Friday, July 26, 2013

Back to School-Back to Connecting

It's just about time for many of us to head back to school, so...why not have a party to get us all in the spirit! A Blog Linky Party that is!

This is my first attempt at something this sophisticated so let's hope all goes well and we all go home with great gifts (knowledge).

How do you participate?
  1. Create a blog post titled: "Back to School-Back to Connecting" and answer the questions below
  2. Paste the Linky Party logo from above at the beginning of your blog post
  3. Submit your blog post link below (please be sure to link your actual blog post, not your blog homepage)

I am on an extended contract, I work 10 days before the students come back and 10 days after their last day. My first day of work this year will be Monday, July 29. I am heading back a little early this year (our students won't come back until August 16) so I can help out with Freshman Academy and I will have a couple of days off in between to ease into the transition.

This year I plan to finally organize my program Advisory Council. Last year I spent a lot of time learning about the value of this element of a comprehensive school counseling program and soliciting interest from community members, parents and administrators-this is the year I will finally get things moving!

  1. My Assistant- she's not really a "tool" per se, but it would be difficult to accomplish as much as I do without her there to keep me in check!
  2. Technology in general. I use technology in every aspect of my job, without it I would be lost.
  3. FORMS! As a high school counselor forms are essential to helping me deliver a consistent message to all of my students. My "Academic Review Form" has received rave reviews from parents and helps my student to not only see where they are in terms of graduation, but also helps them appreciate how much they have accomplished.

At the beginning of each year I usually visit every English class to introduce my program and hand out my program brochure. Recently the administration has asked that I utilize our homeroom/advisory period to deliver the majority of my curriculum, so this year I will visit each homeroom instead. Since I am the only counselor I will combine homerooms, up to 30 students, and give them a brief overview of my role this year as their school counselor.

Over the last 5 years I have published a newsletter, on and off, and also used our school website. I have found that the combination of these two approaches reaches the majority of our stakeholders. Other methods that have worked for us have included One Call Now, an automated phone system, and publishing everything possible in our daily announcements, which also are posted on our school website.

  1. Build relationships with teachers fast. Let them know what your goals are and ask how you can work together to ease their burden and reach your goals.
  2. Execute a Management Agreement with the administration that recognizes how, when and where your school counseling curriculum will be delivered.
  3. Publish your schedule, share your lesson plans and results
I have been blessed to work with super flexible teachers that will bend over backwards to help me deliver my curriculum. The health teacher and I realized that many of our lessons were similar (I-messages, Decision Making) so we co-teach them now instead of doing double duty and boring the students. Learning Styles assessments are done through our Freshman Academy curriculum and administered by homeroom teachers for grades 10-12. I was also lucky enough to get my own classroom last year, really just a classroom that is never used. I asked for 30 desks and a computer to complete the space and now I have a room that is always available for school counseling purposes.

A collaborative approach is key.

Staying organized is sometimes a huge task for me since I am often on the run or working on a million things at once. But, in my moments of sanity, I use lots of filing bins boxes, and accessories. I also adopted a rolling cart last year that I use when I am working on a specific school counseling lesson over a couple of days. I just leave all of my materials organized on the cart and roll it from room to room.

I also use outlook to keep all of my appointments and classroom visits organized. I set reminders for myself and check the calendar each day before I leave the office so I am prepared for the next day and upcoming weeks.

Now it's your turn to connect with other school counselors! Feel free to use my question images on your blog post. Welcome back to school & welcome to the party!

New Linky Party blog posts will be listed below. You may also email your blog post link to me if you have trouble joining the party.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Meditation Minute in the Midst of Madness

Sometimes all we have to quiet our minds and reset are quiet seconds, and we generally use them to hurry in & out after we sneak to the restroom dressed in our invisible cloak to finally relieve ourselves after holding it for three hours. In the event that you have a minute (after you take that much needed & deserved restroom break), give this new technique a chance to help you melt away the madness.

The idea of Meditation Minute came to me after a conversation with my assistant this week. Sometimes our jobs can be pure chaos as we work hard for the students & contend with the political forces within our school. Sometimes reciting our Positive Pledge over & over again 100 times just doesn't work-and let's face it, if we can squeeze it in once a day we are lucky.

The purpose of Meditation Minute  is to step in right in the midst of the madness & transform you back to the level-headed, positive & energetic counselor you can be on any given day.

The best things about MM:
  1. You can do it anywhere, even in a staff meeting
  2. It only takes a minute
  3. It's totally acceptable for a School Counselor to be seen talking to themselves quietly
  4. It re-centers you so you can do your best work
  5. It's free
  6. It only takes a minute (just driving the point home here)
So how do you do it?

It's pretty simple- do it however you choose, just do it! There are tons of websites with tips-just Google "meditation at work" and you will find something that works for you.

When you feel a little overwhelmed, frustrated, beaten, ______________ (you fill in the blank) use these MM tips to renew yourself:
  1. Go to your quiet space in your mind & just be still for a moment
  2. Use visual imagery-consciously try to reduce the physiological effects of stress
  3. Breathe deeply & evenly
  4. Relax the tension throughout your whole body
  5. Find your center, your root, your true self
  6. Return to your work activities with a renewed spirit
As I was fully conceptualizing this idea I came across this great website. It is a great resource if you are looking for inspiration as you begin your MM practice.

How do you recharge in the middle of all of the madness? Please share your tips in the Comment space below.

Best wishes for creating moments of peace as you begin your school year. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

School Counselor Office Tour 2013

Thanks to Carol, the author of The Middle School Counselor Blog, School Counselors all over the world will be opening the doors of their offices and sharing how they decorate & use their spaces to help veteran School Counselors generate new ideas & new School Counselors prepare their new spaces for students.

I remember when I landed my first job out of grad school and the many web queries I typed to try to find the best ways to decorate my office. There wasn't much out there, but I did find the School Counselor Blog as a result, which has helped me grow so much as a counselor. Hopefully this Linky venture will become a great new resource as we all prepare our spaces for the upcoming school year.

I've shared some photos of my office on Twitter (follow me @FSabens) in the past, but here is the full disclosure on my space and how I use it.
Welcome to the CHS Student Services Office
I am the only School Counselor at CHS; I have an assistant, and together we serve roughly 350 students. To the right of the Students Services Office door is a small bulletin board that we use to advertise our Mission etc. I also post a monthly calendar with all of my school counseling activities, information relevant to the activities and ASCA Position Statements that support the activities.

Student Services Office Bulletin Board

We share a two room space with a main office & a separate counseling office; we also have a small closet for storage. The main room is where the Student Services Assistant sits. Most of the information students would drop in to pick up is in this part of the office. We also have a large table for group meetings and 6 computers for student use.

As you enter the Student Services Office you will find a huge storage unit to your left with many slots full of organized information about Career & Technical programs, the Armed Forces, ACT, our Student Portfolio system, AP programs, school forms, College information, financial aid information etc. To your right is a bulletin board with Daily announcements etc. Directly in front of you is a sign up sheet for visiting with college representatives and School Counseling Groups.
Our Vision

Inspirational Quotes
Sign up here

My inner office is (to the left) in the back of the main room. Once I was officially hired my room was painted the color of my choice. I chose orange, it is one of our school colors. On my door I have my "Where is Mrs. Sabens?" sign, my office hours and our district PLC poster. To the right of my door I have another "Welcome" sign and a dry erase board where students can write a note for me-they really like tagging the dry erase board with inside jokes and words for me to remember them by.
Where is Mrs. Sabens?

My inner office has a desk for an intern or practicum student, my desk, multiple filing cabinets for all of the student files and comfy chairs for parents & students. One entire wall is bookshelves where I keep information for students, my credentials & a few family photos are posted in the middle and the last section is where I keep Academic Review binders, my books and things I am working on (out of student reach). 

My pillows were purchased from Cafe Press.

Private Bookshelf section

I taped wrapping paper to the front of my desk

The area rug gives the office a touch of home

Own the Turf Pledge hangs on my wall for all to see
The walls of my office are decorated with black & white photos of landmarks, inspirational posters, photos of former students, newspaper clippings about events I've held and student successes, ACT information etc.

I hope you've enjoyed the tour of my space and it helps you as you create a space where you can practice your craft and grow as a School Counselor.