Monday, September 15, 2014

Storyline Online...Great (Free) Counselor Find

I LOVE reading and enjoy reading to my students during class visits, but there have been a few cases where reading aloud hasn't worked so well in my favor.  These instances include losing my voice, not feeling my best or just not feeling reading the same story for the 10th time in a week.  I've found an amazing alternative solution...Storyline Online!  Which is an online book website where The Screen Actors Guild Foundation records well-known actors reading children’s books and makes graphically dynamic videos so that children around the world can be read to with just the click of a Storyline Online video book image. I also think that this is awesome because we'll be able to have more discussion and lesson activity time during our class visits and there's a good chance that I wouldn't have nearly as many interruptions during story time (we all have a class or two that provides lots of "commentary" .

I have a strong feeling that this will be used quite a bit in my class visits and small groups.  Thank you Storyline Online, this website is a school counselor's dream come true!
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Monday, September 8, 2014

Considering Going the Counselor Ph.D Route?

Occasionally I get some emails or questions from other school counselors asking for advice in pursuing a doctoral degree and I have no idea how to respond.  The only school I'm currently attending is the school where I work.  I recruited Julia V. Taylor, a former school counselor to chime in on what it's like to take the Ph.D route.

Give a little background about your school counseling experience.  How long you were a school counselor?  What grade levels did you work in?  

I was a school counselor for a decade before I decided to pursue a PhD in Counselor Education. I began my career as a high school counselor, then moved to a middle school, then I switched back to the high school level.  After a few years, I went to central office for a year to help build a 6-12 public girls' school and stayed a year after it opened.  

What did you like about being a school counselor?  
That's difficult to answer - I'm a huge fan of the profession. School counselors change lives; they make a difference and have a lot of influence. I think the profession is still an undiscovered gem in education, but that is rapidly changing. I loved the school part of school counseling. I liked working in a school, being on a team, and being surrounded by people everyday. I enjoyed watching students grow. I was fortunate to follow a group of students from 6th to 8th grade, then a position opened up at the high school most of them were slated to attend. I interviewed, got the job, and followed them there. When those students were beginning their junior year, I was presented with an opportunity to be on the founding leadership team of the girls' school. I was over-the-moon thrilled (dream job!) to do this, but I was also devastated to leave that particular group of students. Two years later, the highlight of my entire career was watching the Apex High School Class of 2013 graduate. Coincidentally, their graduation day happened to be on my last day of employment in WCPSS. I cried the entire ceremony, I was so proud of them. It was the absolute perfect ending.  

What sparked your interest to pursue a doctoral degree?

My interest in pursuing a doctoral degree was piqued a long time ago and grew over the years.  My advisor in my Master's program, Dr. Tammy Davis, had a decade of experience as a practicing school counselor. She was completely transparent and taught us the realities of the field. Her stories were real and her passion was contagious. I remember thinking "I'll do this for a decade and follow her steps." I'm not sure how calculated those thoughts were at the time, but throughout the years I became increasingly interested in education reform, school counseling leadership, and the science of the field. I'm an information monster and I want to know the hows and whys of everything. I want to learn how to read, write, interpret, and critique research. I want to learn how to think about my thoughts. And I want to be able to back up my many opinions with research/data.  With all of that said, I want to teach graduate students and I have to have this degree to do so.  

Why did you choose Virginia Commonwealth University?  

I spoke at VCU a few years ago and met the Counselor Education Department Chair, Dr. Mary Hermann.  She informed me that they were in the process of creating a doctoral program and said she'd keep me updated.  Fast forward a year, I began searching for schools and talked to different counselor education programs. The programs and people were great, but this was a big decision and I needed to listen to my head and my heart for this one. I was grappling with my next steps when Dr. Hermann emailed me to say VCU was moving forward with the PhD program if I was interested in applying. We spoke the next day and the rest is history. There was almost no hesitation. I just had this strange feeling that I needed to be there, so I put my application together and hoped for the best.

What has been your biggest adjustment in being back in school? 
Oh, there are many.  First, hovering above all of the adjustments over the past year is a healthy level of impostor syndrome. I'm not convinced it ever goes away. What else? If you would have asked me this in my first semester I would have said I missed students, my work is graded (augh), and time management. The spring semester was all about the "professional identity" stuff I read about but thought I was entirely too tough/cool/grounded for. Turns out, I'm not. I am a student who was a practicing school counselor and will hopefully be a counselor educator.  The in-between is a moderately terrifying place to be. This whole PhD experience is humbling, as in every single day humbling.  Lastly, the atmosphere of academia is a lot different than the atmosphere in a public school. I have a giant, quirky personality and am still adjusting to toning it down. I was always the one who would organize surprise (and wildly embarrassing) faculty skits at student talent shows, was the official Office Olympics Coordinator on teacher workdays, and I don't have a great indoor voice. There are no office olympics in academia (yet) and it's very quiet, so very quiet. However, adjustments are just that, they keep things interesting. 

What's something that you've enjoyed about your doctoral program?  The Counselor Education faculty at VCU is top-notch. They are driven, exemplary role models, and unbelievably supportive.  I've had the opportunity to teach a technology class specifically for school counselors and co-teach a few other classes. I have always loved writing, so I have enjoyed being able to do that on another level.  Another thing I really like about VCU's program is that it's under the School of Education umbrella, so I also take education leadership classes.  I actually looked into education leadership doc programs at one time in my life, so this is truly the best of both worlds.

What advice would you give to a school counselor thinking of pursuing a doctoral degree in counselor education? 

There are a lot of logistical things to think about: full or part-time? What type of program? What are your goals? Are you willing to move? Most importantly, are you ready? You have to make sure it's what you want to do and give yourself some time to figure out who you are. I don't believe there is a magic number of years of experience you should have - it's more about goals, confidence, and drive.  In fact, some of the best counselor educators I know haven't worked in a school. For me, my experiences in the field helped me develop a strong professional identity and figure out who I was and what I wanted, but that's just me. So, if you're in the trenches and this is something you one day hope to do, I recommend you switch schools, switch levels, learn from different colleagues and administration, lead, and don't lose sight of your long term goal. There will never be a perfect time to make an enormous life change. If you're ready and able, you just have to do it. Like the John Burroughs quote, "Leap and the net will appear."  

Lastly, former VSCA President and Old Dominion University Doctoral Candidate, Tracy Jackson, beautifully summed up this process in one concise quote.  She said "I don't love it, but I don't hate it. It's not hard, but it's not easy. I wouldn't persuade you, but I wouldn't dissuade you either. It is what it is; it's the Ph.D. experience."  Well said Jackson, well said. 

Julia V. Taylor

Julia is a Doctoral Student at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of The Body Image Workbook for Teens, The Bullying Workbook for Teens, Perfectly You, G.I.R.L.S. (Girls in Real Life Situations), and Salvaging Sisterhood. Visit her online at
Thanks Julia!
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Monday, September 1, 2014

New (School) Year's Resolutions

January signifies a start of a new year, but August/September signifies a start of a new school year. Like others I make some (realistic) goals for the year and this year I'm going to do the same for my professional self too.  Here are a few of my New (School) Year's Resolutions:

-Do a better job of keeping track of the students that I've seen
-Do a better job of keeping track of parent communication
-Choose and order 3-4 new books for my 4th & 5th grade book clubs
-Lead a service project that benefits either military/veterans or a women's shelter or both
-Maintain a consistent schedule of class visits
-Maintain doing a monthly 5th grade parent newsletter
-Post more on my JYJ Counselor Facebook Page
-Tweet more
-Make time for me, saying "no" is ok at times

If all else fails, here's a laugh as you think of your resolutions:

What are some of your new school year resolutions?  I may have to add some of your suggestions to my list!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Staff Back To School Bulletin Board

Right before school let out for summer, the staff at my school had "homework" which was to take a picture of themselves during their summer vacation in their school shirt.  We did a "Oh the Places You Can Go" theme from the Dr. Suess book.  Each picture has a flap card, which you have to lift up to see where the person was during their vacation.

Here's my picture:

Flap card (lifted up):

Here's the full bulletin board:

It was so neat to see all the places that staff went during the summer months.  It also makes a great conversation piece when talking to students, parents and even visitors in the school.  I have a feeling that this will be a back to school tradition at my school. Pin It

Monday, August 18, 2014

Don't Forget Your Lunch & Giveaway

Something I learned after my first year as a school counselor is to take time for yourself during the day. I had a working lunch pretty often until the fabulous art teacher invited to eat lunch with her and sit at a table (not in front of a desk/computer).  How refreshing it was to take a little break for yourself.  Now most days I eat lunch either with students or with other adults in a non-sitting in front of the computer/desk atmosphere.  In a nutshell, school counselors work very hard (just like all educators) but something as small as a non-working lunch a few times a week can make such a big impact on our school sanity.

In honor of back to school season,  I'm doing a giveaway, whoot whoot!  I was actually given two of the same lunch totes and want to share the other with another school counselor. This giveaway is for a Scout lunch tote.  I pack a lunch every day and LOVE fun lunch totes.

Lunch tote, love the pattern & the colors!

What's something simple, easy and quick that you keep in your lunch for work?

Enter below for a chance to win the lunch tote.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Pin It

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summer Wear to Work Gear

Now you know I couldn't just not post about summer wear to work?  Well this time I'm teaming up with the fashionably fabulous Melanie from The Stylish School Counselor Blog and we'd love to share some summer wear to staple pieces and work outfits:

Maxi skirts/dresses:
Shirt: Old Navy, Necklace & Skirt: JCrew Factory, Belt & Shoes: Gap

Jacket: Kut from the Kloth, Dress: Groovy's

Lightweight scarves

Shirt: Old Navy, Skirt: Kohl's, Scarf: Nordstrom
Shirt, Scarf & Belt: Old Navy, Skirt: Thrifted, Shoes: Nine West

Cardigan: JCrew Factory, Shirt & Skirt: Old Navy, Belt, Scarf & Shoes: Gap

Shirt & Scarf: Old Navy, Capris: JC Penney, Shoes: Nine West
Summer Dresses
Dress & Belt: Old Navy, Shoes: Nine West

Dress: Gap, Scarf: World Market (& yes that's NYC Times Square, summer vacay)
Jacket: Kut from the Kloth, Dress: Groovy's

Scarf: Charming Charlie's, Shirt: Old Navy, Capris: JC Penney, Shoes: Target
Jacket: Nordstrom, Tank: Old Navy, Crop Skinny Jeans: Michael Kors 

Jacket: Kut from the Kloth, Tank: Old Navy, Pants: Express 

Dress: Old Navy, Cardigan: Gap leopard, Necklace: Francesca's 
Printed Pants/Capris
Shirt: JC Penney, Pants: Anthropologie, Shoes: Gap

Cardigan, Shirt & Necklace: JCrew, Capris: JC Penney, Shoes: Cole Haan

Shirt: Banana Republic, Capris: Old Navy, Shoes: Gap

Statement Jewelry
Statement Necklace: Kate Spade, Dress: Target
 Necklace: Groovy's, Dress: Charming Charlie
Necklace: Groovy's, Dress: Old Navy, Cardigan: JC Penney 

So many ways to dress for the summer heat and work!  What are some of your summer wear to work must haves? Pin It

Monday, July 28, 2014

Intern Advice From An Intern

As school gears up for us school counselors, graduate students will be gearing up for their internship experience.  Since I've been out of the intern scope for a couple of years, my intern from the last school year Kelly was so kind to share some tips based on her experience:

-Give a little background about yourself :
Hi, I'm Kelly and I just graduated May 2014 with a master's degree in Counselor Education from East Carolina University (Go Pirates).  I also completed my undergraduate degree in Sociology from ECU.  
Originally, I started my undergraduate studies in early education, but soon decided I wanted to focus more on individual or a small group, which lead me to sociology. One of my older volleyball teammates (I played on the volleyball team at ECU) was in the counselor education program also, and really got me interested in the field.  I went straight to graduate school after graduating from undergrad, and I have absolutely LOVED the program and am so in love with counseling!

-How did you manage graduate school and internship, without feeling completely overwhelmed?
Throughout the year, my supervisor was great about allowing me to set my own schedule or change days that I came to my internship site if there were grad school assignments that I really needed to work on. Setting a schedule was really nice for me in order to stick to days where I focused mostly on my internship, and others when I focused mainly on schoolwork. However, I know that many sites which my classmates were in, set a schedule for them to come to their sites. Many of my friends handled both their internship and schoolwork by dedicating certain days to their schoolwork similarly to me being able to create my own schedule. There were times when it was overwhelming to juggle both my internship and finishing my graduate school program, but the more I stuck to a set schedule and completed things weekly in a set manner, the more in control I felt and got through the semesters with ease!

-What's something that you learned about yourself you didn't know from your internship experience?
I was fortunate to complete both semesters of internship at the same great school, and I think I learned much more about myself being here all year then having to split semesters! I had no idea that I was going to like classroom lessons and small group settings as much as I have. I was pretty sure that individual counseling was my primary focus, so I started off my internship just wanting to talk to individual students more than leading groups or classes. However, I learned throughout the year that I am pretty good at classroom management and leading a group. Although it shocked me some, I have had so many awesome opportunities to lead by myself that I have become much more comfortable!

-What did you enjoy about your internship?
Joyner has been such an amazing school for my internship experience! I have truly felt so welcomed, and have enjoyed all of the staff appreciation events that we (as counselors) helped lead and display around the school. The nerves were definitely large at first, but after being treated like a part of the school, instead of just an intern, I was really able to excel and find out the type of school counselor I will be, and what I enjoy most/least about the position!

-What advice would you give to someone about to begin their school counseling internship?
My advice is to keep an open mind and be willing to try everything…even if it isn’t specific to the counseling position! I attended many workshops, conferences, and trainings which were offered by the district, my school, and counseling associations! I truly put the most into my internship experience to get the same in return and be prepared for my first year as a school counselor!
Thanks for sharing Kelly!  Are there any other tips former interns would like to share?
Good Luck!

Thanks for sharing Kelly!  Are there any other tips former or recent interns would like to share?
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