Saturday, October 6, 2018
Our local School Counselor Association started the book club idea 3 years ago. We choose a book, send out a survey for interested counselors to choose a day and time, had individuals register for our on-line club, and then met virtually for a pre-determined number of weeks based on the number of chapters or length of the book. The first year we read, The Use of Data in School Counseling, by Dr. Trish Hatch. Last year we read the ASCA National Model Handbook and this year we are reading Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World , by Dr. Michele Borba.
Setting up your Book Club
Someone has to agree to be the lead and set up the club for your group. Go to the website https://my-bookclub.com, register, and create a club. On your club page will be a place to display the book you are reading and share a brief paragraph about your group. You can share the website and club name with potential members or invite people to join by email.
Choosing a book and a day and time
Our local School Counselor Association has chosen the books based on what is occuring in our district. However, this could easily be done by using a Google form to take book ideas and for voting. We email a Google form to all the counselors in our district asking if they are interested to vote for their preferred day and time and their 2nd and 3rd choices. We offered Sunday-Thursday evenings with a one hour time frame in the 6:30-9:00 window. Our group tends to like Tuesday from 7-8pm. We also found 8 weeks tends to be the limit for group interest. So we have made it a point to keep our clubs to that time frame.
Purchasing the books
Most of our group has been able to get their administrators purchase books or have used departmental money. Of course, there are always those who want a book for their personal library and will purchase it theirself.
OrganinzingYour Book Club
In our district we use Microsoft office where we created a shared file for our book club. This could also be done in Google Drive. In this shared file we keep the book club Guidelines for Participation and Facilitator Responsibilities. There is also a sign-up sheet with dates and chapters so book club members can sign-up to share the opportunity to be the facilitator for the evening. This file also is the location of archived chats and the questions discussed for each chat.
In our district we can receive in-service points for doing a book study. Creating a "course" and getting course approval before the chat begins is important so participants can earn their points. Inviduals who miss a meeting can read the archived chat for the evening they missed and answer the questions and submit them to the shared folder for credit.
Facilitating the Chat
Each facilitator is responsible for keeping the conversation on track and posting the discussion questions during the hour the club is meeting. Facilitators should prepare about 6 questions to pose to the group over the course of the hour. It is easier when facilitating to already have your questions ready in a Word document. That way the facilitator only has to copy and paste questions into the chat bar. This helps maintain the flow of the conversation throughout the chat. Each question should begin with Q and the quesiton number. As members respond, they should use A and the number of the question.
Wrapping up the Chat
Once the chat is over, when you sign out of the chat room the conversation for the evening disappears. Because we tend to share a lot of good ideas and information and because we have members who sometimes have to miss chats, we always archive the evening's chat. This is as easy as creating a Word document and copying and pasting the chat into the document and saving it to the shared file. There you have it for reference for participants who wish to reference shared ideas and for those who were unable to attend the chat.
And there you have it! A book club is an easy way to participate in relevant professional development (in your bathrobe) and exchange some pretty cool ideas with your school counseling colleagues. Have you ever participated in an on-line book club? What are some books you have read or ideas you can share about your club? Please feel free to share your ideas below.
Friday, September 28, 2018
Six weeks later. It is late on a Friday afternoon. We are both leaving campus headed home for the weekend. As she approaches me I see a relaxed, smiling face and I comment on this. And her response is what makes the extra time on Fridays all worthwhile. She thanks me and hugs me. She thanks me for staying with her late, and talking with her when she was in despair and giving her the ideas and encouragement to come back on Monday and try something new. She told me of the success she was having and the amazing turn around with her class and how she was sharing my idea with other teachers who were also struggling. Of course, I was flattered, but token economies are not new and certainly not my idea. I thanked her for her kind words and reminded her it worked because she put in the time to plan the system, introduce it to her class, and reinforce it on a daily basis. More hugs, more thank-yous.
To successfully introduce a token economy, a well thought out plan is required. Here is the method used by the teacher I mentioned above.
1) Create your “money,” decide how it is earned and how much and how often it is given. My teacher decide to go with a rounded up version of minimum wage at 40 hours per week paid to every student on Monday. Each student was paid weekly for their job of being a student. If a student was absent they lost a day's pay. Students who were tardy were fined.
2) To introduce the idea, the teacher led a class meeting to discuss the top 5 reasons students were not able to learn in the classroom. This started as a small group brainstorming activity. The teacher then wrote the group responses on the board. Several items were able to be combined and the class worked with the teacher to re-word each item into a precise and positive statement. These were set as class standards and fines were determined by the students for violating a class standard.
3) The class met every morning for the first 2 weeks for 15- 30 minutes and then once a week thereafter. Meetings were never to assess blame or punishment but to discuss class issues and to find a solution. The loss of instructional time due to meetings was not an issue as instructional time was gained by reduced student disruptions and improved class behavior and attention.
4) Student ledgers were created for daily transactions and parents were asked to sign weekly.
5) Students were charged a weekly rent on their desk and chair.
6) Students were given 2 bathroom passes daily. Additional bathroom passes were available for purchase.
7) Students could earn a raise for consistently positive behavior. Examples of positive behavior and possible earnings were posted.
8) Students could earn class cash bonuses for acts of kindness, following directions, work completion etc. The teacher carried class cash in her pocket and randomly rewarded students for their positive actions.
9) Extra free time or recess, sitting with a special friend, sitting in the teacher's rollie chair, etc. were items that could be purchased with class cash. This menu was posted with the purchase price.
10) Rewards were offered at the end of the week for anyone with X amount of class cash. Again, a menu was posted with purchase prices.
11) An auction was held at the end of the quarter. The teacher brought in sodas, candy bars, dollar store, and garage sale items. Students were able to bid against one another using their class cash. Future auctions allowed students to bring items (with parent permission) they wish to auction to their classmates.
12) The teacher then took it to the next level to have students experience what it is like to be a small business owner. She had them take an index card and make a business card. They stated what they were good at, what they were willing to do and set a price. For example: organizing desks, notebooks, back packs, spell checker, creating artwork, rent of special markers, or colored pencils, etc.
A token economy, done well, can be a wonderful classroom management system. It creates a microcosm of society and many real life learning opportunities. This teacher consistently implemented all phases of her token economy plan and continued to hold regular class meetings to reinforce the structure and expectations she had for student success. Anyone will tell you there is some work to be done on the start up, but the end result is students who feel empowered and are making better choices about their classroom performance and behavior.
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Looking for an easy way to promote positivity around your campus? Try posting positive messages with one of my favorite Dollar Store purchases, neon colored starbust shapes in various sizes.
My idea was to hand write positive messages on each one and post them all over campus for the first day of school. But, when I considered how many shapes that would be, I went looking for another option. In my local Wal-Mart were these cool, round neon colored labels and white name badge size labels. The circles were just the right size for the smaller starbursts and the name badges were perfect for the larger ones.
My partner and I used packing tape to stick them up around campus on classroom doors and windows, in hallways, student and teacher bathroom mirrors, the teacher break room and teacher computers. With the help of our student assistants, we were able to sprinkle them all around the school.
What ways do you promote positivity around your campus? Share your ideas below!
Saturday, September 15, 2018
Let's start in the bottom left corner. I have a basket on my desk with all kinds of squishy items. Kids and adults both LOVE them. I found this blue centipede, the pink bristly thing and orange "submarine" with soft bristles. These can be squeezed into lots of distorted shapes. It gives students something to do with their hands and eyes when they are feeling uncomfortable. I actually have 2 of the blue centipedes and one of my students with sensory issues likes to sit with one in each hand and swing them across his body and they thump on his upper arms. It's a calming thing to him.
Above the squishies are 2 multi-sided shapes that can be used for a class lesson, small group, or something to work on with an individual over a series of sessions. Each person writes something about the lesson, group or themselves and then all the pieces are put together to create a hanging shape.
Next, still heading to the right you will see a cube with white circles on it. This and an erasable marker can allow a student or you to create multiple conversation starters on a variety of topics.
Just above the cube are two plastic stand up picture frames. They come in 4x6 and 8x10 sizes both vertical and horizontal. You can use these for class or group rules or special motivational sayings you want to share with students. They also make great stands for holding instructions for centers or at a sign-in table for a presentation or parent workshop.
Beneath the frames are maps of the USA. I was thinking of using one of these for new students to mark where they are from and one for faculty to mark where they went to college.
On top of the maps are cardstock neon colored "star burst" shapes of varying sizes. I have been collecting ideas for positive sayings to print on labels and hang up around the school.
Next to the star bursts is a beach ball. Use for writing questions, words, or actions on it and having groups or individuals toss it around. The "catcher" has to perform whatever their thumb lands on. This can be an icebreaker or a reward for good behavior. Fun, fun, fun!
Below that are a variety of colored speech bubbles with a slick surface. Great for dry erase markers to allow kids to write down what they are thinking in a group, especially for those who have difficulty with remembering to wait their turn to talk or if you are asking a quesion everyone wants to answer. Also good with older students if you are talking about postive or negative self-talk, self-censoring, or partner sharing. I'm sure there are lots of other ways to use with classes, groups, and individuals.
Lastly, in the middle is are small, individual white boards. I love these for students of all ages to draw how they are feeling, to tell what happened, or when drawing out a plan of action. You can also both use the boards to ask and answer questions together.
What terrific Dollar $tore items have you found? Please share how you have used your Dollar $tore purchases!
Saturday, September 8, 2018
Part of getting ready for back to school means updating my Google forms. If you don't know Google forms, they are an amazing tool! I have used Google forms for years for a variety of purposes like minute meetings, documenting group attendance and session content, surveys, needs assessments, and pre/post tests. However, my favorite is for tracking my time each day. I liked the Counselor Activity form I used for several years, but felt now that I was at a new school, it was in need of a little makeover.
NEW this year, sections!
Even though my original form contained everything I thought I wanted to document, it was long and cumbersome and a little confusing even to me at times. So this summer I learned how to add sections to my forms. By using the Google form feature "sections" and including branch or skip logic, I was able to create a neater, more concise form. Skip logic changes what question a respondent sees next based on how they have answered the previous question. Basically, it allows you to create a customized path through your form based on how a question is answered.
When you first open the Counselor Activity Log form, you will see a place for the date and four categories: Direct Services, Indirect Services, Non-Counseling Related Duties and a new, much needed category After Hours Services. Because honestly, what school counselor is NOT volunteering mega hours after school and from home? This should be part of your data collection as well. There is too much to do in the course of a school day and it is important for stakeholders to see how much the school counselor is doing long after the school day is over.
Depending on what you want to record, choose your category and follow the questions until you get to the submit button. The items in each category can easily be deleted/revised or new tasks added to fit your school situation.
If Indirect Services is chosen an alphabetized drop down menu of more than 30 indirect services provided by school counselors appears. If a phone call is chosen, the form takes you to a screen to document your phone call, including the name and number of the caller. When Non-Counseling Related Duties is chosen, you will see a drop-down menu of more than 50 activities or duties considered non-counseling related. It also has a place for you to notate what services were lost as a result of the non-counseling duty. Great for making your case about loss of time with students. For After Hours Services, a drop down menu of 8 items including work beyond the contract day and work from home is shown. This allows you to log the number of hours outside the school day you spend preparing for your job.
The beauty of Google forms is your ability to customize them to fit your needs. I have included as many different direct, indirect, non-counseling duties, and after hours services as I could think of in the drop down menus. However, I am sure there are other duties and services of which I am not aware or are unique to other schools. No worries, you can add or delete duties relevant to your school, add teacher names or grade levels, whatever makes this form work for your data collection needs.
Why Track Your Time?
There are always questions about what school counselors do with their time. Because much of what we do is confidential, it is safe to say, the majority of people in our schools and communities have no idea what a school counselor does all day. This Counselor Activity Log provides a record of your responses to school needs, gives administrators an overview how your time is spent without violating confidentiality, and allows you to track your time for personal reflection. All this plus providing colorful graphs provide a clear visual representation to share with administration, faculty, parents, and the community. Data can be shared monthly, quarterly, by semester, or as an overview of the year. You decide what best meets your needs.
Documenting your activities is a powerful advocacy tool for telling the story of how your position as a school counselor is being utilized. By using the data and graphs from this form, you will be able to tell your story of success or of the changes needing to be made in order for you to provide services to ALL students.
Available on TPT
If you are interested in downloading my new and improved, editable Google form "Counselor Activity Log" with sections, designed specifically for elementary school counselors, middle school counselors and high school counselors, click on the photo of your level.
|School Counselor Activity Log Elementary|
|School Counselor Activity Log Middle School|
|High School Counselor Activity Log|
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
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
"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."
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.
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.
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 stuttering...by 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.
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.