Monday, February 18, 2013

The little things

We've all had those days where nothing seems to go right and we feel like a failure.  There's always that time that you think "i'm the worst counselor ever!"  There are so many things that happen in the day to day that we were never prepared for in graduate school.  We are looked upon to make in-the-minute decisions and sometimes we make the wrong one.  Students confide in us and tell us secrets that we must tuck aways inside ourselves.  Parents take out their anger on us or don't understand.  Many school counselors (especially in elementary schools) are lone rangers.  We develop our programs, we implement our school wide programs, we make our own schedules (only to have a crisis come up and throw it out the window), we plan and conduct our own small groups and classroom guidance lessons, and then we alone go home and keep it bottled up.  I've already written a blog post on the importance of self care, but I forgot to mention one of the most important things:  the reason we do this job--for the kids.  One afternoon, I was walking down the hallway when another teacher stopped me.  She said "I have to put a copy of something in your mailbox.  We did a lesson in 2nd grade where we read a story about a bully and then had to write about it.  One student wrote about you."  My heart jumped for joy!  Here's a time when a student was able to identify the role of the counselor, when I wasn't even involved in the lesson!  I hadn't even seen that kid that day!  I knew in that moment that I am making an impact, and kids DO KNOW what I do and who I am and that I am here to help.  Sometimes we don't need a big recognition (although I felt so loved during National School Counseling Week), it's the little things that matter the most. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Electric Company: Feel Electric!

Mood Dude:  Create one to show how you're feeling!

I am excited this week to be writing about an iPad app that i have fallen in love with!  It is by The Electric Company and is called "Feel Electric!" by Sesame Street. I was so excited when another school counselor in my county (thank you Ann!) told me about this app and I couldn't wait to try it out.  This app has so many different aspects that cover all types of moods and feelings.  There are games that students can play, videos to watch, and other activities to help students understand different feelings, identify facial expressions, and expand their vocabulary.  Students indicate how they are currently feeling (see below) when they first log in, and their feelings are tracked over time in the Moodosphere.

How do you feel today?

home screen

My favorite part of this app is how extensive it is!  When I first looked at it, I though it might be pretty basic, but as I started playing with it and explored with my students, I found that there is such a wide array of feeling words and feeling faces.  I love how students learn to match facial expressions with the appropriate feeling through fun games and activities.  It is colorful and plays cheerful music which quickly draws in students.  My favorite section on the app is Mood Tales.  This is kind of like Mad Lib, because students read a story and fill in feeling words.  It's kind of silly but the kids really enjoy it.  I also love how it tracks students' feelings overtime in the Moodosphere.  This can be really useful when identifying what services might be appropriate for students.

I have used this app mostly in my individual counseling sessions, but I think it could also be really useful in small groups:  especially those focused on social skills.  Feeling identification and facial expressions are such a huge skill that young students need to learn.  As far as individual counseling, I have a Kindergarten student who I have started working with.  She is extremely shy and has not opened up to me yet.  I have been trying different ways to get her to express her emotions, and by far this one has been my favorite.  Although she will not tell me with her words how she is feeling, she likes to show me on this app, and that is a success!

What's the Word!  Earn points for learning new words

Friday, February 1, 2013

Trudy Ludwig

My Secret BullyFor today's Friday Find, I am excited to write about one of my favorite authors, Trudy Ludwig.  We all teach lessons on bullying to students, but a  lot of the time the bullying that is going on is relational ("bullying between friends" as I describe it to students).  Don't get me wrong...I love my Bully Beans lesson, but sometimes the strategies we use in teaching this type of bullying do not address problems between friends.  Every year, especially in 4th and 5th grade, my purple mailbox is flooded with notes from students wanting to talk about a problem with a friend.  Most of the time it is something along the lines of:  "Susie stole my friend Sara" or "Susie is hanging out with Sara now and not with me so I don't like it" or  "I'm trying to hang out with my new friend Susie, but Susie's other friend is giving me dirty looks."  And trust me--it's not just girls.  Trudy Ludwig's books address this specific type of bullying and fit right in with the goals and strategies that I'm trying to instill in my 4th and 5th grade students.  My favorite ones are My Secret Bully, Trouble Talk, and, Confessions of a Former Bully.

Confessions of a Former Bully[ CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER BULLY ] by Ludwig, Trudy (Author) Aug-24-10[ Hardcover ]Trouble Talk


My favorite part about Trudy Ludwig's books is that they lend themselves to some excellent discussions.  Usually all I have to do is bring up the topic and students already begin opening up about their personal experiences.  After reading the stories, students are easily able to come up with real life connections, and even come up with some solutions using ideas from the characters.  My favorite types of lessons are the ones that get kids talking.  I always address the fact that this happens between boys and girls, and the funny part is that a lot of the boys start nodding their heads!

As I previously stated, there's not a lot of planning that goes into a lesson using one of these great books.  Usually for classroom guidance, I review what we already know about bullying.  Next, I tell the class that we're going to talk about a type of bullying that isn't as talked about:  bullying between friends.  I have students give me some examples of what "bullying between friends" looks like.  They are easily able to tell me (as they are seeing it happen in their class and at recess!).  It never fails that students will bring up those topics that I get the counseling referrals about:  friends stealing friends, friends spreading rumors, friends ignoring them.  Next, we read one of the stories and have a discussion.  This year, I used Trouble Talk with 4th grade to focus on the gossip and rumors, and My Secret Bully in 5th grade to focus more about "friends stealing friends."  Confessions of a Former Bully is very empowering because it gives the "inside scoop" from a former bully.  I haven't used this one in the classroom yet, but plan to soon!  These books have also lent themselves to some great discussions in individual and small group counseling as well. 

How have you used Trudy Ludwig's books to facilitate discussions on relational aggression?