Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry?...Happy?...Learning to be the "Politically correct" counselor

December: the most joyful month of the year. It is a time when family and friends get together and enjoy one anther's company.. To be honest, when I think of December, one things comes to mind: Christmas. Yet as a counselor, our role is to be accepting of others, compassionate, open, and loving towards those we work with. After just googling "December holidays", this is the list that came up:
  • Ramadan (Muslim)
  • Eid al-Fitr (Muslim)
  • Saint Nicholas Day (Christian)
  • Eid'ul-Adha (Muslim)
  • Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican)
  • St. Lucia Day (Swedish)
  • Hanukkah (Jewish)
  • Christmas Day (Christian)
  • Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian)
  • Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish)
  • Kwanzaa (African American)
  • Omisoka (Japanese)
Sadly, I did not know some of these holidays existed yet  I expect everyone else to know the "in's and out's" of Christmas.  My view of December is quickly changing, and maybe for the better. If I want to decorate my office with a tree, I feel that I should have a menorah, a crescent moon and star, and Kwanza candles on display as well. The more I learn, the more I grow, and what better way to learn about other religions and cultures than to talk to those who experience them : the children and their families.

So Happy, Merry, bless, and cheers to those who celebrate December in all forms, ways, places, and celebrations!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

PSCA Conference: The importance of sharing ideas.

I am still so excited about Friday that I just had to share it with the rest of the blogging world. Hundreds of Pennsylvania school counselors met in Lancaster  this past Wednesday-Saturday  for the 56th annual PSCA conference. I had never been there before and was amazed to see the ideas and research people were sharing. Over the course of this school year, I have come to fully appreciate the value of the sharing of information. In order to be a great school counselor, it is imperative to spread your ideas as well as try the ideas of others.

Brian Law, President Elect of ASCA( 2010-2011), held a seminar about celebrating school counseling. He is a true example of a skilled leader who is making a difference in this world.  In a tough economy, it is safe to say that school counseling jobs are scarce, yet we need to show anyone and everyone how important this profession is and the dramatic differences that a counselor can make in a school. In order to do this, we need to collect current and relevant data on problem areas, implement programs that will help student succeed and finally evaluate what has been done and what needs further help. If you ever have the chance to hear the southern voice of Brian Law, I highly recommend it.

On a Northern note, I also had the opportunity to hear Barbara Micucci speak about a small group she created for Siblings of Special needs children. Not only was I amazed by her passion for what she does, it also made me stop and think about ALL the "untapped" groups of individuals that I have not reached out to.  I have been involved with many divorce, self-esteem, friendship, and grieving  groups, which are all clearly very important and  helpful, yet what about children who are experiencing unique lifestyles and think they are the only ones who are going through it? The siblings of those with special needs may not get the voice that they need, but Barb Micucci gave them a voice; which is making me think... whose voice am I not hearing?

The executive board of PSCA

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The hidden rapports that help the most

When I think of who a school counselor works with, the obvious come to mind: the students, the parents, the teachers, and administration. As the semester is coming to a close, I am realizing more and more the importance between the counselor and ..(drum roll please..)

                                                    THE principal!

When I look at my supervisors school and think of all the people she has built a solid rapport with, the principal is clearly a front runner. After having spent multiple years together, they know their own roles, and the role of the other person as well. My supervisor tells the principal what he needs to know, and at the same time, keeps an appropriate level of confidentiality with her students. This principal does not feel the need to know every detail because he truly trusts the counselor and lets her do her job so he can do his job to the best of his ability. I also had no idea how hard it was to be a principal.  They are constantly being pulled in 10 different directions and need to support, advocate and be a boss to everyone in the school. It seems like a difficult role and takes a structured, hard-working personality to succeed in.

It is trust, honesty, and a genuine respect for the other person that goes far in this school and I feel fortunate to be watching a healthy relationship continue to unfold. It enables both the counselor and the principal to do the best job that they can and do what helps the students the most. So to my future principal, I would love to work WITH you, supporting students in all they do so they can achieve.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Homework without Headaches workshop

Our school is having a workshop tonight dedicated to 3rd and 4th grade students who want help with their homework and how to most effectively complete it without the headache!

Some of the most important points in creating a positive environment for the student are the following:

-Create an "office" for the student-a place to call their own. Have the child set it up the way THEY like it!
-Build a "tool kit" of things they will need to succeed; this may include scissors, pencils, tape, erasers, etc.
-Have a HEALTHY snack! This could be any fruits, vegetables, granola bars, yogurt, or popcorn.
-Remind the child of the ME in hoMEwork! It is their own work to do, not the parent, or teacher.
-Allow a SHORT break during homework time, to get any extra energy out. This could be 10 jumping jacks, running in place for a minute.

In order for students to be the best they can be, we need to encourage independence and give them an environment at home to do that.

I definitely encourage others to consider creating a workshop to help both parents and children with the topic of homework. It can benefit home life and school life and make the job of the parent and the student easier!

This questionnaire below might be a great way to start off your workshop to get a feel for how each student is doing with their homework.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How the national news effects a local elementary school

Every single day for the last week when I have turned on the television, the Penn State scandal continues to unfold. When I initially heard of this event, I thought of the victims, their families, and what PSU was going to do to make things right. Yet I thought little of the nation wide implications that this would have on a little elementary school in my area.
Today, I was happily mistaken; the school district sent out emails, talked with the counselors, and had a meeting to discuss the idea of mandated reporting. While we hope/think that this kind of incident at PSU would never happen, unfortunately, it does. It is crucial to have a plan of action and to let EVERYONE and ANYONE know the rules of reporting suspected/witnessed events that could be abusive. From this event that happened hundreds of miles away, an entire school district is reminded of the importance our jobs; childrens' safety must always come first. As this year continues to unfold, I look forward to seeing the connections that occur between the world outside and this small elementary school tucked away in the northeast.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Do you know your school nurse?

Do you know how important the school nurse is? If you don't- let me give you the inside scoop- he/she is INCREDIBLY UNBELIEVABLY IMPORTANT!! When I first met the school nurse at my internship, I said a friendly hello, introduced myself, heard her name, and put it in the back of my brain for when a student was feeling sick in the cafeteria in weeks to come. Yet then I saw her in the counseling office, then again in the main office, and then again when the school counselor and I were in HER office. I have come to love this woman; the school nurse is a mother to students from 8:55-3:32pm Monday through Friday. She is kind, supportive and very aware of when someone is actually sick, and when they need to see the counselor (which occurs often). I had no idea the relationship that the school counselor and nurse would have until I was here everyday. They are constantly communicating about students and parents, who has come and gone out of her office and any information that might pertain to the counselor. So, thank you wonderful school nurse for working with and for the students and helping make the school day easier for not only the students, but for counselors as well!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lunch: THE most important meal of the day!

I hear about students concerns in the counseling room, in the classrooms, and sometimes in the hallways. Yet of all the places in the school, I would have ever thought that I would learn as much as I am as when I am in the faculty break room. My supervising school counselor has instilled in me the great idea of taking advantage of our lunch time. It is incredibly beneficial to eat with the people who are teaching the students you are working with each and every day. We are hearing about issues in the classroom, concerns from the teachers, and the exchange of ideas about interventions that may help children succeed.

This time has been great to get to know the personalities of the teachers as well.  It is nice to see them outside the classroom and hear about their families, and life outside the walls of the school. I had no idea how important lunch was until I started to listen. When I begin working as an official school counselor next year, I will definitely be eating with the faculty- it is the best time to get to know them, and to get to know your students  even better.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New students

Since this was my first year at the elementary school I am interning at, I felt the same type of "gitters" that many new students may feel. The new hallways, new classrooms, new friends, new teachers; the list goes on and on. To make our new friends feel at home at their new school, each student had a personal meet and greet with us, and then had their picture taken. The student had the opportunity to create their own frame for the picture. The frames and pictures are hung up outside the main office. I love seeing the students face when they see their picture for the first time; it makes them feel welcome and at home!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The importance of P-L-A-Y (dough)!

Through volunteer work, internships, teaching pre-school,  and just spending time with young people, I have seen how play can impact a child. I feel that play is incredibly useful to develop creativity as well as social skills. When students come into the counseling office, I want my room to be filled with different toys for them to play with. From what I have been able to see, some children are able to communicate better through play than through their words.

A toy that I have found to be  useful is Play-dough. I decided to try to make my own and used the recipe below to make it! It was very easy and I highly recommend it. It is non-toxic and I think that it tends to last longer than regular play-dough that you might find at a store. So enjoy and I hope you are able to bring this simple recipe into your office so kids will be able to use it and talk while still having something to "play" with!

Basic ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)
food coloring (liquid, powder, or unsweetened drink mix)

1.Mix all of the ingredients together, and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken until it resembles mashed potatoes.
2.When the dough pulls away from the sides and clumps in the center,remove the pan from heat and allow the dough to cool enough to handle.

3.Make a divot in the center of the ball, and drop some food coloring in. Fold the dough over, working the food color through the body of the play dough, trying to keep the raw dye away from your hands and the counter. You could use gloves or plastic wrap at this stage to keep your hands clean.
Since it is almost Halloween, I decided to make it orange but you can do any color you want!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

And so it begins...

After heading to a seminar last week for the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association (PSCA), called "How to be a tech savvy school counselor", I felt completely intrigued by the idea of creating a blog about my life as an intern. So here I am! This is all about the  resources I am learning about and using to become the best counselor I can be. I will be graduating in May and am looking forward to starting my career. As for now, I am acting like a sponge- soaking up every detail/idea that is given to me and challenging myself to think outside the box.  As the ideas continue to come my way, I promise to post about the great ones and tell you how I would tweek them to make them my own. So followers- enjoy this journey with me; you will be hearing from me soon enough!