Friday, November 20, 2015

Social Emotional Learning

Over the last month, I have been taking a class on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to have a better idea of what it is, and how to implement it into my program/school. We have covered topics that cary from climate and culture, to implementation, advocacy, and last but not least- the data that drives this amazing teaching.  One of our "homework" assignments was to make an elevator pitch to one of stakeholders to educate them on the effectiveness of SEL. I wanted to share it with you to empower you to show your school the level of achievement a school can have, just by implementing SEL.

Today I am here to speak to the board about the importance of social-emotional learning, and the influence it can have on teacher effectiveness and bullying in and around our school. When we talk about Social emotional learning, many of us think of a character education class that students may have, or a school wide program that meets once a month to discuss the character trait of the month.  Social emotional learning is that, but it is also so much more. It is what needs to be spoken of and taught throughout the entire day, from Monday through Friday, September to June.

Interesting survey on what we call SEL
Social emotional learning is teaching students the skills, dispositions, and essential life habits that can make them develop appropriately and mindfully. We are teaching moral and performance character to those who might not be learning those skills outside the classroom. When we teach the WHOLE child- the academic, the social, the emotional, the developmental parts- we are teaching children self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and decision making. While some jobs in the “real world” require mathematics, and reading, ALL jobs in the “real world” require us to think independently, work with others, and problem solve positive solutions. Without social emotional learning, we will be building a generation of robots who are great at academics and reciting information, but have no personal skills to interact with those around them, and feel empathy towards others.  When we start to teach our students these skills, the school culture and climate can begin to change. No longer are we seeing students using hurtful words, bullying, causing fights. We see conflict resolution, intentional words shared to problem solve solutions to issues, and empathy towards the other person.

School climate and culture refers to the values and shared beliefs of our stakeholders (teachers, parents, students, administration) who create our “norms”. The quality of our character, or our climate, is determined by those who live in it everyday: our students! Climate uses the norms, goals, and values or our teaching to either be positive or negative. When we are teaching self-awareness, and problem solving in the classroom, everyday- not just during character education class- we are creating the norms of talking about our feelings, addressing concerns in a problem solving way (not fighting or passive aggressiveness).

When teachers aren’t busy writing referrals, dealing with fights, bullying, inappropriate behavior, and lack of self-awareness, they are able to effectively TEACH our students what they need in order to be successful. When a classroom has a positive, loving atmosphere, created through social-emotional learning, the students are able to focus on what really matters- learning new information to grow their brains! I hope the board sees the importance of social emotional learning and can help us to implement it into every part of our school.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Developing professionally at Sea World

How awesome is this?
Refreshed, and ready to improve! That is how I felt after attending the annual FSCA convention in Orlando earlier this month. As an elementary school counselor, we do not have the luxury of working with other counselors in our daily routine. That is why it is imperative to seek out opportunities like this, to collaborate and communicate with others, in order to learn and grow. I attended 5 break out sessions including:

  • On the road to a data informed school counseling program
  • Worrywarts: Alleviating anxiety through school counselor interventions
  • The art of Mindfulness
  • Creating Compelling Charts: A picture is worth a thousand words
  • Overcoming Challenges to implementing effective small group counseling with adolescents
What I love about these professional development weekends is the variety of topics I can learn about in a matter of 48 hours. From learning about how to drive my program through data, to small group topics and implementations, to bringing mindfulness into the classrooms and to our faculty. I  have to be honest, the art of mindfulness was a little selfish on my part. I feel that sometimes I am "mind full" NOT "mindful" and I wanted to learn more about this topic to help myself and our school. 

I will be posting more about these topics in the next few weeks. I hope this encourages you to attend your next conference- they really are a wonderful experience and is left me thinking: I can make my program better by doing....(the list was long!)

Upward and Onward,

Your Floridian Chicka

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Character Education lesson on Respect

Each month we have a character trait/virtue that the entire school focuses on. We create our lesson plans around the specific character trait, we have a school wide character education assembly and we have posters as reminders of what the trait is and how to use it. This is a recent lesson I did on respect in 4th grade. The students seemed to enjoy it and it was a great opportunity to talk about diversity.  Please use this and enjoy:)

Materials: ½ sheets of paper for each student. Crayons/markers/colored pencils.

Objective: Students will use positive listening skills towards classmates, they will be able to find positive qualities about themselves, and they will learn how to use respect towards peers.

Introduce yourself and ask the students about the character trait of the month. Elicit responses about why character education is necessary in schools today. Ask the students to draw a picture of themselves. The only thing that HAS to be on their paper is their name. Other than that, give the directions that they must draw a picture of themselves. Start the activity by providing each student with a piece of white drawing paper, and the size of 1/2 a piece of paper.  Provide students up to 10 minutes to draw a self-portrait on the paper.

When the drawings are completed, have students do a think-pair-share, and have each person take 2 minutes to explain their drawing and how it is unique. After each person is done describing their picture, call on random students to share THEIR PARTNERS picture. This will promote listening skills and stronger forms of memory.

After all students have shared their partners information, have students stand up behind their desk. When the teacher claps, provide students with a couple of minutes to write a compliment on the white paper that surrounds the student's self-portrait. Then have students pass the papers to the next person, and so on. Keep the pace moving. Give students only a minute or two to write each compliment. Remind students not to take time to read the compliments others have written; explain that they should be sharing compliments from their own minds and hearts.  For example, a student might say kind, happy, smart, soccer, athletic, funny, etc.

At the end of the activity, each person's self-portrait should be surrounded by compliments. Display the self-portraits and their accompanying compliments for all to see. To close talk about how respect relates to this lesson and giving someone a compliment can turn someone’s day around. Encourage the students to do this daily and see how much of a positive reaction they receive back!

Positively speaking,
Your Floridian Chick!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Grandparents Day Ideas to implement THIS year

Stickers each GP wore all day
Crafts in early learning
I have officially lived through 3 Grandparents Days- 25,000 steps later- all within a day and a half! Safe to say I'm feeling like a grandparent as I write this out, but doing with a smile on my face.

We broke grandparents down into 3 separate events (pre-k3 through Kindergarten, first throughthird, and fourth through sixth grade).  We had similar agendas for each section, and kept it short and sweet for grandparents to get a picture of what our school stands for. Each session lasted for a little over 2 hours, which seemed to be the perfect amount of time to tire out the grandparents, but not let the entire school go without academics. 

Agenda for the morning session
The agenda, listed below, shows a morning greeting, then splitting off to the home room classes where they spent time with their grandchild, other children, and  teacher. Each classroom had a different activity, but all encouraged conversation about the differences/similarities between grandparent and grandchild's schooling.

Not only is this a fun day for the students and families- it is a phenomenal marketing plan for the school! We get to show off who we are and what we stand for.

Personally, for the school counselor, my role was to welcome guests, visit every classroom, and connect with families and children. I also got to sneak in driving the golf cart to pick up those who didn't want to walk.
Greeting and Welcome Area

Cutest song sung by 1st grade!
I'm sharing this to show how important relationships are. Love is the strongest emotion the body can feel, and when we bring that into our schools, it makes the students stronger, the learning brighter, and the day more intentional and fun.

I hope you have a grandparents day, my old school did not, and now that I see what it does for our students and school- I can't go back!

3rd grade coupon book
Interviews in second grade
The older they are, the more knowledge they can share,

Your Floridian Chick!

Early Learning Butterfly room

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Morning meetings making a BIG difference

Morning meetings take time, I will be the first to say it! Teachers have so much on their plate, and the work continues to trickle down from administration to grade chairs to the classroom. When I first learned about morning meetings, I have to admit, I wasn't sold. Teachers spending 15 minutes each morning with their students not doing true "academics"? I don't think so...

BUT then I sat in on a morning meeting and saw the difference it makes. Each morning the students gather in a circle on the floor and begin their day. While each classroom is a little different, they all share the same 4 components:

  1. Greeting Students and teachers greet one other by name and practice offering hospitality. They may use an object to pass around as they speak. Some teachers use funny accents, high fives, fist pumps, etc. 
  2. Sharing Students share information about important events in their lives. Listeners often offer empathetic comments or ask clarifying questions. They may also ask a question and have the whole class answer:  How do YOU show the character virtue of the month at recess?
  3. Group Activity Everyone participates in a brief, lively activity that fosters group cohesion and helps students practice social and academic skills: dancing, singing, or playing a game that reinforces social skills. 
  4. Morning Message Students read and interact with a short message written by their teacher. The message is crafted to help students focus on the work they'll do in school that day. They might go over the schedule or say what special class they have today. 

What was most shocking to me was how engaged the students were and how much they look forward to this every morning. It is the highlight of everyones day because it gives the students an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings. 

Even if your entire school does not do morning meetings I encourage you to share it with a few teachers and start seeing the results! 

Learning social skills every day, 
Your Floridian chick!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Character Education: Ideas to make your program grow!

One of the bulletin boards in our school
The foundation and tag line for our school is "Nurturing minds. Building character." While some organizations/companies have a tag line, but rarely enforce it--this school is the real deal! I feel like it's a building FULL of school counselors!
Each month we have a virtue of the month the entire staff and students work on. In each classroom, a bulletin board and other signs hang all around the room that focus on our character education program. Each morning, they speak about the character trait of the month, and its importance during morning meeting (another post about that in the weeks to come!). An assembly is held every month for the entire school, and one grade is responsible for running it. 
FULL House at character ed assembly!

This month was our early learning team-ages 3-4 year olds, they made a movie clip of how they demonstrate the trait in their classroom (SO cute, I couldn't stand it!). 

The student council starts the program and does the pledge of allegiance, followed by singing a birthday song to all the children who celebrated a birthday during that month. This is a great way to make people feel special!

It is an opportunity to get the whole school together, and I have a strong feeling it will be my favorite day of the month! 

What does your school do for character education? Would love to incorporate more and more of your great ideas!

Building character every day,

Your Floridian Chick

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Public Speaking Tips!

Back to school night can be a knee shaking, teeth chattering, scary night for some teachers. Administration asked me to share a few tips and tricks on public speaking and ways to help teachers make the most out of their Back to School Night!

I did a Prezi on Public Speaking that you are more than welcome to check out! The tips/tricks are as follows:

The real deal: Statistics: 74% of people are scared of public speaking, it is the greatest fear that people have, even more than death!

Before the hellos: 
  • Play Music to ease the otherwise stale environment.
  • Stand by the door and greet people before they approach you.
  • Use name tags! Everyone feels more welcome when you call them by name.
  • Proximity Control with your audience
  1. Involve your audience (using technology or a game).
  2. Use your strengths, play to them, and move away from your areas that need improving. 
  3. Command control & power of the room. This can happen through a variety of ways- what we wear, our tone, our body language. 
  4. Keep it simple
  5. Take-aways are important, for some reason, people like leaving with a tangible object. 
  1. Use too much text
  2. No agenda
  3. too much detail. Parents are there for the overview, not every detail. 
Please feel free to use this Prezi with your staff as they prepare for their back to school night! 

Publicly speaking away,

Your Floridian Chicka!

Monday, August 31, 2015

New office!

As you may have read from previous posts, I moved schools! Here is my new office and I am adjusting quickly to my new digs! I was given the choice of what furniture to have in my room, and I shared that all I needed was:
1. A desk for myself.
2. A table for lunch bunch and parent meetings.

I am fortunate to have a closet in my room, so I am able to hide all my files, and extra materials there, leaving me space in the room for actual counseling:). Having a window has been great for getting my name out there, but also, for my own mental health! There are large bushes outside the door so people cannot see it,BUT I can see out:). I hope this room brings me as much happiness as my old office did- but so far- so good!

Happy New Year! let's get a movin'!

Your Floridian Chick

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The "guidance counselor" has left the building!

I wrote this in our school's weekly newsletter hoping to get the word out on our name and why we should be called it! Advocating for ourselves is a huge part of our role, and I am very thankful for a administration that supports me. 

The "Guidance Counselor" Has Left the Building

No, the title is not a typo. The "guidance counselor" is gone and the "school counselor" is here! The term guidance counselor implies that I am the only person "guiding" our students.
This couldn't be farther from the truth! I help guide students, but so does every other adult in this building. The American School Counselor Association changed the name of our title a few years ago to appropriately call us what we are: counselors who happen to be in a school. Hence, the school counselor was named!
The role of the counselor is a unique one; I do not have a homeroom, I am not administration, and I do not have "direct reports." I have the opportunity to work with every student, every teacher, every person in the school! 
As adults, we would never talk to a counselor about our life whom we did not have a relationship with. I feel that way for students too. If the students do not know me, they will not want to talk to me about concerns, life struggles or what  they are going through. I try to develop relationships with every student through a variety of ways. 
Inviting the students to lunch bunch is a great time to play games, eat (one of my favorite things to do), and chat about their passions. I also go in classrooms to conduct lessons on character education, academic skills, conflict resolution, and more! In addition to those touch points, I have small groups for specific issues, such as changing families, self-esteem, being a boy groups, and effectively coping. 
I am meeting your children in the cafeteria, at arrival, dismissal, and in the hallways. The teachers have been very kind in helping me get acclimated, and have invited me to their rooms to get to know their students. 
I look forward to working with families from every grade as I continue to get to know them. Please introduce yourself when you see me around campus. Knowing faces and names is a top priority of mine and my goal is to know every face in this beautiful school. 

Amanda Sheroff 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Marketing your school counseling program 101!

Stand here- they have to see you!
Tri-fold #1: Welcome Station
Even though our degrees might be in psychology and counseling, it feels like I should have gotten a minor in marketing as well... The role of the school counselor can sometimes be hidden in a back office, off the beaten path, and have a negative connotation, or NO connotation at all!

 Example A: Yesterday a parent asked if he could come talk about his dreams so I could psychoanalyze them... A smile and a laugh later, I informed him that I would NOT be able to do that... on the basis that I am not a psychic, nor am I Freud... 
Plan yourself HERE: The Welcome table!

Tri-fodl #2-in the car tag room,
where EVERY parent HAS to go:)
I use this silly example to show how little people know about our role. We HAVE to market our program, or else it will be marketed/interpreted for us.

Here are my top 3 Marketing Tips to get your foot in the door, your name on peoples mouth, and your presence KNOWN for all (teachers, admin, parents, and most importantly, students!):

1. Meet EVERYone and ANYone.. from the Principal to the custodians. I would argue that the custodian is the most important person you need to know, but that is for another time. Go to each room individually, with a notebook, and introduce yourself, and learn ONE thing about that person. Write it down and then go home and STUDY! If you do not make connections with the staff, there is NO way you will get to know the students.  Write a thank you card to each staff member.. Yes that means you go to the dollar store, buy a pack of thank you cards and get writing! I didn't write a novel in each card, but I DID write about a personal connection in each one. "Thank you for letting me come to your room, I loved your bird theme... Thank you for sharing with me about your husbands job... etc."

2. There is no way we can be in 10 places at once. This is where your brochure and tri-folds come in. Have your traveling bulletin board in places that have high traffic. I put mine at the welcome desk the first few days of school,  in the front office, and in the conference room, where every single family HAS to go. While I would have loved to be at all 3 places the first few days of school, I knew I couldn't. I traveled in between these places and let my board talk for me.  On the board I have the following:

    Tri-fold #3 in the main office
  • Name, about me, small groups, guidance topics, individual counseling information, counseling mission, vision, and where to find me. This helps to start the conversation about what we do, and who we are. 

3. Lunch bunch: Starting Day 3, I start the process of inviting EVERY student to lunch with me. I do this in small groups of 3-4 students, and make my way from oldest to youngest in alphabetical order. This starts the conversation of where my room is, about me, and then I get to learn a little bit about them. YES, this is marketing, YES, this is fun, and YES, it is the best part of my day- all wrapped in one 25 minute block. The students go home, tell their parent about our lunch bunch, and parents start knowing who I am and how I can help!

WHOO! That was a long one,BUT I hope it is helpful for our newbies and those trying to revamp their program.

Missing a minor,

This emotionally stimulated Floridian Chicka!