Monday, May 18, 2015

Thinking 2015-16

There's still some work to be done for the remaining school year, but I've already got an eye on what's to come for 2015-16.  This is my working document for next year, a big Post-it sticky on my wall.  Nearby, I have another one with a list of tasks for summer 2015 that will support activities, ideas and goals. 
To expand on each one of these:

  1. Individual Student Planning Committee:  This is just a group of teaching staff from each time that will help me with all SpEd, TAG and §504 referrals for next year. Although the majority of the duties will fall to me, this team will be involved in the decision making process. 
  2. Academic Momentum Schedule: Academic Momentum is the curriculum for Eastern Promise, a regional initiative that supports early college experiences in our state. I will deliver this personally at the sixth grade level, but I'm responsible for a delivery model at the 7th and 8th grades. 
  3. Sixth Grade Counselor Schedule:  With the acquisition of funds to purchase the sixth grade Second Step program, and the support of administration and staff to implement it in our school, I will personally be delivering lessons along with Academic Momentum. I will likely be in a sixth grade classroom every two or three weeks next year.
  4. Forms/Schedules Book:  Shout out to Carol for this idea. Although it won't take the place of my Outlook calendar, it will be a great resource to have when I am out and about, and when I need quick access to a form.
  5. Lifeways/SMS Plan of Service.  Lifeways is our county mental health organization that provides individual and group services for our students.  They've done a great job in our building, and I think we could improve their service by getting input from more staff.  I'm anticipating more skill building groups for next year. 
Without realizing it, I might have addressed a recent tweet:

And finally, what is conspicuously absent on my list is a counseling program advisory committee. I've been talking about this entity for a few years now, but haven't gone through the steps to put one in place.  That's probably a blog post all by itself. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

#SCin30Q1: Why I became a school counselor

Susan Spellman Cann invited me to participate in her school counselor vlogging project, "School Counseling in 30".  Ironically, it was only yesterday that I acquired enough technology to participate, so here's my first installment.  Question: Why did you become a school counselor? It's a question that I mulled over 15 years ago when I first started my graduate studies, but I really hadn't thought about it for a long time. It's interesting to see how my perceptions and approach to this profession have changed over the years.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

5th Grade Transitions: Classroom meetings

I've spent some time this week meeting with fifth graders at our two feeder schools in their classrooms.  I've wanted them to get to know me early, answer a few questions, and generally let them know what to expect as they prepare to transition to middle school.  My answers to their questions have become somewhat predictable:

  • Yes, you have to dress down for PE.
  • No, you're not going to get stuffed into a locker (or garbage can) by an 8th grader.
  • Yes, I know your brother Carlos. 
One discussion item we've had centers on what is the same, and what is different from elementary school. It's been eye opening to me to hear some of their perceptions, even though I've heard many of the same concerns when I worked at the elementary level. Hearing them as a middle school counselor just gives me a different perspective. The main point I've wanted to get across to them is that if they have been successful in elementary school, their habits and behaviors will serve them well at the next level. If they've made some poor choices along the way, the best time to turn that around is right now. How you were in fifth grade doesn't have to be how you will be in sixth. 

I've also brought some combination locks to leave with their teachers so that they can practice opening them. The sooner we can get that stuff out of the way, the sooner they can get to learning in August. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Anxiety Article

You might have seen this already, but I'm always looking for new ways to work with kids who have anxiety to the point that it affects their ability to stay in class. I'm especially intrigued by #8, practicing mindfulness:
An abundance of scientific research has demonstrated the profound effects of mindfulness.  MRI studies have shown that practicing mindfulness increases the density of grey matter in the brain, providing relief and protection from stress, anxiety and depression.
As I make a few more clicks around the website, I think Hey Sigmund just became my new favorite blog.

Be well.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

5th Grade Transition: Fly-up Day

I don't know how you do a fly-up activity at your middle school. Our fifth graders come to visit for an hour and a half or so. I've participated in that event several times as an elementary counselor, but have never planned one at my current level. This is actually a good thing, as I am familiar with what has been done in the past, and what I think would additionally be valuable to our fifth graders.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ed Foundation Grant

My latest tweet:
My plans for next year are beginning to take shape. We're going to be incorporating some social-emotional learning alongside our college/career curriculum at the sixth grade levels. Our goals will be for our sixth graders to:

  • Become problem solvers
  • Recognize and respond to bullying
  • Regular their own emotions
  • Resist drug/alcohol use and other risky behaviors
I've taught this curriculum at the elementary level in years past. I believe in it as a vehicle to promote real growth at this crucial time of their academic lives. Very special thanks to the Hermiston Education Foundation for making this possible. 

Reference:  Second Step Curriculum from the Committee for Children, sixth grade level. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spring break notes

Of course, I started this blog with the best of intentions.  Funny how life gets in the way of posting sometimes. Nevertheless, it's been a great year as my first year at the middle school level.  In fact, I can't imagine going to any other grade level for a long time. I'm part of a great team at my school, and I've grown a lot professionally this year despite taking a few lumps along the way. With spring break here, I'm already starting to think about 2015-16 at this point.

  • We don't have an established individual student planning team at our school. I've already had some preliminary talks with the principal and I think this would be a good move for us next year. 
  • Academic Momentum has been a big focus for us this first three quarters. Next year, 7th and 8th grade teachers will take over the teaching. I will remain teaching the 6th grade curriculum. In addition, I'd like to spend a couple of times a month with each 6th grade social studies classroom and focus on things like goal setting and some social/emotional learning topics. Sixth grade is a pivotal year for many students. 
  • I now see the value of a school counseling binder!  
So, there's still much to do to finish out the year, but I'm excited about my start here and what we're going to accomplish going forward.