Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Countdown to 2014..............

Happy New Year's Eve!!!! 

I hope everyone has a great start to 2014.  I will be enjoying time with family and friends and celebrating a "mostly" fantastic 2013. Life isn't perfect, but I have to say that I feel lucky to have a healthy and loving family, great friends and coworkers, a job I love and feel passionate about, and opportunities for growth and creativity (like this blog) that keep me excited about each new year.  Every year my husband and I write down our "goals/wishes" for the year, and this year will be no different.  I thought the article below was a good one for educators who are thinking about their own goals for 2014.  I'll be back to my normal blogging next week. Until then, enjoy and happy counseling!  ~ Angela


*Free image above from HDwallpapersinn.com

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"SMORE" Communication

Happy Holidays! This will be my last post of 2013 and what a great year it has been! Prior to break on Friday, I was able to wrap up several of my School Success groups and will begin Study Club groups later in January in preparation for the spring EOGs.  We finally got our EOG scores back from the county so I will be looking at that data to create the fourth and fifth grade groups.

In communicating with teachers and parents about my groups, I have started using a great E-tool from the website smore.com.  My co-counselor learned about it at the NCSCA Conference courtesy of Andrea Burston (JYJoyner Counselor Blog), and I love it! The website allows you to make great looking E-flyers that you can share via email or embed on a webpage. I have always sent electronic or print updates to teachers and parents two or three times during my groups so they know what skills we are working on and how they can connect the group to home.  See a previous example here.  However, SMORE makes it so much easier.

The website is free and once you have your initial template, you can simply duplicate your flyer and update the information as you go through your group.  Here is the first School Success Group update I sent to teachers and parents.

 Here is the second update I sent, and I even included my post survey evaluation for parents with an embedded link at the bottom of the flyer. 

The link takes them to a three question Google form, which helps identify any habits they have improved upon since the start of the group.  I outlined how to make Google forms in a previous post here if you need additional information.

I have been emailing the flyers because I requested email addresses on my initial group permission form, but you could also print them and send them home if you have parents without access to email or do not have their email addresses. 

Best wishes for a great holiday to you and your families.  I am looking forward to an exciting 2014 full of fun, creativity, and joy in each day!
Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

Monday, December 9, 2013

Head Elf

Leadership is a fascinating topic to me. I have had eight principals in my nine years of being a school counselor, and I love observing how different people manage and lead a school.  Whether I worked for a principal for four months or four years, I have gleaned something from each distinct personality.  It has truly given me a broad perspective of leadership styles.

I strive to be a leader as I carry out my school counseling functions and that includes encouraging leadership in those around me. I came across this Ted Talk video that speaks to the vision I have for leadership and the impact I can only hope to make each day among students, families,and staff.


As you guessed by my title, there is more to this story than the video clip above.  I've talked in previous posts about choosing to be a leader as it relates to school climate and a positive school environment for the staff at my school (remember the Easter egg hunt?!). After Thanksgiving break I decided we all needed to have a little fun as we dealt with MAP testing, MClass progress monitoring, exhaustion, and holiday stress before the winter break. So, my principal graciously agreed to adopt a new member into our school family and STAR was introduced to the staff.

Each day, STAR has a new message for staff members as they go about their daily activities. I also post a picture of where STAR was the day before in our daily staff email just in case teachers didn't get a chance to find her.  It has been a big hit so far, although there was some confusion on the first day when a teacher assistant thought you were supposed to turn STAR into the office for a prize if you found her. I quickly sent out an email reminding everyone not to touch her and referencing the Elf on the Shelf movie. Ha! As a side note, I only hide STAR in teacher areas so no children have been involved in this activity. It is solely for the staff.  What are you doing to spread holiday cheer?  Any good ideas for what STAR should  do next?!

Happy Counseling! ~ Angela (AKA Head Elf)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Organizing Quick Tips

A teacher at school gave me the nicest compliment today.   She said, "When I grow up, I want to be organized like you."  Obviously, this teacher's compliment was a little tongue-in-cheek, and most of the time I just brush comments like these to the side, but today I thought, "YES! I am making progress!"

I have really been trying to step up my game with staying organized during this busy time of the year.  I have continued some of my time-tested organization strategies:
  • Google calendar- I use it to keep track of EVERYTHING:  My classroom guidance schedule, school/parent meetings, small group times, etc. I especially like inputting my individual counseling appointments for specific time slots during the current week and then creating future meeting times for students so I don't forget follow up appointments in the weeks to come.
  • A ready made individual counseling sheet that jogs my memory to have students scale or give feedback about their feelings so I can chart growth.  The photo below shows the front side of the sheet where I document if a student made a happy, straight, or sad face for "School", "Home", or "Friends" on the playdoh sheet I use.  See my post about that here.
  • Bins that hold all my lesson materials so everything is together when I need to go to a specific grade level for classroom guidance.


And, I have implemented some new ideas:
  • A Google form for individual counseling so I can track my sessions with students by date, whether I need to follow up with them in the future, and by topic.  I still use the paper sheet for jotting down quick notes and documenting feeling faces during my student meetings, but I also fill out the form on my Google drive at the end of the day so I can track the information more easily.  It literally takes 2 minutes with the way I have it set up.  

When I go to "Summary of Responses" under the "Responses" menu, I can sort whatever field I choose.  I love sorting by the field - Follow Up "Yes" or Grade Level so I can quickly remind myself who I need to check in with.
  • Small Group folders- Perhaps it is because I am running so many groups right now or because I am getting busier in my life overall, but I have had a tough time keeping all my groups separate in my mind this year. I decided I needed a system and started organizing everything with folders.  I put the student booklets (or folders) that I create for each small group and keep them in a manila file folder.  On the interior left side, I put the students who are in each group, the time we meet, and the homeroom teacher. On the interior right side, I put a quick guide of topics we are covering throughout the group and the date we get to each one so I always know which group session we are on. It has helped me TREMENDOUSLY. Also, I keep all of these handy file folders in a hanging pocket organizer next to my filing cabinet so they are easy to access.  Photos are below, BUT I blurred out the names of the students on the folders so pardon the way they look. :o)  

    Happy Counseling! ~  Angela

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