Friday, November 30, 2012

(Pt. I) Planning a school-wide Character Ed Event at Your School

Our JYJ character ed night is a PTA sponsored annual school wide event.  This is an event that does not go without lots of planning and prepping.  I've gotten quite a bit of emails from counselors with questions about how to plan for a character ed night event at their school. So I'm going to try to break this down into several posts (so it's not so overwhelming).

As I said before this event is something that has been going on for years at JYJ.  It was started by the previous counselor many years ago as a way to show how students & parents can show good character by helping others in the community.  So last year was my 1st year (at JYJ) and working on the character ed night committee.  Last year's event was very successful and myself and the 2 parents that are on the committee decided to keep our same team and do some updates to this year's event.

-First on our update list was to change the name from Character Ed Night to JYJ Gives Back.  We actually are doing service to our community throughout the entire school year and saying "night" sounds like we just help out on one night (which isn't true).  We changed "character ed" because we just wanted a refresh in the name.

So here are some planning tips for our JYJ Gives Back event that we use at my school:

-I would highly suggest that you create a committee for your school wide service night event.  There are 3 of us (myself and 2 parents) and we work extremely well together.  I would not want to take on a project like this alone (yes it can be done, but I'm very comfortable working with a team).  We also have many, many parents to volunteer for the event so this is definitely a collaborative effort.

-Choose a date for your event.  We chose the Thursday after the King holiday in January.  What better person exhibits service and all the character traits to others than Dr. Martin Luther King?

-See if your PTA will sponsor and provide a budget for your event (any amount of money will make a difference).  Like I said this is an annual PTA sponsored event so we have a budget to work with.

-Decide what types of service projects can be (easily) done at school by children.  Some ones we've used in the past:
-SPCA (dog chew toys out of old t-shirts)
-Backpack Buddies (Pack bag lunches)
-Raleigh Rescue Misson (local shelter, packing on the go lunches)
-UNC Children's Hospital (making care packages, cards for patients)
-Mayview Nursing Home (making Valentine's Day cards for the residents)
-Ronald McDonald House (making care packages, cards for sick children)
-Tammy Lynn Center (for developmentally delayed children/adults, making musical instruments for the students)

-Our committee will contact people at each organization that we want to sponsor (we split our list 3 ways) and we find out what need there is based off what the organization contact tells us.  In the past we've had some JYJ parents that worked or knew someone at the organization which has also be helpful.

-Once you've gotten a list of organizations to work with.  Decide what items will be needed for the service project.  Things to think about...Will these items be donated or need to be purchased from your PTA budget?  How will you collect donated items, who will donate the items?  At JYJ we've done a little of both, we assign a list of donated items (that need to be purchased such as non-perishable foods) to each grade level and things that are free (example old t-shirts) we ask the entire school to donate.  We have bins all throughout the school for donated items.  A great way to get items donated is to publicize what's needed as much as possible.  We send home a donation list (several times), have announcements on our school news, have the principal mention it on the phone message and even tweet out what's needed so that the parents receive it as a text message.
Donated items that we're short on, we use some of our budget money to purchase.  Last year we had to buy very few supplies because of the "publicity overload".

Food items collected
Board games collected to donate to the children's hospital.

Stay turned for Part II of planning for a school-wide Character Ed Event.  As always, please feel free to contact me if you have questions.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Planning for Holiday Assistance at Your School

The holidays are just around the corner and many counselors head up some sort of holiday help program for families in need.  I'm no different, my school sponsors a snowman tree (like an angel tree) for our holiday help program.  It's quite a bit of work to plan and keep track of this but with some planning and help from others, it can be much easier to manage.  Here's what I do:

-Send a letter to families that may be in need of assistance for the holidays (work with your student support team to identify families).  On your letter be sure to ask for clothing sizes (shirt, pants & jacket size) and items that the child(ren) would like as gifts.  It's up to you on what your price limit for the gifts will be.  This year, we are asking parents to list clothing sizes, books that the child(ren) would like, and educational gifts (board games, school supplies) that the children may also need.  It's up to you what direction you want to go with gifts.  Also this year, we put in the letter that in order to receive holiday assistance that parents must have had a conference with their child's teacher (I do check with teachers to make sure that they do).  If parents do not come for a conference their name(s) will not be put on the tree (I'm really sticking to this, school is a collaborate piece that requires parental involvement).

-As the letters are returned, I assign students a number for the snowman tree.  I keep track of this info on a spreadsheet.  I type in the student's name, sizes and gift item requests.

Spreadsheet to keep track of info
-I created cards and labels in Word to pin to the snowman tree using Avery postcard paper and Avery shipping labels.  The labels had the info on what gifts to purchase (shirt size, pants size, book/board game child would like).  The social worker  and I both wrote the info on the labels as the forms were returned.


Label filled out with gift info

-I used 2 cards for each holiday request (Avery Postcards that are already perforated, $6 at Sam's Club).  The 1st (top) card is the general information on what clothing sizes, books, board games to get with return information for the bought gifts (I used both sides of the card for this one).  The 2nd (bottom) card is for parents who want to sponsor a child to fill out so that I can keep track of who has taken what number off the tree to get gifts for.  Having this parent info allows me to know which gifts are "missing" so that I can send a friendly reminder call or email to bring in the gifts.

Holiday request cards, the top card the parents keep for gift info, the bottom card comes back to me.
-It's also a good idea to put on your tree gift cards (in any dollar amount) to grocery stores, department stores, discount stores, etc, because often there will be families in need after the holiday's.  You can give those cards out as needed.  As the gifts are returned myself and the school social worker call parents to pick up the presents (we've had no problems getting parents to come pick up the gifts).

-I hole punched the top of the card and tied red or green yarn in the hole.  I used small safety pins to pin the cards (with the yarn) to the snowman tree.

Cards hole punched with yarn and safety pins

Here's the snowman tree:
Snowman tree

The snowman tree was made by the school nurse and previous counselor from boxes covered with white felt and decorated like a snowman.  Since my school's a magnet school with a Spanish theme, the snowman has on a sombrero and has moroccos in his mittens.

My school is very fortunate to have so many parents to participate in purchasing gifts for our families who might need holiday assistance.  To let the parents know about the snowman tree, I had the principal mention it in her weekly phone message (before the Thanksgiving break so parents could shop on Black Friday).This year, within 2 days nearly all of 45 tags were taken from the snowman tree! I'll be adding more gift card requests to the tree to keep it full. 

What holiday help program(s) does your school do?  I'd love to hear what others are doing at their schools. Pin It

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you and your family a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving.  Use this time to connect and enjoy family and friends as we celebrate this season of giving thanks. Pin It

Monday, November 19, 2012

Counselor Tech Shout Out: Fluid app

This month's tech shout out is...

Fluid, which is a (free) app that I just LOVE!!!  Have a student that needs to calm down or need to calm down yourself?  This is certainly the app for you.  It's very simple, just some rocks, water and calming music.  The cool factor is that you can move your fingers across the screen as if you were running your hands through the water.  The best part is it looks and feels as if you are touching a liquid surface (minus the potential mess of water splashing all over your office).  I found this app to be very beneficial as a school counselor and I'm sure you will too.  Take a few minutes to relax and enjoy this app.

Screen shot of rocks & water.  Simple yet extremely practical!
Do you have any other calming apps to suggest, please share.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Counselor Bloggers Meet & Greet

School counselor bloggers Danielle from The School Counselor Blog and Andrea from JYJoyner Counselor Blog will be presenting "Get Your Blog On" a session about creating and using blogs in your school counseling program at the ASCA conference July 3, 2013 in Philadelphia.  Since we're talking about the wonders of school counselor blogs we want to host a School Counselor Blogger meet and greet (it will be open to everyone).  

To plan and get a feel for our event we want to know which school counselor bloggers will be in Philly to join us.  

School counselor bloggers click here to answer a brief survey to let us know if you'll be at the ASCA conference.  

Details will follow with an invite to both bloggers and blog readers.  We are both very excited about the opportunity to meet and connect with other school counselors!

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Friday, November 16, 2012

2012 NCSCA conference

I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at this year's North Carolina School Counselor Association (NCSCA) conference in Greensboro, NC.  Each year this conference allows me to connect/network with other school counselors, get great ideas from the breakout sessions and come back with fresh ideas to try at my own school.   I have attended this conference each year that I have been a school counselor and this year was hands down the best one that I'd been to.

The opening keynote speaker Dr. Rita Pierson was so funny, insightful and inspiring.  She had the full attention of the audience and was a phenomenal speaker!

Dr. Rita Pierson

I had the pleasure of sharing iPad tips & tricks with a wonderful and excited group of school counselors.  Two of my classmates from the Advanced School Counseling Program at UNC-Greensboro were in the audience and it was so good to see them.  If you're still thinking about the program, there's still time to apply (deadline is 12/01/12).

My classmates from UNC-Greensboro: Gina & April.

Next I attended a session on "A practical guide to elementary book clubs for boys and girls" presented by fabulous counselor pal Angela Poovey, who always has fun and practical ideas.  I certainly got some more ideas to use in my book club and some great book suggestions.

Angela Poovey shares awesome book club suggestions.

I also attended "Creative activities for small group counseling"presented by the amazing Dianne Senn, (whom I'm sure many of us own several of her books).  She shared some great group lessons and activities that I'm sure I'll be using in the near future.

After all the sessions, it was time to let loose!  There was a mixer with food + dancing= fun!  We all know that the Cupid Shuffle, Wobble, or Cha Cha slide will bring the masses to the dance floor.

Cupid Shuffle!

Cha Cha Slide

I was able to meet many of you wonderful NC jyjcounselor blog readers (thank you so much for reading).  I certainly enjoyed meeting you all!

Any type of professional conference is a great way to meet other school counselors and get great ideas.  As I said, I had a blast at this year conference.  I'm looking forward to attending upcoming state conferences in the spring (Kentucky & Arizona counselor peeps, I'll see you in March).  Have you attended or are you planning on attending your state's school counselor conference? Pin It

Monday, November 12, 2012

Counselor Blog Shout Out: Cool School Counseling

This month's counselor blog shout out is:

Cool School Counseling

Lauren is indeed a "cool school counselor" out of VA sharing her creative and great school counseling lessons and ideas.  I'm super impressed that as a 2nd year counselor Lauren has even found time to write an awesome blog.  I certainly know that I wouldn't be able to keep up a blog from my 1st-4th years as a counselor, so kudos to you Lauren.

Lauren has shared with us ways to incorporate community service into her counseling program (I'm working on that too!) and had a great bulletin board idea to show the connection between the two.

Lauren has also put the "character" into character education with costumes for each trait (so creative).

This is a blog that I look forward to reading more so add Cool School Counseling to your blog list for more "cool" and neat counselor ideas.
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Friday, November 9, 2012

More apps for School Counselors

First off thank you to the many of you wonderful counselors who have contacted me about using your iPads.  I absolutely LOVE connecting with you and LOVE you sharing with me what a great counselor addition an iPad is to your counselor program!  As promised here are a few more (free) apps that I've found to be helpful:

Classic Clock HD Free:  If you attended the Tech Smackdown at the 2012 ASCA conference, this was the app we used to keep track of our 3 min per tech resource tech time limit.  I've found it quite useful in the counseling world too.  It's great for a transitions and to help speed up transitions among students.  It's just something about the visual effect of a stopwatch that helps put a little more pep in their step.  I also use the timer feature for students that come frequently and would talk all day if I let them (and most of the time it's NOT a pressing issue).  I let the students set the timer for 10-20 mins with the understanding that whatever needs to be shared needs to be done within that time frame.  This has worked well with my "frequent visitors" and most know the routine of setting the time.

Sesame Street for Military Families:   I attended a training on working with military families and we were given the DVD to use, but now it's available as an app!  I don't have many military families at my school, however there are some students that have a relative serving and protecting our country. I think that this is a fantastic app to use with students and parents. There are videos, articles & worksheets (in both English & Spanish).  What an awesome app!  Special thanks to the brave women and men who serve in the US armed forces, we certainly appreciate what you do!

Touch & Learn Emotions: App that helps students identify emotions based on facial expressions.

First Aid:  A handy app from the Red Cross to have when in doubt about how to handle medical situations.  This app provides videos, descriptions and signs to look for during an emergency.

Distress, this is perfect for school counselors!

Too Loud:  Based on the noise level this app shows when the noise level gets to loud and gives a message that the level may damage your hearing.  This app is very sensitive to noise and I'm not sure how totally accurate it is, but if you have a talkative class, this may do the trick in keeping them quiet.  I know of several classes that I'll be sharing this with!

Do you have any counselor apps to add to the list?  Please share.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Free Compliments Lesson & Activity

Raise your hand if you'll kindly take a nice compliment?  Well I certainly will (I'll raise BOTH hands to that).  I recently did a lesson with my awesome 4th grade students on "the POWER of your words".  I got this lesson idea from a fantastic session on Lessons that Sparkle presented by Julie Ford, a creative and super energetic school counselor from Oregon City Schools (Ohio) at the ASCA conference this summer.

Julie shared a lesson using the book Mr. Peabody's Apples written by Madonna.  This book tells of how words from others lead to rumors that can be very hurtful and cannot be taken back.  On a side note, this book was quite hard for me to find in store.  I had to check out a copy from the public (not school) library, but I have a great alternative...Madonna reads the book on YouTube!  Click here to see the video.  

After discussing the book and how words can hurt I asked the students, do they like to receive compliments.  Of course they responded YES and I told them that they would have the opportunity to give all their classmates a compliment, because compliments are powerful words just like hurtful words (which is very true).  Here's what I did:

-I cut colored (plain white is fine also) paper in half and gave each student a sheet.
-I had the students write their names on the paper and leave the paper on their desks.
-I told the students that they would rotate around the room and write something nice on every person's paper.  I also made note that even if they didn't know the person very well there's always something nice to say, i.e. you have a nice smile, you're nice, you have neat handwriting, etc.
-During the compliment writing I did monitor around the room to make sure that nice things were being written (hello, these are great students, but they're still kids!)

Students write compliments

More compliment writing
Well evidently by the compliments, this student is quite the artist !

This activity was a HIT with the students!  They were really into writing the compliments with their classmates. A bonus is that at the end of the lesson everyone gets a nice parting gift... a reminder of all the compliments that their classmates wrote about them and oh yeah we had apples (Mr. Peabody's Apples, make sure you read Julie's great lesson for more inspiration). 
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Friday, November 2, 2012

Monitoring Student Attendance

Attendance seems to be a topic that comes up every school year and we as counselors always have to think of (creative) ways to decrease student absences, tardies and students leaving school early.  At my school, our Student Support Services Team (SSST) meets each month to discuss student concerns, attendance, who we need to keep an eye on, etc.  This team consists of myself, school psychologist, social worker, nurse, principal and assistant principal.  I actually look forward to our meetings because we always have great info to share and our team works very well together.

This year, our team decided to really put our focus on attendance and let both students and parents know that missing school quickly adds up to hours of lost instructional time in the classroom.  Here's what we're doing this year:

-When students miss 5 or more days of school (unexcused absences) we send home a postcard with the school district's attendance reminder & remind parents to send in a note when their child is absent.  I ordered these postcards from VistaPrint with a blank back.  I typed the attendance policy on a printable mailing label to stick on the back of the postcard.  I made my own labels because you can edit/update it as needed.

Attendance reminder postcard
-When students miss 7 or more days of school and/or have 7 or more tardies from school the school social worker mails a letter to the parents.  This is a common procedure, but this year we added in the number of hours of lost instruction the child is missing based on the number of absences/tardies.  For an example, if the student has missed 9 days of school, we put in the letter that nearly 45 hours of instruction have been lost (5 hrs X 9).  For a sample of the attendance letter click here.

-We decided to "broadcast" the number of tardies and early check-outs from school each day at the front entrance of the school.  I made these signs using Word, printed on brightly colored card stock and laminated.  I used velcro to attach to the wall and sign (easy to put up/take down each day).  Each afternoon, I check the tardy/check-out sign in sheet in the front office and count the number of each.  I use a dry erase marker to write the number for the day.  To print a copy of the signs, click here.  

Displaying the number of tardies/early dismissals  each day.

-I also created a spreadsheet to keep track of attendance numbers for each day for data collection (easier to create charts & graphs using Excel).

Spreadsheet of daily tardies & early dismissals

Create graphs and charts using Excel

 This plan is working well!  The number of tardies has decreased overall (but there's still room for improvement).  At the end of the grading period, we'll recognize students with perfect attendance on our school's tv news show (students LOVE seeing their names on the JYJ news).   I also think that a competition between the grade levels or classes to see who has the best attendance will be a great idea to decrease absences & tardies.  The grade level that wins could have an attenDANCE (get it, a dance) and a prize from PTA.

What ways does your school focus on decreasing student absences & tardies, please share!
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