Thursday, April 25, 2013

#ESCchat #2: Small Group Counseling 4/25/13

I feel so inspired after chatting with other current and aspiring school counselors! Our topic tonight was small group counseling, and participants had such fantastic ideas. I cannot wait to start planning new lessons and groups for next school year! Here is a summary of the questions and answers. To see the "chat" as it happened, check it out on the Storify transcript

==>Q1: Why is it important to provide small group counseling opportunities for students?

  • Many students feel isolated in school (huge risk factor!) and making connections with their peers helps so much.
  • It is an opportunity to focus on specifics needs and build peer support.
  • Showing students they are not "going through something" alone.
  • Same importance as a small group academic intervention - not responding to T1 social curriculum - Some Ss need more
  • Merely letting students be part of a group setting where what they say matters is powerful.

==>Q2: How do you create a group atmosphere where all members feel safe & comfortable to contribute?

  • Let students create and agree upon their own rules--ask, what do you need from each other to feel safe in here?
  • Especially with younger kiddos, a discussion on "What is Confidentiality?" is very important. Make it kid-friendly!
  • A2 careful selection of group members. Collaboratively developed norms.
  • Setting clear expectations, lots of relationship building and time to share personal interests.
  • Making sure your group "meshes" well. Having individual relationships with students before the group starts helps!
  • Asking the students what they hope to gain by being a group member - give them a voice from the start!
  • Having students who are good role models in that particular area be involved in the group as well.

==>Q3: What topics/themes have you used to bring students together into groups?

  • Currently I run grade level social skills groups and larger grade level lunch bunches that have more of a classroom mtg feel.
  • As a PPW I pull attendance groups. Important for kids to want to come to school.
  • Next year I hope to start anger management, stress/anxiety, and self-esteem grps - notice the need more and more.
  • I run social skills groups all year, also 6 wk Changing Families, Self-Esteem, Test Anxiety, New Students at start of year!
  • Cute names can be used. FISH = Families in Sep Households. I use START- Student Test Anx Reduction Team. Elementaryfying!
  • Positive communication, grief relief, study skills, self-esteem
  • Bully prevention groups, peer mentors are some other themes.
  • Kids with incarcerated parents. Music therapy. Just more ideas!

==>Q4: Have you co-led groups? If so, with whom? What was the benefit of co-facilitating?

  • I interned with a music therapist working with children w/ autism--the effect it had on them was amazing!!
  • I loved co facilitating! I worked on a grant so we had the staff to do so. Helps w/ group management.
  • Benefits include helps to have an experienced partner facilitate and different perspective.
  • Just ended two co-led groups. Benefits of one was male/female leader--great modeling of opposite sex healthy conversation.
  • A classroom teacher co-facilitates my social skills grps with me - They are able to monitor if skills get carried over to recess.
  • I co-facilitated with the speech therapist. Also, one of my special ed teacher colleagues may pop in soon!
  • Social wrkr, psych, nurse. It's great to have more than one counseling style since the kiddos have such different personalities
  • I co facilitate a lunch bunch with our CSE Secretary. She's crafty!
  • I like to invite the next grade level tchrs to visit some grps at the end of year - eases fears and lets the kids ask questions.
  • I co-facilitated w/ school social worker and school psychologist on an Elementary School Counseling grant.
  • You never know who a child will connect with. I like the idea of involving diff staff members.

==>Q5: Does anyone have any favorite curricula, interventions, or projects to do in group? If so, please share!

  • I used to do second step lessons to reinforce the second step skills. 
  • Students LOVE Superflex! Superheroes always get their attention. I made capes for them and wrote the Superflex Song on guitar.
  • I do a Random Acts of Kindess group that is a BLAST as well as a 'fine dining' lunch group that works on manners!
  • My favorite projects have been friendship bracelets and our Project Stop.
  • I enjoy Lunch Bunch or Game Break with small groups.
  • My 3rd gr girls club read and discuss the book about Chrissa the American girl doll about relational aggression - they love it.
  • "Whoonu" is a GREAT get to know you game for grades 3+! I start every group with it! 
  • Some schools do Girls on the Run-small group esteem building.
  • I have also been trying to incorporate using the smartboard in my group activities - its a work in progress!

==>Q6: How would you handle a student who gets defiant/angry during group and storms out?

  • I check w/ student to see if they can return to class and meet the next day-then discuss how to effectively communicate in group.
  • Notify admin, want to make sure student is safe, will follow up with student to re-connect.
  • Processing with the group to make sure all feel safe.
  • Other than make sure he got to where he was going ok, check in w him individually to process what happened.
  • Our clinicians (and admin) wear walkies so people can be notified when kids storm off.
  • Validate his/her feelings and see him/her individually to process and see where its coming from.
  • I might break the group at that point to work w the student individually.

==>Q7: How would you handle a student who bursts into inconsolable tears during group?

  • I have noticed that the other kids really step up and console each other when that happens -Share that they are not alone.
  • Normalizing crying is a great start! Everyone cries, it's healthy release of emotion!
  • Give them time to cry it out as well as space as needed, then let others share how they can possibly relate to their tears.
  • Ask probing questions, elicit help from the group, offer support.
  • Depends on the scenario. If group can support, great, if truly inconsolable, might be a crisis counseling session.
  • I've noticed many kids and adults apologize when they cry, I love to remind them to never be sorry for tears.

==>Q8: What formal/informal tools do you utilize to measure if your group goals were met?

  • Exit tickets to have students restate what they accomplished is one way.
  • Having the students set goals at the beginning and getting their feelings after. Have to make sure goals are obtainable!
  • Pre and post-tests, learner surveys, Hard data-referrals, grades, attendance, classroom behavior...
  • Talking to parents and teachers to get their observations.
  • Usually informal, student, teacher, parent report. But I have used pre post self report rating scales too.
  • Pre and post info is important. Need to establish a baseline to determine growth. Surveys are helpful.

Did you miss this chat? No worries! Feel free to continue the conversation anytime on Twitter using the #escchat hashtag, or leave a comment here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guatemalan Worry Dolls

One of my awesome coworkers provided me with a pack of Guatemalan Worry Dolls! According to Guatemalan folklore, when a child has a worry all he or she needs to do is sleep with a worry doll beneath his or her pillow. The worry doll "does the worrying" for the child, so the child can then sleep peacefully. 

I have not yet had a student take a worry doll home, but I did have a student carry a worry doll in her pocket for the whole day. This student was worried because her puppy was having surgery that day. Before I gave her the worry doll, we had a discussion about the worry and we decided that if she worried about her puppy all day, she would not put her best effort into her learning! This student was very concerned about her schoolwork, so she decided to let the doll worry for her. At the end of the day, she returned the doll and said that it made her feel better and get through the day. I highly recommend this easy intervention for K-2 students! 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

#ESCchat #1: Our Impact on School Climate 4/18/13

On Thursday night, current and aspiring school counselors joined me in the Twitterverse for our first #ESCchat. The chat topic was "Our Impact on School Climate." I posed the questions and we chatted about responses, shared ideas, and gave each other suggestions. After the chat, I felt so energized and excited to continue working on improving school climate at my school! Here are some highlights from the chat. To read the whole transcript, click here

==>Q1: How would YOU define “School Climate”?

  •  School climate is the quality of the day to day for students, parents, and staff
  •  I think school climate is the feeling that you get in a school building. Feelings of safety and connection to people & school!
  • School climate takes the emotional temp of a community, including admin, teachers, students & families
  • School climate involves many dimensions, physical (appearance, etc) social (emotional relationships), academic (quality of learning)
==>Q2: Awesome definitions, now what does a POSITIVE school climate LOOK & FEEL like?

  • Harmony & Collaboration, teachers, students, staff members, and administrators create a positive school climate
  • Positive school climate feels welcoming! It's a place where you want to be!
  • Collaboration & respect especially when there are conflicting views on how to handle children's needs.
  • Willingness to communicate, work thru conflict, honor & value differences, support those who need a boost, and having fun!
  • Happy people, sharing ideas, resources, concerns.
  • All students feel comfortable, welcome, safe, wanted, and have caring people they can trust and it includes all stakeholders!
  • Principals that involve staff and exercise the principles of shared leadership are able to maintain a positive climate.
==>Q3: What are some issues that negatively impact a school climate?

  • People unwilling to listen and compromise.
  • Stress, tension & losing focus create neg school climate
  • Kids feeling unsafe. Fights, bullying, peer pressure, etc. All things that #schoolcounselors can combat!
  • Cliques (students and staff)
  • Lack of vision, no direction
  • School/Staff are unwelcoming, disruptions to learning by negative behaviors, no connection between families and school staff
  • No flexibility, those that are resistant to change and are not open to hearing different perspectives
  • I wonder if the key to a neg climate is a loss of focus on the children
==>Q4: In what ways can #SchoolCounselors improve their school’s climate?

  • Gather data! Survey teachers, parents, students and evaluate results
  • By modeling for students, parents, and other staff the qualities that help foster a positive school climate
  • One idea-I put words of encouragement on the bathroom wall; treats and notes in boxes
  • Datadriven practices where you can make those nonbelievers believe, snowball effect, SC influence +change
  • Help to bring together all stakeholders to evaluate and improve the school climate.
  • It has to start with admin - a clear vision - shared leadership empowering all stakeholders
  • Some schools create compliment trees in the T lounge-teachers write positive notes to each other. 
  • We have doing Olweus for about 4 years. The data shows it has really helped reduced bullying in our "hot spots"
  • How about inter-grade activities to help improve school climate...
  • Acknowledge/celebrate the behaviors that contribute to a positive environment... incl. staff, parents, and admin & students!
  • Mentoring & events like Mix-it-Up at Lunch Day
==>Q5: What formal/infomal tools or “thermometers” can we use to measure our impact?

  • We track PBIS slips for students and teachers - tells us who's buying in
  • Pre/post tests can be adapted to any age, qualitative: observations, more smiles, behavior changes
  • I attend as many grade level meetings as possible
  • I use the amount of students that come to see me. It shows me that students feel confident that I can help them
  • I love getting parent feedback too!
  • Informal-Staff hosting after school clubs, participation in PTA events
  • Our school does an anonymous exit survey for 5th graders before they go to MS, and we learn a LOT about our climate!
  • Eat lunch with grade levels- opportunity to informally get feedback
Were you unable to join us for our chat? No problem! Continue the conversation anytime using hashtag #escchat, or leave a comment here if you have thoughts or ideas to contribute! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Announcing #ESCChat!

I am thrilled to announce that I have founded a Twitter chat for Elementary School Counselors! #ESCChat will be a weekly chat for Elementary School Counselors, anyone in related fields, or simply anyone interested in our topics. Chats will happen Thursdays at 8pmEST/5pmPST. Simply follow our hashtag (#escchat) to join us!
If you are unfamiliar with Twitter chats, they are a wonderful way to connect with other professionals passionate about the chosen topic of discussion. Here is a great article that explains how to participate in Twitter chats. Feel free to join, spread the word, and don't forget our hashtag: #escchat

Looking forward to chatting and learning with you!