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