Monday, August 29, 2016

It could have been a hot mess.....

Today was the first day of my 12th year as a counselor, and I have to say, it was one of my best!  I hate to jinx myself for the rest of the week, but I didn't have one Kindergarten crier. What?! I'm pretty sure that's never happened to me before.  It was also great being in the second year at my school; I could actually help people find things, I knew students' and parents' names, and I was able to pop into teachers' rooms without feeling like I was interrupting them because I have relationships with them now. It was amazing!

I'm hitting the ground running with my FIRST 30 DAYS CHECKLIST, which I wrote about here and here last year. Download it for free at Life on the Fly TPT, especially if you are a brand new counselor. I am also loving some of the changes I have made in my office this year.  I had a stroke of inspiration about a month ago and decided I would paint my cinder block wall with chalkboard paint.  First, because the white was really boring and ugly.  Second, because I thought the kids would think it was awesome to be able to express themselves through chalk drawing. Third, because I wanted to incorporate some of my regular group and individual counseling activities into wall activities. So, it could have been a hot mess when I started.......(and I was worried it would be).

Here's what I started with.......GROSS!

I bought 2 cans of tintable chalkboard paint from Home Depot and decided on the royal blue color because it would be dark enough to show different colors of chalk, and it's also one of our school colors.  I painted a huge rectangle on the bare wall. and added some 3-D butterflies I happened to have to extend the blue color out into the rest of the room.

Next, I added a fun pennant banner. I knew the kids wouldn't be able to reach that high anyway, and it made it feel more festive.  You know I love festive!!! I bought different cardstock papers at Michaels and used my handy dandy Cameo Silhouette machine to cut out the triangles. It is definitely one of the best investments I have ever made for my crafty projects.

Then came the fun part! I bought liquid chalk markers on Amazon to make more permanent designs that I wanted to stay up for awhile or would use all year with kids! Check out my miracle scale, positive thought mirror, and "Be Groovy" inspirational quote.

So, it could have been a hot mess, but when those first kids came in and saw this wall, their reactions said it is awesome!  I am so glad I took the risk and that it paid off.  It is going to be a great year!

If you have any questions about this project, feel free to comment or email me! I'd be happy to give you more tips on how I made it work.
Enjoy and Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Meet the School Counselor....

This post will be short and sweet because I only have six more days of summer vacation, and I want to squeeze every last minute out of my last Saturday.  I have had a LOT of fun introducing myself to students as the school counselor over the years and have written posts about how to make that fun. My #FlatGroovyPoovey and Camp Counselor lessons are two of the most popular items in my Life on the Fly TPT store.

So, what do you do when your students have already heard those intro lessons?!!! You add more to the rotation. I have been working on some cute new lessons and can't wait to use this Mrs. Potato Head student worksheet with my Kindergarten students.  I included a parent blurb at the bottom and will have them color the Mrs. Potato Head to take home at the end of the lesson.

I also created two new upper grade lessons, a race track themed SMARTboard lesson (I do live in NASCAR country!) where the class divides into teams and races against each other as they answer TRUE/FALSE questions about the school counselor and a "What Does the School Counselor Do?" game where students sort Counselor Cards into TRUE, FALSE, and DON'T KNOW piles to learn about my job.

If you are ready to add some new material and fun to your INTRO lessons, check out my new bundles! Then, pat yourself on the back for being ahead of the game and super organized! One of the bundles has SMARTboard resources and the other is lessons plans, activities, and student products (two of these work best with the SMARTboard resource). If you buy both, you will have FIVE NEW intro lessons to share with your students. Click on the images for more info.
One last thing--- my lucky readers will get 20% off the 3 new items I have posted this week for the next 36 hours. 

Enjoy and Happy Counseling! ~ Angela

Monday, August 8, 2016

Welcoming Diversity......

Merriam Webster's definition is a great reminder about the emotions a person should feel when we are welcoming someone.  Happiness. Pleasure. Is this how your students will feel on the first day of school when they enter your school building? What about on the 80th day? Or 180th day?

Embracing diversity has always been a priority for me as a school counselor. Years ago I created a really fun, hands-on Ability Awareness lesson with different activity centers that I wrote about here. It helps students see what it would be like to have physical or educational challenges so that empathy and compassion can be cultivated. Last year, I added more diversity lessons for my students and recently created this Diversity Lesson Bundle to share at Life on the Fly. The bundle lessons focus on appreciating physical differences, diversity of talents, and diversity of interests. 

Earlier in July I had the true pleasure of beginning training as a site-based facilitator for Welcoming Schools in my school district. As one of five counselors from my district included in the training, it was a unique opportunity for me to learn and grow.  Welcoming Schools is an approach that focuses on the following areas:
Embracing family diversity
Preventing bias-based bullying and gender stereotyping
Supporting transgender and gender expansive youth
Creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools

As educators, especially school counselors, it is our job to promote respect and tolerance so that ALL students are received and accepted with care and compassion.   
So, how do we do this in elementary school?

You may not have a transgender student walking through your doors in August, or a student that identifies as gay or lesbian, or even a student that currently has two moms or two dads, but are you building a school atmosphere that could embrace those situations and others if (and when) they occur? Because if you are in this profession long enough, it WILL happen and NOW is the time to educate and prepare students who are welcoming of students with LGBTQ differences, racial differences, family structure differences, gender differences, preference differences...the list goes on and on. 

One easy way to begin these diversity and tolerance conversations is with bibliotherapy.  Whether you do a classroom guidance lesson or read a book with a small group or individual student, books are a great place to start in planting seeds of tolerance. Welcoming Schools has some great lesson plans available for some of their recommended books. I also have recommended readings from other resources that I plan on checking out this year. Click on the book titles to read the summary of each story.

Family Diversity Books


The Family Book (Pre-K-K) and The Great Big Book of Families (Pre-K-3) are good starting points to present all different kinds of families with your primary grades.  And Tango Makes Three (Pre-K-3) is the story of a penguin with two dads.

Gender Diversity Books

Jazz Jennings, a transgender girl and national spokesperson for transgender youth, is the co-author of I Am Jazz (K-5)  She is also the star of the show "I Am Jazz" on the TLC network, which focuses on her life as a transgender teen growing up in Florida. George also tells the story of a young transgender girl. Jacob's New Dress (Pre-K-2) features a character who doesn't identify with stereotypical gender roles while Elena's Serenade (Pre-K-2) and 10,000 Dresses (K-4), also challenge gender stereotyping, especially as they relate to interests and possible careers.


Finally, Red:  A Crayon's Story is a delightful book where a blue crayon, labeled RED, struggles with identity and acceptance to be the crayon it is inside. Although this book could easily relate to LGBTQ topics, I believe it also presents a broader acceptance of diversity of self, no matter what the difference expressed.

Many of these books can be found on YouTube if you want to check them out prior to buying them or use them as e-books for lessons.  I am by no means an expert on these topics, but I am leaning into the learning curve and recognize the huge need to promote acceptance and respect for ALL types of families and ALL students. Join me in the important work of creating school environments that truly are welcoming!

Enjoy and Happy Counseling! ~ Angela
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