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 Problem Solving Report. 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! 🙂

Things I learned from Carla (Miss Davis)

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We probably all know a Bradley Chalkers. A kid who struggles with social nuances and takes things a little too literally at times. A kid who, fed up with trying to understand others, retreats into his own world of loneliness, only opening up to miniature plastic animals in the safety of his bedroom. And a kid who attempts interactions with peers through intimidation, threats, and lies, and begins to believe that he truly is the monster everyone has written him off to be.

It’s the Bradley Chalkers of this world who really need School Counselors, and who remind us that there is good in everyone, even the supposed monsters.

theresaboyinthegirlsbathroomI recently ordered and read There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar to incorporate into a student book club next school year. The story, while written for 8-12 year olds, holds the most important messages for adults.

I immediately liked Miss Carla Davis, the new School Counselor at Red Hill School in the book. I could identify with her. She was eccentric, played by her own rules, and most importantly, she was there for her students above anything else. 

Carla taught me a few things and reminded me of the essence of my chosen profession. I’m so thankful for Carla. In keeping with the nature of the beautiful relationship between Bradley and his School Counselor, here’s a letter from me to Carla, explaining all that she taught me.

Dear Carla, 

I believe in paying it forward and sharing the great things I see. And you, Carla, are great. I am inspired by your tenacity to put your students above everything else at your school. It’s not easy to do this when administrators and parents are not understanding of your role or your reasons for doing what you do.

You have reminded me of two of the most important aspects of School Counseling. One being unconditional positive regard. You always believed in the best for your students and they felt it. You weren’t jaded by other peoples’ opinions of certain students and you refused to believe that any child was a monster. Students need someone to believe in them, no matter what. Thank you for reminding me of that.

The second most important aspect of School Counseling that you display with such ease is meeting each student where they are at. You know that you can’t start talking to a student about homework completion when they don’t even have safe place in their classroom. You  know that if a student is bringing up monsters from outer space, it’s a topic to be explored because there’s something to it for that student.

I love that you let students think for themselves, instead of being the great problem solver you’re sometimes expected to be. By letting students come to their own solutions, you are allowing them to build the self-esteem needed to try new things.

What I admire most is that you don’t squander from your professional values, even when put in the hot seat by administrators and angry parents. This is a great role model for School Counselors all over who are given inappropriate tasks that take away from their students, but who are often afraid to speak up or to say no. You light the way for all of us!

Lastly, I want to say that I sincerely hope you return to School Counseling eventually. The profession needs great people like you.

Love,

Kayla

Humor that started with a sandwich

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I love reflecting on my day and thinking about the silly or unusual or just plain weird things that students sometimes say. Kids can be weird, huh? That’s what I love about them!

Today, as I reflected on my difficult day in which I was torn in too many directions at once, I recalled this silly conversation…it took place during lunch buddies with six kindergarten students:

Girl (pointing an accusatory finger at me): “Where did you get that sandwich?”
Me (feeling like I’m in trouble with a 5 year old): “My sandwich? From home. I made it.”
Boy: “What?! You have a home?”
Me (trying not to laugh): “Yeah, of course. Do you think I live at school?”
Boy: “Well, you have a bed in your room, don’t you?” (Referring to the rug, bean bag, and pillows in my room.)
Me: “That’s the chill out area. I don’t sleep there.”
Boy: “Oh. It looks like a bed.”

I just can’t help but giggle when I think about it. The pure innocence and curiosity of 5 year olds is absolutely amazing! I’m embracing the humor and resting up for another day! Goodnight all!

🙂

A School Counselor Lunch Bunch Linky Party

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Scrapbook of a School Counselor is hosting a linky party that’s all about lunch groups! Many counselors facilitate lunch bunches/buddies to get to know students, encourage peer connections, and/or to help with social skills. You should join the party too! Here are my answers to the questions:

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I call my lunch groups “Lunch Buddies” and I use them as a laid back way to connect with students over a meal. If I’m facilitating more formal groups, I do it at another time because it becomes too complicated during lunch (it’s difficult to play a game or do a craft while eating tacos or spaghetti!).

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Like I said, I keep it laid back and fun. During Lunch Buddies, we eat our food, we talk about our day, we answer fun “would you rather” questions (that I have typed up ready to go), we play I-Spy, or we play an animal guessing game. It’s just a quick meeting to connect and get food in our bellies. I don’t plan anything usually, unless there is a specific issue that might need to be discussed to help someone who’s attending the group that day (for instance, how to join a group, using kind words, etc.).

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Unfortunately, this year I am unable to do Lunch Buddies for grades 3-5 due to being assigned recess duty everyday during their lunch block (which is another whole post altogether, ugh). However, I organize my Lunch Buddies for grades K-2 by picking one day per week to hold the groups – this year, it’s Tuesdays. Then, I pick three students who each pick one buddy to invite. So in total, there are six students who show up to each group. I invite the same three students two weeks in a row to give them more than one opportunity to be a part of the group and to invite a different buddy the second week if they wish (sometimes, choosing just one friend to invite is really hard, and sometimes there are tears, no joke).

I pick students for the group based on any new faces to our school first, then I choose students who may need the extra attention or social interaction, or students who I am aware might be having a difficult time recently for any number of reasons. By the end of the year, I like to have included all students, but sometimes it doesn’t quite work out that way.

Also, I hold my lunch groups in a teacher’s classroom because my room is too small for six children plus me, plus all our food. So, I stick to three simple rules during Lunch Buddies to help keep the teacher’s room in order: 1) We stay in our seats, 2) We listen to who is talking, and 3) We clean up our messes. That’s it!

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Well, I have found that facilitating Lunch Buddy groups has been an integral part of my school counseling program because it gives me access to a lot of students in a smaller setting than the classroom. So although I am not necessarily documenting notes from each lunch group, I am gathering useful information about students while getting to know them better. And, it allows students to feel more comfortable talking with me or coming to my room later if needed.

I will also say that Lunch Buddies is extremely popular in my school! Students come to know that Tuesdays mean I will be walking down the hall to their lunch line with my clipboard and lunchbox in tow, inviting three lucky students who get to grab a friend and eat with their school counselor. Seriously, some of the “please, oh, please pick me” faces I see are absolutely ridiculous, but I love it.

Annnnd done! 🙂

The Worry Box

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I am always looking for counseling techniques to use individually and in small groups. There are so many ideas! I lean toward techniques and strategies that are easily accessible, effective, and FREE!

This post is dedicated to a strategy that I discovered on a fellow school counselor’s blog (Scrapbook of a School Counselor). As soon as I saw The Worry Box, I knew I needed to make one for my office pronto!

The Worry Box is a simple, yet powerful, strategy of acknowledging and coping with worry and anxiety. It can be used individually or in small groups, and with almost any age. With my K-5 students, I am amazed at how many children are carrying around worries every day, and I see that it holds them back from learning and playing freely like children should. Using The Worry Box, children can put their worries in a safe place and move on with their day, hopefully feeling more calm and free.

Making a Worry Box is simple. All you need is a box and something to decorate it with (paper, glue, glitter, stickers, tape, markers, etc). Once your box is complete, anyone can use it by writing or drawing their worries on pieces of paper anonymously and dropping them inside the box. They can choose to talk about it or not, leave it in the box or not – they are in control of their worries!

In groups, you could direct students to write or draw worries about the topic/issue you’re working on, and then discuss them anonymously. Imagine the depth of conversations you could have and the level of support your students would feel!

Here are some photos of my Worry Box. I used a fold-over magnetic box and covered it in neon rainbow duct tape to make it eye-catching. I wrote directions on how to use it on the inside.

I can’t wait to use it with my students! 🙂

The outside of The Worry Box.

The outside of The Worry Box.

The fold-over flap is magnetized to close.

The fold-over flap is magnetized to close.

Directions pasted on the inside cover.

Directions pasted on the inside cover.

Directions say: Write or draw what you’re worried about. Drop your worry into the box. Leave your worry behind – the box will hold it for you. You can take your worry back if you ever need it.

Examples of worries dropped inside.

Examples of worries dropped inside.

Examples say: “I feel worried about my dog!” and “I’m worried about math :(“