Thursday, January 31, 2013

Peace Promise

A few months ago, bullying became a buzz word at my school.  Our AA and I heard it all of the time.  We brought in a bully show from a local community theater group, and I had done various lessons on bullying in classrooms, so the kids had been hearing the word “bully” a lot.  A lot of the notes I received from students was thus about “bullying” situations.  One thing that stood out to me was that when I followed up with the letters students were writing me about being “bullied,” many actually turned out to be more about conflict resolution than bullying.  Some of the students just didn’t know how to get along w/ each other when there was a problem and resorted to understanding the problem from the language they had been hearing around the school: I have a problem, so I must be getting bullied.  Others it seemed really did have bullying situations going on, and my AA and I felt at a loss for how to stop it all. As a school, we all needed to understand and be on the same page about the definition of bullying, what it looks like and how we can choose to be a peaceful school.

So, I got together a plan to teach our students and teachers the definition of bullying and invite a discussion on how to bring peace to our school.  However, there is only one of me and I didn’t think it made sense for me to switch up my curriculum in the middle of the year to do a bullying lesson in each class.  Instead, I used an app on my ipad called Educreataions and created a digital storytelling video to define bullying.  (Educreations allows you to create videos that are basically like a digital white board.  I used pictures and recorded myself talking and writing.)  I emailed the video out to all teachers (with admin’s blessing) and asked that they find a time to show it and reflect the discussion following the video in their lesson plans.  After they watched my video, I directed them to a skit of the Juice Box Bully that I found on YouTube.  If you have never read this book and you are interested in promoting peace to end bullying then it is a MUST read J  I really liked that at the end of the skit, the kids all signed a Peace Promise saying that they would not stand by and watch bullying happen.  

So, of course my students needed to sign a peace promise too!  I put up a bulletin board with facts about bullying surrounding the Peace Promise and asked my teachers to have their students all sign it after lunch the day that they showed the videos.  The students loved it—and it has been a great tool to help students recognize that bullying isn’t cool or funny, but terribly hurtful and rude!  I think it is such a simple thing, but has brought a visual of peace and community to our school.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The ABCs of Problem Solving

Following up from my last post, I've been teaching Habit 4: Think Win-Win to my students this month.  I have been doing a lot of research over the past year for an easy to remember problem solving model that will help my students learn those super important conflict resolution skills.  I settled on the ABCD problem solving model and created this poster to leave in the classrooms after I taught the lesson.

I think that it will be easy for them to remember!  We practiced problem solving together as a class in 2nd and 3rd grade this week using this model.  I wanted to start very simply when explaining it because I didn't want to overwhelm them.  I took a soccer ball with me and used two volunteers to "practice" using the model together.  The problem was very simple-- there was one ball, but 2 people wanted to play with it.  The kids were eager to jump to the conclusion of sharing, but I wanted them to understand the 3 outcomes of conflict first-- win/lose, lose/lose and win/win.  The students acted out the different scenarios: win/lose-one person got what they wanted but the other person had to "lose"; lose/lose- getting in a fight over the ball (I was sure to use the words being reactive instead of proactive) and having it taken away by a teacher; win/win- agreeing to share the ball or take turns using it.  I also had the students use Heart Talk during the win/win example and explained that it is a way they can be proactive and in control of their feelings rather than reactive like in the lose/lose example.  Once the model was demonstrated in an easy way for them, we talked about more complex examples of conflict and did more practice using this model.

I made one for my office wall too and think that I'm going to give one to our AA.  She sees a lot of the student's problems after they have made the more reactive choice.  What a great reflection and learning tool to review what could have been done differently to avoid getting in trouble.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Heart Talk

Conflict resolution is a HUGE piece of my counseling program at my school.  I noticed that it was an issue from the first needs assessment that I gave my teachers when I started last January.  Since then, I have spent a lot of my time mediating conflicts between my students.  I learned Heart Talk in my internship and was so excited to bring it with me to my school!  If you've never heard of it, you might want to check out Diane Senn's classroom guidance lesson book Puzzle Pieces because it's awesome and very helpful when planning lessons.  Heart Talk was created by Diane and it basically just teaches children to use "I-Messages" during conflict.  I love it because it is easy for kids of all ages to remember and use.

Last year, I spent an entire lesson teaching, role-playing and practicing Heart Talk in every grade level (K4-5th).  This year, because we are doing the 7 Habits, I incorporated Heart Talk in Habit 4: Win-Win.  For Kindergarten and 1st grade, I introduced the idea of win-win and then very specifically taught them the 3 parts of Heart Talk.  It isn't just using nice words (which my friends initially assume because of its name :)  In the upper grades, I taught an ABCD problem solving model and we practiced what Heart Talk would sound like as we work together to brainstorm solutions.  The kids are already familiar with Heart Talk (they hear me and their teachers say it all of the time AND I gave each class a heart w/ the words on it at the beginning of the year) but they could always use more practice!  It also totally fits in with Habit 1: Be Proactive because I explain that using our words when we feel strong uncomfortable feelings instead of reacting to our feelings on impulse can help us be better in charge of ourselves.

Heart Talk has become the common language of our school and I have gotten such positive feedback from our teachers and administration (and of course, students!).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Lifesaver!

As any school counselor could tell you, things are busy, busy, busy!  During internship, I had little difficulty remembering the students I saw and the cases I worked on because that was really about all I was responsible for.  Now, I wear so many different hats on any given day at school that it gets truly difficult to remember who I saw when about what.

There were two things that I quickly realized I was struggling with.  First: I had difficulty managing my cases, remembering when to see students and make follow up appointments, and keeping track of who had what going on.  Second:  I wanted to know how much time in my day was I spending in the classroom, counseling individual students or groups, working in the records room, organizing standardized testing, ect.  I know how valuable this information can be in advocating for my role, and I've been determined to keep track of things... but I just hadn't found a system that worked for me.  

So, with my desk littered with post-it notes and my many different to-do lists cluttering things up, I knew I needed a new way to hold myself accountable and keep track of the cases that I'm working on all in one place.

It turns out the answer was waiting for me in an ASCA tweet chat (don't know what that is? Check it out here!) about counselor/ principal relationships.  One counselor posted on the chat that she keeps track of what she is doing every 15 minutes and writes it down in a notebook.  I figured it was worth a try, so I drafted this sheet.  

I absolutely LOVE it!  I keep it in a notebook in the top drawer of my desk and every so often (not usually every 15 minutes because I'm not going to stop a counseling session or go back to my office if I'm in a classroom) block out what I am/was doing at that time.  The second part of my notebook is something that I am so thankful for!  I think I just made this up, but probably got the idea somewhere in the wonderful world of blogs or pinterest (obsessed).  I keep these sheets in a separate section behind the time-tracker sheets and use them to keep brief notes on the students that I see each day.  I do keep more detailed notes for most of my ongoing cases, but this allows me to quickly jot down the student's name, when I saw them, why (type of referral) and what we talked about so that I have documentation.

The notebook has never left the top drawer of my desk, but I still have this in the front in case something crazy were to happen.

This system probably won't work for everyone, but for right now it seems to be working for me!  I still have post-it notes covering my desk, but hey, I guess I just like a good sticky note every now and then :)