Saturday, August 23, 2014

Making professional connections

While at ASCA this summer I made it a point to find the companies and people responsible for helping to pay for my scholarship. Naviance was one of those companies and after sharing my photo with them they asked me to share my thoughts on the conference. Click on the link to follow the story!

One Counselor's Reflections on ASCA

Much needed rest

After a much needed rest I'm back to work! Summer was short but great as I traveled to various conferences and spent time with family. I also took a break from social media as far as work is concerned so I could prepare myself for the new school year. School counselors need to take the time to take care of their minds, bodies, and souls. It makes us better school counselors. Some things I enjoyed doing just for myself was spending time with my family especially my granddaughter, Maddie. She makes everything beautiful and special in life. I also started a new project, selling wooden signs! I have never been crafty until Pinterest came along and now I am finding a whole new side of me. It's pretty cool to find no matter what your age you can still learn new things.

School started last Monday and I've really enjoyed meeting the new 6th grade students and new students to the district. I gave and received lots of welcome back hugs from the 7th and 8th grade students as well. Our staff made a effort to work as a TEAM this year...Together, Everyone, Achieves, Motivation.

Schedule changes is not a favorite part of my job but it doesn't last long so that's a positive! Sometimes students select an elective thinking they will love it only to find out there is a lot of work involved. We try to make changes as easy as possible without interrupting their core classes and if that happens the students have to make choices to change their whole schedule around or stick with the "hard" elective. It's good for students to have choices and allows them to have some input in their education.

Events, people, demands, reports, phone calls, emergencies, family, life happens but we have to find time to take care of ourselves. Find something that makes you laugh or relax, it doesn't have to be a spa day! Watching a funny video or eating your lunch outside in solitude might be all it takes to give yourself a boost. I hope everyone has a great year and find time to give yourself a little care.

Friday, July 18, 2014

How to be a Techy School Counselor!

I presented at my state conference in Hot Springs, Arkansas July 14-16, 2014 on "How to Be a Techy School Counselor!" I'm certainly no expert but if someone finds one techy thing they can do because I shared then it was worth it. I know I've found many techy ideas from others sharing their knowledge so I hope you can find something here and share your ideas as well.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Help First Lady Michelle Obama Encourage Students to Reach Higher

The Reach Higher initiative is the First Lady's effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university.

Join educators, students, parents, grandparents, and others in the United States to encourage students to take charge of their education by attending postsecondary technical schools and colleges after high school with the Twitter hashtag #ReachHigher.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Magic, ASCA, and Me!

Some of the highlights from my first ASCA conference in beautiful Orlando, land of Disney and dreams, involved meeting professionals I have connected with over this past year as well as those who helped me make it to the conference!


 Y'all might know this lady on the far left, Carol Miller aka
I connect with her while surfing the internet for school counselors with websites and blogs. We've since connected via Twitter, Google+, Linkedln, and on the middle school Facebook page Caught in the Middle. Awesome lady with LOTS of resources on her blog. This was our first appearance at ASCA. By the way, next year if you want to meet someone from your connections, PLAN a date, time, place BEFORE ASCA because with 2,000+ people you will search hours trying to connect!

Created my very own ASCA14 at the ASCA table during the conference. Everyone was asked to decorate their bag and post their creation on Twitter. I am no artist but went ahead and created by "masterpiece" and twitted it anyway.



This guy right here is awesome! Jeff Ream came up with this really cool idea to help school counselors attend ASCA 14 by creating a contest. Contestants created a message about school counseling using technology. Bridget Helms and I were two of his three scholarship recipients.
Enjoyed meeting Jerry from Universal Technical Institute during ASCA! UTI was one of the sponsors of Jeff Ream's contest to help school counselors attend ASCA. I simply had to get a picture with Jerry to let him and UTI know how much I appreciate their support of school counselors!

HOBSON'S was another sponsor of Jeff Ream's contest that helped me attend ASCA. Great group of people and appreciative of their support of school counselors!

Fellow Arkansas School Counselor Felicia Watson from Earle Arkansas joined me during the Tweet Up in the Dolphin Hotel and Resort Lobby during the ASCA 14 convention. I'm going to continue to talk her into using Twitter!!

Very much enjoyed hearing Stedman Graham's address during the General Session on July 1. Surprise! He has a Master's Degree in Education with an emphasis in School Counseling! Who knew????  He is definitely more than just
Oprah's man!

Wow! Just WOW! First Lady Michelle Obama addressed school counselors during the General Session on July 1 and it was phenomenal! She thanked us for our work to help students and announced next year the first ever National School Counselor of the Year finalists will attend a White House dinner. She is committed to helping students see the future after graduation and understand we to have the same commitment. It was one of those moments I got teary eyed and chill bumps at the same time!
Last but not least I had to post my very relaxing massage I received from one of the exhibitor's during the ASCA 14 conference. I literally walked through the booths for hours to try and finished the treasure hunt map (for a chance to win prizes but I didn't win anything).
 I will absolutely be looking for ways to attend ASCA 15 in Phoenix, Arizona next year! ASCA 14 was one of the best professional development conferences EVER.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Branding and Marketing

Sitting in Jeff Ream and Jeremy Goldman's session at American School Counseling Association Conference in Orlando,  Florida getting lots of ideas to brand and market my counseling program!

"Make that connection between what your clients want and what your clients need." I need to know what my community and school need from me and not just assume I know what they need.

Jeff and Jeremy wrote The Four D's article for the ASCA magazine and is a great starting point as you gather information on branding and marketing. The Four D's include: Define, Design, Deploy, and Determine.

Jeff made a great point when he said we often have great ideas but when it's time to deploy we often say "Now what??" HA! This is so me!

Great session but not enough time! The video below went along with the session.

Monday, June 23, 2014


Looking back at my first year as a middle school counselor there are definitely some things I will do differently next year. Usually when I reflect I think about the things I want to change first but this time I wanted to discuss things that went well and things I want to start next year.

Bird cage - I bought a cheap little bird cage and placed it outside my door. This is where my students wrote a note to let me know they needed to see me especially if I am away form my office or with someone. I can look up their schedule and find time to pull them from a class to see me. This worked great and will definitely continue using this.

Google Circle - The 7th and 8th grade students were able to add me to their Google Circle and I was able to share school information, videos, and quotes with them. If anyone needed a quick answer to a question without being pulled from class they were able to chat with me.

Community Involvement - I was very fortunate to work with some great community volunteers this past year. One church organization will be collecting school supplies for next year after we met and talked about the real needs of our students. Another church is going to sponsor our food backpack program where students receive enough food for the weekend.

Coffee with the Counselor - I want to start this next year for parents, guardians, and grandparents to come in and meet with me.

What's on your agenda for next year?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Military Kids

Arkansas has done a great job of helping students whose parent or parents are in the military by providing resources to the families and schools. In 2012 The Arkansas Coalition for Military Children was created.

The mission statement of ACMC is to develop and sustain a process to support children and youth of military families who have served or are currently serving our nation. There are over 18,000 military children in Arkansas today.

Military include Active Duty, Arkansas National Guard (Army and Air) and Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard Reserve children. Arkansas National Guard and Reserve families live, work, and contribute to their communities but typically live far from military bases.

Five stages of deployment have been identified and school counselors are asked to share these with their faculty.

Pre-deployment - family is notified that member will be deployed, several weeks to a year in advance.
  • General shock and disbelief; security, and safety of family feels shattered.
  • May feel like soldier is already "psychologically deployed".
Deployment Phase - from the time the soldier leaves home through the first month of deployment.
  • Mixed emotions - may include feeling abandoned, angry, sad, numb, and relieved.
Sustainment - from the first through next-to-the-last month of deployment.
  • Majority of families reach a "new normal" and resume life with renewed resiliency and hope.
  • Level of adjustment varies from family to family, and from child to child; families with multiple pre-existing problems and/or troubled family members are at a higher risk for adjustment problems.
Pre-reunion - the month before soldier is scheduled to return home.
  • Mixed emotions - excitement, anticipation, and apprehension.
  • Unrealistically high or low expectations.
Reunion - typically lasts 3 to 6 months, beginning when soldier returns home.
  • Initially reunion is experienced with euphoria and joy for many families.
  • Family structure and roles will need to be renegotiated because all family members will have changed.
  • Child's response depends on age; may display significant anxiety for up to a year.
Educator Update: Advocating for Military Children:

Free tutoring for military families:

Discussion of tough topics and helping children cope:

Scholarships for military youth:

Student Online Achievement Resources designed for military families:

Arkansas specific information and announcements for military children:

"A Paper Hug" Stephanie Skolmoski
ISBN: 0-9786425-0-3

"Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings" 2nd Edition
Kenneth R. Ginsberg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP
Published by the American Academy of Pediatrics
ISBN: 978-158110-551-3

"Helping Children Grieve and Grow: A Guide for Those Who Care" Donna O'Toole with Jere Cory
Compassion Books, Inc.

"When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death" Dino Tales: Life Guides for Families
Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 978-0316-10917 (hardback)
ISBN: 978-0316-11955-9 (paperback)

"You and Your Military Hero: Building Positive Thinking Skills During Your Hero's Deployment" Sara Jenson-Fritz, MS, Psy.S.
Paula Jones-Johnson,  BSW, M.Ed
Thea L. Zitrow, M.Ed
Beaver's Pond Press, Inc.
ISBN: 1-59298-268-9

Monday, June 2, 2014

Okay, folks I know it's been several days since I posted but I had to play GiGi to my precious granddaughter who had her tonsils and adenoids removed. I love being a GiGi!

School is out for my kiddos but I will be working on and off this summer preparing student schedules. How many of you work on student schedules? It is incredible the things you learn on the job and not in school. I personally do not mind working on the schedules because it helps me to fit students with the right teachers and classes. If I can help them be successful then I've done my job!

Here are things I have to do to have student schedules ready:

1. My principal creates the majority of the master schedule. She has to look at what positions we have or need. She is great at doing this by the way and wants my input on what I think will work. There are of course those situations where we have to have things a certain way. For example, I am at a rural school with 1500 students in the district. My middle school is 6-8 has to share some teachers at the high school. We have a couple of coaches we share as well as the choir and band teachers. High school usually has to have their senior basketball and football periods toward the end of the day which leaves us with morning or just after lunch.

2. I have all students complete their registration forms before school is out. We require parents to sign the form and this will save you time and energy when a problem pops up!

3. Our 6th grade students have a rotation period which includes: art, PE, health, and technology. They only electives they have to select from are band or choir and this makes their schedules are pretty easy to create.

4. The 7th and 8th grade students have many electives to select from:

Wildlife Management
Boys or Girls Athletics
Physical Education
Automation and Robotics
Design and Modeling
Science of Technology
Magic of Electrons
Medical Detectives
Technology Tools

Some of these classes are year long while others are semester.

5. There are students that need an additional reading or math skills class as well. We test all students at the end of the year to see if they are lacking any skills that would make it difficult for them to be successful.

6. I collect information from our special education teachers to what the needs are of students with disabilities as well. We do have some students that need additional resource classes.

7. Our school uses eSchool which after I input all the requests can run a "Simple Tally" and this will show me how many students are signed up for each class. There is much more than just this but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.

8. Then I PRAY before running the "Schedule Students" and hopefully all students will be in a class every period!

I love this picture that Carol Miller used on her Blog!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Earn a celebration

My school leadership team introduced an end of the year celebration for students to earn their way in. Each week for the past 4 weeks students have been asked to do what's right. Some weeks it's been "don't be tardy" while another week has been "no discipline referrals." Spring is the time of year students and teachers become restless due to the weather and let's face it, testing, but learning still needs to happen.

The students were given 50 points to start with and at the end all students who had at least 47 points attended the celebration complete with an inflatable rock climbing slide and obstacle course, basketball tournament, lots of food and games!

Students unable to attend were assigned to a rotation of teachers to continue their assignments. There were a total of 350 students that celebrated their good behavior and only 45 students were unable to attend. Statistics have shown about 10% of a student body makes up the majority of behavior issues and this is very accurate in our case.

Enjoying some shade and games.

After making it through the obstacle course it's now
on to try the rock climbing wall


The rock climbing wall was a HUGE hit!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The 5th Graders are coming! The 5th Graders are coming!

Next year's 6th grade students tour the middle school during the month of May. This is a good time to tour the school the students will attend next August since students have selected their electives and are preparing to leave elementary. We begin in our middle school gym introducing our principal, vice principal, school counselor, library media specialist, and student council members. Our student council members escort the 5th grade students on the tour and each student is given a tour guide pamphlet to carry with them.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Think like a middle schooler

I love to read, I mean I can devour a book in no time flat! I've always had a love for reading which lead to a career as an English teacher before becoming a middle school counselor. Having taught high school English and only one year of middle school I didn't have much experience reading "those" types of books. Armed with my credit card, I hit a couple of bookstores the summer before I started teaching 7th and 8th grade English. Suffice it to say I was overwhelmed with the choices available.

One of those trips led me to James Patterson and his collection of middle school books. I honestly wasn't sure if middle school students actually read his books but my first one Middle School: Get Me Out of Here seemed like a good place to start. I started reading and couldn't put it down. Not that I was learning how to be a better teacher but because I was thrown back to "those" middle school years, the awkward, insecure, and at times turbulent years. I figured right away the best way for me to be a better teacher was to think like a middle schooler and less like an adult (well, in some ways at least).

This first year as a school counselor has been eye popping to say the least. I've survived with lots of pray, asking questions, and keeping myself well supplied with "those" books. Some of my favorites I read over the past year are
listed below. What are some of your favorite books to keep yourself ready for the next middle school student that walks through your door?

Monday, April 7, 2014

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month so I dedicate this blog to honor all the children who have survived living with abuse, currently living with abuse, and in memory of those who did not survive.

It is very difficult for school counselors to deal with learning one of our students we want to protect is being abused. I know in my state, Arkansas, has passed some tough mandated reporter laws and although the laws are in place I still worry there are those who are not reporting child abuse. Looking back over my first year as a school counselor, the hardest part of dealing with child abuse is remaining calm while listening to sometimes horrendous accounts. Every child should feel loved and safe never alone and hurting.

When researching child abuse prevention we need to think about how to help the child and that needs to include the family. Look for your state and local specific statistics to help you understand more about your community. What resources are available in your area?

School counselors need to work with their principals to find out if their school has a written policy for reporting abuse. Does your principal expect to be notified? It is better to know what the policies are prior to an incident.

My first child abuse incident to report was scary to say the least. I wanted to make sure I did things right in order to present all the facts. Working with experienced school counselors and even your principal can make the reporting as accurate as possible.

When reporting child abuse here are some tips for communicating effectively:
  • Try to be as specific as you can. For example, instead of saying, "The parents are not dressing the child right," say something like, "The child came to school last week and then again this morning without a jacket or other warm clothing. I saw him shivering and uncomfortable at the bus line this morning. When I asked him if he had any warm clothes he said he did but he was in trouble and not allowed to wear them." However, remember that it is not your job to "prove" abuse or neglect. If suspicions are all you have, you should report those as well.
  • Report what the child says to you not what you think they meant. Write down direct quotes to include on the report.
  • If you see future incidences, continue to call and report them. Each child abuse report is a snapshot of what is going on in the family. The more information that you can provide, the better the chance of getting the best care for the child.
There are many organizations with great resources you can use in your counseling program. Here are a few I've used to gather information:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tis the season

Tis the season for students to take state mandated tests and for a vast majority of school counselors this means preparation for test administration. School counselors in my state are the ones to organize  the ACTAAP Benchmark tests for 3-8 grades which begins April 7-11, as well as the new PARCC field test this year; each district selected their own testing dates. My school will conduct the Project Based Learning on April 14-16 and End of Year Assessment May 6-7.

A great deal of preparation goes into organizing these tests such as counting all the testing materials and hopefully having enough time to order if we're short, which classrooms will be used, training the staff, preparing the testing schedule for beginning and ending times with break times, purchasing batteries for the calculators that will be used, sharpening pencils, and creating testing do not disturb signs. Sounds trivial but it isn't especially when you have to think ahead of what will go wrong, notice I said what will not if! Will the state monitor us this year? Will a teacher call in sick? Will a cell phone go off during testing when we've gone over and over with students to turn them off? How many calculators will die even after changing batteries? Who will get sick during the middle of a test and have to go home? Did I miss any student that needed testing accommodations? Which teacher will ask questions when all the answers are in their testing administration manual?

The PARCC field test preparation has not been easy, fun, or organized. I can handle the not easy or fun but it's the not being organized that is driving me around the sharp curve of chaos! I really wish I had a nickel for every email I've received from PARCC then I would pay someone to do this for me. The sheer volume of the emails is overwhelming much less having to read all of them and then decide who else in the district needs to read them and I'm not even the district test coordinator! I can only imagine how she feels.

I hate all this preparation because during this time I have not been able to meet with all my students that needed me. I've had to go through their requests to see me and determine if it was an emergency or not. I don't like that, at all. In their thinking it is an emergency because that's how middle school students think.

I have found several ways to stay focused during this time:

1. Close my door; I usually leave my outer and inner office doors open.
2. Prioritize what needs to be finished first, second, etc.
3. Delegate anything that can be done by someone else (non secured test material tasks such as sharpening pencils, checking calculators, etc).
4. Ask teachers what can be done to improve the test procedures this year.
5. Make a goal to take lunch and leave at a reasonable time each day.

I would love to hear how you help yourself during testing time!

This reminds me of my home office!

Monday, March 10, 2014

I subscribe to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on Facebook and today they posted this moving video of a suicide attempt survivor.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Winter blues

Last week was chaotic! Everything that could go wrong did. I think the negative behaviors I saw in students can be attributed to all the cold winter weather we've had. The students have been inside more this winter than any winter I can remember. They need the sunshine so they can get out and run around at lunch. It's not too bad for the students to be inside before the first bell rings but by the time lunch rolls around they need the sun. It isn't just the students either because I've noticed an extra dose of grumpiness in the adults in my building, me included. Finding relief from the winter blues came somewhat by accident when I was feeling really tense in my shoulders and back. I decided to take a hot bath and found myself relaxing. This made for a good night's sleep. We need to find ways to de-stress and let our bodies relax. How do you deal with the winter blues as a school counselor? What ideas do you have for the students and staff in your building?

My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter built "Frosty" during one of their many days of snow in Northwest Arkansas. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Apply for a grant to implement the Typical or Troubled?® School Mental Health Education program sponsored by the American Psychiatric Foundation

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thanks to Jeff Ream and his contest sponsors, HOBSONS, Universal Technical Institute, SCOPE, and Dr. Trish Hatch I won the partial scholarship to ASCA! I had to create something new using technology that was out of my comfort zone.

I sent several days last week and through the weekend to complete a YouTube photo slideshow. Now, I know you're thinking if I can create this blog I should be able to create a YouTube photo slideshow with no problems, right? HA! Not even close! I was so frustrated that by Saturday night I said the heck with it and went to bed.

Being ever the school counselor I did just what the rest of you would have done I got back in the saddle and continued to work out the kinks. My biggest obstacle was my slow internet, oops I mean IS my slow internet. I had interruptions this time on top of my snail paced speed so I lost my work and had to start over. By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around I was so ready to submit and just be happy I did and wasn't thinking about winning at that point either. I was like the students, just do it and turn it in already!

So again thanks to Jeff and his sponsors for a great contest idea so more school counselors can attend ASCA! See y'all there!




Dr. Trish Hatch

Here is my video slideshow I created...


Sunday, February 23, 2014

I'm on SCOPE!

I'm feeling a tad bit famous with my blog now listed on SCOPE the School Counselors Online Professionals Exchange.

Friday, February 21, 2014

PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center

Techy Teacher Award

My school gives a "Techy Teacher" Award to a staff person incorporating technology in their roles whether it's a teacher or in my case a counselor.

I love using technology to help with my role as middle school counselor.  I created a student circle in Google+ where I can share motivational videos, quotes, and important information with the students. One feature of using technology was creating student interest surveys for their possible class electives next year. The students were able to login to Google and complete the survey in less than 5 minutes. The technology allowed me to have an instant spreadsheet with the data as well as charts to show a visual presentation of their selections.

Sharing information with teachers through Google Drive is so easy! The ability to collaborate on documents, make comments, and share ideas saves time. When I come across a cool educational app or site I can share with an individual teacher, department, or the entire staff. Collaboration also extends to the students. Three EAST students came up with a project idea to create Students of the Week and together we created a short URL to send to teachers and all the teachers have to do is click on the link and complete the form.

There is no substitute for face to face contact but sometimes students are unable to see me when they need to especially if it isn't an emergency and with the power of technology in front of them, they are able to send me a message either through email or the chat feature.  Just that little connection with students can make all the difference if they are having a bad day and this is the most powerful use of technology.
Here's my award placed outside my office.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Some of my favorite videos!

I love these videos!  Such an inspirational story behind this kid too.
Hope you enjoy this little pep talk!

Okay, last one for today...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jumping off this cliff

I've wanted to write a blog for a long time and actually created one back in 2009 but I got as far as just staring at the screen. This time at least I'm getting words on the page! I think there were several factors that made sitting down and just jumping off this cliff so hard for me with one being the time factor. We're all busy so what's one more thing right? Now, I realize it's more about learning to prioritize my day.

This is my first year as a school counselor having left the classroom just last May as I ventured into this dream. I barely kept my head above the water last summer trying to figure out how to schedule 400 kids in grades 6th through 8th in classes. I was lucky to have a great principal who worked right along side me to show me what she knew and didn't know about scheduling. We worked together most of the summer well in the evenings and weekends to get that sucker done! Finally with school starting and comprehending the volume of students that needed to see me just dumped more thoughts of "Nope, blogging is not going to happen!"

Anyone beginning their first year of school counseling is going to encounter how to prioritize their time without drowning and even some of you veterans might be experiencing this as well. I've read a lot of blogs this year just to get a handle on why your we're out there. We are instinctively drawn to help others whether it's a student crying because they don't have any food in the house or a school counselor a thousand miles away needing help with a classroom lesson over study skills.

Another factor from jumping off this cliff was what if I had nothing, I mean nothing, to really say besides complete utter ramblings? There, I said it and it's out there. I don't think it's a bad thing for us to be afraid to try things. We work with students and sometimes teachers that are afraid too and what better why for us to understand than to be where they are.

I'm going to reward myself with Hershey's Hugs as soon as I get this first blog published because hey I deserve it after jumping off this cliff. Hope to hear from y'all if you've ever felt afraid to try something new!