
7) Connect to others. My favorite part of using Twitter is connecting with other school counselors. I have made many online colleagues and been fortunate to meet them in person at ASCA National Conferences. The best way to connect with counselors is participating in some of the regularly scheduled Titter Chats by #SCCrowd #scchat and #escchat.
8) Share. To get the most out of Twitter you should Tweet on a regular basis. When I find helpful articles, books, and other resources I tweet out links and pictures. I also tweet out what I am teaching in classroom lessons and special events sponsored by my program.
9) Get energy. I find the connecting and collaborating on Twitter keeps me energized from new ideas and feedback from colleagues.
10) Get support. If you have a question or need a specific resource you can send out a message to followers and most of the time someone will respond. If you use Twitter often people will start directing ideas to you based on what you have shared. When you open your Twitter feed you will see Notifications from your followers.

I want to suggest you try the school counseling Twitter Chats as a way to really take advantage of Twitter. The School Counselor Tweet Chat #scchat is the first Tuesday of each month at 8 PM EST. It is organized by @ecmason and @sch_counselor. The Elementary School Counselor Chat #escchat is the second and fourth Thursday at 8 PM EST. The best way to participate in a Twitter Chat is to download TweetDeck which is an App that customizes and organizes your Twitter feed. You can follow your home feed and 3 or 4 hashtags you want to track. (See mine above) If you don't use TweetDeck it can be very hard to keep up with questions and responses during a chat. Feel free to get started by just following the chats and once you feel comfortable join in. Twitter has many other features. For example, you can Tweet a poll which is a way of asking followers to engage. I have gotten feedback from parents in my learning community who tell me they feel like they "talk to me every day" because they read my Tweets. That lets me know Twitter is a valuable Public Relations tool!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Guest Editor Post: Image-Based Life Lessons

Hello all! My name is Eric Cooper and I am glad for the opportunity to guest post on the Elementary Counseling Blog. I recently published a book called Image-Based Life Lessons (YouthLight, Inc.) and would like to share one of the lessons with you here.

“My Connectors” is a friendship lesson that would make a great beginning-of-the-year activity in most grades. In the childhood years, it seems that most good friendships are built upon enjoying to do the same things together. When two kids discover that they both love making bracelets, playing football, or riding longboards, they instantly feel more comfortable around each other and they have something to do together that will grow the friendship. Therefore, the main objective for a child who wants to make new friends is to first figure out what his or her own connectors are, and then find others with the same connectors.

This lesson, along with the others in the book, is presented in a highly-visual and engaging way that helps kids easily understand and conceptualize the issue, and makes the concept stick in their memories. Each of the lessons in the book stemmed from moments in my work with children when I was struggling to find a way to communicate an important principle to a particular child, and suddenly the right idea popped into my mind. I have found that analogies, visuals, and stories are powerful tools for school counselors. Topics in the book include mindset, peer pressure, bullying, anger and self-control, self-concept and more.

You can find a link for the book here. hope you find these resources useful!