Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Top 10 Posts of 2015

It's that time again! Time to reflect on the past year and make plans for the year ahead.  There is so much more I wanted to write about and share with you in the last 12 months, but there just was not enough time. I KNOW you all understand. Sometimes we have make our families, our jobs, and yes, ourselves, our highest priorities. So while you relax, re-focus, and regroup take a few moments and check out my top 10 blog posts for 2015. Happy New Year!

#1  Creating a Counselor Activity Log with Google Forms   I truly LOVE Google Forms and have found lots of ways to use them.  All were successful but one, recording my daily activities.  And it wasn't the form, it was me. Last year, try as I might to make them work, I just wasn't able to keep up with it. When I sat down and analyzed what had happened I identified 3 problems. Check out my new, improved Google form for recording my daily activities.

#2   More Google Goodness   WOW!!! Thank you to everyone for you overwhelmingly positive response to my Counselor Activity Log.  I've had a number of requests for other forms folks saw in the Google Forms PowerPoint I shared.  I never really thought anyone would be interested in those, but since you've asked, I'm glad to share them as well. Check out all my Google forms.

#3   Meet the Counselor with Jenga  Looking for a quick and easy "Welcome Back- What is a School Counselor lesson?"  Well, you've found one!  We've been playing School Counselor Jenga and the kids love it.  Actually, kids just love Jenga!    They stayed engaged the entire lesson and were very careful not to knock over the Jenga tower so everyone in their class could have a turn.  This was truly one of the easiest, simplest and most engaging lessons I have ever done. Seriously!

#4   Red Ribbon Week Lessons October is one of the busiest months of the year for School Counselors who are trying to do Red Ribbon Week and Bully Prevention all in just 31 days.  Here are two intermediate lessons I have created to teach during the month of October using a variety of information off the web and ideas from the formerly free website,

# 5  3 Simple Ideas for Managing Classroom Behavior  As a new counselor I struggled with how to successfully manage a classroom of students and teach my lesson at the same time. Mostly, I would just keep teaching in spite of whatever foolishness was happening in the room while I was talking.  My goal was to teach my lesson and get to the end of it no matter what!   Those early years were a frustrating and disheartening time. How was I going to discipline them in the classroom setting and then expect students to connect with me as their School Counselor?

#6  7 Things "To Do" to Close Out Your School Year
Here are 7 things I think are important for any School Counselor who is interested in building a data driven school counseling program to consider as she or he closes out their school year.

#7   Exploring Free Web Resources  for School Counselors  For about a year now I have been collecting web resources. Whenever I would see a website with FREE School Counselor related articles, information, lessons, videos, etc. I would save it in my Live Binder.  A few weeks ago,  I started putting these websites in a Word document for quick reference. These resource sheets have 26 topics and more than 90 links. You will find free lesson plansbook titles with lesson planslists of books by social skill, and career resources just to name a few.  

#8  15 Tips and Resources for Starting a New School Year  If you are a new School Counselor or even an experienced School Counselor starting at a new school or new level, this can be an exciting and anxious time.  The tips listed here are important things to consider to transition smoothly into a new school no matter what time of year you start.  Read on for 15 tips to get your school year off to a great start!

#9 Test  Stress to Test Success  How do you help students go from test stress to test success? Some do big pep rallies, give away treats, special pencils, or plan big post test celebrations. Others keep it low key and offer suggestions for reducing anxiety and teach some test taking strategies. I have done both and each has its place depending on your population and other School Counselor job expectations. This year I am keeping it simple. Students in grades 3-5 will be visiting me for a Test Success Lesson.

Many thanks David Finkle, creator of Mr. Fitz, for his permission to publish his cartoons in my blog.
Check out my friend, fellow educator, and cartoonist at  as he finds the nonsense and humor in the face of the testing obsession in education today His current play on Star Wars and testing are quite clever.  Students are encouraged to use the "think" to destroy the "Test Star."  You can like his Facebook page here.

#10 A Second Look at National School Counseling Week   I have long been of the opinion that School Counselors should be appreciated or celebrated during National School Counseling Week. I felt foolish doing cutesy little things for teachers and trying to bring recognition to myself.  But after reflecting on my recent, disturbing and enlightening, visit with my state legislators (more about that in another post) I have come to the conclusion I was wrong. It’s not about anyone appreciating me or celebrating me, it’s about educating others to appreciate and celebrate a profession about which I am passionate! Check out the advocating I did during NSCW,

Well there you have it, my top 10 for 2015.  Thank you for visiting my blog and for your support and encouragement.  What sort of topics would you be interested in reading about?  I would love to hear your ideas for future posts. You may leave your requests in the comments below.

Enjoy what remains of 2015 and here's to a safe, satisfying, and successful  2016!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Exploring Free Web Resources for School Counselors

You know in this day and time, you really don't have to have a lot of money for School Counseling curriculum when you have Google at your fingertips.  I know there are a lot of really great comprehensive curriculums out there, but for many of us, they are too expensive.

For about a year now I have been collecting web resources for myself.  Whenever I would see a website with FREE School Counselor related articles, information, lessons, videos, etc. I would save it in my Live Binder.  A few weeks ago,  I started putting these websites in a Word document for quick reference for my School Counselor PLC group.

The list I created is organized by topic with the web address and a very brief description of what you will find on the site. This resource sheet has 26 topics and more than 90 links. You will find free lesson plans, book titiles with lesson plans, lists of books by social skill, and career resources just to name a few.  Truthfully, there is so much on the internet it can get a little overwhelming.  My reference sheet makes the task of finding a particular resource a little less daunting.  So take your time and enjoy Exploring FREE Web Resources.  You will probably find more than one thing you can use for a class, group, parent newsletter, or club.  I love all these resources and I hope your will too.  Enjoy this list and think of it as my Christmas gift to you!

What are some of your favorite "go to" online resources?  Please share in the comments below. I would love to add them to my resource list.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Promoting Career Awareness with Vehicle Day!

Recently our school participated in Vehicle Day for grades Kindergarten-2nd. What an awesome morning for everyone involved.  However this School Counselor was totally exhausted when it was over!

For many years I was responsible for finding my own vehicles and I would try to get enough for all my students K-5 to participate.  I started by sending home a flyer to see if I had parents who used a vehicle in their work that might be interested in participating.
Some years this went better than others and on those off years, I would contact county agencies and get out the phone book and start calling businesses I frequented to fill the holes.  Most were very kind, but you always get a few people who say no.  Many times they would say, "No, but why don't you call my friend." After I had arranged two or three Vehicle Days I had a nice little list of folks I could call on year after year.

Then things changed dramatically in our county.  Several years back, School Counselors could no longer schedule and invite their own vehicles for Vehicle Day. In some ways that was a relief to have someone else doing all the calls.  However, the entire program was now arranged by our Volunteer Resource Center with only a set number of vehicles whose drivers had security clearance through our school district office. And, because we had so many elementary schools we could only get the approved vehicle drivers to visit our school every other year.  A few drawbacks, but still a fun program  and an educational morning for students.

We held our Vehicle Day on the open field behind the school.  The vehicle drivers arrived about 8:30 and parked their vehicles in a big circle. Classes traveled inside the circle in a clock-wise direction every 6 minutes when I blew the whistle.  I started rotations at 8:45 with the first half of my students, the second group came out for their turn about 10:00.  The drivers stayed until about 11:30.  These men and ladies loved their jobs and were ready and willing to explain it in a kid friendly way with lots of props!  Not only did we have a beautiful day, but the kids got a great introduction to careers and heard from all our guests on the importance of being a good listener and the importance of school.

Vehicle Day Organization
Interested in arranging Vehicle Day for your students?  Here is a  helpful checklist for creating and organizing your own Vehicle Day.

4 weeks before

2-3 weeks before
  • Call/request vehicle drivers from local businesses, requesting phone numbers, addresses, and email. Keep a detailed list for next year. (Vehicle Planning Sheet)
  • Send a letter/email thanking drivers for agreeing to come with information about the day, start time duration, where to park, sign-in, length of rotations, ages of students and estimated number of students participating, etc.
  • Organize schedule for when classes visit vehicles.  Get permission from administration and special area to make changes to lunch or special area schedule if needed.
2-3 days before
  • Email completed schedule to participating teachers, office staff, and administration.
  • Make confirmation/reminder phone calls/emails to vehicle drivers.
  • Shop for driver hospitality room (coffee, sugar, creamer, cups, spoons, napkins, plates, bottled water).
The day before your Vehicle Day
  • Lay out a map of how you will arrange vehicles.
  • Gather sign-in sheets, pens, and name tags for drivers.
  • Gather radio, camera, timer, whistle, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, ( I live in Florida) notepad and pen for keeping track of who started at each vehicle for students writing thank you notes.
  • Set up coffee pot and rolling cooler for driver "hospitality room".
  • Get a GOOD night's sleep!
The day of your Vehicle Day
  • Wear comfy clothes and sneakers!!!
  • Pick up doughnuts
  • Get to school early to turn on coffee pot and set out doughnuts
  • Fill rolling cooler with ice and bottled water
  • Greet drivers at school entrance with a smile, a thank you, sign-in sheet, name tag, instructions for where to park their vehicle, the location of the hospitality room, and restrooms.
  • Send classes to vehicles, time their rotations,  blow whistle, take pictures, REPEAT!
  • Half way through the event roll your cooler around and give drivers an icy cold water.
  • When the event is over have drivers sign-out and  invite them to enjoy any remaining goodies.
  • Email  each classroom teacher with the name of the driver of the first vehicle they saw and the due date for completing thank you notes.
  • Ask teachers and students for feedback about Vehicle Day (Google Survey for Vehicle Day)
  • Evaluate and reflect on changes/improvements for next year.
  • Mail thank you notes.
  • File it all away for next year.
Congratulations on presenting an awesome Vehicle Day!