This month, my school district's core value is "excellence."
I decided to shake things up a bit and try a new lesson with my kindergartners. It turned out to be a very cute, but still educational classroom lesson.
To learn more about this activity, click here.
If you would like to check out our presentation and download our handouts, click here.
The past few months have been the busiest I've ever had. I just bought a house (which came with its own lovely complications and workload), closed a play (Did I mention that I had to perform with a dialect, learn fight choreography, and be on stage a LOT?), moved in with my parents while construction took place at my house (yeah, my apartment was re-rented...), spent every free afternoon and evening taking down wallpaper (NEVER use wallpaper), supervised and continuing to supervise my very first intern (she's awesome!), prepped for 2 presentations (I must have done that in my sleep...well, it sure felt like I was asleep), and faced a pretty big personal milestone (later, friends). Somewhere in there I fit in my regular job and spending time with friends and family.
So, needless to say, something had to give. Unfortunately for my readers, that meant blogging. I thought about it every single day, but just didn't have the time or the energy to do it.
Here's the good news: I am moving, officially, into my home this Saturday. My play is over. I have SO much more free time than I've had for the past 1 1/2 years, so that means I can finally sit in my office (EEEEE! So excited!) and work on uploading the hundreds of ideas and materials that I've accumulated over the years.
Starting Monday, be prepared to wish that I was absent from the blog world...okay, maybe I won't be THAT active, but it will definitely be better.
Thanks for understanding! :)
Today's guest post is about transitions. While the article may focus on the move from middle school to high school, I feel that these tips easily translate to the elementary to middle school transition as well. Our school year has just begun, but it's never to early to prep our students (especially the anxious ones) for the next step in their education.
Are you concerned about your child’s transition from middle to high school? After all, this is an exciting time for them, and, often, one where they will learn to establish their independence. However, the new beginning can also induce stress and anxiety. To ensure the change is a positive one, here are 5 tips that can help your child transition into high school:
1) Make it easy for your child to navigate high school: Unlike many middle schools, high schools may require students to walk back and forth between classes throughout the day. Alleviate your child’s anxiety by helping them navigate the school’s layout and learn the new environment. Get your kid’s schedule before school starts and walk through it with him or her before classes start. Additionally, if a school offers freshman orientation programs, encourage your child to attend and explore the building afterward. This will reduce some of the uneasiness he or she will experience when beginning high school.
2) Be enthusiastic: Be your child’s cheerleader and discuss the exciting events and extracurricular activities that high school offers. For example, sports teams, clubs, and other organizations are likely available. Getting involved in such activities will help your child meet new friends, build a resume, and transition into high school easily.
3) Discuss some of the changes: Don’t take your child’s worries lightly during the transition. Instead, help him or her embrace the change by listening openly to what he or she is going through, how he or she feels about being around older kids, the difficulties of homework assignments, and the trouble he or she may have making new friends. Emphasize that there will be people—such teachers, students, and counselors—to help during the adjustment.
4) Talk about the importance of high school: Introduce the idea of college to your child when they are a high school freshman. This will help your child think ahead about schools he or she would like to attend, as well as consider admittance, SATs, and scholarships. However, don’t go too far and pressure or frighten your child, but simply ensure that he or she understands the importance of high school from the start.
5) Encourage your child to talk to a current high school student: It will probably be easier for a teenager to talk to another, older teenager than to his or her parents. If you know a high school student who you feel would be a great influence on your kid, ask him or her to speak to your child about high school in order to advise him or her about the experience.
Follow the 5 tips above to help your child transition from middle to high school, and you’ll experience a confident teen ready to succeed in high school and beyond.
About the Author
Mandy Fricke is a student at Brooklyn College and works for Elearners.com, where she helps manage their online community for masters programs. In her free time she enjoys biking, traveling, and reading in coffee shops.
About the Author
Ryan Rivera was an anxious child that wished he had an opportunity to socialize better. Now he writes about ways for both parents and children to overcome anxiety at www.calmclinic.com.
Childhood is the time when a person’s social skills start to develop. However, the learning process can be intimidating and especially rough for naturally anxious children. The following activities may be helpful in giving your anxious child the skills they need to socialize effectively.
By creating or playing fun games that can be played one on one or in a group, you are teaching your child tools they can use to interact with others. Other kids can be intimidating, and it can be hard for a shy or anxious child to figure out social rules as an outsider. However, if a child is able to implement familiar rules in a social setting, namely the rules of a fun game, they get a leg up in interacting with other kids on an even playing field.
Fun games you might play with your child and suggest that they ask other children to play with them might include alphabet games (spotting items in the surrounding world alphabetically until you get to Z, i.e., apple, bee, car, dog, and so on), the game “I, No, Yes” (wherein one person is not allowed to say the words “I,” “no” or “yes” and the other is supposed to try and trick them into saying them, and if any of the words is said then the two switch), or story games (one person says the first sentence of a “story,” such as “Once upon a time there was a dog.” Then another person says a sentence to continue the story, and everyone involved takes turns and tries to make the story as interesting or funny as possible).
Go to Craft Fairs
Craft fairs are a great place for children to interact with others while also engaging in an activity that takes the focus off of socialization. Children will get to practice social skills such as asking politely (“May I use the scissors, please?”), and learn to share their personality publicly via the safe and creative medium of art. You can also suggest that they watch and see if anybody’s art reflects the things that they themselves like, such as dinosaurs or horses, and encourage them to compliment others’ work. Compliments help to start conversations with others off on the right foot.
If you can find a craft fair where adults are welcome, too, you can also help by modeling the behavior you want to see in your child by smiling at others, complimenting them and asking conversational questions. You can also compliment your child later on any positive social choices they made during the fair: “Way to walk up to Cameron and ask him for the scissors—you were so confident!” or “Did you notice how Susan smiled back at you when you smiled at her? You’ve got a great smile!”
Choose an Adventure
Give your child a choice of several “adventures.” These might include swimming at the local pool, having a picnic, going to a park, getting ice cream, or almost anything you can think of. As part of these adventures, ask them to invite another kid they know or have met to come along. Be sure to mention that the child’s parents are welcome to come, too. As the child they ask might decline, don’t put too much pressure on your child, but make it clear to them that you both have a “mission” to make some other kid’s life more fun by bringing them on an adventure with you.
One on one activities lower the anxiety involved in socializing, and can make it easier for a child to learn what behavior is most effective in their interactions with others.
Sticker prizes are ideal for almost any kind of behavioral motivation in children. A good way to introduce sticker prizes for socialization is to make a poster “calendar” with a grid of all the days of the month. Every time you see your child make the effort to approach another child, or introduce themselves, or initiate a conversation by saying “hello!” or “good morning!” with a smile, allow them to add a sticker to the calendar for that day.
If you want, you can make it a matter of trying to get as many stickers on the calendar as possible, or think of additional “prizes” for weeks or months with a sticker on every day, such as buying them their favorite kind of sugary cereal, or having to address them as “Sir” or “Milady” for a day.
You can make it a game for your child to practice introducing themselves to you as themselves as a cue for you to pretend to be someone fascinating or funny, and have them ask you questions and share information about themselves with this person. Place emphasis on the idea that you never know who you might meet on a given day, and that the chances are good that they might meet someone more interesting than they expected—like a princess, alien, or dragon in disguise—if they just ask enough questions and help you to trust and want to open up to them.
It may be helpful to tell them things like “I hardly know anything about you!” or “Guess what my favorite animal is” or “Do you always look so SERIOUS?” to make them laugh and change their attitude or encourage them to talk more or ask more questions.
It’s important not to put too much pressure on your child to socialize, but not to allow them to shut themselves away entirely, either. It can be tricky finding a good balance between the two, but as long as you maintain a healthy and positive attitude towards the idea of socialization rather than an attitude that induces further stress, your child will be overcoming their anxiety and meeting new friends before you know it.
My life has been more hectic than usual, which is certainly saying something. I spent my summer taking a class, volunteering at Camp Quality, attending the ASCA conference, performing in a short film, rehearsing a new play, moving my office to a new location in my building, and searching for my first home. In other words, I didn't allow myself much time to relax.
The past few weeks have felt even more jam-packed. First of all, buying a house is extremely difficult, especially when every experience in this arena has thrown more obstacles my way than I could have imagined or prepared for. In the middle of the negotiation process, my apartment was re-rented, so I had to be out within a few days...yes, at the start of the school year. The extra special bonus was finding time to pack when my husband was starting a new job 1 hour away and while I had rehearsals and cross country practices. I did this to myself, but it didn't make it any less stressful. This is where you're supposed to tell me: "I told you so!"
Anyway, I know things will get easier soon. Once we're moved in, my show is over, and cross country season ends, things will slow down. Despite my desire to be busy, I think I need this time to crash. Today, for example, is my first day with NOTHING extra to do in over 3 weeks. Yep, 3 weeks. That's not healthy.
It may be hard to believe, but being busy helps me be a better school counselor...well, to a point. I love going to rehearsal 4-5 nights a week and spending time with like-minded people. I love taking a break from lesson planning, compulsive email monitoring, and I hate to say it...blogging. If I didn't have a hobby like theatre, I would be online far more hours than any human should be. I don't know how to stop working, so why not "work" on something that gives me a break from stress and my endless blogging to-do lists? Also, I don't have children (not by choice), so in many ways, theatre helps me cope with difficult emotions, rather than sitting at home angry and frustrated.
Anyway, on to the show! Impossible Marriage was my first "starring" role in a while, which was exciting. For this production, I had to sing, speak in a dialect, play the harp, "dance," and move like I was pregnant. My character, Floral Whitman, is definitely one of my favorite parts to date. She's feisty and intelligent. It can be hard to find great female roles, so I cherished every moment as Floral.
Impossible Marriage is about a family preparing for a controversial union. Young Pandora is to wed a much older Edvard Lunt, a well-known author who divorced his wife of 23 years to be with Pandora. Floral Whitman, Pandora's older sister, is pregnant and unhappy in her own marriage. In an act of love (and perhaps, jealousy as well), Floral decides to break up her sister's marriage through a series of manipulative interactions. Along the way, she confronts her past and reveals a secret that has haunted her for 9 months. Despite their fears, the characters find a way to conquer the impossible and as a result, become much happier people. The end. Oh, and it's a comedy. ;)
You're probably wondering what I learned this time. Well, since you asked, I'll tell you. This role reminded me why I push myself as hard as I do. Our lives are precious. We have an opportunity to make a difference, to be the best version of ourselves, to look back with no regrets. I want to be remembered as someone who worked hard. I want to think about my life, mistakes and all, fondly. I never want to miss out on something magical because I was too scared to try and perhaps, fail.
Four years ago, I was a much less happy version of myself. I gave up theatre to finish school and then lost all confidence to jump back in. I didn't want to see plays because they made me feel sad - I wanted to be up there with them, but "knew" that I wasn't good enough. One day, I decided I had to audition for something. I didn't feel fulfilled. All I had was work and since my husband was in grad school, I was alone a lot. So, I went for it. During the audition, I felt like I was going to pass out and throw up, my hands were shaking, and I tried desperately to blend into the background in the waiting room. When I got the call that I earned the part I wanted (the smallest one possible!), I couldn't believe it.
When I look back at that time, I both cringe and smile. I was horrible. No, seriously. I was. I didn't remember anything about performing, but because of my supportive director, stage manager, and castmates, I slowly got more comfortable on stage again. Now, I am certainly not an expert, but I can see the growth in my acting abilities. To some extent, it's luck that got me where I am today in theatre - the right part, the right look, the right voice, etc. However, I also was whipped into fighting shape by hours of rehearsals and amazing directors who knew exactly how to challenge me.
As we prepare for this school year, remember that it's okay to start off a little rocky. Just keep working at it, lean on those around you, learn from the "experts," don't be afraid of pushing yourself, and then, enjoy the fruits of your labor. What I love is that I still have many more years to grow as both a school counselor and actor. In fact, the two go quite well together. A school counselor, after all, is often on a stage, engaging his or her audience. An actor must understand emotions, motivations, and interpersonal communication...well, my job lets me work on that all day!
What are your special hobbies? What are you going to find the courage to do this year? Share your thoughts in the comments section, friends. :)
Here are some production photos from Impossible Marriage, courtesy of Juan Rodriguez. Enjoy!
I don't know about you, but in my school counseling program, we had to analyze films that had counseling scenes in them and reflect on the techniques and level of success that the counselor had with his or her client. It's easy to critique someone else's performance than create your own. If I watched 50/50 (above) during grad school, I probably would have laughed at how Anna Kendrick's character handled her first counseling session. She looks uncomfortable and follows the basic script we all learn when we start our counseling programs. In essence, it's fake.
However, I watched 50/50 post grade school, so my reaction was a little different. In many ways, I saw myself in Kendrick's character. I remember my first school counseling session, trying to figure out what to do and say. This feels awkward, should I say something? They are being really quiet, what should I do? How long should I let them talk before I wrap things up and send them back to class? It's funny how quickly things change.
Now, I feel like I can handle most of what comes my way. I am learning the fine art of listening and guiding, being supportive and firm. I know which students just need to vent and which need more advice. I know which teachers need time to talk about their difficult students and which ones need some space. I am certainly not perfect, but each day I am becoming a better version of Marissa 1.0, the newbie who had no idea what she was getting herself into.
I say this not to scare you, but in fact, to help you feel less alone. It's okay to be scared out of your mind sometimes. It's okay to not know all of the answers. I am only going into my 5th year of school counseling, but I can say each year is better than the last. You grow more than you ever could have imagined and soon become a strong, self-sufficient machine, in the best of ways.