Monday, February 18, 2013

Habit 5 in 1st Grade: Listening With Your Heart

As a former Communication Studies major in undergrad, I've noticed that my comm. background has heavily influenced my counseling and teaching style when working with my students.  I try my best to teach them the importance and benefits of learning to communicate openly, honestly, and positively with each other.  We spend a lot of time learning Heart Talk, but I was even more excited last week to teach them about Habit 5: Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood.  I started my lessons in 1st grade with a review of the habits we'd learned so far right up to Habit 4 when we practice Heart Talk.  The kiddos know now that they are supposed to use Heart Talk with people when they are feeling sad or mad or someone hurts their feelings.  I told them that the next habit would help them listen to their friends if they ever did something that hurt someone's feelings (because we all make mistakes, but we are proactive people and we want to learn from our mistakes and make them better!)   

I told them they would be learning a new word--empathy--and that this habit would teach them how to listen with their hearts instead of just their ears.  I read them the book How Do I Stand In Your Shoes by Susan Debell.  

This book is an EXCELLENT resource if you are trying to teach young children the meaning of empathy!  The kids love it and are engaged throughout the entire book.  At the end, there are some thoughtful questions you can ask to see what they learned about empathy and how to stand in someone's shoes.  After processing the story with them, I planned to have them do a worksheet that they could fill out after interviewing a partner about something that happened to them over the weekend (good or bad).  But, I just didn't have time for it because they go to related arts right after my lesson.  Instead, I did a short version of emotion charades.  I pretended to come into the room very sad and mopey (totally opposite of how excited I always am) and asked them to stand in my shoes to guess how I was feeling.  Then, I reminded them of how having empathy was like listening with your heart, and I asked them what kinds of things they could do to help me feel better and to be kind to me if they knew I was sad.  We practiced some more feelings: angry, embarrassed, scared and I was so proud at how well they all got it!  This is one of my favorite lessons to teach and I was so happy with how well it fit in with Habit 5!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thinking Back...

Last night a had a truly cool experience visiting a practicum class at the program that I just finished in last December.  My former internship supervisor is the practicum professor (and still a full time school counselor--she's that awesome!) and she asked me to come talk with the group about being a first year counselor.

I remember not long ago struggling in my own practicum experience.  I was uncomfortable in my school placement and feeling (sadly) invalidated for my feelings.  Every day I went into my practicum, I felt that this school counseling stuff was less and less for me, and I became less and less confident in myself.  I didn't know what I was doing and felt like I was in a place where I could not learn the skills that I didn't even know if I had.  I was in a high school (which was where I pretty much knew I didn't want to end up, but still wanted the experience) working in a "guidance" program.  'Nough said.  When I did have the opportunity to work in a counseling environment with a student, I was terrified that I was going to mess someone up.  I didn't like that I had to actually learn by doing--it made me feel uncomfortable and unprepared.  I wanted to watch and listen and observe, but that is just not the way to truly learn in this profession.  Somehow, I developed a relationship with a senior student who was bustin' it trying to graduate and plan her life.  We were able to meet frequently and I (hope that I) was able to help her make some realizations, gain self-awareness, and plan for life after school.

Was I a great counselor?  Nope.  Did I make mistakes, have times where I didn't know what to say to students, and feel totally out of my element?  You bet.  But in reflecting on that time in my journey to get to where I am now, I realize that despite my feelings of inadequacy and my frustrations of my experience, I did learn something.  I learned that although I am far from perfect and confident, I am passionate about helping children.  I am a go-getter and completely uncomfortable sitting around and waiting or talking about doing something... I want to do it.  Right now.  As much as I can.  I want to help, connect with, support and love children who need it.  I won't let the "there's not enough time in the day" excuse keep me from seeing as many children as I can, visiting classrooms and running groups.  The records and testing and paperwork can get done when the kids leave.  We have such little time with these precious and amazing children, and I want to listen to each of their stories.

It was empowering for me to reflect on how far I've come in just 2 years.  I am settling into a wonderful school community.  I am creating, coordinating and running my very own program-- with lots of help and support from my mentors and counselors that I've been so fortunate to connect with.  I am much more confident in my skills (although still working on containing the self-doubt from time to time).  Lastly, I am truly excited to be a change agent in this amazing field of school counseling.  In my district, so many counselors are part-time and split between schools.  That is CRAZY!   I see it as my obligation to my students, and students everywhere, to show people how important this role is so that others realize the true impact that we all know school counselors can have.

Take Time To Be Kind-- RAK 2013

Last year I didn't have a clue when RAK week was, not to mention that I was so swamped with starting a new position in January, that I didn't even try to make it work.  However, I LOVE the idea of random acts of kindness week and I was determined to NOT let this week go by again uncelebrated.  :)  I introduced the week and what it meant on the news show on the last day of Nat'l School Counseling Week.  Each morning of RAK week, our anchors have been reminding our students to do random acts of kindness for each other.   I've also had so much help from our awesome news show coordinator filming random students talking about ways they've shown kindness.  I've been on a couple times as well to introduce a youtube video of a RAK and share kindness ideas with everyone at school.

I got some great ideas by following many different RAK boards on pinterest.  I created this bulletin board from an awesome example on pinterest.

At the beginning of the week, I I emailed teachers a few ideas they could use in their class and attached this RAK board that I saw on The Inspired Counselor and know that a few classes have been using it! (I modified a couple of the RAKs to make them make sense at my school)

I printed and laminated these wallet-sized printable quotes about kindness and put them in our staff "buckets" that we usually fill for each other with positive notes.

There is one class in particular that needed an extra boost of kindness, so after school on Monday, I placed "secret kindness missions" on each of their desks.  Their teacher told me that there was a lot of excitement on Tuesday morning when they came into school and found out that they were on a secret mission.


We've also been selling Valentine's Day suckers for .25 cents to go to our beautification committee and have been promoting kindness through that. (Help make our school a place we all enjoy being; Be kind this Valentine's and surprise your friend with a sucker, ect.)  I made some of the tags for the suckers that said to: You, From: Random Act of Kindness so that teachers and students could leave suckers as surprises for each other.  

It has been such a fun and exciting week!  Kids are stopping me in the hallway every day to share the kind things they've been doing for their friends, teacher and family.  Helping kids learn kindness is a part of my vision and mission here at my school and I am thankful for a week that gives me a reason to promote and encourage it!  Happy RAK week to you!

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." -Aesop

Friday, February 8, 2013

School Counselor SURPRISE!!!

I have to take just a minute to brag on the awesome staff at my school.  Today was just going to be a normal day and the last day of National School Counseling Week, but everyone here went above and beyond to celebrate.  I was "tricked" into running an errand into the cafeteria this morning and noticed that a long and decorated table was set up on the stage.  I though, "hmm, wonder what's going on today?" until I noticed my name in the middle of the table.  Confusion was the first feeling that set in, then complete shock as I realized that this was for me.  The staff had planned and prepared a pot-luck feast for us all to join in and celebrate the last day of school counselor week.  The craziest part to me is that everyone kept it a secret!  I thought I knew everything going on at school-- but this was an incredible surprise and very humbling moment!  I am so blessed to be in this place, to be able to do what I love and work with people as amazing as this.  School Counseling ROCKS!!!  :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

National School Counseling Week Link Party!


National School Counseling Week is here!...and it snuck up on me :)

To kick the week off, I wanted to prepare something to give the teachers thanking them for their support and  let them know it was National School Counseling Week.  I also wanted them to check out my brand new School Counseling Program brochures that I finalized and printed just in time for this week.

Beside the computer where everyone checks-in in the morning, I left a Sign that said, "Thank you for your support of the school counseling program.  Happy National School Counseling Week!  I think you are marvelous and magnificent   Enjoy some M&Ms" along with a bowl of M&Ms and a bunch of my brochures.

I've gotten compliments on the brochures, thank yous for the M&Ms, and a few very sincere words of appreciation for what I do here at school.  Today I also filmed a blurb for the news show to be aired on Friday with me talking about my role as the counselor and also letting the whole school know that in honor of National School Counseling Week, we will be celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Week next week.  I gave everyone "homework" to come up with ideas of how they can be kind to each other and make our school a kind place to be.

Last year, I started in January and during my "introduction" classroom lessons with 5th grade, I cut out different puzzle pieces and went into the classes to talk about myself and my role at school. I had them decorate the puzzle pieces for the theme: School Counselors Help Connect The Pieces-- which is an idea I saw on Pinterest.  I put up this bulletin board in honor of the week and gave the teachers a note of thanks for the warm welcome and a treat in their boxes.

I get so inspired by other counselors ideas and I am thankful to be a part of this link party where we can share and celebrate our week together!  I heart school counseling!!!!