Here's a quick summary of how I've started the 2014-2015 school year at my building:
Our staff decorated our building with a "Surfing into a New School Year" theme. Here's a sample bulletin board introducing our staff to students and parents.
Very similar to last year's office. Here are some pictures and a video of my space.
I used a LEGO theme to introduce/reintroduce myself to my students. The students loved it, especially because of The LEGO Movie. Check out additional beginning of the year lessons here. Make your custom LEGO icon here.
Transitions are difficult. I spend a lot of time throughout the school year working with my 6th graders on building their self-confidence and important life skills. You can find some of my lessons here.
After one of my lessons, I asked students to complete an exit slip (which I use often to determine what they learned and what they want to learn more about). This time, I used the information to determine which students might benefit from additional support with the transition to 7th grade. This could definitely be used with other grades, though.
I try my hardest to avoid gender stereotyping. I often hear adults explain a student's behavior based on what society expects from boys and girls. You've heard it before...
"He's just a boy. He's going to hit someone if they start something."
"She's just a girl. She's a little emotional sometimes."
There are countless variations, but the message is the same: Boys are strong, confident, and aggressive; girls are gentle, sweet, and emotional. When little boys fall, we tell them they are fine and to dust themselves off. When little girls scrape their knees, we hug them and wipe their tears away. We, as a society, send a clear message about what we expect from each gender and we do this often without realizing it.
Is this a big deal, you may be asking? I know branching out and expanding our minds when it comes to gender stereotyping can be threatening to those who fear change. It can be threatening when an individual may benefit from the stereotype and/or when he or she genuinely enjoys their role. What I worry about is the shame boys and girls feel when they don't fit in. I worry about the box they feel stuck in and the environment that's stifling their development.
So, where am I going with this? Well, school counselors have an opportunity to expose students to different ideas and encourage their interests and special skills. We can help a young girl who loves math gain the confidence she needs to stick with her advanced coursework and join math-related clubs, even if there are few females doing the same. We can support a boy who loves to dance more than he loves shooting hoops. We can love the students who DO fit their gender stereotypes and find ways to help them love, respect, and understand those who don't. And vice versa.
Elementary School Counseling.org was recognized by MastersInCounseling.org as one of their favorite school counseling websites! Check out the complete list here.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a This American Life episode called "Bad Baby," which discussed some cases of extreme behaviors in children, the prognosis for overcoming those behaviors, and why the "badness" started in the first place.
I only have my 5 years of school counseling experience to draw on, but I've seen many students exhibit intense behaviors (i.e. biting, hitting, running, swearing, threatening, etc.). I have some interventions in my back pocket and some that I make up on the fly out of necessity, but it can be difficult to discern what those students truly need. We observe, experiment with behavior plans, track and analyze data, attempt to determine the function of certain behaviors...but sometimes, our efforts just don't work. It can be frustrating for a school building to work so hard for seemingly no results. Parents feel helpless because they are often dealing with the same behaviors (perhaps even more intense versions of them) at home. Other students may be scared. So...how can we help a student in crisis? I wish the answer was as simple as finding the last remaining puzzle piece and putting it into place.
Unfortunately, I offer no answers in this post, just questions. I encourage you to listen to this episode - SERIOUSLY, you won't regret it.
Post your thoughts about extreme student behaviors in the comment section. Have great tips? Please post those too! :)
As you may know, I am currently expecting a baby in May. When I used to imagine pregnancy as this hypothetical, may-never-happen scenario, I thought that it would be a magical, "I'm at peace" type of experience. I thought about what my growing stomach would represent - life, a new beginning, love. I thought about "the glow" that you would radiate, like your own personal sunshine.
Well, that's not exactly what I've experienced.
You know the comments: Are you sure you aren't having twins? Whoa, you've really gotten big! That baby is going to be huge! You look even bigger today than you did yesterday. Are you sure you're going to make it?
I know they mean well, so I smile and give one of my prepared "I know" responses. But inside? I feel defeated. I feel judged. I feel completely uncomfortable in my own skin. I feel that every minute of every day is an opportunity for someone to label my body. There are mornings when I get dressed and I look in the mirror feeling really good about myself...then I go out in public, receive the verdict on my personal appearance, and instantly get put back in my place. A place that I haven't been in a long time. I DO have to note that I have MANY loving, encouraging, and accepting individuals in my life who help pull me back up and dust off my insecurities. And, like I said earlier, I don't think the negative comments are meant to be negative. It's like a well-meaning gift wrapped in sandpaper. It stings to open it, but it's not malicious.
For the majority of my life, I've been content with my body. It was able to move easily, fit into the clothes I wanted to wear, and had a sort of "invisibility cloak" that exempted me (for the most part) from public scrutiny. Now, I have to adjust to a completely different set of life experiences and expectations for what my day is going to look like. I find myself wanting to stay inside, avoiding the awkward encounters.
Recently, I REALLY got to thinking. What would I tell a student who felt judged for his or her appearance? I'd advise them to tell people how they felt. Have I done that? No, I haven't. My instinct was to protect the jury from embarrassment or guilt by being "nice." I also felt that their judgment of my body had to be right, so it became my inner monologue. I started to worry so much about hearing those words that when they happened, it confirmed the ever-booming voice in my head: "See, there IS something wrong with you."
Want to teach your students about self-esteem?
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Bouncy Bands slide onto the legs of a desk, allowing the student to bounce his/her feet and apply pressure without making noise or disturbing the learning process. They are safe, effective, and affordable. The best part, as explained in the Bouncy Bands FAQ section, you can use the Bouncy Bands template to make your own. This means that even more students can benefit from a product like this one.
At my school, we are lucky to have support from students, staff, and parents regarding sensory breaks and classroom-based supports. We have students using a variety of sensory aids, so these "extras" are not seen as weird and typically do not draw negative attention. My students love the tension and release that a band provides; it helps them focus when focusing is usually a struggle.
If you are at a school with few sensory supports, I still think Bouncy Bands could be introduced quite easily. They are inexpensive and simple enough to have larger sets (and therefore, fewer "that's weird" or "that's different" reactions). They are quiet, which is a major selling feature. They are also easy to remove and reuse.
Want to try out Bouncy Bands for yourself? Simply visit the order page of the Bouncy Bands website for more information.
Do you have a product that you would like me to review on my blog? If so, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd be happy to check out your work and spread the word to my readers.