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Slow Start

I HAVE FOUR MORE DAYS OF SUMMER

Yep. Four more days. What a Summer it has been. We have had some serious changes this Summer in my family, some super sad and some exciting. It always seems to happen that way that the Summer is so seldom a slow burn. I can’t decide which way I like more. But I am ready to head back.

The crazyiness will begin soon, as I step into a new school. After my babies left for High School I’ve decided to take the leap and start a new adventure. As sad as I am to say goodbye to my old school, I am really excited to get my hands into a new place, new population, and forge new friendships. I get so much inspiration from the people around me, sometimes I think they get fatigued from my harassment! So now it’s time to give someone else a turn.

To prep for returning, I started reading The Balanced Teacher Path which has really helped me get into the mood to set my mind right, and remember to support the teachers on my hallway. It’s such an easy read, contains personal stories, and suggestions for the classroom and home. I seriously recommend it, and think it would be an amazing all-school read.

I also got to spend today in training with all of the secondary counseling peeps in VB. It was tough to wake up early, but it was so perfect to get me reignited and ready for the year. I am itching to get in, take care of scheduling conflicts, and get the year rolling. It feels so good to be in a profession that excites me enough to get my tail out of yoga pants and into business.

Another Free Spirit Post!

I’m telling you, these guys are magical! They take my humble thoughts and really refine them and know how to make it look shiny! My second post is about positive peer pressure. I was excited to write about this topic because it is truthfully the most fun part of my job.

Kids are cognitively very self-centered, working more outward as their world expands. But they have so much capacity for kindness, that even developmental psychology doesn’t stand in the way of their impact on each other!

Follow the link and feel free to ask questions or add comments!!

KIT With GRIT- Thanks to Military

My school is lucky enough to have a school incredibly close to several military bases. We get to see jet formations all day, we have resources to help with mentoring and presence, and we get a divers student body that has seen the world. For Month of the Military Child, our School Counseling team decided that this year we would thank our military students by sponsoring and inviting them all to an after-school military social.

Fun fact? Kids don’t know what K.I.T. Stands for anymore, but they came up with some good and interesting guesses. Noted. Anyways, we got about a quarter of our invited students to participate (which is a ton), and I think the chaperones may have had just as much fun as the kids!

I found some of the ancient maps that used to hang in classrooms, and we used one for students to sign in and write all of the places they have lived in.

We also did a chalk-walk, where students decorated our bus loop with inclusive and military inspired messages, to greet other students when they walked in the net day. These activities, coupled with music, ping-pong tables, freebies, and (most importantly) ice-cream made for the perfect afternoon! The only criticism we received from he students was that we had waited so long to provide such fun.

Did your school celebrate Month of the Military Child?

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.

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!

 

How My Principal Made Me Socially Awkward

@SteffSchoolCoun is where it all started.

When I am speaking with you in line or while we are drinking coffee (even though I do not like coffee), I just might have a compulsion to tweet things like: Cereal is my favorite food and Serial is my favorite podcast. Weird.

And I am sorry for that.  But it’s my principal’s fault.

I do try to keep my Twitter feed content school-related, but if it’s the night of a Project Runway finale, or I spot some poorly-timed irony around me I may need to scratch that itch while we are supposed to be working on a worksheet’s formatting or planning a meeting, and tweet that tweet.

And I am sorry for that.  But it’s my principal’s fault.

During in-service week, we were encouraged to start a Twitter account in order to share photos, events, ideas, etc. of things we are doing in our schools and in our career. As you can imagine, there were many, many scowls received in the cafeteria that day.  I would venture to say that Twitter received at least 30 new accounts that have been inactive since that very day.  Really, I was nervous myself.  I can hardly keep up with Facebook and Pinterest, let alone this new-fango-young people social media.

But as I was instructed, I created an account a posted a few things. I’m not really sure if “posted” is the right terminology, because that’s how dorky I still am with this tool. Either way, very quickly, I was hooked. I love the small post format- I clearly like talking, so this has helped me communicate in a less dramatized fashion. I also like the networking aspect. I have followed, been followed by, joined chats, been retweeted and commented by people in the school-system and education community I would have never crossed paths with had it not been suggested that I join Twitter.

But I am learning (as I do often) that I am needing to listen to my own advice for students and my own kids regarding technology, respect, and finding a balance of not letting these great tools take over, while still being brave enough to completely submerge into them for professional development and personal growth.  They do offer a lot, but I am learning how to not be socially awkward as a result.

I am so glad I was twittered!