Friday, February 20, 2015

Small Groups

This week I started my spring semester of small group counseling. I have nine different small groups that run each week for 30 minutes each. The groups consist of 4-5 students and I have a small group, or two, for each grade level. We meet once a week for six weeks during their lunch periods. They come to my office and we focus on whatever group topic has been selected for each group. Some group topics consist of social skills, anger/emotion management, divorce, grief and loss, and self-esteem. We get to focus on these topics in a fun way, by either playing games or doing some sort of fun activity. We will work hard these next six weeks on trying to improve whatever it is we are in need of help for. The kids absolutely love coming and I have many kids who ask why they can't come when I go to pick up my groups. I wish I could take them all, but I somehow just can't fit all 800+ kids into the schedule each week! ;-)

Since this was our first week, we talked about confidentiality and what that means. I explained to the students that they may talk to anyone they like about themselves and their issues, but they cannot leave the room and tell everyone what other kids said in group. That is their private information they chose to share with the group, and not necessarily the whole school. They can also share with their families about the activities we work on or games we play, but not specifically what another student in the group did or said. This helps to ensure that everyone is comfortable and feels safe sharing with us while in group. Every student in the groups signs a "Confidentiality Agreement," after I explain what that means. I sign it, too!

Next week, we will play "The Ungame," which is a game that has no winners or losers, but just helps us to get to know more about each other. I play with them, so they can get to know more about me as well! They really love to play this game and get to answer questions about themselves. 

This week I was also in all 4th and 5th grade classrooms. In 4th grade we completed the same "Feelings" lesson I spoke about in last week's blog and in 5th grade we worked on completing our career path booklets. Next week I will be in PK, kinder, and 1st grade classrooms showing them my "Magic Book of Feelings". They absolutely LOVE that lesson because I do a very cool magic trick with my book. I am sure they'll come home and tell you about it. 

Next week I also will be back to teaching my hip hop class after school on Mondays! I am excited my foot is finally getting better and I can get back to dancing! As of right now I have 21 out of 25 slots filled for class, so if your child is interested in filling one of the final four slots, let me know! 

Have a great weekend!! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mix-It Up Day and Feelings

This week has been an exciting week for the kiddos. Not only because they got to have Valentine's Day parties this week, but because we also completed our third and final school-wide activity to be designated a No Place for Hate school!! For our final activity, we completed a "Mix-It Up Day" where the kids were all mixed up at lunch time and sat at different tables, with different people than they are used to. In order to mix them up, we had several different colored stickers and each child received one as they walked through the lunch line. They then had to go sit at the table that had that same color sign on it. 




I could not have done all of this without the help of our lunch monitors and the help of my No Place for Hate coalition!! Those kids helped me throughout all lunch periods to make sure it ran smoothly. While I gave a colored sticker to each child that came through the lunch line, two other kids helped give stickers to those who had lunch boxes, two helped pass out pencils to the classes as they finished eating and lined up with their teacher, and everyone helped guide all the kids to the right table.



While the kids were at the tables eating, next to children they don't normally sit with or hang out, they were to try to find out three things they didn't know about the person they were sitting with. As I walked around, it was fun to see all of the interactions and how excited everyone was to break up the routine a little bit. It is important to try to get to know new people because sometimes we find out we really like them and we wouldn't have known that had we not just introduced ourselves. We can also help to make those who are a little more on the shy side feel welcome and comfortable.


In addition to Mix-It Up Day this week, I was also in all 2nd and 3rd grade classes teaching a lesson about feelings. We read a few stories from the book Feelings by Aliki and then completed a "Wheel of Emotions," writing about eight different emotions we have felt this week. Here are some examples of the great work they produced:



We talked about many feelings and how to keep the bad ones under control and turn them in to good feelings as much as possible. We talked about anger and how it is okay to feel angry, but we need to learn how to control anger. When we are angry at someone, no matter what they did, it is not okay to hit them, or yell and scream. Those reactions do nothing to solve the problem and often make it much worse, so the kids came up with ideas to react to anger the appropriate way and how to calm down. Some suggestions were to count to ten or higher, take deep breaths, go to the "peace area" in their classrooms, walk away, try to talk it out with the person calmly, and ignoring it. It was fun to get to hear about all the different feelings they have had in one week and to see how they chose to illustrate each particular feeling! 

Next week, I will be in 4th and 5th grade classes. 4th grade will also be completing a "Wheel of Emotions" and 5th grade will finish working on some career booklets we started last time I was in there. I will also be starting my "Lunch Bunch Small Groups" next week. I will work with nine small groups of 4-5 children each week for the next 5-6 weeks on different topics, such as social skills, self-esteem, anxiety, grief and loss, anger management, family issues, divorce, and depression. I look forward to getting these started! The kids always get so excited to get to come eat in my office! I always have many kids who aren't in group asking when they can come! I wish I could see all 800+ kids!! 

Have a great weekend and a Happy Valentine's Day, if you celebrate it!! :-) 

Friday, February 6, 2015

School Counselor Appreciation Week

This week was "National School Counselor Appreciation Week!" What a wonderful week it has been for me and I am overwhelmed with all the love, kindness, and appreciation that was shown to me this week. A school counselor's work can often go unappreciated because a lot of what we do has to remain confidential and behind closed doors. Not everything I do is easily visible to everyone. Sure I am definitely very present throughout the school daily. I go in every classroom to give guidance lessons regularly, I speak at many of our assemblies when I am promoting something my No Place for Hate coalition is working on, and also with being in charge of Student Council, but there is also a lot I do that goes unseen by most parents and staff members. It is also what I consider to be some of the most important and vital work I do and that is my individual and small group counseling.

Each week I work with somewhere around 10 individuals and provide them them with one-on-one counseling. They receive about 30 minutes of counseling each week, so if you do the math, I am spending a large amount of time with this, on top of the guidance lessons, small groups, administrative duties I have that are not related to counseling, and any organizations I run like NPFH and Student Council. There are constantly new kids being referred to me for counseling; just about every week, I get a new referral.

I also have somewhere around 10 small groups, with about 4-5 children in each group and we also meet for 30 minutes a week. Time is spread very thin, but as I said a lot of it is behind closed doors and not visible because of confidentiality. Some of the issues I work with students on in either individual or small group counseling are divorce, social skills, behavior management, loss of a family member or pet, incarcerated parents, abuse, friendship issues, conflict mediation, stress, anxiety, etc. I also spend a large amount of time providing resources to those who are low-income and need help with clothing, food, etc.

Anyway, I am in no way tooting my own horn because we ALL work so hard everyday in the school system, but it was very nice to receive some recognition and appreciation this week! :-) I think everyone can use that from time to time, no matter what profession you are in! This helped serve as a reminder to me to also express my appreciation to others who are in my life, professionally and personally, because it feels nice to receive those reminders sometimes.

Here are some pictures of some of the wonderful, kind treats, gifts, cards, flowers, etc. that I received this week!!

I also wrapped up this week with career lessons in PK, kinder, and 1st grade classes. Here are some pictures of what some of our Eagles are interested in doing when they grow up: 

We also had our Student Council meeting today and discussed what we would like to purchase with the money we have raised so far, around $2800.00. We will be purchasing some large drums for the playground along with a lot of other sports equipment we can use at recess. We also discussed our global project we will begin raising funds for in March. Look for information to come home soon on how you can help Student Council raise money to purchase clean water systems for people in Kenya, Africa by making a purchase at Barnes and Noble! 

I will be packing this weekend to head to the TCA School Counselor Conference in Galveston for a few days! I leave Sunday with two fellow counselors from other AISD schools and am glad to be able to bring back new, exciting ideas for working with my students! I will be back just in time for our second annual "Mix-It Up Days" in the cafeteria where students will mix up at lunch to make new friends! More information to come on how that went next week!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!! :-)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Finishing Up With Careers

This week I will be in all PK, kindergarten, and 1st grade classes and we will finish up our lesson on careers. We will read the book "When I Grow Up" by Al Yankovic and play a game where I give the kids clues about hidden career puppets (pictured below) and they try to guess the career. If they guess correctly, they get to hold the puppet or figurine during the rest of the lesson. Believe me, simply getting to hold the puppet is actually VERY exciting to them! ;-)  After we read the story and play our game, the students will write/draw about what they want to be when they grow up. Look for these to come home this week. It may be fun to hold onto this and show them when they are getting ready to go to college and/or choose their career what they wanted to be in early elementary school and see how it compares! In kindergarten I wanted to be an archaeologist for a long time and live in Montana with a bunch of horses! ;-) Boy have things changed!! Not even close to what I ended up choosing to do or where I ended up living!

In January we finished up with "confidence" as our SEL Word of the Month and are now on the word "self-discipline" for February. Many kids got their names on the wall for showing confidence in January! In addition to what we do at school to instill these character traits in our students, please also work with them on developing these traits at home! For this months word of the month, "self-discipline", tell them some stories about times you had to practice "self-discipline" and what the payoff you received for that was. For example, "I worked really hard in school and ______ is what happened because of that." "I practiced baseball every day when I was younger and because of that I got on the team!" There are many examples you can use: going to college, learning to swim or ride a bike, practicing an instrument, etc. Let your kids understand that the reward is the end product you receive from practicing self-discipline and that is a wonderful and natural reward to receive! Help them to also understand they don't have to be so hard on themselves if they make mistakes along the way and that mistakes are normal and can be corrected. Positive praise goes a long way! Have a great week!! :-)