Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Career Month - Spread it out to save counselor sanity

As I mentioned in a post at the beginning of the month we are focusing on April is STEMazing. It was my goal for every student in the school to have the opportunity to listen and ask questions of a worker in a STEM occupation. Learning about a career from someone who actually does the job is a very valuable activity. These career visitors in kindergarten through grade 2 are arranged by the teachers. The presenters speak to one class at a time and most only talked to one class but a few were generous and did two. I let the upper grades decide what would work best for their schedule with the understanding they would need to stay in the rooms to monitor behavior. My third grade team chose the Career Cafe format which we have used for several years. There are 4 teachers on the team and an extra class near (which I could monitor) by so I got 5 volunteers and students had a choice of who to hear during lunch. In grade 4 we have 3 classes and an extra room so students picked one of the four but they chose to do it the last 30 minutes of a day. In grade 5 we have only 3 classes so they chose an hour one Friday morning and had students attend all 3 and the students moved every 20 minutes. I asked the teams to spread it out so I had one of theses event a week in April to coordinate which did not have a major impact on the other components of the counseling program. I gave pre-post surveys to all teachers which they had students complete the last week of March and have begun the post-surveys this week. I taught all students a lesson on careers this month with a focus on the STEM cluster. This is our beautiful STEM Bulletin Board created by my fantastic volunteer. I still need to add some pictures of our career visitors. It serves as a reminder about STEM occupations and a thank you to our volunteers. I totally send the message to my staff that career development is a joint responsibility of counselors and teachers just like character education. I will ask teachers and the Advisory Council for feedback if they liked the career visitors concentrated in one month (my preference) or if we should go back to spreading it out next year. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Group Dynamics

Counselors in our district were treated to a great inservice last week by the author of this book and one of the therapists in their group practice in our community. I run lots of groups at my school but like all counselors always have one or two that are hard to control. At the inservice they taught us the SOAR Method that is described in detail in this book. The SOAR Method can be used to encourage cooperation and highlight both positive and negative social interactions. S stands for Stop Action (the group is trained to freeze); O for Observe aloud "Is anyone noticing..." don't let those directly involved share use the power of the group; A for Ask for feedback "How does it feel to work together?" or "What do you think they should do to resolve the conflict?"; and R for Reinforce Cooperative Interaction "What great collaboration on the drawing!" It alwasy is great when you walk out of an inservice and think I can use that next week!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Twitter Helps Counselors Connect with Families, Staff, and Other Counselors

At dismissal on Friday I went outside to the parent pickup area to give a resource to a new parent. I ran into 2 parents that I know but have not seen face-to-face since before winter break. They both told me that they feel like they talk to me every day and know in detail what is going on with the school counseling program because they follow me on Twitter. They thanked me for posting frequently with good tips for parents and Their feedback let me know it is worth the time to "Tweet" on a regular basis. I send links for parents, announcements about meetings and upcoming activities, and what themes are being covered in counseling lessons, among other things. For example, on Friday we have done a 5th grade level career day so I had tweeted about it and thanked our volunteers. I have many more parents following me than ever look at my school counseling page on the school's website. I use my Twitter account mainly for professional reasons and am always very aware that the Superintendent and School Board members are among my followers.
Staff follow me as well and frequently "Retweet" what I share. For example, if I am sharing what I am teaching in grade 3 the teachers will "retweet" it on their class Twitter feed. We also use a school district #APSSchoolCounselor to share with the other elementary counselors and @APSVirginia to share with our whole system.  I also participate monthly in our district's Twitter chat and the following counseling chats: #escchat #scchat #sccrowd. I use Twitter as a major component of my personal learning network. I enjoy meeting counselors from around the country at conferences who participate in these chats.

Teaching Students About the Brain to Promote Self-Regulation

We use the MindUp curriculum which emphasizes the need for children to learn how their brain works to foster self-regulation. I think this would be a great supplement for grades 4-6.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

STEM Resources for Parents

We had a great speaker for parents last night from a local after school STEM program that offers programs to kids 4-14 to encourage STEM skills and careers, called Rosie Riveters. Research shows after school programs are a great way to encourage children in the STEM field but some of our girls don't want to do them because they already have a stereotype that this area is for boys! The organizataion chose the iconic logo because when kids say "I can;t" they respond "Why not?" They want kids to experience failure in a safe setting so they have tools later in life. The speaker shared that their groups with ages 4-7 and 8-10 are easy and lighthearted but the group of 11-14 girls was hard to engage. The older girls avoid engagement and showed lots less confidence. Other resources parents can use at home are https://talkingmathwithkids.com/  https://babbledabbledo.com/ http://www.science-sparks.com/ These sites give parents suggestions for how to make math, science, and engineering fun for kids at home. Another resource is this article offers great suggestions for science toys (geared to girls) http://www.amightygirl.com/b 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Scardies Away!

When working with anxious children it is critical to collaborate with staff and parents so that tools taught in counseling are used across settings. The book Scardies Away! by Fiorile and McDonagh teaches "Magic Finger Countdown" as a strategy that can help a child cope with anxiety and panic in all settings. It can be used with any age student. The authors also have a blog that offers suggestions about anxiety. I really like their post about identifying buffers that strengthen resiliency and encouraging physical buffers. Check out the blog at scarediesaway.com/blog

Friday, April 1, 2016

College and Career Month April is STEMazing

Our school is focusing on college and career exploration this month. We kicked it off today with our monthly college wear day. Throughout the month we will have career speakers come to classes and two grade levels will have special "career days" so students can choose what speaker they want to hear. I am fortunate that my teachers cooperate with the counseling program and understand they have a role in career awareness too. Based on our data, we decided to focus on the STEM Career Cluster and STEM skills this year. Our girls do not score as high as the boys in the upper grades in math and science and many voice a negative attitude about themselves as math learners. We have been able to get STEM speakers but the challenge has been finding females to serve as role models. Our program uses the 6 components of college and career counseling developed by the National Office for School Counselor Advocacy https://8_Components_WEB_111107.pdf