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I've received a lot of emails from my readers, asking me to describe how I spend my time and why I love my job.
Instead of writing a long post about this topic, I decided to make a VERY LONG (nearly 30 minute) podcast, which you'll find on the left.
In this video, I explain how I organize my schedule. I also reveal the pros and cons of the school counseling profession, as I see them. If you're able to watch the whole video, you'll hear about one of my recent success stories that may help you in your own school counseling journey.
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How often do students come to you with friendship problems? My guess would be VERY often. A common issue I see, especially as students get older, is the friendship triangle, where someone is always left out. In many cases, one student feels pulled between two friends he/she likes and doesn't want to choose which one to play with. One Man Band
offers a comical depiction of that "stuck in the middle" feeling. This short film would work as a perfect discussion starter.
For an additional friendship triangle activity, check out my Dear Tim
page. My poor puppet friend is having the same problem. :(
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Show your students how special and unique they are by writing notes on these beautiful Pixar notecards
! Vol. 2
was also just released.
Day 4!La Luna is a beautiful story about a young boy learning "the family business." Both his father and grandfather
try to push their views, but the boy learns to find his own way.This short film could help students reflect on the pressure they feel from others (friends, family, peers, strangers) to act a certain way.
To facilitate the discussion, try using the workpage below. It will you give a revealing look into the minds of your students.
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This came from a colleague - I'm unsure of the original source.
In my day-to-day school counseling world, I spend a lot of time reading between the lines. I am constantly scanning my surroundings to informally check-in with hundreds of students and dozens of staff members. In the hallway, we exchange our "Hi, how are you?" pleasantries, but the responses are typically riddled with hidden messages.
A few years ago, I had one clever student explain to me that he always responds with "good" because it's not bad enough or special enough to warrant further conversation. When you want to disappear, bland vocabulary can be your best friend. When you need help, but are afraid to ask, "fine" can be all that squeaks out.
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A friend of mine recently posted this thought-provoking video on Facebook. It deals with the underlying causes of bullying, particularly why individuals feel the need to lash out and hurt others.
I must warn you that this video contains some harsh language and mature themes. I still, however, felt it was important to share because school counselors work with both sides of bullying and must find a way to pull back the layers of lies, hurt, embarrassment, shame, and fear to get to the truth. Only then can there be hope of long-term solutions.
With that, I'll leave you to have a GREAT (not good) day!
Do you have students who are chronically negative? Typically, these children have trouble making and keeping friends, often feeling rejected by their peers and the world at large. This is a "chicken or the egg" situation: Which came first, the rejection or the negativity?
I think it's important to empathize with students who feel excluded, but we still must address what students CAN control. While they cannot control their environment, they can certainly control how they respond to it. We, of course, must be mindful of mental health diagnoses and trauma that may contribute to a student's negativity. Therefore, some of my ideas may not apply to those specific situations.
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A few weeks ago, I saw this video (left) on Saturday Night Live. It's about a man dealing with his complicated personal life while starting a new job as a mouse mascot.
This is for comedic purposes, but still shows how negativity and sadness can affect how a person responds to his/her environment. In the movie, whenever someone neglects to wave back, even if it was unintentionally dismissive, the man adds more proof to his negativity bank - "See, you were right. Everyone DOES hate you."
Additionally, this SNL video shows how uncomfortable and frustrating sadness and chronic negativity can be for other people.
Children (and, let's face it, many adults) often have little patience for negativity. When students' interventions, such as asking him/her to play or trying to rationalize why something "isn't so bad," do not work, it's easier for them to give up and blame the negative peer for not trying hard enough.
So, what do you do? I always give my students the first few minutes of a session to vent. Then, we move on to the positives so that I don't feed into the negativity and make it worse. For kiddos who struggle with identifying happy thoughts, I create a sticker chart to track all of the positives they can share with me. Each session, they have to name 3 good things in their life. Then, if they are able to complete the task, they add a sticker to the chart. We set a goal for the number of stickers we want to earn and once they reach their goal, they get to pick a prize from my prize box.
After a few weeks of tracking positive thoughts, I definitely notice a difference in my students. They come up to me to share good news and smile more. We also reflect on how their positive attitude feels, how it impacts their school day, and how others students respond to them.
In a world of uncertainty, we have to focus on what we can control. In the words of Albus Dumbledore, "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light."
Let's help our students flip the switch and see the world through different eyes.
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I know I say this all the time, but Pixar
is one of the best resources for school counselors.
"Boundin'" is part of Pixar's short film collection
. As described on Amazon
: "A shearing leaves a dancing sheep humiliated until a jackalope passes by and
demonstrates that it's what's inside that counts."
I use this short film with my small groups to help build positive relationships. After viewing the video, we discuss how the sheep felt and how the jackalope was a good friend. Then, I give each student a workpage (above). I write a group member's name on each student's paper, then explain that they must write and/or draw something nice about that person. In this way, they are acting like the jackalope, helping their group friends feel good about themselves.
Once everyone has finished their work, we share our words and/or pictures one at a time. Then, I ask for the receiver to say how they feel after hearing the positive feedback - I record their response at the bottom of the paper. I make copies of the projects for my own documentation, but let the students keep their originals, which serve as a reminder of how valued they are.
The video is also great with individual students who may focus on the negative aspects of their life. The jackalope shows the sheep that bad things happen and sometimes, you just need to keep moving forward until you feel better again; you can't let every little thing get you down.
Do you ever get bored of the same old board games? Well, try changing the rules of other games to meet your specific school counseling needs. Typically, it's just a matter of changing the questions.
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One of my favorite games to revamp is How to Train Your Dragon: Dragon Training 101
. The board is VERY simple, so you can create your own questions for students to answer. I use it to discuss anger (the "dragon" that needs to be trained).
I ask students questions based on the issues they are currently experiencing. This allows for even greater game play flexibility.
You could use this game with students in both individual and small group counseling settings.
A few months ago, I posted
a video (right) about creating your own games. This is an inexpensive, yet effective, way to help your students.
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Want to save a little time?
for free printable board game templates.
You could print, laminate, and design countless games for your students to play and learn from.
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Every other month, my school has grade level team meetings that focus on core instruction and student behavior. For the behavior section, I bring data and facilitate a discussion on how to manage the personal/social concerns of our students. This year, I decided to bring 1-2 behavior management strategies to each meeting as a way to introduce fresh, exciting ideas.
The ice cube strategy (described at Entirely Elementary...School Counseling
blog) is great for individual students and small groups. I altered the technique slightly by having numbers on the cubes instead of words. That way, you can reuse the cubes with different cool down strategies. Click here
to purchase your own ice cubes.
Here is a different behavior management technique (from the Something to Chirp About
blog) that is easy to explain and implement with your students. When your group demonstrates positive behaviors, you add a part to Mr. Potato Head
. If they put him back to together, then your group can earn a reward, whatever you decide is most appopriate.
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Download your own checklist for free!
I have received a lot of questions regarding what new school counselors need for their offices. Here are my Top 10 supplies for elementary school counselors, which expands upon this list
that I made in July. I'm sure I missed some of your favorites, but like I always say, every building is different.
10. Behavior Management
Students use Play-Doh
as a fidget while talking or as a way to show me how they are feeling.
4. Video Camera
Students love building with LEGOs
. It's fun and I learn a lot about their thoughts and feelings.
I use books
ALL the time to teach specific concepts.
3. Happy Cup and Sad Cup
is great way to manage small group behaviors!
2. Portable Sandtray
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Everyone should create a portable sandtray
All of my students, including my moody, "too cool for school" 6th graders, love working with the sand. The best part is that I can take a picture of the final product; I give one copy to the student and keep one for myself. It's an easy way to help document my individual counseling sessions! Plus, my students love having a picture of their work.
1. School Puppet
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Tim, my school puppet, is probably the best idea I've had since starting my school counseling career. Tim teaches students positive school behaviors, livens up school-wide programs, and is a wonderful incentive for students on behavior plans. He even helped with my 2012-2013 office tour
To learn more about Tim, click here
I have received a lot of emails regarding documentation and school counseling planners. Renee Stack, one of my district's elementary school counselors, sent out a bunch of great forms that could definitely meet your needs.
| Weekly Counseling Schedule (WORD)|
|File Size: ||19 kb|
|File Type: || docx|
Here's what I use...
I print the cover on cardstock and the pages on regular white printer paper. The inside pages are back-to-back.
| Schedule Cover (WORD)|
|File Size: ||380 kb|
|File Type: || doc|
| Weekly Schedule Pages|
|File Size: ||173 kb|
|File Type: || pdf|
More about how I document...