Monday, May 26, 2014

Gearing up for Testing Season

What's a four letter word that (sometimes) makes students and staff cringe?  T-E-S-T!  Especially when we're talking about end of the year state testing which drives up everyone's anxiety levels.  Each year I try to do a lesson/activity and staff treat to ease some testing worries on both ends.  This year is no different. Here's what we're doing at my school:

-For Students:
  • For my 3rd graders (1st timers taking a state test) we did our Testing Survival Kit lesson which is always a hit.
  • For our EOG school pep rally there were 3 different team events.  During these events students in grades 3-5 are chosen to participate in the event prior to the pep rally.  Students chosen are super excited when chosen, it's like they won the jackpot!  Here are the 3 events we did:
-Dizzy Bat Scramble:  Teams of 5 have to each jump 10 times with a jump rope, go over and under the "obstacles", spin with the bat 6 times and when all of the team has finished put together a puzzle.

Dizzy Bat relay

-Watermelon Relay:  Teams of 5 have to eat as much watermelon (without using their hands).

Watermelon fun, I loved how another student held another student's hair while she ate the watermelon!

-Water Toss: Teams of 4 each have water buckets, the first person dips their bucket in the water then "tosses" the water to the next person to "catch".  The last person on the team pours the water into a larger team bucket.  The team that fills their team bucket first is the winner.

A common theme that we reiterated about each of the games is that you have to take your time, concentrate and do your best...just like on the test!  To close out the pep rally the younger students in grades K-2 each do a cheer to pump up the students taking the test.  It's quite creative to see what they come up with.

 I even got mentioned by my principal via twitter, whoot whoot (I have on my comfy clothes because not only did we have a pep rally, but earlier that day was field day so wearing a skirt wasn't the best choice, yoga pants are pretty awesome too).

-For staff
  • As in previous years, there will be a daily testing treat with a fun saying on it.  Click here to see my previous post about this.
  • I saw this "it's Crunch Time" sign with Crunch candy bars on Pinterest.  I put this in the staff mail room.
  • To relieve some testing stress, I asked some parents at our school that teach yoga if they could come in a do a class for staff after school.  I really enjoy yoga and feel so relaxed after each class.  
Don't we look so relaxed after our yoga class?  It was so awesome!

The madness of testing can be tamed to some degree and I appreciate other school counselors sharing cool and fun ways to pump up staff and students for state testing.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Gift Ideas for Your Counselor Interns

 For those of us that supervised interns this year, when the internship comes to an end, we usually want to get them something to show our appreciation.  Here are some gift ideas:

-Plan a celebration, this year at my school there were 3 interns so I assigned each grade level a breakfast item to bring (muffins, doughnuts, juice, flowers, plates, cups/napkins, utensils, biscuits, flowers, etc) and we had a breakfast for our interns.

JYJ Interns, congrats ladies!

Intern breakfast

-School supplies!  You know that you have extra school supplies laying around your house and counselor office.  Pens, notebook paper, folders, crayons, you name it, I probably had 3 or 4 sets of them.

-Personalized note cards, I am a HUGE fan of bringing back a letter writing campaign.  Writing notes to students, parents and staff especially when someone does something nice for you is a must for me.  I ordered note cards from Vistaprint.  Also from Vistaprint I ordered a confidentiality poster and a welcome to the school counselor's office banner.

-Personalized binder covers, I found (free) printables on Pinterest (click on the link).

-A counselor bag, of course!  I ordered a SCOUT multi-pocket tote from Amazon (I had to stop myself from ordering one for myself). 

-Where's the counselor sign (taken from a previous post, printable in the post)

 Here's the finished gift:
Intern gifts: Bag, personalized note cards & binder cover, where's the counselor sign, confidentiality poster

 Each year I'm excited to work with a energetic and excited intern and at the end of the year I'm always sad to see them leave, but glad to know that I had an opportunity to learn and them learn from me.  Congrats Kelly and to all counselor interns graduating! Pin It

Monday, May 12, 2014

Planning for a 5th Grade Graduation/Celebration

Whoo hoo, it's a new month which is exciting for most of us in the education world this time of year since it's literally crunch time since the school year is coming to a close.  One event that we play a role in is "graduation" on any school level (5th, 8th & of course 12th).  I previously did a post about planning for a 5th grade graduation a couple of years ago and wanted to revisit and add some more tips. Here goes:

-Recruit help from others (this is a biggie) you certainly don't want to wind up doing all the work.  At my school there's a committee of parents that organize and plan the event (I'm also on the committee).

-Line the hallways with butcher paper and let the students "leave their mark" as they leave and begin a new chapter in their school careers.  This idea came from a local university where there's a "free expression tunnel" and students can express themselves freely (we do monitor to make sure that appropriate things are being written).

"free expression" hallway

-There's always a class t-shirt, but the last couple of years the shirts have been ordered early so that they can be worn during the school year, rather than the last day of school.

-Borrow plants to decorate the stage (recruit help from parents).  There's usually a creative parent(s) who would love to take on a task like this. 

Plant display for the stage

-Make a playlist of songs to play for the celebration.  Use your iPod to connect to external speakers, instant party!

iPod easily plugs into sound system

-Make a slideshow of the "graduates".  Have students bring in a baby picture and use a current picture for the slideshow.  I collect and scan the baby photos and use the fall pictures from the picture company.  It's also a good idea to ask for pictures throughout the years from class events, field trips, etc, to include in the slideshow.  A group of parents work on creating the slideshow and getting the slideshow burned to DVD's for all the students to have.

-Make ribbons in your school colors for all of the graduates to make.  Again, some crafty parents have been willing to make them.

What other tips or suggestions do you have for planning an end of year celebration/graduation?

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Tips for Navigating a Job Fair/Interview

I had the pleasure of joining my administration team for my district's annual teacher recruitment fair. This my first time going as a representative of my school.  Being there made me think and reflect on the time that I was the newbie attending the job fair.  I had all types of emotions going through my head, excitement, anxiousness, nervousness and being a little overwhelmed.  I  know that graduation season is in full effect and many of you recent school counselor graduates are embarking upon the next chapter in your careers and from that thought, I wanted to share a few tips and pointers I thought of as I got to be the person "on the other end" this time around.

-It's time to "suit up" meaning that wearing a suit or professional attire is an absolute must when job hunting.  I'm all for fun prints and bold colors (you've seen what I wear in my wear to work series posts) but save that look for when you land the job.  When in doubt, go for a conservative look.  Black, navy, gray suits and closed toed pumps (no sandals) are a safe bet.  For males a shirt and tie with a blazer goes a long way.  Stuck on what to wear, check out Pinterest for ideas.

-Research the school district and schools that you're interested in.  Almost every school/district will have some sort of web info, be sure to check it out.  When you meet with a representative of the school(s) you're interested in, mentioning some programs, school theme or something school specific screams that you've taken time to research the school and feel that you'll be a good fit for it.

-Be prepared, have plenty of copies of your resume, be prepared to talk about why you're so awesome and need to be the person that the school hires.  Play up your skills and use school lingo like "student achievement/success" in your dialog.

-Network, this is a biggie.  Make a good impression when talking with school principals, etc. School principals have a connection between one another, even if one school doesn't hire you, doesn't mean that they can't recommend you to another school to hire (this has happened to me and I've had friends have the same thing happen to them).

-Be flexible, as a school counselor are you interested in working with just a certain grade level or particular part of town?  Keeping your options open may allow for more opportunities to come your way.  I had no intention of working on the elementary level but I began to broaden my search from just high school to all levels and I got a position (elementary has worked out well for me).

-Patience, the bulk of hiring is done during the summer months so check job postings periodically.  I've always been a late hire.

Good luck to you as you interview and prepare to begin your career as a school counselor.

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