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