Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Here we go-14-15

And just like that.. summer is over, the school year is beginning, and the halls are crowded again. This year we have new leadership in the building, and as they say- the only thing constant in this world is change. We have had a pretty good amount of change to the building over the summer and I feel that it is crucial, now more than ever, to play cheerleader and rally the troops. In high school I was never a cheerleader, but have learned a few "moves" over the last few years:

1. Be Positive. If you start to complain, others will think it is OK to follow..

2.Things will go wrong from time to time.. figure out at least one take away from it.. you must  have learned something from the experience, and share it with your team/faculty.

3. Have a sense of humor.. This picture is posted outside my room (Mean Girls joke), and when people walk by after a long meeting, I can hear them laugh in the hall when they read it.. a little humor each day is a sanity saver!

4.Plan events outside of the classroom for your faculty. I think the better rapport we build, the harder people will work for one another. This could be exercising after school, a welcome back party, eating lunch together, etc. DO something fun!

Who knows what this year will bring but I feel optimistic for great things and I wish you the best as you start back to school!

Ready for fall,
Your Floridian Chick!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A year in review!

As the school year has now come to a close, it is crucial to reflect back on the year: what went well, what did not.. and what things need to change for next year to improve. This year we got a lot accomplished, but there are definitely things that I need to work on.

What I loved this year:
1. Organization through my GMAIL- Google Docs account. I was able to keep a detailed list of important dates, students testing schedules, attendance lists, etc. Since these are working documents, it was great to constantly go back in, change, and keep moving.

2. Call Log- this was amazing! I had tried to keep track of it through slips of paper before, but it was more of a hassle than anything else. This year, I took a spiral notebook and recorded parent calls by date, not name! I write down 4 things: parent name, student name, time/date, and phone number/email. I have referred  back to this  list more times than I could have imagined, and am very glad I did this!

3. Parent drop-off  Duty: This made my life so much easier! I got to see parents, they got to see me, and I got a little fresh air each morning! I was in a hallway previously and did not get to see parents who I had been trying to get a hold of, we were able to have small conversations here and there, and I could relay information.

Things to change:
1. Stop planning my schedule back to back.. to back! I got myself into more issues this year because I planned things on my calendar that were impossible to be at. Guidance lesson at 8:45, parent meeting at 9:15... clearly- that is not going to work! Next year I need a 5 minute buffer in between events.

2.Have a session of small groups between Thanksgiving and Winter break. I did this the last year but did not make time this year.. I am putting it on my yearly calendar and making this happen!

My list is definitely longer but I won't bore you with too many details. I hope you enjoyed your school year and take some time for YOU this summer!

Summer time is here,
Your Floridian Chick!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Volunteer Breakfast

This is the first school I have been at where they have a huge end of the year event for volunteers who have helped throughout the year. Recently on a Friday morning, we invited over 40 volunteers from the community to a beautiful breakfast prepared and donated by our staff members. There was more food than anyone could imagine, but it was a wonderful opportunity to thank them for all their hard work. Each volunteer got a certificate, and two individuals were awarded Volunteer of the Year (male and female).  We had each grade do a small performance/skit for the audience and everyone left with a happy heart and full stomach.

Love these events to share the happiness that this place brings! What do you do to honor your volunteers?! We can always use new and fresh ideas!

Your Floridian Chick!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Coffee with the 6th grade counselor

I had the counselors from our zoned middle schools come over and visit our 5th grade families. It has been interesting to how each is different and what they have to offer. By inviting the counselors in, the children are meeting their new counselor in a comfortable setting they are used to. We took field trips to each school as well so students could see where they would be. I am always looking for new ways to smooth their transition, but would love more! Please share here:) 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mother's Day Celebrations!

I wanted to incorporate Mother's Day but since it falls in line with Teacher Appreciation week, I often feel that it gets left behind.

This year for Mother's day, I made a poster for our work room with every moms name on it- the staff seemed to enjoy it and put a spot on their for furbaby moms- they are important too! 
We held our "Donuts with Darlings" Event from 8:00-8:30AM. It was a great event and I want to thank Krispy Kreme Donuts for all they do to help organizations/schools that are on a budget. They usually charge $5.62 per dozen, yet their fundraising cost is $3.75 for 25 dozen or more donuts ordered. You better believe we ordered 25 dozen and somehow hey were all gone by the end of day!

The job of a mother is probably the hardest job out there, so THANK YOU to all the moms out there, for all you do each and every single day to raise your children and put them first.

Donuts galore,
Your Floridian Chick!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Teacher Appeciation Week ideas!

May is a wonderful time of year for teachers: no more state tests, field trips, warm weather, and the best of all:Teacher Appreciation week! Here is our week and how it all went down:
Bucket of goodies!

Media Center set up for Pancake Breakfast!
Personal Chef!
Clearly, I have been busy working for the last decade!
Leadership team chefs!

What a great week to let teachers know we love them! Please share all your ideas here so next year we can give our teachers new presents and show our appreciation!

Loving our teachers,
Your Floridian Chick!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lunch Bunch Game

Now that state testing is done, I am back on the map with doing lunch bunches and classroom visits. I have been trying to find some old games to make new and since cards are an easy toy to manipulate, I created C-UNO- "Counselor Uno".

 Here is the only new rule:
When you put down a card, or take a card, you answer the question based on your color.


Green- Ask the person to your right a question about themselves

Blue- tell the person to your left a complement

Red- Share something you are proud of

Yellow- Share what you want to work on as a 3rd grader

Wild Card- Ask anyone a question.

This is a simple way to get people talking and to learn communication skills. The kids seemed to like it and we learned more about one another- a win win for me! 

Uno Love,
Your Floridian Chick

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pep Rally!

520+ student- 50 staff members-1 cafeteria- ready to Tackle the Test

Here is the itinerary of the Pep rally and how it all unfolded!

2014 FCAT Pep Rally Itinerary

1:50-2:00  Music playing while students enter cafeteria
(Curtains closed)
2:00  Welcome from Principal
(Curtains open to tape)
2:05-2:10  Play song "Happy”- Dancers begin to dance their way onto the stage
2:10-2:15  Dance “What Does the Fox Say?” play song
(Curtains close; Screen goes down; Lights go off)
2:15-2:20 Slide show plays
(Screen goes up; Curtains open; Lights come on)
Introduce the skit
2:20-2:30 Skit
2:30-2:35 Closing and Chants by Counselor
Play exit song as students leave cafeteria

Chants to use:
When I say TACKLE, you say THE TEST
When I say BOBCAT, you say PRIDE
When I say DON, you say BREWER

It was a LOUD but wonderful event! They can be a little crazy but when they are kept short and run with a specific itinerary, they are effective!

Ringing ears,
Your Floridian Chick!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tackle the Test Spirit Week!

It is THAT time of year again folks- testing that is.. In order to prepare for the test, we had an FCAT (Florida Comprehensive  Assessment Test) Spirit week to pump up our kiddos! Our theme was "Tackle the test" and we will filled each day with different dress up outfits, activities, decorations throughout the school, and finished it off with a pep rally (next weeks post)! Our week went like this:

·        Monday: “Tackle the Test” Dress in your favorite football gear

·        Tuesday: “Knock the FCAT Out of the Park” Baseball attire

·        Wednesday: “Color Wars” each grade level is assigned a designated color to wear (Red, White and Blue)

·        Thursday: “Sprint to the Finish” Wear your running gear

·        Friday: "Bobcat Pride" Wear school colors
I will be the first to say that I am definitely a t-shirt and shorts kind of girl and any chance I have to wear relaxed clothing to school- I am ALL for it!

     As the "school cheerleader", I feel that it is important to let the students know how far they have come, and all the hard work they have invested since August. So I sent out an email the week before to ask if any teachers wanted me to visit their room for a quick 20 minute lesson to encourage them, and to go over some test taking strategies, as well as ways to calm down and relax.  I made it to every room and the kids seemed to like it- my voice on the other hand.. was a different story. 

Here were the standards I focused on for this lesson:
American School Counselor Association Standards:
A:A1:3- take pride in work and achievement
A:C1:6-Understand how school success and academic achievement enhance future career and vocational opportunities.
PS:A1:1- Develop positive attitudes toward self as a unique and worthy person
PS:B1.2- Understand consequences of decisions and choices.
PS:B1.9- Identify long and short term goals. 

It was a great week and the kids were definitely feeling the love that their teachers had for them. Thinking about next year, I will definitely offer classroom visits again, and I would also like to make it a priority to be on the announcements each morning. I only made it a few mornings, but I think it is important to show my school spirit. 
I sent this out the week before our spirit week as a reminder!

Your Floridian Chick!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Generation W Conference #GenW

Wow! What a conference! Prior to the day, I had never heard of Generation W, but after participating in this event, I left with a huge appreciation for this organization and what they stand for. Below you will see the itinerary for the jam packed day- while each speaker/panel shared important information, I came away with a few key points:

1. Thinking about your own job: what are 3 adjectives you would use to describe your role? If someone was going to describe you in 3 words, what would they use? If these 3 words do not match up with the 3 used to describe your job, something needs to change. You want people to think that you were made for this job, when they think of a leader in that role- they should think of you immediately.  You can change what people think of you- consistency and authenticity are THE most important take always. Be YOU, and be consistent with your mission statement of what you want to do.

2. Social Media- How will you "brand" yourself? What are your pictures, quotes, comments, etc. say about the person you are? Before you post something, think:

It is approval seeking?
It this a fleeting emotion?
Is it kind?
Would I say it TO the person?
Is this a moment that I want to protect?

So often, we post things without thinking about the long term effects.. I want to keep this in mind when I am bored, and wanting to share a picture, or boast about something personal.  Is this the best way to use my time? Probably not. 

3. Finally, a speaker talked about ways to have more fruitful conversations. In counseling, we NEED this in order to be effective. We need to think of both parties, not make assumptions, think about diversity, and be willing to learn something new. This is very subjective, but I want to improve these skills, and I have the ability to practice everyday!

Below is the schedule, I highly encourage you to check it out!

Feeling extra inspired,
Your Floridian Chick :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

March Results, heading into April with a different :To-Do" list!

March has come and gone within minutes it feels like..During this month,my goals were the following:
1.Finish my 2 girls groups
2. Finish the SS GRIN boys groups
3.Start 2 more lunch bunch groups
1. CHECK! Lunch bunch with 5th grade girls is complete
2. CHECK! This 10 week group is done and I will be starting a new 9 week group next week.
3. Started this week!
After I posted about my March goals, I had a a counselor friend of mine remind me about the importance of to- do lists, and how they can become so important that we lose sight of the bigger picture. There will DEFINITELY be goals that I do not make, but maybe those months, I got to make some great connections with kids who were not on my "list". While these goals are great and creating objectives lists are crucial, they are not THE most important thing. 

For this month of April, my goals are much more subjective:

1. Administer the FCAT to my group of students.
2. Make connections with each one of the people in that small group. 
3. Spend at least one hour in the cafeteria every day, and sit with a different class.

At the end of the month, there will be no objective results to these goals, but hopefully I will feel good about the new relationships I have made. 

Learning as we go,

Your Floridian Chick:)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Why are you HERE?!

Annie and I going through her entire closet!!.

For spring break, I escaped the Florida sun to visit a very wonderful friend of mine, Annie. She and I spent 4 years living together as roommates in college, and she was a bridesmaid in my wedding; if we are being honest here, she has really become more of a sister than anything else.

The reason I share this personal story is because in early August 2013, she suffered a brain Aneurysm- was in a coma, eventually woke up, and is learning to live again.  During my visit, I truly saw passion for living. 

It got me thinking about what I am passionate about: what makes me move, run and search for new answers, drive myself to do better, and what has me thinking outside the box in terms of this career. WHY am I HERE doing this job?!

Our job can be bogged down with so much paperwork, duties, and other tasks that take us away from why we chose this career. When I sat down and thought about what I was passionate about- it came down to two things in this job: The Kiddos- they are hilariously witty, blunt, honest, and think of life in a pure, refreshing way, that adults simply do not. The other passion in this job for me is the Teachers. We have the neat ability to work with adults and children and help foster and build relationships all day long. Their job is incredibly difficult-the individual demands of 25+ people at a time. How do they do it- and for 8 hours a day!?

Annie chose to work for Google and do video editing- to hear her talk about her "pre aneurysm" life and her job, it brought me to this realization that we can complain all day long about the tasks we are "voluntold" to do, but really, we should be thankful to have this wonderful job and career, and think about all the possible relationships we can create when we are ...standing at bus duty.. in the cafeteria.. greeting in the morning...etc.  I am sure that Annie had some stressful parts to her job too- but I never heard anything negative from her. What a gift- only looking at the positives.

If nothing else, this life is crazy and you just don't know what it has it store for us- if you are not living out your passion, go find it- because if you don't do it today- there is a chance you might not ever get it.

With tons of love for "our Annie" and her living her life,

Your Floridian Chick

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

First ever- Coffee with the counselor!

Well this has been on my "Amanda- set a date and make this happen" list for a long time now!

I started by inviting parents in our monthly newsletter and followed up by sending home 1/2 sheet invitations to parents/guardians the week before the event.

I called surrounding donut/breakfast shops in the area until I hit the jackpot- FREE Dunkin Donuts!  Our PTA had a connection at a local Starbucks and was able to pick up a container of coffee at NO cost to serve to our parents. The phone calls went like this: Hi I am calling from your local elementary school, I am the school counselor with a zero dollar budget, but would like to give parents a little breakfast for coming out to participate in a program. I was SO thrilled to see the community support us and thankful that I got to connect with different vendors- even those we did not use.

Each table had different resources
I had 6 tables full of information as you can see in the pictures: 3rd, 4th, 5th grade guidance curriculum, character education materials, small group curriculum, and a table on a local resource center.  On the 5th grade table, I also included information about middle schools.

We had about 15 parents show up- 15 more than there ever has been before! While it was not a huge turn out- it was a great start; it gave me the push I needed to have more parent activities and to get my name and resources out to our community!

Lovin' the smell of coffee, just not the taste!

Your Floridian Chick!

ALWAYS send a thank you card before the day is done!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pep Rally Time!

During the last week in February, the state requires us to test 4th graders in their writing ability. The teachers work very hard from day 1 of school to teach about the types of writing, author's purpose, how to write an interesting, informative, or expository story, and how to capture your audience. The students have been practicing writing prompts around the clock and they were fully prepared to do well. In addition to getting them ready in the classroom, we had a 4th grade only pep rally!  I posted about this last year but I think it is important to change things up every single year- for our own sanity as teachers/counselors, but also to keep things fresh and exciting!

Here is how it all went down!:

  • Students came in to the Middle School band playing
  • Welcome from our principal 
  •  Band plays song
  •  5th grade girls doing a cheer for our 4th graders.
  • Skit put on from our leadership team which included a game show where the contestants shared goofy answers about the writing process.
  •   Band played again as students exited the cafeteria. 
The students could have easily spent this 30 minute period doing another practice prompt- but instead they got to relax, laugh, and see their administration do some crazy things.

I love hearing about ways to make Pep Rally events more exciting and interesting- please share here if you've done anything great at your school! The more ideas- the better!

Playing Cheerleader,

Your Floridian Chick:)

Monday, March 10, 2014

February results, March goals!

My promise in 2014 was to set monthly goals for myself for my school. So the results are in! Let's take a look:

1. Continue SS GRIN for every Thursday in February
2.  Start Ready to learn in 3rd grade for the 10 3rd grade classrooms we have.
3. Start at least ONE lunch bunch group for a specific group of students (thinking girls for behavior?).

1. I am continuing to do my boys SS GRIN group each Thursday in the extended day program. This has been a great way to see more kids and not feel the pressure to get them back to class by a specific time. 
2. I completed 4 of my 5 guidance lessons ism 3rd grade. This week I am trying desperately to fit in the  last group of lessons this week between district meetings and RTI meetings.
3. I did start 2 small groups for girls. We meet during their lunch time and I kept them to 5 girls each. I forget  each time I do a group how much I absolutely love them. They are the perfect way to connect with these students. 

Now for that month of March: I have to admit I have a few obstacles..
1. spring break- 1 full week 
2. district testing- 6-7 school days
3. ESOL testing ( state tests we have to give to students who speak a language other than english at home) 4 school days 

BUT-enough with the bad, let's get to the good!

1.Finish my 2 girls groups
2. Finish the SS GRIN boys groups
3.Start 2 more lunch bunch groups

Here's to working through obstacles, and making moves!

Your Floridian chick 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monique Burrs Foundation

Over the last year and half, I have had the privileged of working with the Monique Burr Foundation  through our county. The district views child abuse prevention as an essential part of elementary curriculum in our schools. While this is an awful topic that I truly hate discussing, it is one that children need to learn about in order to stay safe from strangers, and even those they know. I have been trained in 2 of their programs: The Speak Up Be Safe (SUBS) program, which is now called Child Safety Matters, and Darkness to Light . Child Safety Matters is a program for children in the classroom that teaches prevention; it aims to educate children K-5, and is supported by the DOE in FL, and DCF. The main points about this program entail:

What is child abuse?
Explain what physical, emotional, sexual abuse, and neglect are.
Bullying & cyber bullying- what is it and how to prevent it? 
What to do if you see bullying/cyber bullying?

Now I know what you are thinking: Talking about all these types of abuse in PUBLIC- ELEMENTARY school?! Yes, sadly, these are real issues that need to be addressed. The MBF does a phenomenal job of making the lessons interactive, fun, yet soft enough of an issue that children do not leave scared or worried for their own well being. 

When I attended the Darkness to Light workshop and training, I have to admit- I had no idea what I was in for. I knew that we would be discussing children in some capacity and I figured since the MBF was putting it on, it would include prevention information of some sort. What I was shocked by was how moving these hours were for me. I have never been sexually abused, nor have I heard of anyone personally who has been involved in sexual abuse in any capacity. I left with real names and emotions of people who have had to live through these awful experiences. These people show courage, strength, and resilience. 

This program is adult focused, that shares sad but true stories of sexual abuse. This prevention program left me thinking about these personal stories- days, weeks, and now months later. It is the only national, evidence-based program that teaches adults how to prevent sexual abuse. The intentions of this program are for adults to take this information and use the knowledge to keep students safe. 

I love sharing about this non-profit because it feels only right to share how good things can come from very awful situations. 

Keeping our kids a little safer,

Your Floridian Chick! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Happy Birthday!

One of the committees we have at school is the sunshine committee; the main purpose is to encourage staff and students and to provide activities that will benefit everyone! This year we decided to have monthly breakfasts for staff members who were celebrating their birthday! Everyone is welcome to bring in homemade or store bought treats, and it makes a Friday morning extra special! 
Does your school do anything for staff birthdays? Share your ideas with #SC here! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Principal Counselor reception to celebrate #NSCW14!

During National School Counselor Week 2014, the First Coast Counselor Association held their spring event to honor those principals and counselors who have gone above and beyond for their students. The event was held at a local university from 5-7pm on Wednesday night. FCCA offered tasty appetizers, and recognized one counselor and one principal from different schools in our district. The Monique Burr Foundation helped sponsor the event and Lynn, the executive director spoke about the importance of mental health- this is a wonderful organization and will be posting about them in the weeks to come!

Our guest speaker was one of our school board members speak about how crucial the relationship is between counselor and principal. Personally, I feel that I cannot do my job to the full, without the support of my principal.

It was a wonderful opportunity for principals and counselors to sit OUTSIDE the school walls and enjoy time together. My principal and I got to chat about our lives, laugh a little and eat some treats- one of my favorite activities!:)

A school board member sharing her view of why counseling is great!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Accountability Goals- February!

I told you I would be reporting- honestly- about my January goals, so here they are! To recap, I wrote these goals during winter break to hold myself accountable.

1. Start the  Speak Up Be Safe in our seven  4th grade classrooms.
2. Finish lunch bunch with three 5th grade classes
3. Start the SS GRIN small group for my 3rd grade boys.

1. 4 weeks of  Speak Up Be Safe have been completed! The kids love these lessons and it really is so important to share this difficult information with them.
2. Lunch bunch: in 99 school days, I ate lunch with every single child in the school - 526 to date! It is safe to say that I am full!
3. I have started SS GRIN and am on week 3 of 10! I wish I had started it earlier in the year, but at least it has been started!

February Goals:
1. Continue SS GRIN for every Thursday in February
2.  Start Ready to learn in 3rd grade for the 10 3rd grade classrooms we have.
3. Start at least ONE lunch bunch group for a specific group of students (thinking girls for behavior?).

WAHOO! Here is to the month of love- love for this job, this school, and love for eating lunch!

Floridian Love,
Your Chicka! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Family Academic Night!

In years past, our school had different nights to celebrate each major subject. We began to notice though, that attendance was low for most of these nights. In order to improve attendance and build parent support, we started  "family academic night" This past Thursday all the teachers worked together to create activities for each subject for the whole family to get involved in. This included a science, math, reading, and writing room- all of which had hands on activities for the students and parents. There was also a technology and integrating all subjects seminar as well. It was a great event that people enjoyed! Our district is big on "center rotations" these days, so many of the classrooms had different activities for each particular subject. Here are some of the things we did:

Reading-Making book marks,exchanging books and donating them.
Writing- Experience tasting different foods and writing about how it tasted using sensory details.
Math-playing card games to practice fractions
Science-finding your heart rate and creating electricity with circuits
Technology-Showing parents how to access the grade portals and exposing parents to the classroom technology that their children are using everyday!
Integrating all subjects- practicing calligraphy and how it involves art, social studies, and writing.
I am always looking for new ideas to bring to these family nights, 
Please share here!
Enjoying family fun,
Your Floridian Chick

Friday, January 31, 2014

Superintendents making time for counselors!

Going along with the theme of these last few posts, I am continually amazed by how large this district is. We have 106 elementary schools alone that cover the city of Jacksonville. The superintendent has a very big job, making sure everyone is abiding by the local, state, and national laws, and try to educate dozens of thousands of little people who will one day be running this country.  When you think about how many different jobs make up a district, the counselors are sometimes left to the waste side, trying to cover 10 different bases all at the same time.

I was pleasantly surprised last week to sit down with the Superintendent himself and ask face to face questions. He invited about 15 counselors  from elementary, middle, and high schools across the district to give him the good, bad, and ugly of what we are experiencing during the day to day of our jobs.

He asked simple questions:
1. What has been your high and low of working in this county.
2. What are your concerns?
3. What do counselors need in order to be successful at their job?

It can be easy to invite people to a meeting, it can easy to ask questions; what I was impressed with was that he actually LISTENED and HEARD what we were saying. There are some things that are going very well, but there are others that need help, and he wants to change that.

Advocating for "your people" is crucial, and I am thankful that he wanted to hear what we had to say.

What works in your district?! What needs help?!

Loving this career,
Your Floridian Chick!