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.


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!


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?

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!


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!


(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!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

First Day Back!!- and an office full of pictures!

Today was my first day back at Falcons... and it was FANTASTIC! Maybe part of it was seeing my little girl walking the halls in line, with "duck tails" in back and a "bubble in the mouth" :) But seeing ALL the little girls and boys (and not so little 5th and 6th graders!). 

Most of my day was spent just helping out where needed (helping Kindergarten with pictures, drying tears and consoling parents, popping into classroom to say "hey", collaborating with teachers about setting up lessons, doing "Car Rider's Duty", etc.). I LOVED seeing the kids and I loved having them see me! While that sounds a little conceited, I think having some consistency is very important for them and giving a ton of hugs, hi-fives, and fist bumps was very encouraging. 

However, I did get a chance to snap some pictures of my finished Falcons office! Well... I say "finished" loosely because I always end up adding things but all-in-all I am pretty happy with how it ended up! Here's some before-and-afters for your enjoyment LOL

Looking in the door- remember this is after Maintenance moved everything in so most the furniture was put where I wanted up

This is looking in the door AFTER! 

Here is a close-up of my book shelf and filing cabinet. My books are sorted by topic, making it easier to find what I need. I usually tun most metal cabinets into faux bulletin boards :) On my filing cabinet is my "ABC's of Emotions" that I bought at ASCA in PA!

This is my meeting area BEFORE...

And After--- Maintenance hung my cabinet so I have crafty stuff, paper, colored paper, markers, crayons, etc. in it. This stuff I use most often in sessions.

This table has floated around our house for YEARS... so I confiscated it and brought it in for a touch of home. Don't mind the missing lamp shade (I actually found the lamp in our old boiler room at the school covered in dust and debris)

My cabinet with binders, lessons, counselor books, etc. Before-

And after... My door says "COUNSELING" and has my "Where's Mr. Allen" map on it. The orange sign says "CONNECT". I also now have a sign regarding confidentiality on it (but took the picture before I hung it up)

And behind the door... You can also see my "Chill Out Corner" with ideas posted on the wall of things students can do when they need to "chill out".

I really liked this :)

Here is my command center

Along with my bulletin board with useful information on it!
So there you have it! My office is done and full of color thanks to influence from all of you and my wife (who bought most the stuff for me). 

Tomorrow is my first day back at my Wildcats school... so I will be posting again later this week with stories and pictures of how that office turned out! If you have any ideas or suggestions, let me know!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Treat Them Well...

So tomorrow is my first day back to school. Later this week I will be writing posts showcasing my finished offices, about my first day back, etc.

However, I have something more pressing I wanted to blog about. Something very important. Tomorrow is also special because it is my daughter's first day of Kindergarten. In our Corporation we have probably around 300 students starting Kindergarten this year. Last year we had the same. Just like the year before that and the year before that. Next year... yea, it'll be the same. Every year we have new students start our school and we view them as students. But this year, I am seeing first hand having a child starting school. 

A few years ago, around "back to school time", I heard a radio DJ (Kidd Kraddick- RIP) read a poem on air. While reading it, I could hear the emotion in his voice and that poem has always stuck with me. Today, I want to share it with you. Not to make you sad or emotional, but to help you realize our students are somebody's sons or daughters, grandchildren or nieces/ nephews. Take a moment and read this, and try to place yourself in a parent's shoes.

"I Trust You'll Treat Her Well"
Dear World:
I bequeath to you today one little a crispy dress...with two brown eyes...and a happy laugh that ripples all day long.. and a flash of light brown hair that bounces in the sun when she runs.
I trust you'll treat her well.

She's slipping out of the backyard of my heart this morning...and skipping off down the street to her first day of school. And never again will she be completely mine.
Prim and proud she'll wave her young and independent hand this morning and say "Goodbye" and walk with little lady steps to the schoolhouse.

Now she'll learn to stand in lines...and wait by the alphabet for her name to be called. She'll learn to tune her ears for the sounds of school-bells...and deadlines...and she'll learn to giggle...and gossip...and look at the ceiling in a disinterested way when the little boy 'cross the aisle sticks out his tongue at her. And now she'll learn to be jealous. And now she'll learn how it is to feel hurt inside. And now she'll learn how not to cry.

No longer will she have time to sit on the front porch on a summer day and watch an ant scurry across the crack in the sidewalk. Nor will she have time to pop out of bed with the dawn and kiss lilac blooms in the morning dew. No, now she'll worry about those important grades and which dress to wear and whose best friends is whose. And the magic of books and learning will replace the magic of her blocks and dolls. And now she'll find new heroes.

For five full years now I've been her sage and Santa Claus and pal and playmate and father and friend. Now she'll learn to share her worship with her teachers ...which is only right. But no longer will I be the smartest man in the whole world. Today when that school bell rings for the first time...she'll learn what it means to be a member of the group...with all its privileges and its disadvantages too.

She'll learn in time that proper young ladies do not laugh out loud...or kiss dogs...or keep frogs in pickle jars in bedrooms...or even watch ants scurry across cracks in sidewalks in the summer.
Today she'll learn for the first time that all who smile at her are not her friends. And I'll stand on the front porch and watch her start out on the long, lonely journey to becoming a woman.
So, world, I bequeath to you today one little a crispy dress...with two brown eyes...and a flash of light brown hair that bounces in the sunlight when she runs.

I trust you'll treat her well
Author: Victor Buono

This year, you may have Kindergartners who are scared to be at school. They may not know how to make friends, how to stand in line, how to sit quietly, or how to listen. They may not know how to trust. I implore you to be patient with them and help teach them. 

So, I trust you'll treat them well.


Thursday, August 1, 2013


There's a lot to be said for good ol' fashioned Microsoft Paint!

There are HUNDREDS of new photo editing tools, picture generators, and online design programs. But man, I LOVE Microsoft Paint.

Earlier, I had posted on Twitter, Facebook, and the Blog's Facebook page to see what people use to indicate where they are during the day. I've seen half-wheel signs, dry erase signs, flip charts, crayon signs, etc. But I wanted something unique.

So here's the basis for my post... if you want something creative, don't be afraid to BE creative!

Last year I used a Pirate Map theme. I scanned a copy of our school's floor plan (that we use for drills, evacuations, parents, etc.). Here's my Falcon school's map:

I took off the "Administrative data" like name, address, schedule, etc. and just kept the map
So after I had the image, I added teacher names and room numbers (since I was new and forgot names easily). After that, I Google Imaged a picture of a Treasure Map and opened it in Paint. I copied/pasted the School image onto the Treasure Map, added other locations I might be at and viola!

I printed it on tan paper, tore the edges and laminated it. It looked JUST like a treasure map!
I had a small red "X" that I would affix to where I was that day. I loved it... however it looked really busy and sometimes people weren't sure how to read it. 

This year, I wanted something cleaner and a little more fun :) Talking to my wife she suggested "Where in the world is Carmen San Diego" (which I LOVED... and maybe you did too :) However, my students are young and I'm not sure they remember AWESOME cartoons like we had. But it got me thinking about "Where's Waldo"! 

So again, I used the same School Map and opened it in Paint. I added a few places I might be in the day, colored the background blue and added my own "WHERE'S MR. ALLEN" "postcard":

I enlarged the "map" part, and only added major locations I might be at.
But I was missing something... Oh yea! Something to put ON the map indicating where I was. A simple X wasn't going to do. So I found an Image of Waldo, opened it in (yep) PAINT, and removed the head and the Hat. I opened my ASCA Headshot in Paint, took just the head and put it on Waldo, adding the hat for a nice finishing touch:

My own traveling "WHERE'S MR. ALLEN" :)
I'll print it, laminate it, and hang it on my door. I'll probably use Sticky Tack to adhere my "body" to my "map". 

And there you go. My own "WHERE'S MR. ALLEN". SO I encourage you to be creative, find new ideas, Pinterest, and don't stop until YOU are happy :)

Have a GREAT day!