Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Attending ASCA 2018? Tips to get you ready!

In less than a week I will be joining thousands of my school counseling colleagues at the American School Counselor Association annual conference in Los Angeles.  This will be my 5th ASCA  conference and I am excited to engage in some real, school counselor specific professional development about middle school.  Think of it like a "School Counselor buffet" with dozens and dozens of entrees. At the ASCA conference, you will find most any topic you desire to learn more about, plus new ideas for moving your program into the 21st century. In addition to the plethora of choices you have to fill your plate, (and I always have multiple choices in each time slot) there are the exhibitors with freebies, and the chance to connect with other school counselors.  It's especially exciting to meet in real life the individuals I've met on-line. 

As I am doing a little mental pre-packing, I thought I would share some items I am planning to bring to the ASCA conference.  

What to wear?  
I have seen people dressed in everything from shorts to business attire.  The key to dressing for ASCA is to consider your purpose. Are you attending only for your own professional development?   If so, wear what makes you comfortable.  Are you looking to network and make connections with other professionals? Maybe go with business casual.  Are you looking for a school counseling job? There will be school districts looking for new hires, so you might want to wear more business-type  clothing. You never know who you will be sitting next to on a shuttle bus or in a conference session.  Whatever you decide to wear, be sure to bring a sweater or jacket as conference rooms are usually VERY cold.

What to bring?  
Technology, charging cables, and power packs.  This year ASCA is going paperless so you will need some sort of technology (phone, tablet or laptop) for accessing the ASCA app to see all different sessions being presented.  Be sure to download the ASCA18 app and start looking at sessions before you arrive.  Sometimes, presenters will have participants engage in an on-line activity and there are times you may want to photograph PowerPoint slides or tweet to your school district about your awesome learning.  Batteries drain quickly and electrical outlets are a premium so bring your own pre-charged battery pack and cables for back-up.  You will be glad you did!

Paper, pens, business cards.  Some like to type, some like to write, but even if you like to type, you may want the old fashioned pen and paper too.  Business cards are important for entering exhibitor drawings, making new friends, and networking with other school counseling professionals.

School purchase order or personal credit card.  I love being able to actually look through materials  I have only been able to view in a catalog. Whether it is from an exhibitor or the ASCA bookstore, I always find something I want and with a school purchase order have been able to make a purchase without it coming out of my bank account.  Check with your administration and bookkeeper.

For breakfast, ASCA is providing "lite bites" from 8-9 am in the exhibit hall before sessions start.  Some folks bring pre-packaged snacks and a water bottle for mid-morning or mid-afternoon breaks.  ASCA also provides a nice box lunch in the exhibit hall since attendees have limited time between sessions to leave, get lunch and return to the conference.  In the evenings there are usually groups who have connected at various sessions who go to dinner at local eateries. Don't be shy, introduce yourself and ask your new friends about their dinner plans.  School Counselors tend to be very friendly and inclusive.

Optional Box for Mailing.  Last year I flattened out a medium size box and put it in the bottom of my suitcase.  I had so much in the way of freebies and books I had purchased I needed to send some things home rather than pay the additional weight on my luggage.  Something to think about.

Can't attend ASCA?
Sometimes there are barriers that prevent us from attending conferences.  ASCA knows this and has a Virtual Conference option available.  Click HERE to learn more about the cost of registering as a virtual attendee and the sessions being live streamed.

I can't wait to get to LA and hear all the great professional development waiting for me!  I will be sharing highlights from my ASCA experience, so be sure to check back for all the details.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Evidence-Based School Counseling Conference: Day 2

Day 2 of the Evidence-Based School Counseling Conference was packed with just as much information and professional learning as Day 1. For those who may not know about the Evidence-Based School Counseling Conference, here is an overview from the program welcome page:

"This conference was created to prioritize and disseminate what works in school counseling and to engage practicing professional school counselors, counseling administrators, and school counselor educators as leaders in that context...By using evidence-based and culturally responsive interventions to remove barriers to success for all students and to support achievement through multiple interventions, school counselors can be central players on the education team."

The Keynote
Day 2 started with an inspiring keynote by Paul Ripchik, Jr., Associate Principal and Director of 9-12 Counseling, Shenendehowa Central Schools. The title of his address, "A Roadmap to Goal Setting: A Communication Tool Between School Counselors and the Building Principal," described the incredible transformation of the School Counseling Department in his school.  Mr. Ripchik described himself as someone who had no formal degree in School Counseling, had coached a variety of sports, and had a degree in marketing.  When he took the position as Associate Principal and Director of 9-12 Counseling he knew he would meet with resistance as the Guidance department (as it was still called in 2011) had seen a steady stream of  changing leadership over the years.  Using the ASCA National Model book as his guide, in which he described his copy as tattered, highlighted, and full of sticky notes, along with his marketing and education backgrounds, he led his School Counselors to receive RAMP as a school of distinction.  Their transformation started with a study of the ASCA model,  senior exit surveys, asking what does 21st century school counseling look like and are we doing it, creating a comprehensive school counseling plan, re-branding their department and getting rid of the word "guidance."  They created a theme, instituted  a school based Career Fair where business could come to interview students for summer jobs, and created a student internship program using 2 students from each grade level to work on projects tied to the Counseling Center.  They reconfigured the counseling suite to make it more open, welcoming, and student friendly and invested time in training clerical staff so every person who entered felt they left with something.   He humorously described how for students in the past, trying to get through the bank of secretaries to a School Counselor was like running a gauntlet. 

Using the ASCA model, the school counseling team looked at aligning school and district goals, reviewed end of the year data points, identified burning questions, planned and held School Counselor professional development in a separate time and place to allow them to finalize goals, action plans, and create lesson plans.

In closing, Mr. Ripchik reminded us every data point is a child we are impacting and suggested listing data points by name.  What a way to keep it real! He reminded us to never get complacent and that schools with School Counselor and Administrative Leadership teams are the most powerful.

Creating Evidence-Based Tier 2 Intervention Kits 
Dr. Peg Donahue and her exceptional team of grad students, ready to be hired in May, presented a  double session of useful and relevant information for practicing School Counselors at all levels. The student presenters had created Tier 2 Intervention kits for students from elementary to high school which could be implemented by School Counselors, teachers, or teaching assistants. Each student took turns sharing their kits and the impact they had seen from using them.

As is always the case, there are going to be cases of teacher resistance to pulling students for Tier 2 interventions.  It was suggested to find those teachers who are there for the kids and engage with them.  When those teachers share the success they are seeing with their peers, it will "loosen the jar" with other teachers.

Dr. Donohue got me thinking about the way we present and advocate for the Tier 2 services we see are needed by our students.  She  made the comparison to speech services. She says, "...we give intervention to children at 4 for 4th grade it is not an issue."  As School Counselors, we know teachers and administrators are aware of the benefit of early intervention in speech and academic issues.  It is up to us as School Counselors to advocate for the benefit of early interventions for social-emotional learning as well.  Dr. Donohue states our students "...need to know and have skills to take care of themselves and make friends rather that self-medicating and self-harming."

My Turn to Present
In the afternoon it was my turn to present on "A Data Day is Like a Mental Health Day: But How to Evaluate the Impact?"  This session was based on my experience of creating a data day for School Counselors in my district.  I felt validated  and encouraged that morning when our keynote speaker talked about School Counselors needing professional development time away to review data and plan for a comprehensive school counseling plan. That was a perfect summary of my session. School Counselors need time away from their schools during the last few weeks of the school year to review data and plan for the coming year. For more information on creating a Data Day for the School Counselors in your district, check out my earlier post A Data Day is Like a Mental Health Day or listen to my podcast with Trish Hatch.

Create a data picture of your caseload
Data Tells a Story
There was time for one more session before I had to catch the Super Shuttle to the airport.  I chose "Data Tells a Story" presented by Dr. Deborah Hardy.  Dr. Hardy took data down to the most basic level.  She had us look at graphs of data and determine what we saw, then ask what was missing.  We considered questions  about gender, ethnicity, grade level, and who and when meetings with the School Counselor were being requested.  Were these requests happening more often after a particular lesson, a holiday, or recess?  She also had us consider the questions "Is this data going to improve a program?" and "Who and what will the evaluation impact?"

She pointed out how often there are services in our schools which are isolated.Their data is not included with the data we traditionally review.  It is important to come together to show who is having needs across multiple of settings, like who is spending a lot of time with the nurse or going to In School Suspension.  We need to ask who, how often, and why? From there we can develop future goals and action plans to better inform interventions and programming for students. 

Dr. Hardy also encouraged us to survey our students to determine the lessons we should be teaching (we think we know what is good for kids, but do we ask kids what they need) to understand the needs of those who are transitioning from one level to the next,  and even to explore what electives our schools should offer.  We often create electives because we think kids will love them she says, but have we asked?  

As a former elementary School Counselor, I had never considered a statistical picture of my caseload.  All the students were mine, so the school data was my data.  Now that I am at a middle school, and share the students with another School Counselor,  I see the importance of understanding the data for my caseload.  It will be interesting to see what the data reveals about the students I serve.

EBSCC 2019
All the sessions I attended at the Evidence-Based School Counseling Conference (EBSCC) were of the highest quality and there are so many others I wish I could have attended.  This is an excellent conference for School Counselors looking for professional development, networking, and learning about the latest research and evidence-based practices in our field. The cost for the conference is very reasonable at $159 for the 2 days. Start saving your money and mark your calendars now for March 10-11, 2019  when the EBSCC 2019 will be at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Evidenced Based School Counseling: Day 1

I just returned from the Sixth Annual Evidenced-Based School Counseling Conference, in New York City.  This was my third visit to the "boutique" conference featuring learning opportunities from School Counselor Practitioners, Educators, Supervisors and leaders in the field.  The word "boutique" of course refers to a small conference, but the impact and quality of sessions was anything but.

The program welcome to EBSCC 2018 states:
"This conference was created to prioritize and disseminate what works in school counseling and to engage practicing professional school counselors, counseling administrators, and school counselor educators as leaders in that context...By using evidence-based and culturally responsive interventions to remove barriers to success for all students and to support achievement through multiple interventions, school counselors can be central players on the education team."

The 2 day conference provided opportunities to attend a keynote and five 50 minute sessions each day.  There was also the option of attending  a number of double sessions for 2 hours offered both mornings.  As is often the case, there were multiple sessions I wanted to attend being offered at the same time.  The first morning I had to choose between these 2 hour sessions: Using School Data to Show Accountability, Motivational Interviewing Techniques, and Starting Universal Screening in your School District.  Any of the three would have been a winner, but I chose Motivational Interviewing.

Motivational Interviewing (MI) was a topic I had been hearing a lot about.  Its directive and client-centered style fits well with my own personal identity as a School Counselor. I learned MI empowers the student to set goals and action plans.  In doing so, it is the job of the School Counselor to involve the student in exploration and support rather than exhortation, persuasion, or argument.  The responsibility and argument for change is left with the client.  When students want to be the next NBA or Rap Star, it's okay to say, "Great, what do you need to do to get there?"
In MI the School Counselor does not fight the student's resistance.  When students are not interested in change or tell you they just don't care, "roll with the resistance."  Tell students you respect that they don't care, thank them for their time and invite them back if they want to change something.
The 5 principles of MI focus on empowering students. 
1) Express and show empathy towards students
2) Support and develop discrepancy
3) Deal with resistance
4) Support self-efficacy
5) Autonomy

Check out these Amazon titles:  Miller and Rollnick (2013) 3rd Edition Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change  
North (2017) Motivational Interviewing for School Counselors

My next session was "What are Social Stories and How Do I Write Them?" with Dr. Emily Goodman-Scott. The term Social Stories has been copyrighted by Carol Gray who pioneered their use.  You will want to check out this link to learn more about Social Stories and their development.  Carol Gray Social Stories.

Social Stories were originally developed for use with children with Autism.  Their use has expanded to provide an evidence based intervention for all students.  Social Stories can be used for helping students process any situation from adjustment scenarios, event preparation, anxiety, appropriate social skills, and understanding a new culture.  Social Stories most often feature the child at the center, however stories using popular cartoon characters have also been successful.  Social Stories can be designed, with the student, as a book in PowerPoint using Google Images or actual photographs (or selfies) of the student and situation.  They should be written in first person language and explain the situation or behavior, prepare students for what will occur, and show expected behavior,  Collaborating with all stakeholders involved with the student is important to be sure all aspects of the story are covered and to provide reinforcement.

This intervention can be used as Tier 3  and is great for collecting outcome data with students at any level.  I have a 6th grader with a behavioral disability and speech issues who has difficulty going to class and staying in class. I plan to write a Social Story with him about this topic.  This will allow me to collect the needed outcome data and will show the behavioral impact of a story written specifically to help him manage his behavior about staying in class.

My next session was about using Hip Hop and Spoken Word Therapy as a Group Counseling Framework in Schools. In this session the presenter has taken his love of Rap music and created a Donor's Choose project to fund a studio in his counseling suite.  He shared how 2/3 of adolescents today have experienced trauma and how trauma negatively impacts self regulation. He discussed how students of color are often put in a position where their emotional expression is considered disobedient, causing them to feel isolated and unsupported.  Lyric writing and recording hip hop beats allows students to express their emotional obstacles.  When students come together to share their experiences, they must listen to each other to create a cohesive track.  This group provides a way for students of color to cope, to express emotions, and reflect on their experiences. 

What's a School Counselor to do who is not familiar with Hip Hop, Spoken Word Therapy, or laying down beats?  Start with the students and ask them to teach you or find  someone in your community who has the skills and knowledge and ask for their help.

My last session of the day was Exploring Systemic Factors of White Spaces Within Educational Institutions and the Role of the School Counselor.  We were asked to examine our biases and how they impact our services to students. We heard how we must be compassionate about the socio-ecological realities of our students.  What are these and how do they impact our students?  Many students of color are characterized as underachievers.  It is important to ask deeper questions about discrepancies, for example, why are there a lower number of students of color taking AP courses? Our students come full of knowledge, how do we use it?  We ended with this powerful YouTube video below by Sy Stokes titled "Dear White  Counselor."  For more in depth understanding of this topic it is important to read about critical race theory, white fragility, and colonization mindset.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this unique professional developmental opportunity on evidence-based practices.  This conference is offered each Spring and will be held next at Ohio State University on March  10-11, 2019. 
Next week, Day 2 of the Evidenced-Based School Counseling Conference.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

5 reasons I'm Celebrating National School Counseling Week

It's one of my favorite times of year!  It's National School Counseling Week!

The debate has been occurring  around the country for a few weeks now about whether School Counselors should have to celebrate themselves or have the time, energy or money to participate in NSCW.  Let's stop right there.  It's not about appreciation, it's about educating those around us. While we all love to see tangible examples of how we are appreciated on a special day or week, I submit we would ALL rather experience a profession daily where we are allowed and encouraged to do what we were trained to do.  If you are in the perfect school counseling situation with awesome ratios, free from all non-counselor duties, providing 80%+ of your time in direct services to students, with administrators, teachers, and parents who understand your job and support the programs and activities you provide, then maybe you have reached a place where you don't need to support National School Counseling Week, but for the rest of us, the struggle is real.  I  am blessed to have a great situation, but most of my colleagues around the district and country do not.  Here's 5 reasons why I'm participating during NSCW:

1) The majority of people STILL call us  Guidance Counselor!
If students, parents, teachers, administrators and school district personnel are still saying "Guidance Counselor"  you have your work cut out for you!  We are not Guidance Counselors, we are Masters degree holding Counseling professionals.  We are not teachers or coaches with no counseling training from the 1950's and 60's who volunteered to help the kids who need to get into college.  We are a highly trained force of Counselors, who are also educators, who help ALL students with the challenges of living in the 21st century. Whether it be homelessness, social media savvy, bullying, self harm, anxiety, mindfulness, social and academic skills, career readiness, kindness, personal safety, splintered families, abuse, or neglect School Counselors are uniquely trained and qualified to be the first line of mental health help in our schools.
So please, stop calling us "Guidance Counselors"!

2) No one really knows what we do.
Some School Counselors say, " Oh they (teachers/parents/administrators) know what I do, I don't need to tell them."  But do they, really?  They think they know what you do and you may think they know what you do, but until they have lived a day in your shoes, they really have NO IDEA, because we can't tell them!  I LOVE my job, but you know how grueling and tough some days can be.  You know on some days if you didn't believe in prayer or a higher power, you might just give up.  You can't really talk to others about what you do because of the confidential nature of the fears and concerns shared with you.  The intense ethical responsibilities we face require you to shoulder many of the confidences alone, unless you are blessed to have additional School Counselors in your school or have things shared with you that legally require you to make a report.   And because we can't really tell them what we do, NSCW is a great week to educate them about why every student deserves a School Counselor.

3) School Counselors around the country still have extreme ratios.
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends student to School Counselor ratios or 250:1.  Does this may you laugh out loud?  Does it make you envious?  Unless you are living this ratio, we still have work to do!  I am in a middle school and share our 760 students with an amazing partner.  Even with 380 students each the demands are high and the needs are great.  I can't even imagine what is is like to have 1500+ students or be at 3 or more schools.  There is work to be done, if not for ourselves for our School Counselor colleagues!

4) School Counselors are still performing non-Counselor duties.
As long as School Counselors have to be the registrar, testing coordinator, RtI coordinator, disciplinarian, substitute in classes, do breakfast, lunch, bus, car,  or playground duty there is education to be done.  We must use this week to advocate for the appropriate role of School Counselors.  Will it magically change your situation?  No of course not, change takes time.  A little trickle of water can carve a canyon.  It may not make a difference for you, but you are paving the way for School Counselors to come.  I am thankful for the ones who came before me to create a more School Counselor friendly environment in my school.  Be the pioneer!

5)  You have to model  how you want to be treated (perceived).
Right?  Isn't this what we tell our students?  Time to take our own advice.  If people aren't educated on the proper title, ratios, and job responsibilities how will they ever learn?  I love this quote from PBIS.  "If a child can't read, we teach them to read.  If a child can't swim, we teach them to swim.  If a child can't behave, we punish them."  The same is true for School Counselors.  If  parents or teachers don't know how to handle a behaviorally challenge kid we teach them.  If parents and teachers don't have suicide awareness (or any other awareness) we teach them.  If parents and teachers don't understand the role of the School Counselor we get discouraged.  Ladies and gentlemen, most do not know, we have to teach them.  Use this week to model for them what it means to be a School Counselor and how you would like our profession to be perceived.  It's not self promotion, it is promotion of the profession.

So, how will I celebrate?
To begin the week I will post the ASCA signs around the campus and each day my partner and I are reading the ASCA blurbs on the morning announcements.  Find them here at the ASCA website

Monday:  Donuts, coffee and juice for the faculty along with a School Counselor Trivia Game.  My partner and I will each have a sheet with 10 "facts" about us, half are true, half are false.  The faculty will have to guess which is which. My partner and I are both new to our middle school so this will be a fun way for them to get to know us better. The teacher with the most correct guesses wins a $5 Starbucks gift card.

Tuesday: We are a Title 1 school and struggle with the effects of poverty for many of our students.  I love this poem , "Cause I Ain't Got No Pencil" by Joshua Dickerson, as a reminder to teachers that we all have a story. What a great way to advocate for the needs of students and show how School Counselors can support them.  I ordered card stock at the beginning of the year and got pencils at
Wal Mart after the new year for 97 cents for a box of 20.

Wednesday:  This cute little cheesy candy reminder says School Counselors are the heart of the school.  Hershey's chocolate hearts, 30 to a bag, I had the card stock, used the school copy machine.  Pretty cheap.

Thursday:  Another cheesy candy reminder for teachers Reese's cups 34 in a bag, card stock, school copy machine.  Cheap and done!  Have we (I) told you "Reesently" how much we (I) enjoy being your School Counselor (s)?  We will have a Photo booth set up outside the cafeteria for students to take photos with the ASCA sign "My School Counselor helps me reach for the stars by..."

Friday:  An old stand by I have used before,  In a "crunch," your School Counselor can help.  More chocolate for teachers, card stock and the school copy machine.  At lunch we will have a School Counselor Kahoots! the students can play with candy as prizes.

And that's it!  If you don't have the time or the money I get it.  But don't ignore this important professional week to promote the profession of School Counseling using the freebies on the ASCA website.

Happy National School Counseling Week!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Restored, Repaired, Re-tuned

This summer while visiting my daughter at her home in Queenstown, New Zealand, we were walking along the picturesque waterfront with the snow capped mountains in the background.  There, playing a beat up piano, sat a man totally absorbed in making beautiful music. The piano busker, as he is known, is there most days to share his original compositions and add to the idyllic setting on Lake Waukatipu.

His music drew a good-sized crowd who had stopped to listen.  When the crowd dispersed I saw the sign propped against his stool and felt a lump in my throat.  As I read it, I experienced a flood of emotions.

It stated, "This piano came from the dump.  I have restored, repaired and re-tuned it in an ongoing self-inflicted piano tuning apprenticeship."  
 As I read it I was overcome by the thought, "Isn't that what School Counselors do?"  Like the piano busker we find value, beauty, and dignity in those who may feel broken or discarded.   We help students who feel others may have given up on them or tossed them aside. We "rescue" students from the dumps of their own feelings and thoughts and do all we can to restore them to a place where they can feel their own value again. We attempt to "repair" their hurts by offering hope and our emotional support.  We "re-tune" them by teaching them new skills, new perspectives, or a way to cope with a situation beyond their control. 

As School Counselors we are "re-tuning" our students to find the beauty and value they possess and giving them the skills to make something beautiful out of lives others may dismiss as worthless.

How do you restore, repair and re-tune the students and relationships in your school?  Is there a student in your school who is like the piano rescued by the piano busker?  I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Don't Stop Believin': A Story of Hope

Think of a student, past or present, who has captured your heart and energy, while at the same time wrecked havoc in your school.

Think of the student no one else seems to like, can handle, or understand?  The one you've spent hours with individually, calming their meltdowns, supporting their heartache, or soothing their real life nightmares.

Maybe their families are working diligently beside you, but maybe they are no where to be found.  Think.

Do you have that student in your mind?  What about that student breaks your heart?  What are your hopes and dreams for this student?

Whether they have been out of your life for a few years, or maybe you are still doing all you can to help them get through each day, I want to share a story of hope with you.

Recently,  I was attending a local band concert where a family member was performing.  When I arrived I found my extended family sitting in the second row from the front of the stage on the far right. Ugh!  "What terrible seats," I thought.  "This is just great.  I will sit with my neck cranked back in some contorted position for an hour.  All I can see is this weird stage protrusion in front of me."  I told myself, it was okay. I was their to be a supportive family member, it was a band concert, not a play. My poor view did not effect my ability to hear. So what if I had a better view of who had worn socks or not and how many different shades of black band pants there were?  So I settled in and began to review the program.  A name caught my eye.  Could it be? My unique seating did not allow me to see faces of the band members and I was eager to know if this name was the student I had worked with so hard, the one I believed in when others did not. Was this my student whose father left before they were born, who had experienced a significant and tragic death at a critical age, who was always in trouble with anger and hands and feet and words? Who couldn't get along with authority figures or other students? Who had few friends and no allies, just their mother, grandmother, and me. I couldn't tell.

Midway through the program, the stage needed to be reset. During the transition, soloists and small ensembles of students took turns filing onto the protrusions on either side of the stage to perform. There were students of all talent levels playing and it was amazing to see the confidence they displayed on stage to the packed auditorium.  And then, four students walked out to perform an ensemble piece of  Don't Stop Believin'. There was my student, right in front of me on the stage protrusion.  I couldn't stop smiling. I sat up a little straighter, thankful now to be in that terrible seat on the side in the front.  I willed my former student to see me.  Our eyes met. My student gave me an enormous smile of recognition and a very subtle wave.  I waved back.  The music started and the tears began to flow as the memories and emotions of all the times we had spent together flooded my mind. Don't Stop Believin'. The angry outbursts, cursing, physically hurting others, the tearful phone calls from Mom, the behavior plans, the thoughts of,  "Am I really making a difference?"  Don't Stop Believin' ...  During those years of our work together, there were moments I feared my student wouldn't make it, but we continued on. Every day. Starting new. Now, here they were, a talented and successful musician, making the honor roll, and loving life.

Don't Stop Believin'...
To all my School Counselor friends and colleagues:

I want you to believe your students whose lives are not full of holiday cheer can make it through each day and the upcoming vacation from school because of you and the emotional and physical support you provide. 
Don't Stop Believin'...

I want you to believe every kind word, loving gesture, promise kept, moment of silence shared, affirmation of feelings, support of a dream, attendance at a game or concert, gives a student hope and a chance to believe they are going to make it.   Don't Stop Believin'...

I know, there are moments you aren't so sure what you do makes a difference and you worry whether some of your students will even live to be grown. You fear they may end up in jail, on the streets, or so disillusioned with the world they have known that they will give up, never reaching the potential you know is just below the surface.   I feel it too. I share those same worries and fears.  But, keep doing what you do!  Love them, support them, provide for them, listen to them and "Don't Stop Believin" you make a difference, because you do!  You really do!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

QR Codes and Google Forms

Several years ago I learned about QR codes when I attended a technology workshop.  Their uses are limited only by your imagination, but for this post I will focus on how I have used them with Google forms. For more information on QR codes, QR readers, QR creators and ideas on how to use them in education, check out this link  Kathy Schrock on QR Codes in the classroom, from the website Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything.

QR or "quick response" codes allow the creator to connect designated material to a unique code that when scanned, takes the user to a website, presentation, hand-outs, business card, audio recording, or in this case, a Google form. This eliminates the need for a long URL and allows individuals to simply scan your code to arrive at your desired online destination. This is especially helpful in the classroom if you have 1:1 technology.  It gets everyone on the "same page" at essentially the same time.

From Google Form to QR code using the website
Once you have created your Google form, you will copy your link by clicking "SEND" at the top right of your form. In the drop down box, click on the middle icon for link.  This will give you the link to paste into a QR code generator website like  .  I like because it is free and your codes never expire.  If you are still learning about how to create Google Forms, check my previous post on Back to Basics with Google Forms.

Once in follow these easy steps.

Step 1: Choose the type of QR code you need (choose website because it is coming from your Google Drive) 
Step 2:  Paste your Google form link into the long white rectangular box that says "content" above it.
You are then asked if you want static or dynamic.  Leave it on static.  
Step 3:  Choose your color. Usually I leave mine in black.  I have used color when I was using multiple codes and I wanted my items color coded to share at a workshop. The presentation, survey links, and handouts were all different colors.
Step 4: Download, print, or email your QR code.  I download mine and rename it for what it represents in my download file.  It is saved as a PNG, or picture file, then whenever I need it I can add it as an image.  Always be sure you test the code and have a friend test the code to be certain it is working properly before using. I learned this one the hard way!

Check out this short video on how to create a QR codefrom  Easy peasey.

Using your QR code.
As I mentioned above I have used QR codes to connect workshop participants to my PowerPoint presentation, workshop handouts, and a survey.  I have also included a QR code in my Welcome Back to School letter and School Counselor brochure, creating a digital business card parents could scan and save with my contact information.

But this year, I am at a middle school and wanted to do something different. The idea is for students to have access to online forms to self-refer for counseling or to make an anonymous report about bullying.  I have created an online counselor referral form and an anonymous bullying report form for students to access by scanning QR codes with their phones. These along with the QR codes for emailing my school counseling partner and myself appear on a small poster that reads "Help is only a scan away." These mini posters will be placed in the bathroom stalls, the common areas of the school, and over the light switch in the classrooms.  Due to ethical and liability concerns, and as a way of setting healthy professional boundaries, a disclaimer has been added to our poster.  It reads: "Online requests and reports will be checked and responded to by the School Counselors during regularly scheduled school days and hours.  If you are experiencing an emergency call 911."

Roll out of this procedure has been delayed by Hurricane Irma and more than a week out of school.  However, I am excited to see the sort of response we will get from the students once we are back in school.

Do you use QR codes in your school counseling program?  What are some interesting and creative ways you have used them? Please share your ideas in the comments below.