Monday, December 1, 2014

12 Days Before Holiday/Winter Break

The holiday season covers all kinds of emotions, happiness, excitement, stress, anxiety and for the 2nd year in a row to pump up the staff for the exciting break, we did the 12 days before Christmas (JYJ style).  Several teachers and myself thought of this and we also had help and support from our PTA.  So here's what we did (these are pics from last year & I apologize that I don't have pictures for all the days but you'll get the gist):

-Day 1:  Turtledove Treat (Turtle and Dove Candy w/ a little note)

-Day 2: Guess the number of (holiday) M&M's in a jar (the PTA) counted and put the jar in the staff mail room and the winner got the candy.

-Day 3:  Carols in the Cafe, a Holiday playlist on the iPod that was played using an iPod speaker during lunch.

-Day 4:  Holiday Photo Booth, we used a corner wall on the main hallway and decorated with props (staff brought in the props).  There's a staff member who does photography as a hobby and volunteered to take the pictures (we also used our phones).

-Day 5: Staff  lunch and coverage for lunch duty (sponsored by PTA)

-Day 6:  Cookie Exchange (staff brought in cookies/sweets to share)

-Day 7:  Flannel Friday, wear your flannel/holiday PJ's and enjoy some hot chocolate (sponsored by our PTA).

-Day 8:  Find the hidden holiday ornaments, PTA put 5 ornaments throughout the school and if you found one you won a prize.

-Day 9:  Give and receive a snowman of appreciation (we assigned everyone a person to write a nice note to and each person also received a Hershey's Hug and Kiss candy).  The snowmen were cut using a dye-cutter and some people got creative and added more to their snowman (see mine below).  For the person that I wrote a snowman to, I knew that they liked diet soda so I put a dollar with the snowman to buy a drink from the drink machine. 

-Day 10: Holiday headgear day

-Day 11:  Pin the nose on Rudolph (like pin the tail on the donkey, blindfold and all), the top 3 people closest to his nose win a prize. 

-Day 12: Tacky Holiday Sweater Day

The "countdown" to holiday break was even more interesting by adding fun events for staff.  This year we're doing it again and adding a few different things.  What things does your school do to celebrate staff for the holiday/winter break?  Please share.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Travel Opportunities for School Counselors

Nope you didn't read the title incorrectly, this post is about ways to travel as a school counselor. This summer I had an opportunity to do an educator travel/study abroad program to England and Norway and it was awesome!  I got a staff email about traveling abroad for the summer and the requirements were to be a teacher.  I then emailed the contact person and asked if school counselors could come along and ironically the contact person replied "why we've never had a school counselor apply for this program"  BINGO, that was my way in (remember we have to be our biggest advocate)!  Here are some options on how to find out more about traveling abroad opportunities:

-Many colleges/universities have summer travel opportunities for teachers/educators/school counselors during the summer.  You don't necessarily have to be a student at the university to go on the trip either. Check with your alma mater or colleges/universities in your area.  My trip to England/Norway was through the university where I've supervised counselor interns.

2014 England Educator Study Abroad Group at Highclere Castle (the Downtown Abbey House)

-If you're working on the high school level, see if you can chaperone a study abroad trip with your foreign language department.  For us on the elem and middle school levels, make friends with high school counselors to be in the loop about traveling with a school group.

-Have a counselor topic that you'd like to research from a global perspective and do you live in a rural area?  Consider applying for a Global Teacher Fellowship (I'm not able to apply for this because where I live doesn't qualify as a rural area)

Most programs have end of year or early spring deadlines (just double check the dates for the trip you're interested in).

Hiking along The White Cliffs of Dover (Dover, England)

I've always enjoyed any opportunity to travel and I must say that going this route is great, I just wish that I had known about opportunities like this earlier in my career.  Better late than never!  I'll say the travel abroad bug has bitten me and I'm already making plans to travel abroad for the upcoming summer (I'm thinking of visiting Central America this time around).  

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Introducing the School Counselor Lesson

Whew, this school year has been quite busy and it's been a little obvious in my blogging absence.  I finally have some time to share how I introduced myself & the counselor intern at the start of the school year.  This year we used the book Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High Fives by Erainna Winnett which is a fantastic book on introducing the school and describing what the school counselor does.

Reading the book Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High Fives

As our activity, since Mrs. Joyce gives great high fives and we told the students that they could give us long lasting high fives.  Here's what we did:

-We used cut colored construction and gave everyone a sheet where they were to trace their hand (we did assist a bit with tracing the hands).

-The students then cut out our handprints (we had to help some with this too).

-After the hand prints were cut out, I let them decorate their hands with crayons or makers (we saw lots of creative decorations).

-After we had handprints from all of our classes (we did this lesson with 1st grade).  We made a "wreath" on high fives, which I put near our office, which reminds them of where the counselor's room is.

I loved this intro and love hearing the students say "that's my high-five"!

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Monday, October 20, 2014

The Power of Self-D Review & Giveaway

What counselor isn't a fan of biblio-counseling, meaning that we use books as a resource to work with students whether it be individually, with a small group or even with class visits.  I had the pleasure of receiving a copy of The Power of Self-D, Willie Bohanon & Friends Learn the Power of Self-Determination by Kip "Mr. J" Jones, which is an excellent character education book on overcoming facing challenges, peer pressure and making good choices.

I would use this book for my older students (4th-5th graders) and it would also be excellent for middle school students because it is totally relatable for "tweens".  Our story deals with Willie Bohanan raised in a single-parent home with several siblings who struggles with choosing academics over being "cool" with his friends and strives to be the first in his family to go to college.  I especially like how the (relatable to tweens) acronym SWAG (Self-Determination, Working Hard, Ambition, Guidance) shows them steps and tools they can use to be successful.  This is great addition to my counselor library.

Thanks to Mr. J, I have an extra copy to give away, please enter below to win:

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Make Use of Your State's Conference

After participating in the #ASCA14 Google hangout with fellow school counselors a few months ago, I thought about other ways that school counselors could get a "conference experience" even if they aren't able to attend the national conference ((I was #notatasca14 this year).  Attending your state level conference is a fantastic way to get fresh ideas, be among peers and network.  As Matthew M. from CO explained to me "our state conference is like a mini-ASCA" perfectly stated Matthew.

I got to see BOTH Erin Mason & Julia V. Taylor at the Virginia School Counselor Association Conference.
I didn't attend an ASCA conference until my 4th year as a counselor, but I had attended my state's conference since my very 1st year.  My state conference has been a great chance for me to meet other school counselors all over my state, which certainly helps since I as well as most elementary school counselors work solo at their schools.  Here's a list of all state conference dates from the ASCA website. Attending your state's conference is another fantastic way to get other great ideas.

Will you be attending your state's conference?

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Share how students show character

Sharing character the character trait of the month has been an on-going project that I've steadily been working on increasing each year.  This year I decided to add a video component of students sharing how they show the character trait of the month.  Here's what I did:

-I made signs with each character trait listed (in both English & Spanish, JYJ is a Spanish themed Magnet school, so I try to reiterate our theme, although my Spanish has not improved at all).  The students hold up the sign of the trait of the month while they share how they show the trait.

-I recruited students from various grade levels to share how they show that months' particular trait.  I use my school issued flip camera or iPad to record the students.  I give them the "script" which is:  "I show ____(the character trait) by_____"  for an example "I show respect by listening & following directions from my teachers".

-There's usually not a problem getting student volunteers, they all love being on the school news.

-I edit my own video using iMovie trailers (my character trait movie isn't more than a minute long) and have the video shown on our school's morning news.  The video is shown during the month of the trait.  

I would share the finished product, but since I don't have permission, just take my word for it.

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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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