Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Parent Book Study with the School Counselors

My co-counselor and I recently concluded our first Book Study with the School Counselors. We had 7 mothers sign up to participate. The book study focused on the book Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades by Michelle Anthony & Reyna Lindert. We met three times to discuss the four steps shared in the book and at our final session we included their daughters for a strengths-based art activity. We prepared PowerPoint presentations to use as a guide for discussions which included powerful quotes from the book and points of interest.

We have received great feedback about the book study from participants and we plan to offer another book study next semester to focus on a boy-centered issue. We sent a Google Form to our participants to survey their experience. Here are a few comments that were shared:

    "I thoroughly enjoyed being able to discuss issues with raising little girls with other moms and our gifted HES professionals. I learned a lot about how to communicate more effectively with my children."

    "I really enjoyed meeting other moms and sharing different challenges we have with our daughters. I have learned a lot from the book, and have already started putting the four steps to good use!"

    "Thank you so much for offering a program like this, not only does it help prepare me for future years with my daughter, but it helps me to reflect on my own friendships. Thank you so much for taking your time to put this together."

Increasing parent participation in our school counseling program is one of our goals for this school year, so this initiative tied in well. We had a blast hosting the book study and we look forward to offering additional session in the future. 

Steps for hosting a successful parent book study:
  • Get the approval of your administration.
  • Choose a book that you think would be of interest to parents across grade levels.
  • Set dates and times that are convenient for parents.
  • Set up and distribute the link to a user-friendly sign up form such as SignUpGenius and promote the book study.
  • Prepare for your sessions by creating a guide for discussion - we used PowerPoint for this purpose.
  • Purchase refreshments or solicit donations from a local sponsor to serve at your sessions.
  • Host your sessions with parents and enjoy!
  • Send participants a Google Form to collect feedback from parents upon completion of the book study.
  • Share your success with stakeholders.
Do you have a book in mind that you think would be great for a parent book study? If so, please leave a comment as we are currently exploring options for our next book study.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Advisory Council

I am pleased to share that my co-counselor and I held our first school counseling program advisory council meeting this past week. Establishing an advisory council is not only an integral part of becoming a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP), but it is a fantastic way to share your vision with key stakeholders who can help support your program goals.

Steps to establish an advisory council:
  • Make a list of potential members that represent all stakeholders; obtain approval from principal
  • Determine meeting date, time, place; obtain approval from principal
  • Draft and send invitation to potential members seeking their participation in the council (we found email to be most convenient for this purpose; be sure to include council purpose and member expectations)
  • Draft and send invitation to initial council meeting to members 
  • Prepare agenda, presentation, handouts, sign in sheet, and meeting room
  • Draft and send meeting reminder to council members
  • Ask a trusted council member to take minutes during the meeting
  • Host your first advisory council meeting
  • Draft and send a "thank you" email with meeting minutes attached to members 
  • Celebrate your hard work and relish in the fact that you have done something HUGE for your program!
If you are interested, you can view our meeting agenda, presentation, and a list of representative areas that we included in our council here: HES Advisory Council Docs Note that I used the PowerPoint framework from an advisory council presentation I found online from the school counseling program of Stradford High School in Berkley County. I would share the link, but it appears that their advisory council documents have been removed from their website. 

We started our meeting by asking members to share their name, role, and brief memory of a guidance counselor they had when growing up. (We used the "G-word" on purpose to help us illustrate the transformation of the role of the school counselor later in the presentation). Starting the meeting in this way was a nice icebreaker for members as they were not sure what to expect as this was our first meeting. Most of the memories focused on counselors who were not particularly helpful or memorable while a few had some fond memories to share. This provided a segue into a discussion on the new role of the school counselor.

Our council members had some fabulous feedback and suggestions. They expressed wanting to help support our program goals and seemed genuinely happy to participate on our council. In the days immediately following our meeting, several members shared with us that they were impressed by our presentation and passion for the profession. My co-counselor and I reflected on our meeting and we truly feel that we have broke ground in establishing a strong school counseling program. We are at a brand new school this year, so we have an opportunity to build our program from the ground up. Thanks to our advisory council, we feel that we have the support to achieve our program goals. We hope their enthusiasm spreads to their respective teams and groups to help all of our stakeholders gain better understanding of our role and how we support student success.

So what are you waiting for? Do something BIG for your program and start a school counseling program advisory council! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Get Creative with Canva

Have you discovered Canva? It's a website that allows you to design awesome posters and such for FREE. It's very user friendly and they have a variety of templates. This year my co-counselor and I used it to make some handy-dandy name plates for outside our doors since the only thing outside our door was a sign with the dreaded "G" word. Our administrators used it to design large signs with our school's behavior expectations that hang all around the school. And my most favorite use so far can be seen below. 
I used the custom template to make 5x7 quote pictures. I saved them as images and printed them at Target. I picked up a cheap collage frame at Ikea. Not too shabby for a less than $20 project. While these quotes are great conversation starters for students, they are also my personal motivation to get me through the RAMP process as well as reminders to continue to advocate for my program and profession despite any challenges I may face. 

How will you use Canva in your school counseling program?

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Michelle Obama spoke at the American School Counselor Association's Annual Conference this year in Orlando, Florida. I was lucky enough to be in the audience for her inspirational speech. She acknowledged the many struggles we face as school counselors, honored the ripple effect of our work, and discussed how school counselors play an intergral role in the White House's Reach Higher initiative.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from her speech:

"I know that you all have one of the hardest, most stressful, most important and most underappreciated jobs of anyone in this country -- and I live with the President of the United States. So frankly, when I think about what you all do on an average day, well, quite frankly, I’m amazed."

"ASCA recommends no more than 250 students per counselor, the national average is one school counselor for every 471 students...And that’s appalling. And a lot of people in this country have no idea about these numbers. They have no idea about all the other challenges you face just to do your jobs."

"So while you might be the most highly educated professional in the building, instead of being allowed to do the job you were trained for, you’re assigned to proctor exams, or monitor the lunchroom, or serve as substitute teachers. And then I understand that on professional development days, you have to sit through yet another workshop on reading strategies or the new math curriculum because there aren’t any professional development units relevant to your job."

"So higher education is no longer just for kids in the top quarter or the top half of the class -- college is for everyone. Every student in this country needs some higher education, whether that’s two-year degree, a four-year degree, or professional training of some sort."

You can view her speech on Youtube here: First Lady Speeks at ASCA14

My new co-counselor and I already planned to incorporate more college and career readiness into our school counseling program at our brand new school this coming school year. Reach Higher fits right into our program goals. The School Counselor Online Professional Exchange is hosting a photo challenge, with the last day to submit photos being July 20, that highlights school counselor goals that align with Reach Higher. See below for my submission.

We tried to get the state sign in there, but it was a challenge to see both the sign and goal print clearly. This is just one of many goals we have for the new school year in preparing ALL students to be college and career ready.

What will you do to #reachhigher?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NBCT School Counselor Candidacy

For some reason I have never given much serious thought to becoming a National Board Certified Teacher (School Counselor!) before this year.  However, when I found out this fall that they were making BIG changes to the process that will stretch the work that can currently be done in one year to a three year process, I knew I had to act quick.  I signed up and got to work.  It's very challenging, but so far it's been fairly maneageble.  I found a fantastic online symposium that covered 3 of the 4 portfolio entries in great detail:  WSU College of Ed.

Good news for those who are interested---there is still have time to sign up under the old rules!  But act fast friends, because this offer expires on February 28, 2014.  More info here:  School Counseling ECYA.  It's a lot of writing, some filming of lessons and individual work, a lot of self-reflection, and piecing together the puzzle of infusing their standards and rubric specifications into your writing.  I hope to complete my remaining 3 entries over the next couple of months, submit my portfolio in May, and take the assessment in June.  I'm excited for the professional growth aspect and more fancy letters to add to the end of my name, but mostly I want the extra $5,000 a year my state provides NBCTs.  Fingers crossed that I pass on my first try!

Are you a NBCT School Counselor?  Feel free to share your words of wisdom here!

Are you a current NBCT Candidate?  How's the process going for you?

Interest Inventory Fun for Upper Elementary Grades

Well, it's been a while, [insert really, really good excuses for not blogging here].  But I'm back with a fabulous resource to share!  In my search for a research based career lesson to use for my National Boards submission, I came across this gem:  My Next Move.  My Next Move is a great career resource sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.  I utilize the Interest Profiler, which is based on Holland's Codes, over a two part lesson with my fourth graders.
Part One:  I read a short story titled Roger the Vet from one of my Marco Products books.  We discuss how Roger didn't do his research about becoming a veterinarian which left him unprepared for the realities of that career.  The students do a "turn & talk" with their neighbors about how a person can figure out the career that is right for him/her.  Inevitably one of my smart students makes the connection between interests and careers which neatly leads us to the interest inventory activity.  I utilize my school's iPad lab for the inventory which my students LOVE, but you can use a computer lab just as well.  Students complete the 60 question inventory and record their results on a handout I created.  They read over the meanings of their high scores and write a quick blurb about whether or not their results surprised them.  They loved this activity!

Part Two:  The second lesson is all about career exploration.  Students get their original handout with their unique inventory results so they can search for careers that match their interests.  O*Net allows you to manually enter your results so there is not need to retake the inventory to get to the exploration section.  So far, I have only completed Part One with students, so I'm hoping the exploration portion goes over just as well or better.  Students will spend the lesson researching careers and recording specific information about their top 3 favorites on the handout.  They will keep the handout which has the website information should they want to do more research on their own.  

Have you used interest inventories with your students?  Which inventories and how did it go?