Wednesday, June 8, 2016

3 Things All Educators Need to Hear from TpT Flock 16

Could these centerpieces be any cuter?
I don't think so.
As I emerge from the haze of maternity leave, I've had some time to think (mainly around 4 AM) about the past couple months. My brain is still churning with all I learned at the Northeastern Regional Teachers Pay Teachers Meet-Up in Rochester, NY in April. While the amazing event, "Birds of a Feather Flock Together," was geared towards individuals who sell on TpT, I have a few takeaways that all educators should hear, especially at the end of the year. Here are my top 3:

1. "Every single one of you deserves to be here... you all have value."- Jen Jones, Hello Literacy

Jen Jones, from Hello Literacy, stated this towards the end of the day, and I want you to take this sentiment, stick it in your pocket, and take it home with you. Read it. Hug it. Breathe it in. I participate in (too) many professional learning networks online, and there are posts often from tired, worn out, down & out educators. Lately I've read about contracts not being renewed, conflicts with staff and parents, and a general sense of feeling devalued. There are too many people carrying around feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

I think as educational professionals we hear at times that we are valued, or have the most important jobs in the world, but the day-to-day events, challenges, and interactions that occur can create burnout. Lately I've noticed many people jumping from the education ship and questioning their own skills and value. So this brief, powerful statement from Jen is one that all educators need to embrace and internalize. Hold this tight, and believe it.

2. Communities support educators...and educators need to support educators.

This is just some of what I
won from Teacher Created Resources!
Photo cred: Reading in Room 11
If you're like me (and I hope you're not in this regard), you can't help but read online comments posted on education articles. It's a bad, nasty habit...and one I haven't been able to kick. If you spend (waste) time on this (like me) you might feel that not only are the articles sooo terrible towards educators (everything is our fault, right?), but the general community doesn't support us either. Not. True. We were spoiled rotten at this event. My friendly neighbor to the west, the City of Rochester, could not have been more welcoming, the community businesses donated buckets of items, and nationwide companies sent us treats that day as well. And guess what? I won a raffle. I never win. Ever. Anywhere. But I did! I won an amazing basket (well, more like a package because not everything fit in the basket) from Teacher Created Resources.

My students are going to be
very happy about these stickers.
Photo cred:
Reading in Room 11
If you're not familiar with this company, you need to be. I've been in love with many of their decorative items for years, but I'm a little embarrassed (OKmaybe a lot embarrassed) that I never realized they have books for Character Education. As a counselor, I'm always looking for new materials to use with our Character Education program and my social skills/anti-bullying class meetings.

I love library pockets...
probably more than I should.
Photo cred:
Reading in Room 11
As I mentioned earlier, I'm on maternity leave and my room will be under construction for a capital improvement project, so I can't put these items to use yet. My wheels are turning on how to use the materials I won. I'd like to figure out a way to use the library pockets for "check & connect" time with my students. I know so many of us start planning for the fall before school is even out for summer break, and my baby brain is churning. Be sure to check out all of the great things on their site. To help you out, one of the many things that caught my eye is this polka dot pocket storage chart; it would make a beautiful feelings board (here's mine).

Along a similar theme, we need to be supporting each other as educators. A mantra throughout the day was the need for collaboration over competition. I'm sure some of you have worked in places where competition is the norm, and I hope that there are many more of you who have never experienced that. The idea that we are better together couldn't have been more apparent at this event, as the workshop presenters (all educators!) and the ideas/skills shared by others were beyond amazing. We can all learn from each other. We all have skills and value to bring (see #1).

Jenn & I flock together.
Isn't her logo beautiful?
On a related note, since I'm currently not at school, my pal Jenn from Reading in Room 11 took the pictures of my big raffle win for me. She wouldn't even let me put her watermark on them to give her credit. I know for sure that her enthusiasm, skills, and knowledge make me better. I hope you have that where you are, too.

3. Step up your technology use

Well, I thought I was on top of my tech... and I was wrong. I learned so much about blogging, social media, photos and videos, etc., and I can't help but wonder how I can use all these things better as part of my comprehensive school counseling program. I spent quite a bit of time this year making cute mini flip books to send home to parents, and now I think I should start posting quick videos to keep my families in the loop. The idea seems daunting in some ways, but some of the data presented suggested that videos under one minute get the most views. One minute. That's it... I can do that...right? Many educators use social media to share with families what is happening during the day. I really don't feel like I can do that given the confidentiality limitations of my job, but perhaps I can incorporate it in some other way.

What do you think? How do you use technology in your position?

Is there something that you wish all educators could hear?

Comment below, find me on instagram, & let me know!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Small group structure for Elementary School Counselors

I've been thinking about my favorite things about small groups lately, and I feel like I've reached a point that I really love my outline. It's only taken me about 10 years to get there.

I start all of my groups, regardless of topic, in the same way. 99% of my groups are run during the lunch blocks, so we often have to wait for group members to make it through the lunch line and arrive.

I really needed something for the kids to do while they waited (besides eat their lunch). I adapted this idea from someone in the Elementary School Counselor Exchange on Facebook a couple years ago (despite my best efforts, I cannot find the original poster. If it was you - or you know who it was, please tell me!!). At the start of every new group, the students create a "feelings card." These are pretty simple, rectangular bookmarks that the kids decorate and label with their name (if they want). When I'm feeling super fancy and ambitious, I laminate them, and then I store them in a grade-specific pocket so they're easy to find. As the students come in, they find their card and pick how they're feeling that day. You can download the template that I use for free here.

Feelings check in for small group counseling

As you can see, all the pockets are labeled with an emotion and an image. I shrank the Feelings Posters by School Counseling Files and attached them to the pockets using paper clips. Simple, right? The posters are really cute, and I use them for other group activities so the kids get used to recognizing the clip art images and emotions. 

The kids looooooove this. They spend quite a bit of time looking at the emotions, thinking about how they're currently feeling, and sometimes during the group or at the end they put their feeling card in a different pocket as their feelings change. I've found it really opens students up to discussing emotions, and it lends itself well to our group check-in. I typically use a feeling frog, and the kids take turns sharing good/bad news, and/or how they're feeling that day. Students also seem to really enjoy guessing which color/emotion frog I'm going to pick. Weird, I know. It's the little things, I guess.

From there, we move on to the activity of the day! Easy peasy! The kids like the consistent structure, and the opportunity to share with their peers. It gets them focused on feelings, and ready to roll for group.

Do you have a certain outline or structure to your groups? What have you found effective during elementary school counseling groups? I'd love to hear about it - share below!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Parent Communication about School Counseling Small Groups

Ever struggle with the best way to communicate with parents? I know I have... for years. I facilitate many small groups throughout the year as part of my comprehensive school counseling plan. I send permission slips home to families, with an outline and a couple examples of what we might do during group. Despite this, I often have caregivers, at some point in the year, asking "Yes, but what exactly do you do in group?"

This is tricky to answer. All of my groups are different, based on group dynamics and need. I usually give an explanation about identifying feelings, managing emotions, and a brief discussion of the counseling component or topics might be a part of that particular group (e.g. family structures, conflict resolution, types of bullying, etc.). But this conversation never feels like it does groups justice... and I'm really lucky. I get to work with families who want to know what I do, and how they can support and reinforce group ideas at home with their children.

So behold... the parent mini flip book!

I found the template for the double-side mini flip book on Teachers Pay Teachers. It was created by Learning in Wonderland and it's amazing. It's big enough to include a lot of information, different enough to gain attention from parents and caregivers, and small enough that I don't feel overwhelmed creating it. 

Photo credit of Feelings Frogs to and Curto Toys  
I thought about what I wanted families to know, and I decided upon the general structure of my groups, along with a few examples of what students did while in group. I also try to add in some resources for the parents, or information about the materials used in group in case they'd like to check them out.

The feedback from sending the mini flip books home has been great so far! A first grader told me last week that her mom really liked the book I sent home about "Changing Families" group. I sent those home in January, so I know it made an impression when a 6 year old retains that information in April!

What's your favorite way to communicate with families? Comment below!

Wondering what I used to create these amazing parent resources? The mini flip book template was created by Learning in Wonderland. The font used on the mini flip books is Lightning Speed. Clip art credit to Teaching in the Tongass and Educlips

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Year Of How: day 3 Goals

I'm joining Angie, from Lucky Little Learners, and Ashley, from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd, with their #2getherwearebetter monthly linky topic on goals. As you know from my New Year's day post, my theme for 2016 is HOW. Day 3 of the Year of How and #thestruggleisreal!

I've realized that there are so.many.things. I don't know how to do. I decided to set some groundwork for my theme so I got together with my more knowledgeable partner in crime, Jenn, to create some vision boards. "Begin with the end in mind," right? I was all ready to go big!

Ok, so it's still blank. What do you really expect??
So after a very productive meeting, my vision board remains blank. However, I will say, after a couple uninterrupted showers and a night of pregnancy induced insomnia, I've gained some clarity! I've come up with my plan: 

GOAL 1: Learn more about TpT, business, and technology
GOAL 2: Invest in my blog, TpT, and social media accounts
GOAL 3: Explore credentialing for Life Coach certification

My plan of attack is to try to learn as much as humanly the baby's due date in April. Ambitious? Maybe. Stupid? Probably. But day 3, and I've placed the following in place to hold me accountable:
I think that's a pretty good start. What are your goals or themes for the year? Comment below!

Looking for inspiration? Be sure to check out the goals posted by bloggers through this InLinkz Link-Up. Pretty amazing, don't you think?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

"Don't you just love New Year's? You can start all over." - Forrest Gump

I do love New Year's. I can't help it. Everything is sparkly, shiny, and new....

I know, I know, you're shaking your head thinking "I hate New Year's - it's overrated!" Not me. I love it.

I love it even more this year. Change is in the air. I can feel it. A few months ago I started Speckled Moose Counseling, and I'm excited to see where Teacher Entrepreneur School and blogging will take me in a few months. Aside from that, I've got a baby on the way. No big deal!

Each year, my mom decides on a theme for the year. I decided that 2016 will be the year of HOW - how do I do the things I'd like to do, how do I become more tech savvy, how do I overcome "limits" and "barriers" that are placed in my way, how do I give my time and energy to the people I most love...

The Moose and the Lab

I'm up for this challenge, and figuring out all of the "how" questions that 2016 will bring. I hope you'll join me.

What's your theme for the year?