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.

Pin It

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!
Pin It

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!
  Pin It

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!

Pin It