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Category Archives: Sweet Links

Snow-Weekend Inspiration 

Ahhh…fresh off of Winter Break and my lucky tail gets an extended weekend for Snooooooowwwmagedddddooooonnnnn 2017!  I know, I know, we’ll have to make it up, but I am a big fan of enjoying it while it lasts and paying the piper later.  And enjoy I have.  Lucky ducky me, I got some books from Free Spirit Publishing, my favoritest place to get books for work and inspiration, right at the end of last week!  As part of the Advisory Board, Free Publishing periodically thanks us with book choices and I cannot get enough (their blog is also awesome with so much info and insight they will win you over with just that)!  Anywho, I received the books below and have not been able to put them down!


I recommend each and every book I get from Free Spirit, so I suppose this is overkill, but I recommend all three of these as necessities of a Middle School counselor’s box of tricks.  The Respect: A Girl’s Guide to Getting Respect and Dealing When Your Line is Crossed book is ridiculously amazing, and I would marry it if it were legal and I was not already married. For real.  It really speaks to young woman and is incredibly empowering in a super low-key classy way. 

I started to think about how I wanted all of my babies to be able to read this book.  In particular, how great it would be to have a girl’s group (girls’ group?) using the book as a guide to each session.  I have seen some really great girl’s groups that are centered around confidence and character building, but I find that they are often created for the girl who needs a confidence boost and place to exercise socialization and meeting friends.  Though there’s definately a place for that, sometimes it starts to feel marginalizing, as if all girls are broken and need to recognize how pretty, smart, and valuable they are.  But what about girls who are confident (quiet does not equal a lack of confidence), but don’t know how to use that confidence?  What about teaching strong young women how to use their stories and their amazing characters to walk around and own the place, and become power-house communicators and mountain-movers? This book seriously does just that.  Though there is some reflection on experiences past, it avoids revictimizing them, but instead uses those barriers to further empower themselves.  It tackles media, social perceptions, body image, relationships (WITHOUT the whole “mean girls” stereotype that my girls know they ARE NOT allowed to say in my office), and so much more in such a real way.  There is a short chapter on sex (I think it’s super tastefully done) which I think is a valuable message for girls, but borders on taking over where parents have the right to keep at their own pace.  But paper is made to be paper-clipped, so I don’t think it’s a problem with sharing the book. 

My initial thought was to buy 15 copies of the book to have at the school to run groups with.  Then I remembered I work for a middle school and this would blow our entire budget for the year that was already half-way spent.  Impossibility. And then I remembered the awesome websites one of my besties has had great success with: Donor’s Choose!  I decided to make a page and put it out there to see if I could get some books this way.  I was WWWAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY easier than I thought it would be, and I am bummed I haven’t used it sooner (as she points out all the time). So here it is, check it out after you’ve spent hours dreaming on the Free Spirit catalog! 

Winter Break is Over Ya’llllll

For real, it’s been amazing! A stay-cation with the kids and hubby (for half of the week), holidays, family, empty calories, and plenty of break-therapy craftiness. Note that the exclusion of lesson planning, deep and educational industry article reading, e-mail fretting, and general housework is sincere and deliberate.  And it was worth it.

Two things I’m excited to continue going back to post-holiday and break unconsciousness:

  1. I’m dipping my toes in the world of Etsy! Scary!
  2. I found an awesome stitch-a-day that I’m joining. Whoop! Check it out and I’ll keep posted.  Check out 1 Year of Stitches here! http://www.brwnpaperbag.com/1-year-of-stitches-2017/  

 

Late Post on Leadership

I have been meaning to post about my November lesson on leadership- it was fun and I really had some good kid participation.  Having never been a classroom teacher, I am certainly a work in progress on creating lessons.  I can make things graphic enough to draw kids in, and my babies and I have good rapport to banter and keep the convo engaging, but the actual *teaching* part is definitely something I struggle with.  First, I have attention issues, so I am easily distracted (pair that with less-than-stellar classroom management and basically the kids rule the roost), and second, there is a reason I’m not a teacher.  I am so in awe by these dang teachers and their endless energy and self-control…for me, my family knows the frazzled look in my eye on those loooooonnnng classroom lesson days, and I have to decompress after being in the classroom all day.

So, it was a light-bulb moment when last year my principal (a previous outstanding teacher) told me he thought I was working too hard- bogarting all of the talking, and not having more participation. He suggested I play with incorporating asking questions instead of telling, having students work in groups, and checking in with “shoulder partner” moments.  WHAT a difference that made this time around!

Being that this was a November lesson, and we were knee-deep in the crazy election process of 2016, I knew I wanted to cover leadership.  These kids were witnessing some stuff, hearing a lot, and, I can only assume, feeling more disconnected from democracy in the midst of one of the loudest and in-your-face elections we’d ever seen.  I wanted to draw them in; my goal was to introduce them to leadership on their terms and invite them to reconstruct the concept to their own definition.

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We started by warming up with Free Spirit Publishing’s Everyday Leadership Cards .  I love these because they are really engaging for multiple age groups.  They are perfect for whole classroom discussions and activities, individual and small groups, and apply to multiple different topics (I can think of ways to use them in all counseling domains!). For this lesson, they were in small groups, and then when we came together as a class, a couple groups shared their Q&A.

Then we touched on the current events in politics.  Now, I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole and hear about different views and whatnot, so my questions came with a disclaimer about not revealing which candidate they (or their parents) were rooting for.  I told them my core question was, “what makes a leader?” They talked with their shoulder partner and also came together as a class.

The next and best part: movie time!  I played three movie clips, and after each clip I asked them what examples and types of leadership they saw.  The three clips were:

  1. Cinderella (my favorite, the dress-making scene)
  2. Remember the Titans (various clips since the entire movie is every counselor’s dream-boat)
  3. Lion King (Scar’s song where he takes over the kingdom) ***WARNING: the clip that auto-starts after this scene is Hakuna Matata so you MUST quickly drop the browser, as students are nearly violent if you take away Timon and Pumbaa.  I learned this the hard way.***

I won’t go into my main points for each one, because they’re pretty obvious.  After movie-time, we then started talking about the broader concept of leadership again.  I had them use their devices (if you can’t beat ’em join ’em, right?), and discuss two main questions in pairs, then enter their answers using the Poll Everywhere app.  This thing is awesome and super easy to use by the way (or BTW if you prefer).  They were asked to use one word that was described a leader, or was the main quality a leader needed, and also what their platform would be if they were president (I only had to toss about five of the roughly 250 responses, which I think is pretty good!). I love some student voice, and so I printed their responses and stuck them on our hallway board.

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Hope your lessons have gone well, and your break is lovely and relaxing! Cheers!

 

Bringing Some Inspiration

Our division director recently recommended the outstanding book, The Other Wes Moore.  I am so glad he did! It has really been the inspiration I needed to hit this year head-on.  This story of Wes Moore is one of resiliency, love (self and family), hard work, barriers, control, and grasping opportunities large and small.  I don’t think I’ve felt this moved by a book since my all-time fav Man’s Search for Meaning (seriously, V. Frankl is my boyfriend and BFF4L).  I want everyone to read it!  I feel compelled to talk about it and share this really incredible story.  People like this are so profound and thoughtful that it feels like they are talking to you, and it accompanies you at work, in ethical dilemmas, and in small choices throughout the day.  Insight of our new educational catch-phrase, it’s the ultimate example of “growth mindset”. (You too, huh? I think we might all be getting the same professional development this year!)

When I found out about the accompanying student version of his book, I was really excited (PS- I am really annoyed with the unlinked ‘k’ but I’ve already spent a ridiculous amount of time on my formatting OCD. Carry on.).  After reading it, I don’t think I could pass it through in Middle School.  Though I believe whole-heartedly in sharing the truth of living and life with students at the middle grades in order to help them make decisions before they are confronted with them, I can also understand the position of our school systems in ensuring we respect the wishes and shelters of their parents.  Sometime it can be hard to do this; to know what could benefit a student, but to have to dial back and be conscious of our roles in their lives as secondary to the people who are responsible for raising these children throughout their life-span.  Man do we get attached, don’t we?

Even so, I have been toying with ways that I can get this book and story into the hearts and minds of the educators and students in my school family.  I’m thinking maybe a Donor’s Choose to purchase a copy for each staff member?  A little gift to remind them how influential we really can be in the lives of our students.  Sometimes the only voice that believes in them.  Sometimes the only portion of their day in which there is peace and stability.  I’m also thinking about applying for a grant to have Wes Moore himself come visit the students.  I just need to share-I’m obsessed!  My poor principal.

It also got me thinking about the characters that are accessible to our students.  Wes Moore’s story will resonate with all students, but it is also inclusive of minority populations that are not typically represented in this exceptional light of success. Not because they are not out there, but because those are most often not the characters that are given recognition and reinforcement.  I’m finding (through reflecting on my own education and the really superb training I get in my division) the need to make these stories available to our students. Young successful black men, strong-willed women, uniformed mentors of all colors- if society will not give our children their exposure, we have to, in education, make it our mission. 

Man, I am really in my feels tonight.  This can only mean I’ve been reconnected with my kiddies and am feeling my profession.  So good, for real.  Read it!

Gearing Up

Such a busy year!  We have started a new section in our library- so exciting!

We ordered a bunch of books through Free Spirit Publishing with the remainder of our services budget. I’m in love with their books because I think they do a great job of writing in a way that is in touch with all ages of students.  It’s really hard to find books for middle schoolers that aren’t too young or too old in content and verbiage.  Small now, but I love the idea of having a place to bring students to suggest something that might help them.  We have even talked about hiding small notes in the books to brighten the day of the reader.  Adorbs! 

We are also gearing up for the testing season.  This always crazy, hectic, stressed-out time is ripe with counseling opportunities to calm down students and get them in high confidence mode.  As much as we try to seperate the school counseling profession from the dry necessary, political growth mindset centered scored standards, I try to remind myself that it is a reality for students.  School Counselors can really change the overall environment during testing to be positive and productive, easing students’ anxiety and helping them realize their potential.  One of our counselors bring in Pom-poms and cheers for her students as they come in, one of our teachers gets donated fruits so students can have a bite to eat.  These small things make such a huge difference.  I like to go to each classroom in the morning and spread a little cheer by telling students they should smile because it has been shown to increase test performance (I’m pretty sure I read this somewhere, but in all actuality I have no idea). 

My principal shared the Larry Bell testing strategies and they really make sense.  It breaks down the processes of testing very well.  He encouraged us to find ways to make sure the concepts are part of our students’ everyday language- I took that to heart with a bulletin board project meant to trick students into learning about the 12 steps…when in Rome, right?

B Board and Doggies

I finally finished my bulletin board!  Before break, I made a mindful and executive decision (don’t tell my admin) to finish my registrations and tie up loose ends instead of finishing my 6th grade hall bulletin board. I did, however, involve STEM in my procrastination nation, as you can see below:

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Feel free to use this technology-infused intervention.  I think it’s genius.

I actually love making bulletin boards.  It’s a total excuse to get artsy and craftsy in the middle of a long week. Mindfulness, my dears can be productive (so are my lunches with peers where we have closed-door gossip sessions conversations about the goings ons of the day, but sometimes more is needed).  So, I have been wanting to use a really cool Kindness Game idea that I found at the trusty Edutopia.  I love how it gives simple ideas of how to be a good citizen, no matter where you are.  Always in the field of assessing the health of the school environment, it is also a perfect way to remind students (and staff!) that we can work together to help each other and be happier throughout the day.  So the finished product is…dun dun dun dun dldldldldldldld (that’s a drum roll, much more difficult to write than I thought)…

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Ain’t she pretty!  I laminated just about everything so I can wipe away middle-year germs and save it for later.  I tweeted it (@steffschoolcoun) to Edutopia and they actually tweeted back! I geeked out.

Just as an update from my short break post, here is a view from my loom on one of the last a lazy and lovely days:

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And here is one more of that cute pup, who was making us pay for leaving her behind when we traveled to see family in Ohio:

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Obsessed

I have all of these topics I have been wanting to discuss: grading practices, holidays, weaving craftiness, minute meetings, scheduling.  You know, professional topics that may aid in my professional and personal advancement.  But alas, I slack.

Why? BECAUSE A MAN’S GUILT OR INNOCENCE DEPENDS ON ME. Well, not really.  Or at all. But I am completely obsessed with an amazing podcast series.  Undisclosed.  It’s a new old podcast hinging on Serial, the podcast I was dutifully obsessed with last year.  These podcasts follow the case of a young man who was sentenced to life in prison when he was 17 years old.  It picks apart the case, the people involved, and the investigation of a young woman who was murdered in the late 90’s.

I’m serious though, it’s amazing.  The voyeur in me is interested for the storyline, and -to be completely honest- intrusion into the lives of those involved.  The mother in me weeps for the young woman’s family, especially when I imagine hearing so many details about the death of their loved one.  The student in me is intrigued learning about the legal system and subtleties of society.  The counselor in me ponders how this effects the life of a young person, wonders if Adnon was able to graduate, and winces for my students who have no idea how life can smack you in the face.

I would love to construct lessons around following the case through this medium.  I think students could gain so much from diving into such human information, and see how convoluted the legal system can be.  Even realize how much an argument, sources, and strategically placed words can make a difference in the outcome of just about anything.  And it’s applicable to so much more than just isolated legal cases too- think about the implications that can be taught about decision making and multiple perspectives.

I highly encourage anyone to check it out!  Take a look at the website, or get out your podcast app.  It’s addicting, and considerably better for me than watching Real Housewives (not to say I am not keeping up, we all have our vices people).  I have my opinions on the case, guilt, and/or innocence.  But my interest lays less on that, and more on the intrinsic peephole view on real people and real tiny choices that have resulted in alterations for all parties involved for the rest of their lives.  Though sometimes I feel a bit guilty hearing such intimate details about someone’s lives, as if I am exploiting them, but I try counteract that by really thinking of the material in a way that is not judgemental, but almost appreciative of the vulnerability of human living and our connected frailty.  It’s kind of an anthropology hobbyist’s dream.