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Tag Archives: inspiration

Student Transitions

I have had the most exceptional, fun, laid-back, good kids for the last three years. I cannot even begin to imagine what work will be like after this year as I tearfully drag my feet and throw a fit the size of adolescent attitude move forward and usher in a new group. We rotate at my Middle School, so I will also be back with the littles. It takes adjustment, but it is really exciting to meet a whole new group and start the puzzle all over again.

The 6th graders are so crazy different from 8th graders. It is hard for me to remember my students being those little minis only a couple of years ago. A handful of them cried at the mere expanse of the school, some of those quiet mouths have blossomed, and others walk taller every day. I have also had plenty of time to think about things that may have helped them transition to Middle School and be more successful while there.

One of the things that I would love to know in advance is who will be my frequent fliers from the beginning. How can I help them? I look at plenty of data to get ideas, but who can I keep from flying under the radar for a year causing me to lose essential support time. So I got an idea to send some SOS packets to Elementary counselors. They know them best, they have lived with them for the last 5 years and they have all the dish I need to know who to approach and how. Imagine the time saved in rapport building to already have an in!

I gave each of our feeder schools’ counselors a couple of SOS envelopes, and asked them to write their frequent flyer students a letter that might help them when the hormones hit the fan in Middle School. I can pull them out and have a link for the kid to an easier, more familiar time. I also included some CLMS swag so that they can give some away and also have Middle School stuff around their offices. I figured this might subliminally add some face-time for us.

When I’m not wagging my finger speaking with my 8th graders, I start to imagine students in 5th grade and what they are doing. They have no idea how different their life will be, and I can’t wait to see another group grow and experience.

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Be good

Who do you bring with you to work? One of my first feelings of inspiration as a counselor came early on in one of my counselor sub positions. As I started to feel close with the kids, and learn about their home lives and barriers, my perceived solutions often came from family advice I had been given to me at one time or another. When they were surprised by kindness, support, belief, and tough love, I began to feel more and more sad that these kids did not have such resources at home. I was raised in a gloriously crazy, large, ambitious family where there are copious and equal parts joy and work. I started wishing I could share my tribe with all of my students, and give them the tradition and fierce love I have been lucky enough to grow up with.

Since I couldn’t have my family members all come to work with me everyday, I realized that I could bring them in spirit. My paternal grandmother who had limitless optimism and faith in each individual; my maternal grandmother, a Sicilian matriarch who worked as hard as she expected of us, and loved with such conviction you had no choice but to believe in yourself; my aunt, who has lived her life with a disability and was more active and dreamed bigger than most able-bodied people. So many huge personalities come with me every day to work, and I try to be a channel to my kids so that they too can grow up with these lessons.

I am constantly telling my students, “be good” – sometimes softly, sometimes pleadingly, and sometimes with warning. My grandma always ended conversations with this simple expectation, and now that I’m an adult I see how meaningful it is.

Who do you bring to work with you? What is the endearing phrase that you use easily in your hallways, but that weighs generations of love?

Back on the Donor’s Choose Train

We are knee deep in prepping for our Writing Standard of Learning, and I am seeing all kinds of crazy and creative ways that teachers are trying to make this material less tired. I started to realize that there are a lot of things I use with students, and keep in my office, that could easily be part of an English lesson. It makes complete sense too, after all, Guidance is about understanding, perspective, and communication. As I wished that I could share all of my office toys with the teachers, I realized that there might be a way to get some for everyone!

If you haven’t checked out Donor’s Choose yet, you totally should. It’s so easy to use because it’s a simple template. Then they are really helpful in making your project professional and marketable. Check out ours here and share if you’d like!

Newbies

First of all, SimpleMind is amazing and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. If you are a visual understander, you have to check it out. My learning styles are mixed, but let me tell you, the way I understand things I know and organize my brain is definitely visual. This app is so easy to use and it is giving me all the life right now.

Second, I have an intern who is awesome and has gotten me thinking all about how I started things up and got going with my program. I feel like I’m at a great spot because I’ve found a comfortable rhythm, but it hasn’t been very long since I started. So when she asks me questions like, “how do you come to do all this??” I really had to take a pause a think about it.

Since starting as a counselor six years ago, I have been so lucky to be in a couple of schools and learn crazy tricks and see amazing things from so many teachers, counselors, administrators, kids, and parents. To compartmentalize all of it and break things back down to consecutive details has actually been kind of therapeutic. To start, my first thought was, “fake it ’til you make it!” and I proud of it (look, I’m a middle child, what can I say?)! A first day is a first day no matter what your experience is; to shower and show up is enough confidence building you need!

The rest gets a little more muddled. Where did I start? What did I need? Who did I ask? What was allowed? How did I know? I knew what was important to education, and my profession, and myself because of the thorough degree I obtained (I am lovingly reminded of this every month when I get the bill). But all of the academia in the world can’t completely prepare you for actually hopping (and later skipping) into the trenches. City to city, school to school, department to department…our job is transformed everywhere we go.

But there are a few goals and actions we are required to take…or really, figure it how to implement despite diverse school cultures. I’m trying to map out some of the things I experienced to better illustrate the beginnings, and decided to start with lessons. I think I will go into greater detail with some parts, and make a few more for a couple other crazy parts of our job. Let me know if I missed anything, would you?

We have PRIDE with PBIS

Everyone knows education is a real big fan of acronyms. I’ve definitely found one I like with PBIS. Side note: our high school students particularly like SOL (our standardized state tests) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)…those clever little students like to quote them as something quite different than intended. Our school is piloting this new popular initiative and embracing (let’s be real, change is a struggle!) it’s techniques.

The rumor mill went around for a while that it meant no discipline, free reign, complete anarchy and chaos. But luckily our administration has been smart about how they roll it out and how they explain the different concepts. My favorite part about PBIS is that it truly models a mind frame and perspective shift from focusing on the negative to focusing on the possibility of fellowship and equitable productivity. It creates a much more harmonious atmosphere and encourages a stronger community. Especially in Middle School, when everyone wants to blend in and feeling safe from emotions and embarrassment is nearly impossible, it really makes a safe haven for students to exist and work in. Quite frankly, if I had my way, our whole American society would be on a PBIS track and learn to chill out a little (oy vey, social media).

I created a bulletin board to highlight one of our components, which recognizes students for every day opportunities they take to have a positive impact on their hallways. Student receive a PRIDE slip from their teacher when they exhibit one of our goal characteristics and bring it to their School Counselor. I’m then displaying them on the board, but I’m shooting for a visual of how our good deeds are not for the benefit of one, but rather that we make up a whole. And of course, I threw in some collegiate flair to keep our eye on the prize!

I know sometimes bulletin boards are a pain in the butt, especially when there are a million other things to do, but I think they can be really powerful. Middle School kids need visualization and engagement to catch their eye. It’s like a little subliminal every day when they pass by. They’re not the only clever ones around these parts, no sir.

5x7x5

Buy these for your office! They are so fun and easy to use (once you look up the syllable configuration because it was only your favorite unit in MS because it was the easiest). I play with all different types of kids and they all get their artsy-mode on and love it!

Find them all over the interwebs or sometimes at Marshall’s!

Moving On

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I’ve been hearing lots of chatter lately about people wondering whether they are where they should be. In relationships, an activity, a possible addiction, with kids (mine’s 15…oy vey), at our school or post, in our industry.

‘I’m done. I’m over it. I can’t do this anymore. Why am I here?’

It doesn’t mater what profession you are in, there are always signs of weary souls wandering around.  But in the education profession, we walk a particular line with questions of moving on. We joke at work that it’s like an abusive relationship.  We start the year fresh, excited, we get worn down, we are asked of more that we can give, we go unseen, we say we’re done.  Then, right before we turn in our papers- TA DA! -we get a break (Spring, Summer, Winter? No difference at all).  And in that sweet, sweet freedom, we say…’it’s not so bad.’ Ha! And the cycle continues year after year until we turn around and can’t believe we are getting another five-year paper weight.

It’s like when you go to Target and fill your basket impulsively with a million ridiculous kitchen gadgets, DVDs you’ll never watch, 70 ridiculous lay tiny towels, and adorable stationary sets.  You feel so good…until you get to the line and realize you work for the public school system and can’t afford any of that Target magicalness and empty it all but the peanut butter and Cheerios.  But the feeling of pretending for a little bit is enough to hold you over.  For 2 hours (albeit wasted), you were all 5 (I think) of the Kardashian sisters.

So I started thinking about what factors could be considered when trying to decide if it’s time to move on.  I found three, mainly based on my BFF and main man, Viktor Frankl and his Existentialism. If you haven’t read Man’s Search for Meaning, throw your worthless electronic down and run -don’t walk- to a book store near you and get it.  Well, unless you are into digital reading, then don’t throw your electronic down, dummy. I’m sorry, that was mean.

Anywho, I think these three things are the most important to consider when trying to decide if it’s time to move on. OK, here goes:

1. Letting go of the past- Have you tried, to the best of your ability, to let go of the past?  This includes letting go of things you wish were true (even the age-old).  Hanging on to what should or could be only gets us stuck, and keeps us from being able to view our prospects with clarity.  You’ve got to let go of this and catalogue what is so that you know what the reality of the situation is.

2. Honest perspective- Have you really truly taken in other perspectives? Like, reeeallllllyyyyy tried.  This means understanding the bigger picture, our role in the larger system, and getting clarity on your situation in context of what other people are going through. I know, I know, this seems in contradiction to the first consideration, but I don’t mean stopping on what could be, but understanding our situation in a larger manner to ensure we have not simply lost focus of a world in which we are the center staple.

3. Effort toward contentment- Have you truly tried to find meaning in your situation? This one is a big nod to my Vik (we’re cool like that). A la #2, Frankl points out that Holocaust survivors, POWs, terminally ill, etc. report being able to find meaning in the moment.  They can still appreciate something, and feel a meaningful existence by something.  This is not to shame goal-seeky people though guys. I mean, a little fire goes a long way… and under the tush pushes us to do some amazing stuff.  But this is more like a gut check. Have you truly put effort into finding contentment and holding tight to it? The trick is that you should feel contentment and meaning that is not based on how you feel, but rather your contentment in being a bystander to great things and other people as well.

So here’s the deal.  I feel like these are really important to try, BUT they are not the end of the road.  Sometimes we do everything we can (these three things included) and still cannot find happiness.  It’s not that we’re not trying hard enough, maybe it’s that whatever situation you’re in has run its course. And it’s time to move on.  Like, these make up the timeless 90’s movie’s holy grail. If they don’t work, maybe you’ve really exhausted your time and effort, and/or you are STUCK (and probably bitter) and you’ll get your full mojo back after moving on. Of course, if someone keeps moving around and still feels pooty, there might be some other things to contend with- patterns are super revealing.