Monday, March 5, 2018

Advocacy plug!

To all my Floridians friends,

Please take note: This is from FSCA, and it is crucial that we make our voice heard.

Friday, February 23, 2018, Governor Scott proposed an action plan to keep Florida students safe following the shootings in Parkland, Florida. The action plan includes proposed legislation to keep guns out of the hands of violent people, increased mental health initiatives, and funding for school safety to include required access to dedicated mental health counselors to provide direct counseling services to students at every school.

School counselors are trained to recognize preK -12 students’ mental health needs, deliver preventative curriculum to all students, and work collaboratively with mental health agencies and personnel in our communities. We offer our support to the Governor’s plan and as front line interventionists, play an essential role in addressing mental health and student safety. During the next week, legislators will be making critical decisions on the funding and implementation of this proposed plan.  It is crucial that ALL Florida School Counselors connect with legislators and state leaders.   This link will help you find contact information for your Senate and House legislators.

It would be ideal for you to call your legislators and tell them directly about the role you play in supporting student development and the need for 80% of your time to be spent in direct service to students.  (See the Talking Points document.)
If that’s not possible, send your legislators an email or a letter. FSCA leaders have written sample templates that you can copy and modify as needed.  Sample SC Ltr is specific to school counselors.  If you are an advocate of school counseling, use either Advocate Ltr #1 or Advocate Ltr #2

Thank you to everyone who is willing and able to help!

Your Floridian Chick

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Out on a limb..

Another shooting. What a world we live in that we have to say "another". As counselors, I think we might see the shooting from a different perspective. Obviously we all see tragedy, brokenness, sadness, and the hurt. But I also see relationships, or lack of. What if the shooter had been invited to sit at a lunch table, been asked how their weekend was every once in a while, been looked at in the eye by another person, and said I see you.

When I see another school shooting come across my newsfeed, I see a call for relationships. A call for going out on a limb, possibly (and probably) feeling uncomfortable, and making a connection with someone that needs another person to stand next to him/her so they don't feel so alone in this broken world.

To the shooter in Parkland, and every other one before him: I want to change for you. I want to go out on a limb more often to find the kid, just like you, who is hurting and desperately needing support, and extend a hello, a how are you, a short conversation. These little limbs, might turn into branches, which could turn into a tree. A tree with roots. Roots that go beyond themselves, and into deeper relationships to foster lasting friendships.

While I cannot change what has happened, I can change my view of where I am going and who I am going out on a limb for.  Here are a few ways I think this could happen:

1. Ask teachers who they believe to be lonely/without relationships.
2. Go to the playground every day, even for 10 minutes, and see who is being left out, or choosing to be alone consistently.
3. Go to the lunchroom and notice who is moving tables often, still trying to find their group. Also look for those who are alone, unengaged in conversation regularly.
4. Have lunch bunch with every kid in the school (I start in August, usually end in January and do groups of 4) and make note of the ones who don't seem to have strong relationships, or are able to connect with their classmates.

One counselor per 500+ kids seems impossible, and to be honest, some days it is. I think the more conselors share what they are doing, how they are doing it, and encourage one another, the closer we can come to reaching as many kids as possible at a heart level- not a check the box level. Tell me what is working for you!

Going out on a limb, looking to create roots,

Your Floridian Chick

Monday, February 12, 2018

Counseling as a parent

Our lives have changed, and all for the better. A little boy was welcomed into the world recently and our hearts just about exploded. After many prayers and hopes, we were granted a healthy, beautiful son and have been falling more in love with him every minute since his arrival. 

I chose this profession largely because of my passion for children and schools. While my empathy has grown with each passing school year, nothing has changed my empathy level and heart more than this little boy. 

Parenthood was the best thing that could have ever happened to my counseling skills and career (+life!). Prior to this little person being born, I had empathy for parents and students who were going through difficult seasons. I tried to see it through their eyes and help when and where I could. 

Now, when I have parents and/or students share their struggles, I can see myself in these parents. They are hurting because their child is hurting. While my son is too young to have struggles in school, he will. He is going to stuggle and he will need help at something, somewhere. I am going to need help. They say it takes a village, and I know I will be reaching out to my village for help. 

Seeing parents hurting makes me think of how I will feel. I see that life dealt them cards they might not know what to do with, and they are looking for help. How amazing that we get the opportunity to help those families and do our job each and every day so that those parents who came in worried or confused, can walk out feeling even a little better, knowing that someone else is in their village with them. 

I still have a ton of learning and growing to do, but this little boy of mine is helping me to be the best I can be for me, for our family, and for students and their familes. 

Learning more from a baby than I ever knew possible, 

Your Floridian Chick

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

FIT- "Families in Transition" Small group

Divorce. As counselors we see all the sides of it, and the repercussion it can have on our students. There seemed to be such a need to bring attention to this topic that I started a small group for children who were going through a divorce. Keep in mind that this group is called FIT- Families In Transition- I NEVER use the word divorce in the group, and never assume that parents were married to begin with.

Of all the groups I have done this year, FIT has been the most rewarding. I was very apprehensive to do it, as it is a sensitive topic, but I felt that building a community in which people did not feel so isolated, was something I could offer- so I did.

This was a 5 week group that met during lunch. This can be adapted to all elementary school ages, as the activities are not complicated. The discussion that was created from these activities were astounding. These little people have turned some not so great situations into opportunities to be resilient and strong.

Feel free to take and manipulate into your own lessons- these are just ideas that I have tweaked as I scoured Pinterest/social media/etc. over the last few months.

This group is 5 weeks long, meeting once a week during their lunch.

Lesson 1:

I introduce the group, expectations, and have the children help me create ideas on how to be the best group possible (be kind to one another, share, take turns, etc.).

Each child was given a picture of a dumbbell (incorporating the FITness part here as much as I can!). I asked them to draw their family. Since many families have 2 homes that they visit, I asked them to write/draw/create pictures of aspects of each home/family member  that they live with. While it can be tricky to go between homes, there are lots of perks if we look at things from a positive angle.  I hang up the pictures in my room.

Lesson 2:
Go over expectations, have students eat lunch.
Our topic this week was coping skills- ways to work through problems in our life. We also talked about ways to calm down when we get angry or stressed. We brainstormed ways to cope, then played a game of BINGO using all the ideas they came up with. The students gave real life examples of times they had to cope with difficult situations in the classroom and at home.

lesson 3:
Go over expectations, have students eat lunch.

We began by talking about all the emotions that can happen when we have a change in our family dynamics. The students were each given a heart, and had the opportunity to write down feeling words that went along with how they might have felt before, during and after any family transition. Some of the students did not remember when their parents lived in the same home, others remembered it well. On the heart, they could color in different parts, and had an opportunity to share what they wanted to.
Lesson 4:
Go over expectations, have students eat lunch.

I told the students that since I loved them so much, I was giving each of them their very own house- ALL expenses paid (generous, I know). Every home has a foundation, a support system, a roof to protect them, and a chimney to release heat (stress). I gave each of them their house (see attachment), and we talked about all the parts to our house. Each person lives in a different house, and has different people who support in different ways. Some of them may have more than one place they go to live, but WHO is in their lives matter much more than WHERE they live.

Lesson 5:
Go over expectations, have students eat lunch.

Each person was asked to roll the die and pick a question based on the number they rolled. The discussion was amazing and they were able to relate to one another and share experiences.  The opening question included "what kind of family do you want when you grow up?" Open this up for sharing and give students an opportunity to tell what they want for their own future.  As for the questions I created, I asked about past, present, and future. The discussion that comes from the right questions for each group are amazing!

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to help the students who are going through, or have gone through a changing family situation.

Lunch bunching away,

Your Floridian Chick!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Building Empathy

Friends, it has been more than a while since my last post. That whole job thing gets in my way of posting and keeping you up to date on the latest details of my school counseling life.  In all honesty, life at school has been more than I could have dreamed of, and luckily lots of creating has been going on in my little corner of school these days.

I recently came across a great clip on empathy for faculty and staff that you might want to share as well. This could be used at the beginning of the year, mid year as a reminder to teachers to be empathetic, or during a month that you might focus on empathy for character education.

Empathy short video

It is a 3 minute video that truly helps you understand the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Why do teachers need this?

Sometimes we (I!) make judgements on other peoples circumstances.
Sometimes we (I!) want to tell about me, when all the other person wants is to be heard.
Sometimes we (I!) "silver line" circumstances, which is not what the person wants to hear- at ALL!

Hopefully you can share this with your staff, or at least watch it yourself. It was eye opening to me, and I hope it is for you too!

Your silver-liner,

The Floridian Chick

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Project: Happy!

This school year I have been given the opportunity to have a 6th grade elective. My guidelines:
1. Think about what 6th graders could benefit from.
2. Have fun with this!

OH LORD! Flexibility is a beautiful thing!

I started brainstorming... what do 6th graders need more of in their lives?
1. Technology- NO
2. Stress-NO
3. More work-NO
4. Social-emotional learning- YES!

A great morning meeting question I have heard before is: What problem do you see in this world and how can you help fix it? This got my mind moving...

I  also started to think about what I felt passionate about. I love school counseling (obvious), I love my faith, helping others, working with people, exercising, eating healthy, learning, and being positive. I thought about the stress that our students are under and how I worry about how they handle it. Over the last year, I have been reading more and more about the teenage brain, and how students in K-12 deal with stressors and anxiety. It scares me, it really does. These kids do not have the brain maturity to handle intense stress. I started researching stress in our youth and what can be done about it.

Through this exploration came: PROJECT:HAPPY! Major props to the hubs for helping me create a great name.

Throughout this semester we will be learning about the following:

  • Positive Psychology
  • The adolescent brain
    • Specifically chemicals that "make" happiness (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins) and how you can be in control of increasing them.
  • Tools to help de-stress
  • How healthy choices can make us feel better
    • exercise techniques
    • Healthy foods
  • Service to our community
I look forward to this class each week and am excited to continue to help myself grow in the "happy department" as well as give others an opportunity to choose their happiness, regardless of circumstance.

Hope your day is filled with happiness!

Your Floridian Chick!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How to Help Build a Strong Staff From Day 1

We call all PD- Shark Academy
The tool we used to assess ourselves
(Elementary) school staffs range in age from year 1 of teaching to year 35+ of teaching. Men, women, moms, dads, married people, single people, divorced, widowed- with a staff of 60+ people, the lifestyles might seem endless. Usually grade levels spend most of their time together, and administration is busy spending small pockets of their day with each grade, trying to help solve problems and prevent other ones from happening. SO many times, I feel like people in one grade level, might not know anything about someone in a different grade level.

On top of the lifestyles and personalities that exist within a school, each person has a history of experiences that has helped them become who they are today. In order to build community and empathy with our staff, we recently held a professional development (during pre-plan) to get to know ourselves and others better.  One of our wonderful teachers put this on, and rocked it! She explained what Myers Briggs was, and what information it can tell you. There are a total of 16 personality "types", each one with strengths and weaknesses.

Why it helped:
1. Brought self-awareness (An SEL component) to each person. We were able to see what strengths we had, and what things we can work on.
2. Brought social-awareness (another SEL component) to each team. Grade level teachers were able to see which personality type they were, and then see which ones their partner teachers were as well. If I am an extrovert, but my partner is an introvert, we clearly get energy from different places. I might want to give my partner more alone time so he/she can reenergize.
3. It opened up doors to people who have the same personality "type" that work in different grades/areas.
Close up of names of baskets
4. Community building occurred in less than 1 hour!
Food makes life better:)

To top it off, our work room was filled with some sweet treats. See these cute pics and feel free to use them to pump up your staff, and your community!


Your Floridian Chick!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Socially and Emotionally Learning

I. Love. School. Counseling. 

10 months out of the year I get to do direct services: talk to kids, work with teachers, and form relationships with parents. BUT for 8 quick weeks during the summer, I get to do my other passion: INdirect services for children!

I feel incredibly thankful to work for the Monique Burr Foundation, a nonprofit bully and abuse prevention organization, for students in grades K-6th. This little organization has opened my eyes to a whole other world of supporting children, and between you and me... I really.. really like it!

My role this past summer was to research social emotional learning (SEL) for a new middle school curriculum they are creating. 

CASEL ("Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning") gave me a great foundation for what SEL is, and what research says about it.

According to CASEL, SEL is broken down into 5 major components:
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills 
  • Decision making
  • Self awareness
  • Self management

These 5 topics encapsulate the 18 executive skills that we learn and use throughout our life (but can usually grasp by the time we are 24). Many of these we teach during character education, such as attention, organization, self-regulation, task initiation, empathy, impulse control, and time management. 

When we teach these important life lessons, a few things happen:

  • Better academic performance- Making teachers happy
  • Increased attitudes and behaviors-Making Mom and Dad happy
  • Less negative behaviors- Making administration happy
  • Decrease in emotional distress- Making counselors happy
The most important- ALL of these make kids lives more fulfilling and all around easier to navigate their way through life. 

As you start to teach your character lessons this year, it could be helpful to keep these in mind. I am going to use the 5 components as structure to teach my own lessons, and I hope you will too!

Happy planning,

Your Floridian Chick!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My new office!

It feels like Christmas every day of the year around here... My room last year was fine... 100% fine.. no complaints. It had a big closet, it had a window... it was off the beaten path.. which can be could good at times.. BUT this year, it has all changed and for the better!

I did not ask for a new room, but I was given one! This new office has room for MANY children (7 so far!)-making my office a little slice of Heaven. These windows are melting my heart in all the best ways.. AND the best part- Kids are constantly walking by so I get to see smiling faces from both sides of the room.

Some classics that will go with me wherever I go include:
Great table for lots of chatting, and my desk with some sun:)

  • The bobble Head collection- Thanks to the hubby circa 2002.
  • The Beanie Baby collection- Thanks to 1995 and my parents not throwing them out.
  • An art center where I keep all the supplies for students who are visual processors and like to draw/use clay. 
  • Books for parents
  • Books for kids
  • Stress balls/squeezey items to help those who want/need to calm down.
  • Inspirational verses for me (Selfish alert- I need reminders!) of my purpose.
  • Pictures of my family and friends so kids know that I have a life outside of school.

Book shelves are a must! Thankful for these white little boxes.

Please take a look and steal any ideas you have. If you have any good ones- I am up for that too!

Happy Camper,

Your Floridian Chick!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Making our health a priority

I love this job, sometimes I forget where work ends and where my regular life begins. I spend hours outside of school looking up new lessons, reading research on the latest skills, finding new blogs on what other counselors are doing. I guess it has really become more of a passion than just a job these days.

Part of the problem when you are passionate about what you do, is when you are not doing it, you feel a little lost. This week, I am feeling just that. I came down with an M.S. attack that has put me on disability this week. As counselors, we know we can easily get 10,000 steps before lunch is over each day. Yet this week has been different, I have made my goal less than 2,000 steps per day... my fatigue has taken over, my legs are frail, and my head is pounding, and to be honest, I felt... sad.

BUT then I come back to the coping skills we teach our students every single day. We talk about being mindful, taking care of ourselves, and teaching them to understanding their own emotions. I am taking the saying "practice what you preach" to an all new level. I have been resting, sleeping, journaling, and meditating.

Being mindful is hard work! I downloaded the app Headspace and it has truly been a challenge to get started each day. This has helped me tremendously throughout the week, as well as some good ol' fashioned sleep and rest. A very smart and amazing friend in my life shared this Happiness article with me, and it has lit a positive fire in me to look at my MS journey as an adventure, not as a a struggle.

From this week, I have learned (again!) how well the Lord provides exactly what I need, when I need it. To my sweet friend, thank you for your positive ways. To my MS, I know we will meet again, but I am always a little stronger each time you return. There is a reason why perseverance is part of every character education program. Perseverance makes us bigger, better, and wiser than we were before.

Good night my friends, may you appreciate all the gifts you are given, even when they aren't wrapped up the way you would have liked them.

Rest well,

Your Floridian Chick

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mother Nature helping to educate on Teamwork

It seems now more than ever, we need more lessons on character education. In our upper grades, we have a designated time each week to have character education class. This week we are focusing on teamwork, we this is our character virtue of the month for April! 
Feel free to use this lesson with any age! I could see it being used in Kindergarten all the way up through middle school. The more we have these conversations, the better off our students will be.

Objective: Students will understand the concept of teamwork, and how mother nature is using teamwork to be more effective and efficient with their resources. 

I started out the lesson by asking students what teamwork is, and why we need it.  I then asked them what animal uses teamwork. I LOVED asking this question because I learned so much about random animals that I would have never known otherwise. After I heard from everyone on their guesses and explanations, I told them we would be learning today about Canadian Geese! We watched a short 2 minute video on Canadian Geese (Canadian Geese on Teamwork), and then had them work together in groups to answer the questions about the video:

1. How does flying in a V formation benefit the geese as opposed to flying alone?
2. What happens if a goose that is flying in V formation gets tired?
3. If a goose is sick or injured and has to leave the group, what do other geese do?
4. Why do geese make a honking noise when flying together?
5. What did you learn about teamwork from the Canadian geese flying in formation?

I love when they make the connection between what they saw in the video and what is happening in their classrooms. The more we can demonstrate and model positive character traits for them, the more likely they will be to use them in real life!

Honking away,

Your Floridian Chick!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bringing video games to school (yes you read that correctly!)

The students have told me about their love for video games, so I thought I would bring video games to them! In one of my small group lessons for older elementary school boys, we talked about self-control. When we play video games, we use the controller to direct when we start, stop, pause, move, etc. We also have an internal “controller” in our brain that can help us when we are experiencing a problem. Each person was given a “PS5 controller" (No, not Play Station! This is Positive Support for 5th graders!) and we talked about how we can use the buttons in our brains.  
-What can do when we feel like we are out of control? We might get mad, angry, sad, upset, etc. We discussed the following “buttons” when we need our self-control:

  • Pause - count to 10, take deep breaths, THINK- what are my options?
  • Fast Forward- If you want to get away from a situation, what can you do to move past it?
  • Remind- If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
  • Play- Use when you know what to do. Go PLAY!
  • Stop/end- use when you are done- walk away, change thoughts to something else
  • The handle- what can you hold on to for support? Name 3+ people you can go to.

It was interesting to see which buttons they said they could use most, and which ones they never use. The attachment below will show you what the control looks like.  I also let them choose some of their own buttons to see what they would come up with. I got some amazing ideas! From walk away button, breathe button, a sync button (creative), and many more! 

The kids loved it and I have been using the language with them ever since.

Who knew students would be “playing” video games at school?! 

Video Gamer for life,
Your Floridian Chick!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Eating Fruit Every Day

They say to go out on a limb, because that it where all the fruit it.  My mentality has long been this, but more recently, I have been asking myself- What's the worst that can happen? What if I go out on that limb, what is the worst thing that can happen? 
I have tried small groups, classroom lessons and individual counseling skills that have been a huge successful, but also an awful disaster. Through the disasters, I always learned something and humbled myself (quite a bit!) after the dust has settled. 

SO I went out of a limb and tried out for something that (I think) I am very under qualified for. I have lived in Florida almost 4 years, have been a school counselor almost 4 years, and have been involved in multiple school counseling organizations/events. 4 years is a short time though.. I feel like I just started, and sometimes I feel like I am still learning the ropes through difficult situations. 

SO, like I said, I went out on a limb and applied for a board position in my state organization. 14 people hold board positions, each having  3 year term. Everyone else had their doctorates, or were working towards completion, OR held the highest position in their county as a "head" of counseling. 

I applied the end of February, waited until elections opened, waited until elections closed, and then waited for results. It turns out I WON! I will start my term on the FSCA board July 1, and will (hopefully) be able to make some headway on providing tangible, useful curriculum for counselor's, and maybe even do a little advocating where we need to, to get counselors.. COUNSELING! 

So thank you to anyone who voted- I am ecstatic beyond belief. I want to sink my teeth into this and make a positive change.  See you July 1 FSCA!


Your Floridian Boardin' Chick!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bulletin board idea for spring

I have to share because it's just too beautiful not to! This is hanging in my school as a reminder to students on ways to live a respectful life. I did not make this at ALL, one of our amazing teachers did.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Using sports to teach COMMUNICATION

What I love so much about small groups is how different each one can be. All-girl groups, all boy groups, and co-ed groups- each one has its own unique personality that makes our time together memorable and always exciting!

I am working with a boys group right now that is very competitive and athletic to say the least! The main goal of our group is to work on healthy competition through communication skills and emotional maturity. 

Ever since the day they got the permission slip for the group, they have been asking me (nonstop) when are we going to get to play a sport. I waited until we third week to announce we would be playing basketball. Little did they know this would be a different form a basketball, that would test their communication skills and understanding of one another.

Each student was given a card with directions on how to play the basketball game. They were not allowed to discuss their rule with anyone. The rules included:

  • You can only talk to people in an unfriendly tone 
  • You can only whisper 
  • You can only speak to people on the other team 
  • Your arms will stay across the entire game
  •  you cannot walk only running as fast as possible
  •  you cannot speak or pass the ball to anyone on your team

It was amazing to see this social experiment unfold righ in front of my own eyes! We played 2 rounds of basketball. The first was with the rules, the second without. After we discussed how each person felt about each round. 

I stressed the importance of body language and tone. While speaking to one another is a (small) part of the communication, the way we use our body and the tone in which we speak matter almost more than what we are saying! 

It was such a wonderful lesson to them (and ME!), and I will definitely use it again in future groups. 

Running, jumping, and communicating, 

Your Floridian Chick!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"Inside out" lesson

If you are a counselor, you've probably seen the movie "Inside Out" by now and thought of a few ideas on ways to incorporate. Whether you like the movie or not, there are a few good takeaways that can help kids relate to their emotions.

One of my small group lessons focuses on self expression. It is an important tool for students to learn how to express themselves, and earlier we can teach the strategy, the better off the children will be in social situations. 

I start by playing the trailer "get to know your emotions". Play the introduction of joy, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness. After we talk about each feeling and if anyone has ever experienced these feelings. 

From there,we talk about how people let you know if they are feeling a certain way.  They use words, their body language,  and their tone. We practice body language by playing a game of charades-I typed out about 20 different feelings on the cards and have students draw a piece of paper out of a bag. 

They love acting out the different emotions and guessing each one! 

In a recent lesson, I had some extra time so I had students draw the face of different feelings. They were given six blank faces with hair, and a feeling written under each one. They were given five minutes to draw the 6 faces, and then we discussed how some people's "mad" looked similar and different from one another-it wasn't really neat activity and one that I will definitely do again! 

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what to do with a few free trailers and your emotions:)

Feeling... A lot! 
Your Floridian chick

Monday, February 22, 2016

Coping frisbee small group lesson

One of the many reasons I love small groups is that each one has their own little personality; some groups are timid, others I cannot get to stop talking, some are sweet, while others are more headstrong. One group that I recently worked with was very competitive. They loved all things sports, and wanted to win at every game they played.

I did a lesson on coping skills to calm our bodies down. I knew this group needed it (who doesn't!), and wanted to get the point across, but still keep them interested. I have seen many lessons using paper plates (cheap, or free if they are in the cafeteria:)) and drawing faces on them.  This group wanted nothing to do with art, or drawing so I knew that lesson would not work.

Instead, I used the paper plates as frisbees! We talked about playing sports and how frustrated/upset we can feel when we lose, or when the ref calls us on a play. They could easily point out dozens of times they were mad over sports. We then talked about what WE can do (not mom/dad/coach) to calm ourselves down in order to get back to the game.


1. Discuss what coping skills are/are not.
2. Have students give their own ideas of tools they use to calm down.
3. Play BINGO  using coping skills- I made mine here: (.
4. After BINGO, have students generate THEIR best 8 strategies that they would want to use when they need to calm down.
5. Each child gets a paper plate- they divide the plate into 8 sections and write down their strategies.
6. Discuss- look for similarities and differences
7. PLAY Frisbee and have them run around- our students need to get out and play every once in a while!

This is all done in about 35 minutes, during their lunch time.

I read a great article on why play is so important, and for this group- it is imperative that they get out and run a little. I end the lunch on a high note for them, and ask them to use their strategies this week and let me know how it goes!

Hope this helps!

Running from Frisbee to Frisbee,

Your FL Chick!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Scheduling small groups

I guess it is a good thing that I have been (happily) running around so much at work, that I have neglected my blog baby! Life has been anything but calm these days, but I can't say I would wish for anything else. 

If I had a penny for every time I heard a teacher or administration say there isn't enough time, I would be a billionaire. We all know the importance of the counselor role and of social emotional learning, but sometimes it feels like there is just not enough time for small groups!

Personally, I don't feel appropriate pulling children from academic time. Most of the children that we are helping need to be in the classroom as much as possible. Before school and afterschool are times when we meet with teachers, which leaves very little wiggle room to run effective small groups. 

So when do we run these and how can they be effective?

The answer: LUNCH! 

Every day I run small groups between 11-1pm-our lunches are divided by grades (K,1/2,3/ 4,5,6).

I have part of my lunch before 11 o'clock and the rest of my lunch after 1 o'clock. This gives me some fuel to make it through without passing out, or getting "hangry". For the first lunch Bunch of the day I usually get the kids 5 to 7 minutes early so they can be the first in the lunch line and we can get them situated ASAP. Please see below for my schedule, hopefully this will help to give you some brainstorming ideas on when to have your groups!

  • Monday: 11:05-11:40, 11:40-12:10, 12:10-12:40-I "eat" lunch with the fourth fifth and sixth grade teachers. This works for two reasons: 1. I get to socialize with them, 2. I hear what is happening in their classrooms which helps me to help our kids:).
  • Tuesday: 11:05-11:40, 11:40-12:10, 12:10-12:40(teachers)
  • Wenesday:11:05-11:40, 11:40-12:10, 12:10-12:40(teachers)
  • Thursday 11:05-11:40-teachers And/or admin lunch 11:40-12:10, 12:10-12:40 small group with 4th. 
  • Friday- lunch with individual students who cannot be pulled out of academics, but need a mire substantial time with the counselor 

This is my schedule for six weeks then I will pull another group of students. I don't have more than two small groups per day because I think it is very important to spend time with the teachers each day. 

Hopefully this will get your mind moving on ways to maneuver around the lack of time in our work days!

"Time" to get moving (corny, I know),

Your Floridian Chick

Friday, December 18, 2015

FISH Small group

One of the best parts about this role is having the opportunity to meet with students small groups to work on specific skills. During the last few weeks, I have been working with second grade girls on friendship skills and appropriate ways to communicate with others. I named our group FISH- Friends In School Helping. Throughout our 5 weeks together, we created an ocean for our fish and added to the ocean each time.  I connected with the teachers and asked for names of students who, they thought, would benefit from some extra TLC. After getting the names, I sent home permission slips. We met during lunch every week for 5 weeks, this way, they did not miss any class time, and still got to socialize. Here is what we did:

Week 1:Introduction
Set foundation for the group, times, dates, who was involved. We created "ideas" (rules!) for the group and what would help us be the best group we could be. We also made our own personal fish to swim in our ocean.

Week 2: Reviewed the rules, went around the circle and said what their favorite thing to do at recess was. We did a friendship puzzle, where each person got a puzzle piece; they had to work together to put their puzzle together. We debriefed who was a leader, who helped, and what role each person played in solving the puzzle. After, we played "friendship fuss", each person read a scenario of a friendship problem and they had to solve the problem with possible solutions. At the end, we put one starfish each in the ocean, with a friendship quality on each one:)

Week 3: Coral Coping skills! This is such a fun activity that adds so much to the ocean. We drew coral, using our hands- with big extensions for the fingers (see picture), on each finger tip, each person brainstormed 5 coping skills they could use to solve problems with a friend (ie-share, be nice, take turns, use kind words).

Week 4: relationSHIPS!- We started off talking about what relationships are, and who we have them with (family, friends, classmates, animals, etc). Each pair got a "ship", on the top of the ship, they brainstormed ideas about ways to be a  good friend, on the bottom, were traits that were not good for friendships.

Week 5:Inside Out- We watched a few clips of Inside Out, and talked about expressing ourselves. From there, we played charades for emotions. They could not use their voice, only their body to express their feelings.  We also look at who made faces on their original fish. Some change their faces, others keep them the way they are.

I hope you can use these ideas as you make small groups. Having a name for each group helps SO much for organization and camaraderie!

We end each group with a  FISH cheer:)

Swimming away,
Your Flordian chick!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Staff Relationships- why do they matter?

We all know the importance of creating strong relationships with our students. But what about our staff? We run around all day on campus, passing one another in the hallway, slipping papers in and out and our boxes, empathizing with the craziness of our jobs. It is easy to "know" people we work with, but I am often struck with the idea that even though we see one another each and every day, we do not get the chance to actually sit down and KNOW the people we pass each morning.

Outside my work life, I like to participate in Bible Studies, sometimes through church, and other times at my home, in the wee hours of the morning. It is the core of who I am, and I (try to) make myself an example of my faith in what I do. I prayed for a few months about how I could combine the two, and came to the conclusion that if I do not try, nothing will happen...

So I got enough courage to hit the send button 2 months ago (in a non-religious school), and like magic- I got responses! My initial email was to the entire staff, asking if anyone would be interested in a bible study. I shared that this was the only email I would be sending out, and anyone was welcome. I was hoping to 5-10 responses, but God works in crazy ways, and had 21 people respond to me email:) Christians, non-christians, Buddhists, all emailed- and it was amazing to see all the faiths that stepped forward.

We hold "Community studies" on Friday mornings. I bring muffins, and someone might bring coffee/OJ. We sit in an empty classroom from 7:15-7:45AM (before school hours), and I bring a mini lesson. I have been using Jesus Calling, but have been supplementing with other online studies as well, depending on our character virtue of the month, or events happening at school.

After each week, I send out the prayer requests to the 21 people who responded, and let them know what others wanted to share.

It is bizarre to think that 30 minutes can make a difference.. but it is! I have found myself praying and thinking about people from work, and my empathy has grown for these people even stronger. Building positive culture and community can be a difficult thing to do, but it is crucial that we take a minute (or 30!), each week to actually ask- How are YOU doing? How are things going?

Originally I had not thought of school- my workplace- as a meeting place for my faith, but the Lord kept putting it in my head to share with others. The word is spreading and my relationships with these people are growing deeper and stronger each week. I encourage you to think about your own work place...what type of community can you bring to the table? Maybe it is faith, but maybe it is community service projects, or happy hours? Maybe it is a running club or an after school work out videos?

The list is endless, but I have come to realize that if you do not put yourself out there, there is no way we can keep the benefits.

Encouraged to keep growing,

Your Floridian Chicka!

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.