Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas

From AFellowSchoolCounselor to all my fellow school counselors, friends, cohorts, and readers- I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. I pray you all have a GLORIOUS New Year full of blessings and achievement! 

-JW

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where to put all these Board Games?!

I'm not sure if any of you have this same problem... but I am acquiring a large amount of board games and only have so much space to put them. At my Wildcat's school it's especially bad- I have one small bookshelf for student to pick off of and one large bookshelf with doors (that I keep all my counseling books, lessons, workbooks, etc.). I have asked for a bigger bookshelf to keep student activities on but have heard nothing... *chirp chirp*.

So I determined if I can't make the bookshelf bigger, I'll make the stuff smaller... Here's how:

I took a second to see where my games are.


Here are the majority of them (the ones students use most)
Here are some more tucked away in my bench seat.
Plus I have ordered four more and have some at my parents' house I was going to bring in. But I am running out of room. So here's what I did during my lunch today... I first assessed which games needed kept in boxes (Don't Break The Ice, Topple, Mancala, etc.) and set them aside. With the remaining games, I took ALL the pieces, boards, and instructions out of the boxes and cut the boxes down. I felt so wrong cutting a game's box :) But I knew it was for a good cause. I kept the top of the box (minus all the sides cut off) and one of the sides. I threw the bottoms and the scraps away.


Here are some of the edge pieces I cut and kept.
I put all the pieces in small Ziploc Bags and put a piece of the edge (from the box) in the Ziploc with it. This way I would know for definite which pieces went with which game.


Chess and Checkers
I only had Snack Sized Ziplocs so some of them had to be separated or clipped together.


The spinner was too big to go in the bag- I'm going to get some bigger Ziplocs to fix that.
Then I put all the Ziplocs in a basket I had sitting around empty in my office.


However, I may need a bigger basket at some point :)
So then I took all the boards and stood them in an empty thirty-one organizer my wife bought me. 


It's a little too narrow so I may look around a see if I can find an empty milk crate or something.
Since some of the boards were black and easily mixed up, I put the top of the original box in front of it. I have a label maker and may label the boards instead of relying on the box's top... not sure yet...


I want to play... um... Chutes and Ladders!
So now I have all my "board games" sitting my my trunk (which is handy, since that is where my kids like to sit anyways)...



Plus it freed up a TON of space on my bookshelf and in my trunk!
Some games stayed but a huge space is empty now!

All the instructions to the games are in the trunk in a file-folder in case we need them!

Useless trash and space I don't need!
So now I'm thinking I may do the same at my Falcons school... and maybe at home! 

Hope this helps some of you clear out a little more space in your offices! Don't be afraid to take games out of the boxes... A lot of them had SOOO much wasted space it was ridiculous. And I need all the space I can get!

Have a great Holiday and a very Merry Christmas!!!!

-JW

Monday, December 16, 2013

How To Teach Integrity??

When I started this career, I knew certain character traits would be more difficult to teach than others. How to Respect others, taking care of our Responsibilities, and Caring for others were some I knew would be easy. 

But Harmony- yea that one was harder. 

Excellence- hard to teach how to be Excellent.

But our Character Trait this month is Integrity- and one of the more difficult concepts to teach. It's really hard for students to understand the concept of doing the right thing for no specific reason other than it's the right thing to do. Why should I "do the right thing even when no one is looking". They can spout it off verbatim but do they really live it? It took a lot of searching but I found some awesome activities to use. Plus, since our district just finished with Math and Science Nights, I made my activities focus on Integrity through a science viewpoint... And two of my favorites (so far) are these:

My First graders got to read The Empty Pot by Demi. 
An AWESOME book that teaches the importance of telling the truth and doing the right thing even when no one else is.
After discussing key concepts from the book, students wrote a sentence about Integrity on a napkin, folded it and placed it in a small Ziploc. The kids then got to place a magic seed (a Pinto Bean) in their bag and we watered it. We talked about how the Integrity washes off the napkin and onto the bean and the kids get to watch other the next few days the bean sprout roots (and how we all grow with Integrity)! The kids love doing it and they think it's cool how the seeds germinate almost overnight!

Next, our Third Graders learned that when we do the right thing (even if no one is directly impacted), it changes the atmosphere, the composition, and the makeup of the entire school. We read The Principal's New Clothes by Stephanie Calmenson.

It's a funny school-related take on The Emperor's New Clothes and it's an older book but for some reason my Third Graders really like it. We talk about how the entire school learns to do the right thing no matter who sees or what others think. But then we talk about Invisible Cloth... and Invisible Ink. :)

"But Mr. Allen, there's no such thing!"

Oh yea?! Well I love science. So here's what we do. I give them all a piece of paper, have them write their name on it, and then flip it over to the blank side. Every student then gets a new writing tool...
Wax makes an awesome writing medium... :) EWWW
Students get so defensive that it's not a writing tool. So I ask for an example of a writing tool... and I get "a pencil!"

I ask them what a pencil is made of and they respond "wood". But does it write with the wood or need something else. Well duh, it needs something else- The lead graphite! So then they all get a small cup of liquid to write with (much like our Forefathers used quills and ink, my students used Q-Tips and an acidic liquid- either lemon juice, orange juice, or vinegar... whichever I have in my house).

I then ask them to dip their Q-Tip and write on their paper HOW they show Integrity in school (a specific example). And slowly students realize they can't se what's written. Neither can I. Neither can their neighbors. Neither can their teachers.
Their papers done and dried "blank"
However, we show Integrity everyday EVEN IF NO ONE CAN SEE IT! Why? Because it's still there and it still affects other students, teachers, parents, etc. And sometimes, a little change can reveal that Integrity and can show how much we care about others.

I take the papers home that night and place them four-at-a-time in my oven set to Low Broil.

And something amazing happens...

The writing burns quicker (because of the acid) and their little acts of Integrity show through!


The next day I hang them in the hall so EVERYONE can see how Third Grade is showing Integrity (even if they THINK no one can see!)

Science meets Counseling! New twist on an old concept. Gets them thinking and engaged. I LOVE IT!

-JW


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Setting Goals... and Keeping Them!

As I think about goals, I think about my goal to write a post once a week... BWAHAHAHA! Yea, that has slipped. But I have not given up and will continue to try my best for the six of you that actually read my blog :)

But in thinking about Goal Setting, I wanted to share something that my Falcons school does for goals (and that I would love to implement at our Wildcats school).

When I started last year, our Principal and Librarian had a program going for 9-week goal setting. 



During Library time, every 9 weeks (at the end of the grading period) our students would come up with an academic goal and try to achieve it. If they achieved it, they got a sucker and we took their pictures and hung them on a bulletin board by the Library. They would also get an extra recess (free-time in the gym or outside) during the next week's Library time. It's a fantastic way to get them accustomed to setting goals and working towards them and some positive reward for a job well done!

However, when I started, our Principal kind of "handed" the program over to me and I am in-charge of it now. And we have made some technological changes :)

Before
Student would have a sheet of 8.5x11 paper that said:

Name:_____
1st 9 week goal:_____
2nd 9 week goal:_____
3rd 9 week goal:_____
4th 9 week goal:_____

We had one sheet for every student, 1st-6th. All split up by classroom in a filing cabinet in the Library. Every nine weeks, we would get out the almost 300-sheets of paper and check each student to see if they had met their goal or not. This also meant that for nine weeks, the students had NO idea what their goal was because frankly, let's admit it, they forget! And with them closed up in a filing cabinet in a closet in the Library, no one wants to ask to see it and frankly, no one wants to go rummaging around to find it.

Not an effective system.

After:
At the beginning of this year, I asked our Librarian how long she keeps the goal sheets (for data purposes). She told me that at the end of every year she pitches them... Every year almost an entire ream of paper trashed. Holy Smokes!

So we came up with a new plan. 

I created a Google Doc (yea, these things are SUPER useful!) that looks a little something like this:



I call up students one-by-one during their Library time (while they're finding a book) and we select their teacher (drop down menu), which 9-weeks it is (drop down menu with 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th), put their name, and type their goal. Older grades get to type their own and little kids are AMAZED at seeing their name and teacher on it. Then we hit submit and the information goes into a spreadsheet that looks like this:



All I have to do is print it out and I get a 1-page document with everyone's goal per class (I added a check-mark column to be able to check off if they made their goal or not). 

So I now have a 10-page document per grading period that is about 1/30th of what we had before. I give one copy of each class' to the teacher (in case their students want to know) and I keep a copy.

Next 9-weeks, we do the same process and at the end, I can sort by name to be able to see each students' progress with their goals. 

I LOVE this process and the students love seeing their progress with goals and really enjoy trying to beat each other. Going tech has really cut down on the time and, let's face it, it's pretty cool too! Plus all the paper we save!! It also gives me track-able data to show what I have done with students and I count it as a classroom lesson (since every time we meet we go over what makes a good goal, how we can achieve our goal, etc.)

Do you do any school-wide goal setting at your school?

Let me know!

And as always, have a great day!

-JW

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Parent University

Last year, our Social Worker came up with a brilliant (interpreted as CRAZY) notion. 

"Guys, I got an idea..."

These 5 words rarely lead to something easy to accomplish- but they do often lead to something AMAZING. 

Tabby, our Social Worker and integral part of our Elementary Counseling Team, wanted to create an evening where parents could come and attend mini-sessions that would focus on parenting issues. On paper, it seemed easy. In reality, not so much. But what we did, was create an evening of not only mini-sessions for parents, but free dinner (yep, FREE)... free door-prizes for all attendees (yep, FREE)... and free CHILDCARE (are you hearing me?!?!). Plus we did one per semester. 

I'm not sure how we didn't have parents beating down our doors! 

So why stop at one year... why not do it again.

SO here's a basic guideline of what we did:

     1.) Pick a school, pick a day.
We have six Elementary Schools so we wanted to be able to use all six school eventually. We're focused on using the Elementary Schools because it's for parents of Elementary aged students! Our MS and HS do parent nights but we wanted to do something District wide. Also, make sure you try and avoid school functions, church activities, and Fridays :) This year, ours was on a Thursday from 5:30pm- 7:30pm.

     2.) Just because it's free to parents, does NOT mean it's free to put on!
Yea, we needed funding. Last year, our PTO's were phenomenal at donating money. Each school's PTO donated $50 (equaling $300 to use)! While this may not seem like a ton of money, you must become resourceful.

     3.) Get the word out!
Some parents get tired of their kids bringing home stuff... TOO BAD! We started by sending a Save-The-Date card home. Then a survey where parents could pick up to six different topics that they may be interested in attending. We used this information to help determine what topics to get presenters on. Also they could mark if they were planning on coming and if so, how many kids they would bring. Just because it was directed for parents of Elementary aged students, doesn't mean we didn't want the whole family to come! Moms, dads, siblings, bring em! 

     4.) If you feed them, they will come.
Seriously, provide dinner! The first time we did it, our School Lunch company catered for us. But, it was pretty costly. So this year, we reached out. Papa Johns gave us a HECK of a deal on pizzas. So pizza dinner, with salad (thanks Wal-Mart), dressings (thanks local restaurant), cookies (thanks local bakery), and lemonade (bought from Wal Mart and served in a big 5gal. orange drink cooler- thanks Delta Gamma!).

     5.) Get volunteers!
Parent volunteers- check! Teacher volunteers- check! Community volunteers- check! Our six presenters... ALL local community members from Mental Health professionals, pastors, Behavior Consultants, parents, etc. Our food: served by teacher volunteers from all six buildings. Registration: done by teacher and parent volunteers. Childcare: Media Specialist, Art Teacher, and Gym Teacher. 

     6.) Reward Them!
We had two half-hour sessions where parents could pick from three sessions to attend (six in all and parents got to attend two). Some parents were smart and split up, giving them 4/6 sessions attended. In the folders they received during registration, they had an Evaluation to fill out (ALWAYS GET DATA!). When they turned in their Evaluation, they received a door prize.
What kind of door prize? DONATIONS!!! Local restaurants, fast food, barbers, nail salons, chiropractors, insurance groups, hair salons, Library, Wal Mart, Marsh, pizza places, -You name it, we went there asking for donations. And many said YES!
We also did have to buy some (candles, books, family movies, games, crafts- all focused on building a stronger family!).

So, was it hard? You betcha! 

Was it worth it? 100% YES!

I would encourage you to look into creating a night of family-focused learning for your parents. It'll be worth it too!

-JW

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Whew!

Wow, what a whirlwind of a month! I realized it had been almost a month since my last post and almost as long since I've been through my Feedly posts. Obviously the past month has been crazy for everyone but here's a quick recap before I go into what's coming up:

Donuts With Dad- HUGE SUCCESS! Plus I got to have a Donut with my daughter ;)

Red Ribbon Week- My favorite!


I had over 450 signatures at BOTH schools ... All pledging to live their lives Drug Free (and yea, I made the banners~ they matched our Ribbons and the theme "Text Me... Drug Free")

We also had theme days such as "Put a LID on Drugs" (Hat Day), "Turn Your BACK On Drugs" (Backward Shirt Day), and "SHADE Out Drugs" (Sunglasses Day). We don't get too crazy with our theme days :( - something I may be changing soon LOL

Falcon's Fall Literacy Day- This is where we take one whole day and create a 40 minute rotation with stations focused on learning in different Fall-themed ways. From estimating seeds in a pumpkin to learning music and sounds to Vivaldi's Four Seasons to running an obstacle course outside. I was in charge of the K-2 Obstacle Course... and since it was the day after Halloween, I wanted to dress up. SO my Obstacle Course was The Justice League and each obstacle paired with a super hero. We also talked about how reading stories gives us a glimpse into how we can be super everyday... guess what superhero I was?...
I "borrowed" this Clark Kent idea from a fellow School Counselor "cedric324" on Instagram :)
Fall Break- for a whole week... need I say more?

Bulletin Board- So last year I BEGGED for a Bulletin Board at my Wildcat's school... well, over summer break they gave me one... in my office. Where as I had meant in the hallway, I took what I could get. And in my excitement at the beginning of the year, I put green paper on it and border and waited for that one GREAT idea... that three months later FINALLY came. I got the idea from Barbara over at The Corner On Character. Her school does an AMAZING job on character and one of her school bulletin boards was a word search highlighting their school's Pillars. Well, we have our RICHER Principles (Respect, Integrity, Caring, Harmony, Excellence  and Responsibility). So, with a little online help, I created a giant word search featuring all the Principles and lessons we teach and created this:
Every month, I'll change the "search word" and put red yarn over the word that has already been found
Office Rearranged- My Wildcat office has never been my favorite. So I have been changing it around. We had a large trunk in our garage (you know, the kind that goes at the foot of a bed) and it wasn't being used. So I took it in, am using it for seating, and slid my table back. Gave me a lot more space and storage! And man, we all love storage. I have also started using my laptop and am thinking about getting rid of my GIANT junky desk and getting a small table to keep supplies on and clearing up more space. Maybe I'll get a couch? :)


Parent University- This is what's coming up. Every year, the Elementary Counselors and Social Worker (the four of us) host an evening of Free Family Pizza Dinner, Free Childcare, a movie, and Free little class sessions for parents where we have different topics they can go a learn about (Anger Management, Discipline, Grandparents in a parenting role, etc.). The event is this Thursday so I will be posting about it later. Pray for us!

Well, that's all for now. I promise not to hiatus for a month at a time... that is if anyone is actually reading this :) Later I'll write about some AWESOME lessons regarding Harmony and how our school does 9 Week Goal setting! Super fun!

Later gaters!

JW

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bully vs. Bullying

This weekend my wife was out of town and I needed to go back "home" and see some family and help out chaperoning a family member's 11th birthday party sleepover camp-out.  So we (our two kiddos, the two Labs, and I) made the almost-three-hour-drive back to where we moved from. And over the course of that 28 hour visit, I thought a lot about how our kids behave and how we address their behavior.

You know, a lot can be said in the power of words. Simply rephrasing a word can have a lot of impact. 

As parents and teachers, we always want to make sure we're addressing the behaviors and not the actual make-up of the kiddo. For example, this weekend had it's fair-share of fighting with their sibling, arguing with family members over whose toy is whose, throwing a fit, acting up, etc. But never once did I ever look at them and say "YOU are bad". No, we address the behavior and talk about how we can change. We tell them we don't like their behavior but that they are still a good person.

So what about a Bully. When we call a kid a "Bully" what we have done is label that kid and addressed his core make-up and not really the behavior. If they think they are a Bully, they may also believe that the behavior can't change, that that is what they are and will always be. But OH, how wrong they are! I LOVE a success story of seeing someone who used to bully others and now is running around making good choices with tons of friends and respect from teachers.

It's about time we start using the word BULLY as a verb and NOT a noun! They are bullying... but I don't like saying they ARE a bully. Their choices are bad. But they are not bad.

That is why I have tried erasing BULLY as a noun from all of my lessons. It has to start with us, as teachers, aides, administrative staff, Counselors, social workers, etc. If we put as much effort into erasing BULLY as a noun as we do replacing Guidance with School in our email signature lines, I think something amazing would happen! Kids might realize their behaviors can change. That they are more than the things they do.

Everyone has shared some pretty awesome resources for addressing Bullying so I don't want to take up a ton of time reinventing the wheel. But we all love tech-y stuff so here are a couple videos I use to address Bullying.



I use this video with 2nd and 3rd grades and we talk about the Perpetrator (used to replace "Bully"... see what I did there? :), the Victim, and the Bystander. Kids really like it and love pointing out why Zoe is so mean.

I also use this one for 4th and 5th:



Last year I used the actual music video from YouTube but our Corporation has since blocked YouTube (along with just about everything else) so I now use SchoolTube ~ which, by the way, I LOVE. My students like this version because they can see the words and we can talk about the story of what happens, how it made her feel, and how it makes us feel when the same things happen.

No one wants to be bullied, but no one wants to be labeled. If we are calling someone a bad name (like "bully") repeatedly meant to upset them and we do it over and over and over on purpose, what's that called? Oh yea... BULLYING! Don't be a bully!

Be amazing!

-JW

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Lessons and a Wow Moment...

So much has been going on these past couple weeks, it has been hard to find time to sit down and blog about them! I have a couple posts started but I've been having difficulty figuring out which one to finish and share first.

Our Excellence lessons have ended for the schools and they went fantastically. The students really got into showing how they grow, how they achieve Excellence, and how setting goals can help. I was really proud of the students for getting into it. Since that has ended, we have now moved into Respect and Bullying (oh no... that "B" word that we have all been dreading talking about). We normally do Respect and Bullying in August to start the year, but with new laws coming into effect, our District had to change how we classify Bullying, how we react to Bullying, and how we elicit changes in behaviors to prevent Bullying. Unfortunately, there was a big "hullabaloo" at our Administrative level regarding how we can present school-wide lessons and information on Bullying...

Seriously??

Hello, School Counselor standing RIGHT HERE!

Once the light bulb came on, we lowly Counselors were FINALLY able to present the lessons we had planned since August (but had to pause on while Admin figured who could present them... again, seriously?).

So we have begun our lessons and they are going great! We really try to make everyone understand the difference between Bullying and just plain being mean or rude. Neither are tolerated at our schools... but when EVERYTHING is Bullying, then NOTHING is Bullying. We talk about intent, duration, and effect of behaviors. I love hearing students (even my Kindergartners)  tell me the difference between Bullying and someone being mean or rude. I think language is a powerful thing and proper terminology can go a long way! I'll be sharing some upcoming Bullying lessons here soon.

But I really wanted to share a quick "yea, I love this job" moment I had yesterday. My Wildcat Principal called me into her office first thing (yep, I am 28 years old, 6'4'' and 220 lbs and being called into the Principal's office still scares me). However, she wanted to tell me she had received a call from a woman in Newtown, Conneticut. 

See, the day after Sandy Hook happened, I really felt like our small town in Indiana needed to do something to say "hey, we're praying for you all". So after I told my Principals what I wanted to do, I gave each teacher (at both schools) a container and told the students we would be raising money to send. Not really a battle or a contest. Not a Penny War... just a simple collection. The classroom that raised the most I decided I would buy Pizza for just to say thanks. I also set up a small table with construction paper for them to make cards as they wanted. Simple. 

OH MY... The response was overwhelming. Kids were breaking open Piggy Banks, classrooms were cashing in points for coins, kids were giving us their lunch money (seriously!). I had to buy more construction paper after about two days. 

The other four Elementary schools came aboard and in only four days we raised $2,697.54. Considering the poverty rate in our city and our over 90% FNR population, this was astronomical! We also filled three paper boxes FULL of cards, letters, poems, and pictures. The love that poured out of our students was remarkable.

Jump ahead a year... and unbeknownst to us, there is now an individual in Newtown, Connecticut who has the responsibility of sorting, cataloging  and inventorying ALL post received due to the shooting. I bet no one thought about that! Because of the over one million parcels of mail received, parents and family members have stopped receiving mail and it is being stored until they are ready. And with all that, there is this ONE individual who is reading and sorting and organizing all this mail. 

But, despite all that grief and angst, she read a letter sent by one of our 6th graders (a letter discussing the student's own personal loss) and felt so moved by her story, she wanted to reach out and write back to her! Imagine that... a town that is still in grief and mourning the loss of their loved ones- but she wanted to reach out to our student in small-town Indiana to say "hey, I'm praying for you". So she wrote to her and is sending it back to our school and wanted the Principal or myself to deliver it to the now-7th-grader (and now at the Middle School). Um... Wow. I was speechless. 

Tonight when your done reading this, stop for a moment and say a prayer for this woman who is having to relive the worst day in her life by sorting all these gifts of love... but still finds the strength of compassion and love for others to connect and care. Makes you wonder what kind of School Counselor she would have been :)

With that in mind, I pray all of you have a great week. Remember, even in your own storm, you still have the love and compassion to reach out and calm someone else's.

-JW

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sharing the happiness

In Greek mythology, Atlas and his brother sided with the Titans and waged war against the Olympian gods. When the Titans were defeated, many were locked away... But Atlas was forced to stand on the edge of the Earth and hold the sky up to keep the two from touching. Imagine that- being forced to stand and bear the weight of all the Heavens above the Earth. 
Yea, definitely needed to censor that!
Well, as School Counselors, sometimes we are charged with carrying the weight of the Heavens on our shoulders. Every day we have staff, students, parents, and administrators come to us to confide in us. They come to tell us their sadness, their grief, their anger, and their mourning. They lay upon us their frustration, their anxiety, their embarrassment. They expect us to fix the broken, heal the sick, revive the lost. We counsel the individuals, meet with the groups, read to the classrooms, call the parents, and collaborate with staff and administration. And every day these individuals come to us, lay their burden down, and then leave with a glimmer of hope in their eyes. We have given them a fresh start to go and conquer the world!!!...

But where does that leave us?

When the door closes and we're left with that weight, where does it go? Some days we can take the weight and file it away and go on. Some days might be particularly hard. And on those days, what do we do?

Well, we keep calm and counsel on! 


"Where there is no counsel, people fail. 
But in the multitude of counselors, there is safety" 
-Proverbs 11:14

That is why we have each other! To share the successes and the hope we have every day. Because tomorrow is a new day. A new day of GOOD things. And sometimes (like today) we have to focus on the good things to help get through the bad. So to start, I am going to share some silver linings to my cloudy day.

1) I was contacted by Bouncy Bands out of North Carolina- they upcycle used bicycle tire tubes and create the bands that can go across the front of desks for students to help them focus on work while their feet are bouncin' along. They saw my blog via Susan's Entirely Elementary blogroll (thanks Susan) and wanted to send me two sample kits to try out and write a review for. I was SO excited! 

2) I have had nine Indiana Universities respond to my emails for donations for College Go! Week and have sent a plethora of pens, posters, pennants, stickers, lanyards, tee shirts, bags, etc. to give out! I LOVE College Go! Week (and will be posting about that next week :)

3) Our Literacy Coach had her first monthly "Chips and Chat" (an opportunity for staff members to come together in a relaxed atmosphere, munch, and discuss some positives/ ideas with one another). She has also asked me to help facilitate the events and share some tech/ data tips and tricks with the teachers. 

4) My blog is getting a face lift  Some of you might be thinking "really? you've only been blogging for two months". Wel, I have decided the black and gray is NOT ME! It was good when I first found it but I need some color. SO, when you check back next week prepare to be wow'd! 

5) There will also be a new addition to the blog on the sidebar where YOU can share your happiness! I am looking for a widget that will post general comments. What I want you to do, is when you stop by my blog, type in some happiness. Maybe it's something that went right for you or something you're excited about or some positive words of encouragement. Whatever is on your heart! It will be a stream on the side of my blog so when you come by, you can instantly read some good news and share some of your own! It'll be a virtual "Take a Penny, Leave a Penny".

So be on the lookout for some happiness. Because sometimes all you have is that bit of silver lining. Just remember, all clouds pass and the sun shining behind it is BEAUTIFUL!

-JW

Thursday, September 5, 2013

An EXCELLENT lesson on EXCELLENCE

Two buildings. Seven grades per building, K-6. Two classrooms per grade (except my Wildcats school has three 1st grade classrooms). One new Classroom Counseling topic per month plus extras (Red Ribbon Week, College Go! Week, weekly LifeSkills lessons for 6th grade, impromptu lessons as teacher request, etc.). Last year I completed a total of 424 Classroom Counseling lessons. Maybe that's why I am still so tired :)

However, it keeps me busy and I have a great relative- direction for my lessons. Our District utilizes the RICHER Principles:
The RICHER Principles explained... The pawprints are for my Wildcat's school!
These Principles are what every school adheres to (though some schools might condense them). So every month we discuss a new RICHER Principle school-wide and district-wide for Elementary schools. We normally start with RESPECT and tie in Bullying since it's the beginning of the year and we want all students to know what is and what is not tolerated at our schools. But since our State is implementing new legislature, so are we and we're waiting for all the kinks to be ironed out (Lord help us). So instead, we skipped on ahead to EXCELLENCE (yea, we don't go in R-I-C-H-E-R order, oh well!).

A lot of our Principles are relatively easy to teach (working together, doing the right thing, caring...) but how in the world do you teach someone to be Excellent?! Last year I stressed over this to the max... but what I thought would be the hardest thing to teach became some of my favorite lessons!

For my 2nd graders, we read Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae. 
   
This has become one of my favorite books ever! It's about a Giraffe named Gerald who is told he can't dance. So when the Jungle Dance comes around, he has a hard time trying and believing in himself. All the animals are so good at their own dances but he isn't. But he finds out that "sometimes when you're different, you just need a different song". So we talk about how we are ALL Excellent at something and we all have something to contribute to our classroom. There are a lot of small elements in this book that tie in with everyone having their own "song" to "dance" to. 

Have you read it? No?!?! Seriously, go to your school's Library right now and get this book... Don't worry, I'll wait for you to come back before I go on. Ready go...
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Okay, welcome back. Great book, right?!

So, after we read and discuss it, we play "EXCELLENCE Find-A-Friend" a game I created which is a cross between Guess Who and Bingo. I make a grid about 4x4 or 5x5 (depending on the class size) and write one positive thing in each grid box (Can Dance, Can Sing, Likes Softball, Is Good At Math, etc.). Each student gets a copy and then they have to go around and find one new "friend" for each square. They write that person's name in their grid and then go find someone else and someone else and so on and so forth. The goal is to get their entire grid filled in... and most of them get almost all the way done before we end it (I always end it early so that they stay curious and want to finish it at lunch or recess :). We then discuss how we can make new friends through common interests and through showing EXCELLENCE. 

Isn't it funny how becoming a School Counselor makes us believe in so many things- like the goodness in others and how every student really can be Excellent?

So, I have finished K-2 EXCELLENCE and will be doing 3-5 and starting 6th Grade LifeSkills (an entire post all to itself). Next week I'll share another EXCELLENCE lesson that I love involving Post-It Notes and maps!

As always, have a great day!

-JW

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Meet The Teacher Night and Occam's Razor

Last night was my Falcon school's "Meet The Teacher Night". My Wildcats' "Back To School Night" was on the evening of the second day of school- not too much to report since school had only been in session for about 48 hours :) But as always, it was nice mingling with parents, discussing what the school counselor does, and getting tons of hugs!

But tonight's Falcon night was extra special for a me for a couple reasons. First, it was my daughter's first big event as a Kindergartner. We got to "meet" her teacher (whose classroom is 100 yards from my office), "meet" her friends (who I do lessons with quite often and my wife already knew most of from church, soccer, or teeball) and "meet" her Principal (who signs my paycheck). But Kendal was as excited as can be and it was an amazing experience to see her want to share EVERYTHING about her daily routine with us.

Sadly though, after wearing "daddy" hat for a little bit, I had to take it off and put on "School Counselor" hat to meet/ greet all the other parents. And one experience tonight made me think of Occam's Razor.


According to this principle, when introduced with a scenario, the simplest and most expected answer or outcome is the correct one. The old adage states "when you hear hoof-beats behind you, you think horses and not zebras". Yea, both make hoof-beat sounds when running, but it's not very often you see zebras... most people are more familiar with horses. Despite it being most likely, this razor is not truth. Maybe a zebra really is running up on you!


And tonight I had a zebra run up on me! A parent came up to me who seemed very determined to talk. I LOVE having opportunities to meet with parents so this was not unusual. However, usually I get horses (my student is being bad, fix my student, why won't my student sit still, you need to see my student daily, etc.). So, I straighten my school counselor "hat" and prepared for her discussion. 

What I got was a mother determined to thank me for what I do. She was grateful for the grief group I ran last year for my 4th graders. Her son as in that group after his grandfather (the mom's father) passed away. Her and I proceeded to talk for almost 20 minutes about her son, her father's death, and the impact it had on the family. As we know, it is almost impossible to console someone else when we ourselves are grieving. What could she say to her sons while her heart was also breaking? How could she help him through the stages of grief when she didn't know what stage she herself was in? 

I prepared myself for a horse and what I got was a zebra, coming up to me with her heart in her hands thanking me for getting her son through his first family loss. Because of that group, he no longer blamed his mom for the death, his grades improved, he had a closer group of friends that were going through the same stages. That group helped heal him.

TALK ABOUT HAVING YOUR OWN BUCKET FILLED! 

I went into Counseling because my Granny passed away when I was in 3rd grade about all I remember of that loss was the Counselor at my Elementary School. She helped me and I am now able to pay that forward and help him and more just like him.

You will have people tell you that it "must be nice to sit around and play with kids all day". Or that what you do doesn't matter like teaching math or reading matters. Or you'll have people wonder why you are constantly pulling kids out of their reading block. Or get upset when you won't share what kids tell you. 

I am here to say that what you do DOES matter. It matters to your students. To their families. It mattered to that mother and her sons. You matter. So Keep Calm because you are a School Counselor and you do help!

-JW

Thursday, August 22, 2013

And the nominees are...

I can't believe it! After a week-long hiatus from the Feedly world (and Twitter, and Facebook, and everything it seems since the start of school) I just realized I was nominated for an award!

What award you ask? Oscar? Tony? CMA Award? Best Nope... even better!

Allison at Counseling Corner nominated me for the Liebster Award! *duhn-duh-duh-DUUHHNNNN*!!



For anyone who doesn't know what the esteemed Liebster Award is (like I didn't until I Googled it) ... it is an award given to new Bloggers who have less than 200 followers. While I would LOVE to have over 200 followers, I am SO honored and excited for my blog to have been acknowledged!  My German speaking friends will be impressed with my bilingual skills Google Translating skills when I say that Liebster is German for sweetest, dearest, most beloved,, kindest, cutest (yep :) and most welcoming. And isn't that what Blogging is all about? Connecting and welcoming new people and new ideas?

Rules:
Link back to who nominated me. √
Answer the questions chosen by who nominated you...

     1:What advice would you give new bloggers?
Find your niche. EVERYBODY has something to offer. Don't feel bad if your blog doesn't look like someone else's  sound like someone else's or have as many followers. Odds are, if you are searching for a perfect blog to follow that tailors to your needs, someone else is too! WHY WAIT FOR THEIR BLOG?? 

     2: How do you use technology in your counseling program?
Well... that is up and coming. Since I have two schools and two offices, I have two desktop computers. Last year when I started, they offered me a laptop... but since it looked like Bill Gates' prototype and was about 74 lbs., I decided I didn't want another thing to carry around. I got Dropbox and have been fine ever since. 
However, this year we have made STRIDES! I am IN LOVE with Google Drive. I don't use it for storage but for ALL my forms. I transferred the district Referral for Counseling into a Google Form, my student notes, collaboration notes, parent contact notes... ALL Google Forms! See the post here for more!

     3: What is your Number 1 go-to resource at school?
Pinterest ... YouTube ... Tagboard ... Instagram ... Our District internet has most things blocked :( So I like to rock it old school! I like grabbing four or five old activity books, sitting on the floor and putting new twists to old ideas!

     4: If you could only have 5 books in your office, which ones would you choose?
a) The Baker's Dozen Dr. Seuss book
b) a David compilation book
c) Something Else
d) My Grief Workbook
e) The ASCA National Model

     5: What are your favorite school counseling blogs?
I currently have 28 school counselor blogs in my Feedly (which I LOVE by the way!)... seriously how do I choose? 

     6: What are your favorite blogs that are not work related?
I actually don't have any other blogs that I read.

     7: What small group resource do you find most helpful?
GAMES! Jenga is my favorite! I love my Grief Workbook and anything that elicits discussion. 

     8: What book are you currently reading?
I actually have three. I always have my original copy of Alice in Wonderland in my car to read if I am waiting for something. I am reading The Second Messiah which I got for my birthday and carry with me in my messenger bag. And I am reading Love In The Time Of Cholera because I am ALWAYS reading that book! It is one of my favorites and I recommend it to everyone!

     9: What is the best part of your job?
Seeing students grow. I worked in Community Mental Health for 6 years before becoming a school counselor. There, I saw so many clients become stagnant and never grow, never progress. These students are developing, changing, growing, and learning and I LOVE IT!

     10: What apps do you recommend?
Feedly (for blogs), CloudOn (to edit Word/ Excel on the iPad), Dropbox (storage), ClassDojo (depending on how many classrooms you are in), Bubble Wrap (because come on, duh!), The Electric Company Feel Electric! (best emotion app ever!), Mr.PotatoHead (oh yea), and Kid In Story (lets you write stories with student pics in it).

     11: What do you do to "sharpen your saw" (for fun).
I have two kiddos (5 and 3), a black lab, we foster labs, we have a guines pig and two outside cats. We LOVE music and dancing and having fun outside. We participate in Awana at our church, Vacation Bible School, Trunk or Treat, and JAM Sessions. Plus watching Downton Abby, Dr. Who, Sherlock, Big Brother, Rizzoli & Isles, Warehouse 13, Switched At Birth, etc.

I must now nominate blogs who have fewer than 200 people... however I apparently have no idea how to determine how many followers a blog has. So I am choosing:
* Hanselor The Counselor
* School Counselor Companion
* OK Counselor's Crossing
* From The Counselor's Office

Questions to answer are:
1) Where did you attend for your Masters? Why?
2) How many students do you service?
3) Favorite part of your office?
4) One time you failed and how you learned from it.
5) Describe a typical day (I know... typical day... school counselor... NO SUCH THING!)- do your best!
6) Favorite lesson you do with your students?
7) How do you keep track of student records (ie: paper, electronically, Post-It's)
8) Do you prefer Facebook or Twitter? Why?
9) Something you have stolen found inspiration from off Pinterest?
10) What are you currently reading?

Again, I want to thank Allison for the nomination! As always, happy reading!

-JW

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I won! and now a Student Wins!!

Backstory: Living in the Midwest, we have festivals like you wouldn't believe! We have the Popcorn Festival, Apple Festival, Art and Music Festival (aka Dirt Fest), BBQ Festival... and the list goes on! But most importantly, we are home to the Covered Bridge Festival. Now, if you have never visited Indiana and been part of the Covered Bridge Festival, you are seriously missing out. You can get crafts, rugs, ukuleles, egg-stractors, and deep fried ANYTHING- all around a historic Covered Bridge. Check it out here

Last year, my wife visited a booth run by an AMAZING woman named Sarah Stogsdill who hand-stamps metal and creates some pretty cool things. Her business is SeizeTheNight Designs and she has a LOT of neat necklaces, key-chains, rings, cuff links, etc. ALL HAND MADE! At the festival last year, my wife got a necklace with our kids' names on it:

and earlier this year I was able to order a key-chain from her with our two kids' name on it and a charm with our Heavenly daughter's name (lost in April) on a separate disk with angel wings:

Fast Forward to today: Sarah had a contest on her Facebook page with this as the prize:

and guess who has two thumbs and won??? Yep, ME! Now, the other half of my heart is not deployed... she's laying on the couch watching Big Brother. But, I know we have a student who has a parent who is currently deployed and is having a hard time with it. So guess what... they're getting the necklace! I can't wait to get it and pass it on to my student. I want them to know they're not alone.

Have you done anything for that one student having a hard time? I hope so!

-JW

(Second) First Day Back :)

This past week has been CCRRAAZZYY!! And it's a true sign that I have found what I want to do for the rest of my life because, despite being CCRRAAZZYY I have LLLOOOVVVEEEDDD every minute of it!

Our schools started last week and, since I split two schools, I was only able to be at one on the first day. So, the next day, I had my SECOND first day back (at my Wildcat School).

I got to pop into classrooms, do some meetings, meet some parents who just quite couldn't let go of their babies, talk with teachers, and unveil some NEW alien technology (well, more like Google Docs) that the counselor is going to use. And, I am STILL finding awesome things I want to unveil thanks to you great folks!

I will have another post coming soon, but first I wanted to show you all the results of my Wildcats Office.
This was looking in my door before.

This is looking in my door now! Notice I have a lot of the same things at one office that I have at the other office (Chill Out Corner, pictures, posters, etc.)

This is where my desk was. I probably moved it around 4 times last year because I could NEVER get it how I wanted it.

Well now, my desk isn't even on that wall! I wanted people to see a little more friendliness than the back of my head!

My giant cabinet (that I love) but it took up a lot of room right there.

So I moved my desk there. Now I can see out the door at who is coming, confidential info isn't available for someone to see over my shoulder, and I have a whole wall for a command center. This is not done (obviously) since IT had to come and give me a longer cable, and the wall is kinda blank... but that will change!

I actually kinda hate these built-ins because they take up SO much room and our Media Specialist uses most of the space.

However, she let me take one of the cabinets down and I moved the giant cabinet over there. And luckily because once I got it over there I only had about 4 inches of space to wiggle it in! Plus the Media Specialist cleaned out some cabinets and let me use them for crafty things, games, and supplies!

This is my bookshelf where I have my themed books, some games, fidget toys, etc. My board games used to be on the bottom shelf but I ran out of room so they are now in the bottom built-in cabinet.
So this is home away from home half the time. On piece of advice that has saved me a TON of time. I have a lot of books that I need available NOW. And when they were all just chillin' on my shelf, I never could find the one I needed. Our Title I department gave me about 20 cardboard banker boxes. All I did was wrap them in colored paper, make a label on the computer, and sorted the books. There's also a picture on the labels so kids know what's in them.

So, those are my offices. We don't have a lot of extra resources in our district... we have a very high poverty rate, VERY high F&R Lunch rate, etc... but our offices don't have to look like that! It's not an excuse to make your office a dungeon lol- I want my offices to be a safe, warm, inviting place for students to come and lay their burdens down. I hope you do too!

Well, have a great day!

-JW