Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Season of Change: From one place to another!

It has been quite some time since my last post and felt there was no better time to update than now! While there are many reasons for my absence...the top three would have to be:

  1. My international school job search was running from September of last year until around mid-January. (stressful but exciting)
  2. I accepted a new position ES School Counseling position (PK-2nd) at a school in Jeju, Korea! 
  3. My partner and I have braved the transition and move here and are starting to feel more settled now that the school year has started. 
It was truly difficult to say goodbye to our home for the past three years in Vietnam; however, we are both very excited for new possibilities in Korea! We left our fast-paced life in the city and have traded it in for island life! Jeju is lovely and we feel supported by not only our new school but also our friends and family. I highly encourage you to check out Korea and specifically Jeju if you ever get the chance! Have any specific questions about my experience thus far? Comment below! 

Although it is only September, I feel that the buzzword for this upcoming year will definitely be, GROWTH. I am entering my fourth year as a School Counselor and as I look back on my experience thus far,  I am humbled by the opportunities I have been given and how much I have truly grown as a professional. I couldn't have made it this far without the support from my family, colleagues, administrators, and my partner. What is your buzzword for the year? Who is part of your support team?

In addition to our new move, I have restarted my twitter account and am back in the game! Interested? Follow me on Twitter HERE! I am trying to post weekly to stay up-to-date!
Look out for more updates and posts coming up this year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wins and Fails in Staff Morale Boosting!

We win some, we lose some! Here are some of my WINS and FAILS when it comes to boosting staff morale. I use the terms WIN and FAIL quite loosely as any effort is really a win. The FAILS mentioned below are examples of things that didn't have the full effect that I hoped or took a lot of time/money/energy. Let's start with some positive ones though!

WIN: Bulletin Boards in the Staff Lounge! There are two main bulletin boards that I like to do in the staff lounge that I have found to be successful. One is a stress relief board that I purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers. It was created by Traci R Brown and I have really enjoyed it. The staff liked it too and I had some positive feedback from them. The other that I do is towards the end-of-the-year and there is a quote that says "We Came as Strangers, We Leave as Friends" (my current school has a transient teacher population, however you could change up the quote). I then post a collage of pictures of the staff throughout the year, especially from major school events. I do my best to get as many of the teachers represented as I can. Afterwards, I give the teachers the copy of the picture that was posted. There were quite a few teachers that became emotional when seeing it and overwhelmingly there was a positive response. In my opinion, I feel that both displays can brighten up someone's day!

WIN: "You Have Been Mugged!" initiative. I found this morale boosting activity through Pinterest! The premise is that you take a mug, fill it with small treats and then secretively post it on someone's desk. Their job is to then refill the mug (or buy a new one) and then keep it going by giving it to someone else! This is the first year I have tried it, and it has been a big hit! **It should be noted that there were 3 separate mugs were circulating at one time**

WIN: Random Acts of Kindness Week. Random Acts of Kindness week is a big initiative at our school. We host it in the middle of February, right after our TET holiday. The kids get into it, the teachers get into it, and it is a lot fun! Search under the RAK label on my blog to find out more!

WIN: "From Your School Counselor..." note of the week. I have some stationary in my room that says "From Your School Counselor" at the top. Each week, I try to take the time to write a note to a teacher or staff member who I was thinking about or wanted to recognize. It takes 2 minutes to write a short note and then I leave it on their desk with a piece of candy. It is short, sweet, and to the point. 

WIN: "Mint to Teach" initiative. At the beginning of the year, I gave out Mint Tea satchets with a label that said, "You are Mint to Teach at AIS!". The teachers seem to like the idea and the satchets were very cheap. 

WIN: Keeping candy in your office! Simply put, I keep two jars of candy in my room. One that is fruit-flavored/mint candies and one that is chocolate.Teachers find out quickly that I keep a stash in my room and every time they drop-in I offer them some. A little sweetness can go a long way! 

WIN: Hosting Make-and-Take Mini-workshops. This is something I started new this year and it has been a big success! Once a quarter, I host a mini-workshop (about 30 minutes) and include some free resources for teachers and try to have a hands-on activity as well with it. For example, at the beginning of the year I hosted a "Creating a Cool Down Corner in Your Classroom" make-and-take. The teachers got to make stress balls and were able to take some FREE calm down posters to hang in their classroom/cool down corner. 

FAIL: "You Have Been Socked!"initiative. Last year, before doing the "You have been Mugged!" activity, a teacher approached me suggesting the "You Have Been Socked" activity. The activity is very similar, except you use a Christmas stocking instead. I was concerned about the Christmas theme at first, and didn't really trust my gut. It flopped for a few reasons...1) We only had two stockings 2) Stockings are a lot harder to fill 3) The Stockings became a little gross (things spilling, messy desks, etc) and 4) Some wished that it was not Christmas-related. 

FAIL: All Teacher Breakfasts. I have tried to do this, but I found it to be much more challenging than I thought. 1) It can be expensive, especially if you don't have the funding for it 2) It can be difficult to set up if you are doing it alone. It was pretty tricky for me and I found it to be the most expensive (as I was self-funding), However, I WOULD LOVE to try it again and see if it can work better! Have you tried this before? How did it go? 

FAIL: Wow Book! I love the idea of Wow Books. I think there are ways that it can be done very successfully...however my attempt was not successful. I used a notebook and decorated the cover with stickers and titled it "Wow Book!". It made it through about 3 people to my knowledge before it was forever lost in a sea of school supplies and notebooks. I am not sure where it ended up but it will probably be found at the end of the year when teachers are packing up their rooms! Hahah!

Teachers Pay Teacher Recommendations for Staff Morale Boosters

Monday, December 14, 2015

Staff Morale Boosting: Myths and Realities....

Boosting staff morale, especially during stressful times of the year can be challenging. As the School Counselor, I try my best to establish strong relationships with each one of the teachers and staff members at my school. Before I share some of things I do to help boost staff morale, I wanted to address some MYTHS vs. REALITIES (as I have found them) when it comes to Staff Morale...

MYTH #1: "The School Counselor cannot do much to boost staff morale, that is up to the teachers themselves and the principal."

REALITY #1: Counselors can definitely make a positive impact on the staff morale at their school if they try their best, work with on open heart and open mind, plan effectively, and stay consistent. Nothing will change if no one takes the first step. Changing morale in difficult environments is, by-no-means, a one person job. In an ideal world, everyone would do their part to contribute to a positive work environment...this is not always the case. However, the "ripple of kindness" can be endless, can inspire others and it CAN start with you! 

MYTH #2: "Teacher appreciation gifts and gestures are expensive and time consuming! I don't have time for that!"

REALITY #2: Yes, you are busy. Very busy. As School Counselors, we are constantly pulled in many directions. I understand the hesitation in committing to something else. For me, this part has been something that can be considered nothing more than trial and error. Some things took longer and cost more than I expected, others were surprisingly easy and convenient. Start of small and see where it takes you. There are lots of ways that you can help boost morale without spending money and that will take just a few minutes of your time. Check out some of my favorites below!

MYTH #3: "Teachers (especially Elementary Teachers) LOVE cute acts of kindness or recognition. Everyone will be on board if you do something like that!"

REALITY #3: No matter where you go, there are people that enjoy challenging positive initiatives and it may seem that they actually enjoy being negative. This goes for schools too! As a Pinterest fan, I find tons of cute staff morale boosting activities online. I have tried quite a few and it never fails, there is always AT LEAST one person who thinks it is silly or dumb, doesn't want to participate, or feels like it is too much or not enough. You can't please everyone, but I have found that most people have a positive response. 

MYTH #4: "People just don't care at my school. Nothing will help until this teacher/principal/director/etc. is gone!"

REALITY #4: More often than not, the people in your building do genuinely care about what they do and how they feel. There are always some people (as mentioned before) that don't respond positively no matter what you do. Try your best not to take it personally and KEEP trying. Some day you may strike a cord with them or someone you have encouraged may strike that cord with them! You never know where things can go and each new year can be full of surprises. It can be easy to get frustrated with negativity and negative people at your school. Remember, you can be the light for others and while your efforts may go thankless, they DO make a difference. 

So get out there, see what you can do to boost some staff morale! YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Have questions, comments, feedback? Share below!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Career Centers for Early Elementary!

Whenever I started as an Elementary School Counselor, I struggled with how to incorporate careers and career education into my program. This past year (my second year as a counselor), I decided to test out some ideas for career education during the scheduled guidance time. I ran a career unit that lasted about a month and wanted to make it as hands-on and interactive as possible for the students. I love doing centers with my younger classes so I thought it may be fun to do some play-based career centers for students to rotate through. 

I decided to run four different centers to start off with and included tools that the career-person may use.

Bakery Center:play-dough, cookie cutters, rolling pin, measuring cups and spoons, spatula, and design-your-own-cupcake/cake laminate sheets. 

Vet Center: stuffed dog, various animal figurines, latex gloves, various kid-friendly medical tools, and laminated vet check-up page with dry erase markers.

Construction Center: Jenga blocks, various builders and connectors, laminated graph paper, laminated floor plans, dry erase markers, hard hat, and  foam geometric shapes.

Story board center: I found some laminated career storyboards online where students can create their own story with different pictures. I will post the link whenever I get the chance!

Overall, the kids LOVED it. Many of them said it was their favorite guidance class ever. It was a lot of fun for me as well as I got to see how creative the students could be and got a chance to connect with each of the different groups. 

What centers have you used in your guidance program? What other career activities do you enjoy?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Friday 5: FIVE AMAZING CHILDREN'S BOOKS I use in my Counseling program!

Hello Again and Happy FRIDAY!
Today's FRIDAY 5 is Five Children's Books that I use in my Counseling Program and how I use them! Check em' out and share your favorites below!

**These are in NO particular order**


#5: It's Okay To Be Different, Written and Illustrated by: Todd Parr
To be honest, I love ALL of Todd Parr's books. They are all wonderful, colorful, and are great for kids. I use his books a lot and read this book with a Kindergarten class during their story time and as well used it for my "Redesign A Favorite Book Cover" Door Contest as my school during our 2014 Book Week in March. The book has fun pictures and pages about how we are all unique and that it is great to be different. This Teach Idea Factory Blog has other FUN ideas to use with the book including making a class book.

#4: Miss Rumphius, Written and Illustrated By: Barbara Cooney
I love this book and used it with my 4th grade students during a Classroom lesson during Random Acts of Kindness Week. The book is about a woman who follows her dreams and also makes the world a more beautiful place. When I first read the book, it tugged at my heart strings quite a bit. After we read the story, we discussed the plot and tied the conversation into how Random Acts of Kindness can make the world more beautiful. We also watched this video tied into RAK. Then, I had each student write their own list of ways they can make the world a more beautiful place.

#3: The Hundred Dresses, By Eleanor Estes
This is one of my most favorite children's books. I remember my fifth grade teacher reading this book to me when I was in elementary school and it truly stuck with me. I typically read this book with grades 4-5 during my Bullying Awareness Unit for Classroom Guidance. The message of the story is still very applicable to students, even though it was published in 1944. I find the students get "sucked in" to the story and many of them have checked out the book independently after hearing in guidance.

#2. The Sneetches and Other Stories, By: Dr. Seuss 
As a huge fan of Dr. Seuss (who isn't?!?) I have to add The Sneetches in here. I have used this with grade 2-5 and they seem to love it. I have used this to teach about Diversity, Exclusion, Discrimination, Cliques, etc. This is a classic that I find I use again and again! Definitely worth a purchase!

#1: The Monster Who Lost His Mean, By: Tiffany Strelitz Haber and Illustrated By: Kirstie Edmunds
I used this awesome book with my first grade students and I loved it. The book is about a Monster who loses his mean and then more or less realizes he is happier being a nice "Onster" instead of a "Monster". I tied this into a 3-lesson unit I found from The School Counselor's Chronicle Blog. The unit was focused on being assertive and not acting like a "Monster" or a "Mouse". I read the book to the students and then we did a role-play activity and the students pretended to first be "Monsters" and then to "Lose their Mean" and handle it like the "Best Me, I can be!" Needless to say, it was entertaining and a LOT of fun.

For more information about Books for School Counselors check out this link for the Books That Heal Blog!

So, now I want to know... WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 5?!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday 5: Five USEFUL and VALUABLE TPT purchases for School Counselors! (IMO)

I had a lot of positive feedback from my last "Friday 5" post  so I thought I would post another. This week's focus is my current TOP 5 TPT School Counseling purchases that I have made so far. I have a few favorite sellers from TPT so it was difficult to choose my top 5 purchases. 

The following purchases are ones that I use frequently and have been well-worth the money. If you are like me, you pay for most (if not all) of your counseling resources out of pocket; it is very important to make sure they are worth every penny! In my opinion, the following ARE! 
  1. Emotions Posters and Writing Worksheets from Artrageous Fun
  • Cost: $3.00 
  • Reasons Why I love it: As a new counselor, I found that I needed some low cost items to "jazz up" my room. I found the posters to be fun AND functional. They are colorful and can be used to show examples of facial expressions and body language. One set includes descriptions of the feeling and the other set just has only the name of the feeling listed. I have both sets up in my room and refer to them often. I keep the "worksheet" that was included on my wall and use it as a "talking tool" to help students verbalize their feelings.
2. Social Skills Program from Crazy Days Counseling
  • Cost: $2.00 
  • Reasons Why I love it: I have referenced "Crazy Days Counseling" before as one of my favorite sellers in my last "Friday 5 post" AND in my Social Skills Group post. I LOVE this packet. I found it very useful for my students and really enjoyed the "Super Skills Challenge" page. The graphics are nice as well and it is an easy format to use for small groups. 
  • Cost: $3.50 
  • Reasons Why I love it: I have also referenced this seller before in my last "Friday 5 post". I really do love these positive affirmations cards and find them useful not only in individual sessions but also small groups. The cards are also well designed and colorful. I find myself going to them quite often!
  • Cost: $5.00
  • Reasons Why I love it: I know, I know, another product from The Helpful Counselor. I just love the products they make and this one is no exception. $5.00 is a lot to spend on something for me but I found that the design of the cards and the questions have been really helpful. I use them individually, within small groups, and also use them in my classroom guidance lessons in opening and closing activities. Another plus is that the kids like the cards because they are colorful and cute. They always ask to use them when they come to my room.
  • Cost: $4.50
  • Reasons Why I love it: I find the activities in this packet to be very useful. I typically use them with my lower elementary kiddos and have enjoyed using them in classroom guidance and small groups when focusing on friendship. The games listed are fun, interactive, and easy to implement. An added bonus of this packet is that it is tied into two different children's books as well which make it a quick an easy guidance lesson option.
Are you a TPT user? What are your favorite purchases for counseling? 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

R.A.K Week- Spreading the Kindness at AIS!

This week is Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 9-13th). Last year, I had a lot of fun planning R.A.K week and spreading the kindness all over my school. This year, I decided to take it a step further and try to make R.A.K week bigger and BETTER!

**DISCLAIMER** I will admit, I am a thief when it comes to good ideas. I took some ideas from School Counseling blogs and Pinterest mainly.. I will do my best to give credit where credit is due! 

Here are some of the things I did to help celebrate R.A.K week at my school! 

  • Morning Announcements: Each day of R.A.K week, I tried to have a little blurb about Random Acts of Kindness. I kept it short, sweet, and direct. Here is an example of one of the morning announcements: 
    • Today is DAY 1 of Random Acts of Kindness Week! This week, try to go ABOVE and BEYOND to spread kindness. A simple way to spread kindness is to say something nice. Who can you say something nice to? A teacher, a security guard, a canteen worker, a cleaner, another student, ANYONE!
  • Staff Lounge display: It can be difficult to get staff buy-in sometimes, so this year I tried to do something to reach out and appeal to them. In our staff lounge, I posted up some R.A.K week ideas they could use in their classroom. I also added a gum ball machine where staff could write RAKs they received from other teachers. I found this awesome idea from Elementary School Counseling Website
  • Student Display: Since R.A.K week is so close to Valentines day, I also created a display for our students that said "What will your next R.A.K be?" and posted different ideas on heart cut outs. I also included some pictures as well. The display didn't turn out that great, but it definitely got the idea across.
  • Classroom Guidance Lessons: I see every class in grades 1-5 once within a six day cycle. I used the designated "guidance time" (40 minutes) to introduce R.A.K week and give each student a R.A.K challenge to complete!

    1. With grade one, we made a craft to say thank you to our teachers. After school was out, I snuck into their rooms and taped the cards on their computers. They were quite surprised to see them the next morning and the students were excited to be a part of the surprise! Students also watched the video Color the World with Kindness
    2. With grade two, we made origami paper hearts and wrote letters or nice encouraging words on the hearts to deliver to teachers. We also watched this video and discussed how kind acts can cause a "ripple effect". The students loved the video and even asked to watch it twice. The origami hearts will be delivered to teachers at the end of the week. 
    3. Unfortunately, grade three missed their guidance lessons due to a school-wide event, however their classroom teachers still reinforced kindness in the classroom and did some seperate activities to celebrate R.A.K week. After getting back from our break, the grade three students will receive a lesson on "Keeping the Kindness going!" though. 
    4. Grade four viewed a power point of kindness quotes and ideas that I purchased for Teachers Pay Teachers. They also helped create large-scale cards for some of our specialist teachers and departments. Some of the cards we made were for PE, Music, Library, and Art. The students were also able to help deliver their work to the teachers.
    5. Grade five was focusing on their Middle School Survival Unit during this time and didn't receive the same focus lesson on kindness as the other students. However, to still encourage Random Acts of Kindness, I had students take a R.A.K from the "Kindness Bucket" and challenged them to complete the act before the end of the week. Next year, I will try to plan better so that they can focus on R.A.K week as well. 
  • Small R.A.Ks: Separate from the student led R.A.Ks, I also wanted to spread some kindness around to people within the school. I left pieces of candy and "You have been R.A.Ked" notes on the desks of teachers, assistants, our principal, some of our other various staff members just to help spread some of the love. 
Overall, I think that this R.A.K week has been a successful one thus far! I can't wait to find more activities to celebrate R.A.K week and make it better each and every year! What did you do to R.A.K week?