Thursday, July 16, 2015

ASCA: My Conference Highlights, part 2

They need a spell checker in the sign department.

More ASCA goodness coming your way!

ASCA Day 2
Dr. Tim Shriver
Dr. Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics was our speaker. He gave us the background on how the Special Olympics started and talked about his famous family, the Kennedys.  He told us how his Aunt Rosemary, born in 1918, had an intellectual disability and what it was like for families with a child like Rosemary during those years; locked away, denied an education, and forced sterilization.  Dr. Shriver talked about how his grandmother, Rose Kennedy, insisted that the other children include Rosemary in whatever they did. Whether a party, a dance, or getting together with friends, Rosemary was to be included. He talked about how he believed this impacted his uncle, President Kennedy.  In his now famous quote, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," Dr. Shriver says he believes President Kennedy was telling all Americans there are those around us who need our help. We need to ask ourselves how can we help them and each other.

As Dr. Shriver shared about the Special Olympics we heard moving stories of perseverance, saw statistics of monumental growth and heard how the Special Olympics is impacting children with disabilities around the world.  But still there is much work to do.  Dr.Shriver shared this powerful video with us during his presentation.  A young teen whose brother has an intellectual disability is taking a stand against the use of the  "R" word.

Dr. Shriver ended his speech by introducing a high school who participates in unified sports. This is where students with and without intellectual disabilities are combined in approximately equal numbers for training and competition.  These energetic students had us up and dancing.  What an inspiring group of young people!

Keller High School Athletes-Unified Sports 
The Special Olympics has a great website with a FREE  K-12 curriculum called Get Into it which celebrates the diverse gifts of every student whatever their ability. This website is an interactive web-based curriculum with fun, interactive, and creative activities, experiential role plays and engaging videos to help promote respect and acceptance among people with and without disabilities.
2000+ School Counselors #Reach Higher
More sessions, more learning!
My first session of the day was one I had been eagerly anticipating!  I heard Russell Sabella speak  at
ASCA last year and in the  fall at our state convention. His sessions were loaded with lots of great tech tips and I had no doubt he would deliver another information packed and thought provoking session. Russell Sabella and Madelyn Issacs did not disappoint!  Their session, Legal and Ethical Issues in School Counseling,was a fast paced session that was hard to keep up with at times, but what a lot they packed in 75 minutes!  The focus of this session was awareness and risks and how we can reduce the risks.  Madelyn Issacs started off by telling us, "If you are not getting training (in tech) all the time, you are hopelessly behind."  Wow!  She tells us tech is only a tool, people determine its function and value. Russ then tells us the value of these tools is how we use them. He reminds us that whenever we go on line we have power to impact how people view School Counselors, and we know the media is going after the weakest link!  "As people who are caretakers of children we are held to a higher standard.  If one of us is inappropriate it brings us all down."

Here are some great quotes/ideas from this session:
"Just because you can doesn't mean you should!"(even if it's legal and ethical)
 "Private ≠ Privacy, Privacy  Confidential"
We forget their are other audiences viewing our online content besides our intended audience.
When you post,  ask yourself, "Is there one person who shouldn't see this?"  Then don't post it!
"Facebook is not your therapist!"
"Post only things that are positive."
On "friending" students and parents...  Once again, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

On using Skype, email and notes on Google Docs, be cautious about sharing information/private documents over non-HIPPA compliant protocols.  As for notes on Google  Docs, be certain  they do not contain any confidential information.  Be factual, be brief.  

Important to remember...
There was a ton of other information on HIPPA, FERPA and COPPA compliant sites and programs. We also learned about data encryption for our files, folders and hard drive, file shredding file wiping, and file transfers. I am hopelessly behind here and was a little overwhelmed by all the information and options. For more information about technology you can check out these websites by Russell Sabella., and My Data Boot Camp 2.0.

My next session was with Julia Taylor on Promoting Parental Involvement.  Julia reminds us to meet parents where they are.  Consider the things that may be barriers to them like time, personal history (how welcoming is your school), intimidation, school atmosphere ( hopeful? easy access?), child care, deportation, language, transportation, and divorce.  She says it is important for parents to know what we do without having to talk to us.  How do they know what we do?  Communication is key. It can be a website - post links to resources,  an e-newsletter like S'more, maybe Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Provide information online, like a virtual AP fair they held for parents who can't always make it to school.  In this case, each AP teacher did a 3-5 minute talk about their course and work requirements. These video clips were recorded and put on a glog so parents could access them later at home.  Other great ideas included the app Remind, parent coffee club, book club, lunch and learn, parent needs assessment, parent education evenings once a quarter with a speaker like a banker to talk about how to pay for college or a police officer to talk about dating violence or social media.

The last session of the day was How to Create an iMovie with your iPad by Kelly Curtis.  She showed us lots of great examples of how they had used iMovie in promoting their PBIS program and other events around the school. These movies are posted on their school Facebook page and parents can see them and get a greater understanding of PBIS.  They also help connect parents with the school expectations.  Movies can be embedded in an e-newsletter like S'more as well so parents can see them.  Some video ideas Kelly shared were about the difference in tattling and telling, being an upstander, a day in the life of a ___grader to show the next grade coming up, playground expectations, and a teacher promo for a special school wide reward.  After some basic instructions about selecting a movie or trailer, dragging and dropping, panning photos and adding music we were turned lose to create our own video.  Here's my ASCA iMovie product!

Following a full day of sessions I met some of my new friends to try a nice pasta restaurant we heard about called The Strand.  It was quite good! The evening was filled with delicious pasta, relaxing conversation, and the sharing of experiences that comes from being School Counselors.
Oh so delish Lobster Mac and Cheese with Bacon!

From  left front to back: Lori, Jeannie, Valerie, Jan, Bridget, Susan, Carol, Jennifer,  and Grace
Photo by Grace's very charming husband
ASCA, the Last Day
The last day of ASCA 15 arrived far too quickly.  Just one last session and keynote Ted Federle remained.  I chose to attend Academic Support Groups by Karen Griffith, as one of my goals this next year is to address the 40% of 4th grades who are deficit in academic skills.  Karen had a ton of ideas that were new to me.  Like many of the previous presenters I had seen she was funny and went through her presentation with lightning speed.  Karen started off by telling us when doing groups be prepared. Well duh! But I know what she means.  There has been a time or two I came in and said, "Oh dear today is group.  What are we going to do today?"  The more you do ahead of time the less you have to do in the moment and the more present you can be with the children. So true and so obvious, but I hadn't really thought of it that way.  There are many people who can do group activities with students, BUT it is our EXPERTISE that makes the activity counseling. Karen also recommended against asking teachers what kids need which groups because she says we are asking teachers to do something beyond their skill set.  Hmmm. That is true.  I know when I have asked teachers in the past, some  will recommend the entire class or recommend kids for groups that are really not appropriate.  Karen says instead, ask teachers at grade level meetings who they are worried about and why, then you decide what kind of group is needed.  I like that.  I can get buy-in, but then I am free to make the best decision for students.

There were lots of great lesson ideas from her session, but no PowerPoint or handout to reference for later.  Sorry.  But it was a really good session, just wish there had been more take away resources.  Here are some high points and ideas from her session:
*academic skills are more than just study skills, it is also motivation and academic advising 
*There is no such thing as an "educational" emergency.  Your time with students should be protected, those "educational" emergencies can wait 30 minutes until you finish your group.
*6-8 sessions is not enough time for change to happen in groups, she recommends 12 sessions
* buy inexpensive clickers like used at big events to count the number of people entering a venue and give these to teachers trying to track how often a child off task/not working
*offer "On A Roll" ( say it fast it sounds like Honor Roll) guidance awards for students who bring up their grades, maybe not A's and B's but up from D or F each report card
* cool card sort activity- Using pictures from the internet, choose several dozen that show students showing varying degrees of studying to not studying.  Asks student to sort cards 5 most like you, 5 somewhat like you, and 5 not like you  OR choose 10 that show the different ways you are in class, put them in order OR put in order how you think the teacher sees your behavior/performance in class.

From Bullied To Broadway To Books
Broadway performer Tim Federle was our closing keynote speaker.  He says, "Everything that got me picked on as a kid gets me paid today."  He shares with us"7 things I learned on Broadway I wish I had known when I was a student."
1) Set backs now are the most interesting parts of your story.  Some call it character.  He says take control of your own narrative.
2) Perfectionism is way over rated. He shares a story of teaching adolescent boys to tap dance for the Broadway show Billy Elliot.  Those who came with grit exceeded those more naturally talent because they wanted it more.
3) There's no such thing as an anti-bully zone. We do our students a disservice if we tell them, or imply, once they graduate there is no more bullying.  Instead we must teach coping and resiliency.  It is important to help students realize the difference between what is a problem and what is an annoyance. Bullying doesn't stop, you just have to find your tribe.
4) Follow your whims as much as your dreams.  He tells the story of a single idea, he had a title for a book, Tequila Mockingbird. When he mentioned it to his publisher she didn't say no, she just said put it out there. That whim has sold over 100,000 copies.  Tim says our job is to say yes when no one else does.
5) Be nice to the guy who washes your socks.  When competing for a role in a Broadway show it came down to who fit in the costumes the best.  After receiving the call he got the role, Tim later found out he fit in the costumes the worst.  The head of wardrobe was someone he had known and befriended when he first started on Broadway.  That man stayed up all night altering the costumes for Tim.
6) Everyone is always starting over. In theater you are always looking for your next part of role. Just like in theater, we have to keep putting ourselves out there and taking chances. Life is a journey.
7) You never know when someone is going to change your life.  I had to leave to catch my plane as Tim begin to explain this, but I think I understand this one. I can think of situations in my own life when I met someone who I had no idea would later be a significant influence on me.  Or the time, hurtful as it was, when someone walked out of my life so someone better could walk in.  Or that person who shares a personal story or experience that totally changes your way of thinking from no way to I can do that.  You never know when someone is going to change your life.

I would like to leave you with a few more resources before I close.  First ,there is a great new girls group book called Starbound by Carol Miller the founder of all those wonderful School Counselor Facebook pages.
Watch D.O.G.S.  (Dads of Great Students) an awesome program for getting Dads involved with their students and your school. It's not free, but something your PTA may want to get involved with.  And of course the previously mentioned free resources from Special Olympics, Get Into It,  helps build acceptance and respect and for persons with and without disabilities.

Well that's it for ASCA 2015.  If you were not able to attend, I hope you have enjoyed attending vicariously through these posts. I had a great experience and I'm looking forward to ASCA 2016 in New Orleans.  Until then, stay in touch through my Exploring School Counseling Facebook page, Twitter  @ExploringSchC and this blog.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

ASCA 2015: My Conference Highlights, part 1

What an amazing time I had at ASCA, meeting online friends in real life, networking, attending fabulous sessions, and hearing incredible keynote speakers!  It was a wonderful 4 days and for anyone who has not been to ASCA before, or it has been a long time since you last attended, start saving your money now for ASCA 16 in New Orleans July 9-12, “The Recipe for Success.”

ASCA Day–At-A-Glance
My ASCA 15 experience started on Saturday.  I arrived the evening before in order to attend the pre-conference RAMP camp session. That evening I was able to make a new friend from Colorado and meet up with some Twitter folks.  We went for dinner at a local Thai restaurant where we shared about ourselves and our schools and just enjoyed good food and good company.

Pre-conference sessions started first thing Sunday morning.  I signed up for RAMP camp and was so glad I did!  Last year when I first heard about RAMP camp I couldn’t imagine myself doing RAMP.  But this past year has been an amazing time of professional growth for me and I realize my school and I are ready to pursue the Recognized ASCA Model Program designation.  It’s all about using data to inform your goals and programming for your school and how to do it. I learned about School Counseling Advisory Councils, creating yearly, monthly and weekly calendars, and writing SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound).  We also covered action and results plans for class, group and closing the gap group lessons.  There were lots of great suggestions and tips and a presenter and RAMP reviewer who were happy to have us contact them as resources along the way as we pursue the RAMP process.

Building a Dream
Our first keynote was by Phoenix Science teacher, Fredi Lajvardi, from Carl Hayden Community High School whose undocumented HS students won the underwater robotics competition against colleges like MIT and Virginia Tech.  The movie “Spare Parts” is based on their story exploring their personal struggles and ultimate accomplishments.  Lajvardi tells us how the robotics club has grown and impacted the students at his school; the students no one expected anything from and who expected nothing of themselves.  He talked about breaking down barriers, shifting paradigms and embracing the diversity of your population in order to build success in your organization.  He tells us, “If life doesn’t give you a dream, build one.”  Check out this preview of "Spare Parts" below.  It is currently available on demand through AT&T U-verse. Be sure to watch!  What an inspiring story!

Ready to check out all the vendors and fill my treasure map!
Sunday evening the exhibit hall opened!  It is a School Counselors dream!  We had a Treasure Hunt card to take to various vendors to be stamped and later entered for several special drawings.  The vendors had the usual free stuff like pens, sticky notes, squishy balls, brochures, hand-outs and lots and lots of information.  Some great free websites I learned about you will want to check out are as follows: is a great career resource telling students about the world of accounting and the huge demand for accountants in every type of organization. There are videos and virtual field trips and a tab for educators with cool tools. with lots of free resources and downloadable curriculum for middle and high school but I’m sure there are some things here I will be using with my 5th graders , especially about sexting.   is a great website many of you probably already know about.  The Great Kindness Challenge  will be January 25-29, 2016.  Go to their website to register your school and download their kindness checklist and free toolkit.   "Career Girls is a free, noncommercial, online platform which showcases video clips of diverse women role models sharing career and educational advice to inspire young girls to expand their horizons, improve their academic performance and dream big about their futures.  We are dedicated to providing girls of all income levels and ethnic backgrounds with the academic tools and support they need to achieve their professional aspirations.”  These awesome, high quality videos and lessons plans are mainly for middle and high school girls, however I can see using few of these with 5th grade and possibly some of my 4th grade girls.  free evidenced based program whose goal is to teach tobacco prevention.  There are 3 instructional modules grades 5-6, grade 7, and grades 8-9.  Go online to order your free tools. lots of free lessons plans and educators guides for lessons on diversity, bullying, and bias.  Check out information about no name calling week and the Ready, Set, Respect elementary tool kit to help all children feel safe and respected and to share those attitudes with others.

Monday Sessions at ASCA!
Let the learning begin! I have to be honest, it was tough to choose between so many great sessions!  There were always 3 or 4 or more sessions going on simultaneously that I wanted to attend.  ASCA did a superb job of gathering together an awesome selection of presentations.  

My first choice did not disappoint. I attended Technology Based College and Career Lessons by Rebecca Lallier and Amy Wheeler.  I knew this was the workshop for me when Rebecca told us ahead of time to bring our devices so we could create. Then when I heard her say, “This is not another fire hat, not another worksheet,”  I knew I was in the right place. Anyone can use her model to create units and not just about careers, but for any topic, at any level. 

Rebecca has created a website for her students called Career Smarts.  In her presentation she explained the methods and tools she used and showed us how to create something similar.  Using ASCA and Common Core standards Rebecca set up a digital platform, and curated resources like career videos, state colleges, information about multiple intelligence, and the Occupational Outlook Handbook.  She taught the lesson basics and then had the students explore and create their own knowledge. 

By creating the Career Smart site these ladies were able to engage students in all modalities, differentiate learning, give kids an innovative way to show their work, and build their tech skills. Students were also working on their reading, writing, collaboration, and organization skills, all while learning them about careers!  Sounds amazing doesn’t it?  Now before you get all excited and think this is a ready-made site you can use for your students, you need to understand this is closed site she created for her students with their work, so even in our ASCA session we could not view or access the entire site due to privacy.  The point of the session, to borrow from the proverb, was not to give us a fish, but to teach us to fish and Rebecca and Amy did just that.  They talked us through the entire process of  how they created  their site, gave us a list of awesome apps they used, talked about using various web tools,  curating videos and  web resources, and then gave us a chance to begin creating something of our own.  If you want to know more about “Career Smarts,” check out Rebecca’s blog at

In the afternoon I did a little session hopping as there was too, too much I wanted to see and hear.  I stopped in at the Amazing Data Race: An ASCA National Model Scavenger Hunt with Jeremy Goldman, which was quite good but I had just been to RAMP camps and he was talking about much of the same things we had just covered the day before.  So next I stopped in to see Dr. Carolyn Stone in her session on Critical Court Cases of the Last Decade.  As always she is funny and oh so smart and well versed in the court rulings that impact School Counselors.  When I arrived she was talking to a standing room only crowd about the Super Highway to Losing your Job.  And even though I had heard her speak at my state convention in the Fall I had to stop in for a few minutes and listen.  
I finally landed in 35 Creative Solution-Focused Strengths-Based Activities by Dr. Carol Buchholz Holland.  She was wonderful and there were actually 47 strategies.  I arrive at number 24 so I heard half of them.   Here are some of my favorites:
#30  Skeleton Key activity: help a student identify past successes, use and old key as an anchor for a student to keep in their pocket as a reminder of past successes.
#33  Power Hands activity: students draw and outline both hands (get a friend to help) write or draw on each finger things they are good at doing.  Spend time highlighting their strengths.
#36  Weathering Personal Challenge: divide paper in half and have student draw a difficult situation on the left side.  On the right side draw what got them through the tough time.  Have them caption how they made it through the tough time.
#38 Survive/Thrive Chart: have student think of a hard time, draw a T chart, label one side survive the other thrive.  Have the student list or draw what they did to survive the tough time. On the thrive side, ask the student to list or draw what they do to grow/thrive.  What has brought new meaning to their life?

My final session of the day was Games and Self-Assessments for Stress Management with Grace Wilhelm.  There was no PowerPoint in this room, just a rapid paced and humorous session with Grace demonstrating how she uses regular board games as tools for stress management with individual students, groups, classes, faculty, parents, and community members.  Games she uses frequently are Jenga, Don't Break the Ice, Kerplunk, Barrel of Monkeys, Topple, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Barking Bruno, and Connect 4. I especially loved how she used two of the games she shared with us, Jenga and Kerplunk.  

Grace uses Jenga as a meet the counselor activity.  For this lesson only, she asks the teacher to stay in the classroom with her to record the student responses. She numbers the Jenga blocks and calls out the numbers. As students come to the front of the room one at a time, they must say their name, where they live, who they live with and tell a story about a pet. All the while the teacher records this information.  Grace says this is a good opportunity for the teacher to get to know her students a little better too.  Once the Jenga tower is build she asks them to come up again and start taking the blocks out. She jokes with them that the longer this takes the longer they are out of math. Now  when they come up to remove a block they must say what they want to be when they grow up.  

Keplunk is used to talk about stress, but can also be used to talk about friendship or study skills or whatever you need it for.  In Keplunk, the marbles at the top of the container are the stress points,  the sticks in the middle of the container are the stress relievers. She asks what is something you can do to get rid of stress ?  As the student names something they pull out a stick.  Did that one thing release the stress? No.  What else is something you can do?  Pull out another stick, and continue to pull sticks for each stress reliever named by the student until the marbles are released. Did student get relief with one thing.  No there are lots of things you must do everyday to get rid of stress. Marbles can also be points to make an A. Sticks are what I need to do to get an A.  Marbles can represent friends.  Sticks can be all the things I can do to make friends.   To learn more about how Grace uses games and play check out her website at Counselor Games.

School Counselors After Hours  
The sessions are over for the day and so what's a School Counselor to do?  Now it's time to get out there and network with your follow School Counselors at the Meet-Up!  You know all those creative, helpful people you talk to on the Counselor Facebook pages and tweet with on Twitter chats?  Monday night was the time we all got to meet in person!  Carol Miller, our Facebook page founder, organized our gathering and created a fun Bingo game card for us to use as a way to mingle and meet each other. It was great to actually talk face to face with the people I have been chatting with online and some I haven't.  I even met some new School Counselor friends who are working overseas.  What interesting jobs and lives they have! As the Meet Up wound down, I headed out to dinner with some of my new friends and later joined them for Trivia night in the ballroom.  It was a full day and tomorrow promises more of the same.  Stay tuned for part 2 of my ASCA conference highlights.

The talented Traci Brown so nice to meet you!
Our awesome FB page creator and Meet-Up organizer Carol Miller.

New friend and fellow elementary counselor Kelly.

The "Meet-Up" Gang