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.

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