Monday, February 27, 2012

Need to see the counselor?

How do you get your referrals?  I'm sure many of you have parents and many teachers who send students your way, but how do students let you know that they need counseling services?  I was lucky enough to inherit a referral system from the previous counselor at my school.  There is a purple mailbox outside my door where students can put notes in for appointments.  My previous referral form had students indicate whether their concern was a "small rock," "medium rock," or a "large rock (urgent)."  As you can imagine, I would receive 95% large rocks!  Although this is a nice visualization for students when trying to decide how urgent their problem is, I realized that this was very subjective.  Students who were having an issue with a friend would often tell me "It's an emergency!"  I found myself spending a lot of time explaining to students the difference between an emergency (something we need to solve today), and something that can wait until tomorrow. 

At my school, I am not allowed to pull students during their academic times (unless there are emergency circumstances, of course), and in each grade level, these are usually the same. Often times,  I'm stuck with one hour chunk a day to pull students from each grade level, and lunches (usually already reserved for groups).  So I find myself doing a lot of strategic planning to fit everyone in.  I have my master calendar (that I can take with me to meetings, etc.) and then I use google calendar for my more specific planning (for example, daily individual appointments, small group meetings, etc.).  Google calendar has definitely helped me plan my days.  The referral system helps me to prioritize: who do I HAVE to see today, and who can wait until tomorrow or the next day.  I finally decided that I needed more information to use during my decision making. 

My new referral form is a lot more detailed.  It has places for students to indicate what kind of problem they are having: School, home, missing someone, with a friend, with a grown up, etc.  There are also these options: something not on this list, or I'll tell you in private.  I hope that the use of this new referral system will help me be able to prioritize my counseling appointments so that I am better able to meet the immediate needs of my students.  I hope to post more about ways that I try to stay organized, and would love to hear from you!
I need to see the Counselor
Ms. Hart

I am having a problem with…

£    School                                      £ A friend
£ Home                                      £ A grown up
£ Missing someone                   £ Something not on this list

£ I will tell you in private

My Name: _______________________________________
My Teacher: ______________________________________
Today’s Date: _________________________

How do you organize your guidance & counseling schedule?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bowling for Kids Sake

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western NC, Inc.

This Saturday, February 25, myself and a team of 4 teachers will be bowling in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina.  This is an annual fundraiser in which each team member is asked to raise $50 in order to bowl.  The proceeds will go to BBBS WNC.  The program spans across Buncombe, Burke, Haywood, Henderson, and Polk counties and there will be teams bowling at bowling centers in each of these counties! 

This is the first year my school had participated in this event, and I am so excited!  This year, we have worked closely with Jeff Kowalak of Henderson County's Big Brothers Big Sisters program to pilot a new program linking ROTC cadets from the high school with deserving elementary school students here.  It is amazing what a difference one visit, once a week, from a mentor can make on a child.  Almost every day, these students ask me when the cadets are coming to visit.  Unfortunately, the high school is out of funding and cannot afford the bus trip over, so we have not been able to continue this program for the past couple of months.  We are brainstorming a fundraiser for our particular program.  But in the meantime, why not support the great cause of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

If you are unfamiliar with the program, BBBS links adult mentors with a deserving child.  In the school based program, the "big" comes to visit "the little" at school and they spend time together forming a friendship through playing games, working on homework, or having lunch together.  You can find more information about the program by visiting or  I will be sure to fill you in to let you know how my team does and how much money we raised for this awesome program! 

If you are interested in donating, you can sponsor us securely online at (or click on the picture above) and find my team, the Wildcat Wonders!  I hope to see you Saturday where we plan to tear up the lanes and bring home the trophy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Lesson

 I just wanted to share a quick lesson that's fun to do on Valentine's day, if you happen to be visiting a class around that time.  I can't remember where I found it, but I can't take credit! We start by talking about the words we use and how they can make people feel really good, or they can hurt them.  Before coming the class I prepare a big red heart out of construction paper.  As the students are talking about hurtful things that children might say, I start folding the heart (in all different ways to create lots of different creases) and eventually it is a crumpled up ball.  I tell the class that each time they say something that is hurtful, its like it puts a wrinkle in someone's heart. 

We then talk about what we can do to try to make it better (saying kind words, saying "I'm sorry", saying 'just kidding").  As they do this, I unfold the heart.  Eventually it is spread back out, but you can still see the wrinkles.  We talk about how we all have these wrinkles or scars on our heart from things others have said to us, and sometimes they last forever.  I then share a story from when I was a child where I was picked on, and how I've never forgotten it.  We then talk about how it is important to try to make things better if we say something hurtful, but its even better if we don't say it all.
Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink

After the lesson, we read the story Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane deGroat and make connections to the heart lesson and the story.  This is one of my favorites because the kids really see the connection and love the connection to valentine's day and handing out valentines to people.  I leave the wrinkled heart in the classroom to serve as a reminder to use kind words.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Happy School Counselors' Week!

My heart is beaming with pride this week as I'm able to advocate for my profession and educate the teachers at my school about what a School Counselor can contribute to a school.  First, I sent out a few e-mails of news articles that have been printed in local newspapers about School Counselors.  Next, I decided this year to do something for my staff, since they have always been so good to me in the past on this week (poems written by students presented at assemblies, special recognitions, chocolate-yum, etc.) and at the same time I could promote my services (Win, Win!).  I used the concept of legos (many of the other counselors whose blogs I follow are using this same idea) to focus on CONNECTIONS! 

On day one, I decided to use the "guess how many legos" in teacher lounge with a plate full of cookies and a sign about school counselors' week.  On Tuesday morning, the basket was already full of responses! I can't wait to announce the winner on Friday and present him/her with the prize.  Yesterday, I went to check my mailbox and inside was a class set of cards written by a 5th grade class.  I almost cried reading about all of the lessons they remembered, and even some of the personal notes from students I've worked with in groups or individually.  I sent them a thank you note to show my gratitude and to let them know that THEY are the reason I do what I do.  Coming to school and seeing their smiling faces each day is what keeps me motivated and makes me love my job.

Yesterday, I put candy bars in each teacher's mailbox with a note glued on in the shape of a lego. Sorry you can't see the colorful ones I made, I didn't snap a picture before putting them in the teacher boxes.  At the top it says "School Counselors CONNECT" and in each of the circles on the lego I have listed "students, teachers, community resources, staff, parents, and administration."  I got tons of thank yous from the teachers...everyone enjoys a little afternoon treat :)

On Friday, I plan to announce my "guess how many legos" winner and then put out some 3 musketeers.  An idea stolen from Danielle's blog "School Counselor's Blog."  The sign reads "Teachers, Administrators, and School Counselors CONNECTING for Student Success!  In honor of School Counselors' Week, I'd like to thank you for being one of the '3 Musketeers!'" 

Overall, this week has helped reconfirm why I do what I do.  How much I love my position, my school, my students, my coworkers.  Without the support of the wonderful teachers that I work with, I would not be successful.  The way that they care about students and put their needs first helps make my job easy.  I have felt appreciated and loved this week and I wish the same for all of you deserving counselors out there!  We are often overlooked, often the loner (especially if you're the only counselor in the school, like me), the secret keeper, but I know that I am appreciated all year long and that is what this week has shown me!

What are you doing in your school to promote the role of the School Counselor?