Monday, December 29, 2014

Bad Days Happen

I'll be the first to admit that the week before winter break was tough for me.  My son got the flu and was out of school for three days.  Luckily no one else in my family caught it, but with present distributions, December lessons, parent referrals, scheduled group sessions, and individual counseling sessions to get done, I felt WAY BEHIND when I came back the last full day before break.  To make matters worse, I returned from being out with him to find a box of county materials in my room with parent permission letters that needed to be distributed before break. In short....... It.was.a.fiasco! I felt like the lady below (the one on the left!!).

                                                                            *Image from

I am telling you this because we know that life doesn't always go our way smoothly, but it is sometimes difficult to remember all the positive things that have happened when you  have that bad day that makes you feel like an utter failure (positive self talk, positive self talk!).

In my professional life, I keep a email folder of the "high five/way to go/thanks" emails people send me so I have tangible reminders of how I am making a difference. I also keep notes from students, parents, and teachers visible on my desk or on my picture hanger (to the right-part of my office decor this year). 

Technology is also a great way to keep these memories without creating too much clutter. I have started taking pictures of student notes so I can stay somewhat organized while also enjoying the sentiments.

I also love having this blog as a testament to the work I have accomplished through the year.  So, in that vein, here are my TOP FIVE Groovy Poovey moments of 2014.  Enjoy..............

1.  Presenting at my first ASCA Conference.....remember that?!!! I couldn't believe my luck when I found out my first ASCA conference was going to feature a keynote speech from First Lady Michelle Obama.  I was beyond excited about her visit as well as my presentation and the entire conference as a whole.  I will also be attending and presenting at the 2015 ASCA conference in Phoenix, AZ this June and hope to connect with many of you there! It is truly an experience that every school counselor should have at least once during his or her career.

2.  Starting my Life On the Fly TPT Store
My Life on the Fly TPT Store was something I had thought about for quite awhile before I finally posted products this past July.  Every product I share from my own school activities is carefully created in hopes that it will be helpful to other school counselors out there. Thanks for supporting me in this endeavor!

3.  Receiving the Leading with the Heart award from my peers  
I was so honored to be chosen by my staff to receive this award. It was truly one of the top highlights of my career!
Behind the scenes info:  My son happened to break his elbow at recess the same afternoon I had this award presentation.  The school couldn't reach me and called my principal to notify us what had happened 10 minutes before the reception started.  My husband was on his way to meet me and quickly switched plans to take my son to the ER and orthopaedist's office.  So, inside that smile was an anxious mama who wasn't quite sure what was going on, but I managed to keep it together for the award presentation. #mamaproblems

4.  Submitting my RAMP application
In 17 days I will find out the results of my RAMP application.  Although I will be disappointed if I don't get it on the first try, I am so glad that I checked this professional "to do" off my bucket list.  It is something I have talked about as a school counselor since graduate school and my early years in Wake County under the tutelage of Eric Sparks and Portia Lambright.  My previous co-counselor, Amanda Collins, and I labored over the 100+ page document we submitted and did our very best work.  I took this very grainy picture the day I finally finished....look at that smile!
Fingers crossed............................

5.   Pounding the pavement to get cool things for my students
Kind of random way to describe it, but this is how I feel every time I write a grant to try and get something cool to use with my kids.  I know I am not going to win every grant for which I apply.  I know not every idea is going to be executed perfectly.  I know there is lots of competition and some grants are easier to get than others.  BUT,  my dad was a phenomenal fundraiser and taught me without even knowing the zeal and persistence required to earn grants.  This past year, I got four grants funded and have been able to integrate STEM and technology into my school initiatives in a way I never would have been able to without these funding sources.  It has invigorated my students AND ME in a way that improves teaching and learning.

Thank you for taking the time to be a part of my year, whether you are a regular reader or this post is the first of mine you've ever seen.  Happy New Year to you! May 2015 be realistically imperfect, BOLD, and fantastically fun!  Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Amazing Centers.......

It hasn't been all elves and ugly Christmas sweaters that light up (gotta love it!) at Cleveland Elementary over the past two weeks, as fun as that has been!

All of my lessons are in full swing as I cover the character traits of Respect and Compassion with kindergarten, second, and fourth grade students, many of which incorporate centers for student activities.  I talked about using centers last year for a Compassion lesson in this post and emphasized Compassion in accepting differences, particularly disabilities.  Many of you really liked the idea!

Centers are one of my favorite lesson strategies, and I shared how I use them during my presentation at the 2014 NCSCA Conference.  I was surprised by how many people seemed interested in creating centers for their own lessons and was asked by numerous people if I had any to share on my TPT Life on the Fly Store.  It reminded me of this video I recently saw in a blog post by George Couros, an innovative administrator in Canada.  

Can you relate?  The brilliance of bloggers I follow and my school counselor colleagues continues to astound me, while I am still somewhat surprised when someone emails me about a "great idea" they were able to  use from my blog.  And that's what makes collaboration so great! What might seem like a "no brainer" to you could make all the difference to someone else.So, I wanted to share my top tips for using centers in your classroom guidance lessons.

1. Use a timer or give students clear voice/hand signal prompts to make center rotations calm and efficient.  Classroom management is really the key to successfully incorporating centers into your lessons! I give a 30 second warning and then say "Give me 5" to indicate we are about to transition. As soon as my hand goes up, the students' hands go up, and they know mouths are silent. Then, I count down 5-4-3-2-1 as they walk to the next center.  I prefer this method to timers because it gives me flexibility in case there is a group that needs an extra minute on one rotation. However, I have used both methods. Also, don't be afraid to use short time increments for  your centers. In my ability awareness centers, students were only at each of the six centers for about 4 minutes before I had them rotate.

2. Use a center worksheet to maintain student accountability. No matter what type of centers I am using, there is a finished product that holds students accountable. Sometimes there is individual accountability like in my ability awareness center sheet.  Other times, teams are coming up with a skit or writing answers on a whiteboard that will have to be shared in front of the class.

3. Have more activities available than time will allow. I never want students to be bored or have idle time in my centers. If they are brainstorming, I tell them to brainstorm "as many ideas as they can" so I will get at least a handful of quality ideas.  In my ability awareness centers, there are at least two activities for each center.  If they don't get to every single sentence or question it is okay, as long as they learned enough to complete their work product. This strategy helps me keep even the quickest of workers actively engaged during my lesson.

4. Assign your center teams carefully.  This tip is a no brainer but extremely important. If you know you have students that don't handle unstructured activities well, you may need to put them in a smaller group and choose partners for that student that have above-average behavior.

5. Incorporate multimedia into at least one of your centers.  Centers are a great time to use those 2 or 3 computers that are in every classroom.  Find a great website that relates to what you are teaching, play a video from YouTube that will catch the students' attention, or give them something interactive to do on the Smartboard if you have one at your disposal.  There are a million 21st century technology resources available online for free. Use them!

If you want to start with a ready-made lesson, check out my Ability Awareness center pack and accompanying Smartboard lesson on TPT by clicking the images.  Or, get creative and incorporate centers into a lesson you already use. Either way, get started on some amazing centers!

  Enjoy and Happy Counseling! 
                    ~ Angela

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Holiday Cheer-meister!

                                                 Image from

There are 10 more school days before Christmas break.  For some, those 80 hours of work time may feel like 80,000 hours as the anticipation of two glorious weeks (or more) looms in the future.  I like to add a little holiday cheer at this time of year to give staff something to look forward to each day.

Last year, my principal graciously agreed to purchase a school elf for us.  We christened her "STAR" and had a fun time finding her each day.  You may remember some of these pics.......

    This year, STAR arrived in camouflage clothes    in  preparation for some serious hide and seek.  I've tried to add props and have a few pieces of candy for the first couple of staff members who find her each day. 

I also started a festive door decorating chain that I hope will spread to lots of teachers before we leave for break.  I "SNOWED" a couple of teachers who are then supposed to pick someone to SNOW themselves. The snowflakes get passed along unless the teacher wants to make new ones, but the sign stays on their door to remind them they are loved.  Easy but FUN!

You can find the SNOWED template with instructions as a FREEBIE at my TPT store.

Another day of fun will come this Friday as the staff celebrates National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.  Yes, apparently it is a real holiday.  Who knew??!!
I hope you all are enjoying the weeks leading up to winter break. Remember, you find the fun and SNAP, the job's a game!

 Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

*Image from
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