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...


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.


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!


Thursday, September 5, 2013


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...
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!