Another newsletter round-up

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newspaper-clip-art-weekly-news-clipartThe last two summers I have shared my School Counselor Newsletters that I put together for parents and teachers. Since I got a lot of great feedback from readers, I thought I’d do that again.

If you want to see the posts with previous years’ newsletters click here and here.

My newsletters from the school year 2014-2015 are below. Each one is listed by month and topic. Click on each link to see them:

September, 2014 – Back-to-school transition tips for parents

October, 2014 – Various ways to start the “how was your day at school?” conversation with children (encouraging communication within the family)

November, 2014 – Stress and anxiety relief in children

December, 2014 – (No newsletter. Sorry!)

January, 2015 – Information and tips about getting your child to school ON TIME (this was an issue for some, so I saw an opportunity to educate many)

February, 2015 – Building grit in your child (and avoiding being the “rescuer”)

March, 2015 – A goodbye newsletter to my families with tips for closure (probably one of the hardest newsletters I’ve ever written) :(

After March, I joined a new school and did not publish newsletters during my time there. It is my hope that I will get back to doing newsletters next school year! I still believe them to be a great communication and advocacy tool!

Information about my newsletters: I use Microsoft Word to make each newsletter. Using a lot of text boxes, I can manipulate the spacing and sizing of what I want to include. When I’m satisfied, I save it as a PDF document to share.

Hope this has been helpful! :)

Summer, please stay for a while

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It was exactly one year ago today that I posted my End of Year Report for 2014. It was also one year ago today that I shared that my fourth year as a Professional School Counselor was the hardest of my short career thus far. Well, I think my fifth year was in competition for that title. And, it may have won. The jury’s still out.

The added challenge for me this year was that I left a school I adored in April to join a vastly different one. I was expecting a challenge, but joining a new school mid-year is not for the faint of heart! I knew within the first week at my new school that it wasn’t a good fit, but I had to finish what I started.

And I did. I officially finished there today, and while I will miss certain things about it, I am so glad it’s over. Now I’m free to focus on finding my “just right” school again.

Before I walked away, though, I spent some time looking at my data from my short April-June stretch to complete a report for the year 2015. It’s a basic look at the raw numbers of what I did in the three months I was there. Click on the picture for a PDF version.

EOY_2015

 

I’ve come to really enjoy putting together an EOY Report. It keeps me accountable and allows me to feel good about what I accomplished.

Now, onto my summer. 8-)

Finding my ‘just right’ school

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Well hello there. It’s nice to see you again. I know it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. I purposely took a couple months away because I just didn’t have the energy to write anything worth reading.

Since I know I have some regulars to my blog, I want to use this post to explain what’s been going on (and that I haven’t abandoned you, I promise). So here it is, in all it’s ugly truth…

schoolYou know when things are going well for you at your school and you’re really happy and comfortable with the work that you’re doing? Well, I had that. In fact, I was lucky enough to have that for a good three years. And then, it changed. “Under new management.” It seems like all that I was good at was ripped away from me so fast that I was sent into a whirlwind of uncertainty, discomfort, and doubt. For a year and a half, I felt like I was trapped inside a snow globe, floating around aimlessly, and just when I began to feel steady, the snow globe would be shaken up again.

After a dizzy year and a half, I made my escape. And for the first time in a looooong time, I felt good! And happy. And hopeful. I found a school that was not only filled with positive leaders, but they chose me. They wanted me a part of their team. But with little grieving time for the place I left behind, I began my new journey with a heavy heart. I cried EVERY SINGLE DAY my first week. I couldn’t even explain what was going on inside me except with tears. I cried with my principal. I cried with my assistant principal. I felt like an idiot. They were so patient and understanding (seriously, they are awesome).

As I emerged from layer after layer of sadness, I began to see the school I had entered. And unfortunately, I didn’t like what I saw. It wasn’t my school. These weren’t my kids. I knew it wasn’t a good fit for me. But I had to finish what I had started. So each day, I put on my big girl pants, and I made myself go. Behind my smile was a woman who was so ferociously wishing summer to GET HERE NOW so I could just be done. And let me tell you, that is NOT a good feeling. It takes so much energy to go to a place everyday where I feel I don’t really belong.

And so, with my heart pounding in my throat, I had the really hard, big girl conversation with my principal about my feelings. I was honest about the school not being a good fit for me. And you know what? She THANKED me. Seriously. She thanked me for being willing to reflect on what I need and for being honest with her about it. She even asked me for feedback for the next school counselor. See what I mean by awesome?

I still have a little more than a week left in my ‘not a good fit’ school, but I know I can do it. I’m already launching into finding my next ‘just right’ school, however long it may take. But I don’t want to forget the experiences, as painful as they’ve been, that I’ve had the last two years in my career. I never thought I’d work for some of the best and worst administrators already in my five short years as a school counselor. There was no graduate class that taught me how to handle this. I had to figure it out on my own, with the help of some very supportive colleagues, family, and friends.

Perhaps hearing about my experiences will help you on your journey as a school counselor. Whether you’re lucky enough to be in your perfect school already, or you’re struggling to find it, just know that it IS out there. Don’t give up. Reflect on what you want and need out of a school, and then make it so.

Personally, I had to be brutally honest with myself, which was really hard to do. It meant giving up a school that I adored because I knew I deserved to be treated with respect. And then it meant leaving a school that wasn’t a good fit, even though it had amazing leaders. Somehow, somewhere, sometime, I will find a school that is both again. My ‘just right’ school. I deserve it and so do you.

Being MEAN can leave lasting scars

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My third grade classes this year have challenged me to try new interventions – whole class, small group, and individually. They are spirited to say the least, chatty, opinionated, and many of them have difficulty taking direction. As fun as they can be, they also cause their fair share of conflicts. Many of them will cry and tell when someone is mean to them, but won’t own up when they do the same mean thing to someone else.

I want to share one whole class intervention I tried with them a few weeks ago. This is my “keep in my back pocket” lesson that I pull out when nothing else seems to work.

To start, I asked them to raise their hands if they have seen each of the following things happen to them or their classmates:

-Someone give a mean look.

-Someone whisper about you.

-Someone tell a secret about you.

-Someone share a secret of yours and break your trust.

-Someone tell you that you can’t play.

-Someone tell you that you can’t sit next to them.

-Someone call you a mean name.

-Someone make fun of you.

-Someone laugh along when someone is making fun of you.

For each mean thing I read off, there were multiple hands in the air. I heard comments such as, “That happens to me a lot” and “I see others doing that.” After I read all of them, I told my third graders that all of these mean things are things that I see and hear happening in our community and it’s not okay.

Then, I introduced my friend. I hung up a life-size cutout of a person. I told them I was going to show them how hurtful their mean behaviors can be to someone. As I read each mean thing again, starting with “Every time YOU….” I cut off a part of the person and let it fall to the floor.

The first time I cut a piece off, you should have heard their gasps. A few of the boys got very silly about it (their usual), so I gave them my stern “take this seriously or else” speech, and we were good to go for the rest.

Green guy

Once we had only a head and shoulders left, I told them we needed to rebuild my friend with kindness. I asked for ideas of how we could help my friend feel better. For each kind idea they shared, I taped a piece of the person back on. Then, we talked about how the kind acts helped a lot, but the person doesn’t quite look the same as before.

There are scars. Scars from mean words and mean actions. My third graders told me that when someone is mean to you, you remember it, even after they’ve apologized. My friend with scars all over his body showed us how we can feel on the inside when someone is mean to us.

While the meanness hasn’t ceased completely, the visual left its mark on my students.

I hung up my scarred friend in my room for reminders to be nice, because no one likes to feel all cut up.

Perceptions

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Perceptions. They’re a tricky thing. Recently, I had the opportunity to learn just how powerful perceptions can be, regardless of intention.

Let’s start here… Not so long ago, I took inventory of the challenges that many School Counselors face in their daily work, and I put them all together in a video. A satirical, totally non-serious video. A video that blew up faster than I realized it would. A video that far outreached the intended audience of fellow School Counselors who could appreciate and understand the humor in it. A video that, not on purpose, caused some harm and friction.

I work with students all the time on repairing the harm they have caused. I need to do the same.

To those I harmed,

I am sorry. The things I said were not true to my feelings about my work. My words were not meant as an attack on anyone. My intention was to create a silly video for people who do the same job that I do, and that’s all. I realize, though, that my intentions do not matter when the perception is that of offense, hurt, and distrust.

Please know, that I know how lucky I am to be a School Counselor and to work with kids. This is a job that I love and do not take lightly, at all. Please know that I care very much about what I do and who I try my best to help everyday.

I realize that trust takes a long time to build and very little to destroy. Please know that I will do my best to rebuild any trust that has been lost. I will continue to show up everyday and do the job that I love with heart. And I will contribute to building an educational culture of respect, understanding, and love of learning.

I hope you’ll join me.

Respectfully,

Kayla

National School Counseling Week 2015

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It’s here! Our week is here! It’s National School Counseling Week! The week in which we do a little extra to advertise and highlight all that we do in our schools.

Of course, I understand the irony that as School Counselors, we are tasked to celebrate our own week, instead of others celebrating us. But I think we’ll get there. The more we advocate and speak up about our roles. Eventually, people will celebrate us!

Until then, many of us are grasping at straws to figure out what the heck to do. Do we do morning announcements about our program? Do we make cute treats and cards for each individual staff member actually thanking them for our week? Do we hang up a sign and call it good?

Well, most years, I’ve done nothing. This year, I’ve decided to use the week to advertise and educate about School Counselors and what we do.

First, I’m going to hang this sign from ASCA:

 NSCWsign

Second, I’m going to fill out this sign from ASCA:

Ilovebeingaschoolcounselorsign

Third, and probably most important, I created this flyer to give to all staff at my school. Click on the flyer to see the pdf version.

NSCW_Flyer_2015

My flyer is a compilation of information and inspiration from ASCA and many School Counselors around the nation. One in particular I should credit is Blair Shelley, who created a beautiful flyer for her own school.

I’m keeping NSCW simple. Some advertising without a lot of extra work for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do some celebrating too. We deserve it!

Happy National School Counseling Week, my friends! :)

A girl drama disaster

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If you say the words “girl drama” or “girl problems” right now, I will run away and hide. Forever.

You probably know exactly how I feel. Especially if you’re a School Counselor who is sent the teary-eyed little girls who can’t seem to break the mean streak.

I’m deep in the trenches of 3rd grade girls who request to see me and want to tell me everything that they’re so-called friend(s) did and said. The faces. The eyes. The talking behind the back. The taking friends away. The running away. The “spying.” The mean and the not-so-mean words.

Well, I had heard enough. I decided to host an intervention.

I invited (actually, I made them come, but whatever) all girls involved in the ongoing problems in any sort of way. I set up in a classroom and they brought their lunches.

This is what I brought with me:

My Secret BullyI read My Secret Bully while they ate and told them the behaviors happening in the book are what they are doing to each other, even to people they call “friends.”

Then, I gave them each a “Think before you speak” card to help remind them of the words they use.

I was really prepared and I was really hopeful. The thing about interventions is that they don’t always work. Sometimes the people you’re doing the intervention for don’t want to change or don’t see the problem.

Well, my intervention was a big, fat failure.

The nine little girls sitting before me during the intervention stared complacently and contributed nothing. They gave me looks that said, “I know this lady ain’t talkin’ to me!”

And, I really knew the intervention had failed when the very next day, three girls filled out separate slips to see the counselor, and when I pulled them all together to talk, they told me the problem was they thought one of the girls had called another one of the girls a “turd” at recess.

No, I’m not even kidding. I had pulled them from class so they could tell me someone might have said the word “turd.” I almost told them to get out of my room.

Instead, I created this. From now on, when they feel the need to run to me and complain about things they aren’t willing to change, they will fill out a Problem Solving Report on their own time – recess. No more class time. When they fill one out, they will turn it into me and when I have time to read them over, I will decide if it needs to be processed further or not.

The report takes pieces from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to help them develop the skills they need to handle their own problems AND see their own part in it.

So far, no reports have been filled out. I guess the girls have decided that none of the problems are “big” enough to report anymore!

Oh, peaceful waters, please wash over me! :)