Today was a very VERY busy day in School Counseling World (maybe because of the super moon last night?). It was a day that called for a little retail therapy after school.
But since I'm not a normal person, my retail therapy did not take place in a shoe store. It took place on Vistaprint.
Look. How. Awesome. . .
So, yeah. I enjoyed the Minute Meeting thing last year, but there were some aspects that didn't really work for me. For one thing, "Minute Meeting" was something of a misnomer so there were only a couple of classes in which I got to meet all of the students. In all, I met slightly more than half the students that way. Not bad, but nowhere near as many as I had hoped.
Also, having lunch with me is now a highly coveted "thing" in our building. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and invite different kids to eat lunch with me throughout the year as a way to at least meet them and touch base. I'm putting class lists on my bulletin board so I can check off those who've already come and see who I've missed.
I think I can have some success with this because:
1) I can eat lunch with 3 or 4 kids at once, so can get through an entire class in about 8 lunch periods.
2) Since our 500+ students are now divided among 5 different 20-minute lunch periods, even if I only schedule lunches one day per week I can see up to 20 kids in that one day.
Of course good intentions and all that, but it feels pretty doable (stop laughing). I'll let you know in June.
Much like the school nurse, I am responsible for the well-being of every child in my school regardless of whether or not she is technically on my caseload. Unfortunately, in a school with 500 students I have a lot who are on my caseload, and they keep me very busy. I often worry about those kids who may be quietly having a hard time but don't know who I am, what I do, or that I am available to help them.
So I was very psyched to come across the idea of Minute Meetings on a couple of school counselor websites. I don't know who first thought of them, but I'm giving credit to Andrea Burston and Danielle Schultz.
I e-mailed teachers telling them I'd like to spend 45 minutes or so with each of their classes. The first 5-10 minutes is for me to introduce myself to the class, and the remaining time is for me to sit in the hall and meet individually with students for literally about a minute each to ask a few get-to-know-you questions. In my schedule I set aside two blocks per week for Minute Meetings between now and Thanksgiving. I put an old-school (i.e., paper) sign-up sheet in the teachers' room. Since I'm quite new to the school and the previous counselor was not very visible in the building, the teachers were excited about the idea.
I created a survey form using Google Docs. When I'm done I'll be able to use Google Docs to sort the information I gather (yo, here's a golden opportunity for ever-lovin' DATA COLLECTION). You may notice that I'm asking some different questions than other counselors do in their Minute Meetings. For me, it's hugely important to know how connected kids feel at school, so I chose to focus on that.
This week I started with my first two classes. I took a bag with some of my "tools" (a book about feelings, a stress ball, a magic wand, and---of course---my celebrity sidekick Mr. Squishy). I used the props to explain what my job is in the building. I told them where my office is, as well as how they can request an appointment if they need one. Then I planted myself in the hall with my new tablet to hold the individual Minute Meetings.
A good time was had by all. The kids got a kick out of being able to punch in their answers on the tablet. I enjoyed sharing. And later, at recess time when the classes went by my office on their way to the playground, I heard a few excited voices saying, "There's her room!" and "Hey, I see Mr. Squishy!"
Best of all, I had a few kids who said yes, they have something they'd like to speak to me about. Without a Minute Meeting, I may never have connected with them. I feel good knowing that soon all 500 students will at least know who the heck I am and what I do, and will have the opportunity to ask for help. Awesome!
Last spring when I started at my new school, I was given the previous counselor's office. Since he didn't see groups (what the what?) or have any materials other than about a dozen versions of Uno, he had been fine in a very VERY small space. With no windows. While it was certainly cozy, and the custodian had painted it a lovely periwinkle blue the weekend before I started, it wasn't conducive to working with groups or, you know, breathing.
Also, for an hour after my 4th grade boys' group left, it always smelled like feet.
So my awesome new principal (without me even asking because I'm no diva, people) assigned me a big, beautiful room---with windows!---overlooking the playground for this year. I've spent a lot of the summer working on it. My Pinterest addiction has come in mighty handy, let me tell you. Also, I've been clicking around to a bunch of other school counselors' websites to see what ideas I can steal. I mean "borrow." Here are the results:
My door. I have the obligatory "Where Am I?" thingy (which is an excellent question on so many levels), a couple of cool quotes, and mini appointment request forms with a "mail" basket to leave them in. This should work out well since the kids have to walk past my door on their way out to recess. On the other hand, they also have to pass right by on their way in AFTER recess. Uh-oh.
My "dealing with feelings" wall. It's mostly visuals re: anger management and Zones of Regulation. My daughter painted the "Surf the Angry Sea" canvas, which is a CBT idea. On top of the cabinets to the right of the sink I have boxes with my reference books sorted by topic (e.g., Service Learning, Self Expression, CBT). In the cabinets below are much bigger bins for the topics I use extensively. In those I have all my reference books, worksheets, and activity materials for Social Thinking, Zones of Regulation, Anger Management, Personal Space Camp, Bullies to Buddies, and Conflict Resolution. And yes, I'm so anal that I spray-painted office labels with chalkboard paint and stuck them on the doors. I admit I may have a problem.
I'm using the beach as a theme for helping kids learn multiple ways to calm down. There's the hula hoop-and-shower curtain hideaway, a table containing various calming activities (and under which there's a little rug, a yoga mat, and a basket of small stuffed animals for comfort). Not visible: a box of yoga cards with suggested poses, and "muscle-builders"---empty laundry detergent bottles weighted with sand. I also have made a play-list of calming music as well as one of upbeat songs for "Ms. Mendoza's Dance Party," which is one of the get-the-energy-out strategies. She's super freaky, yeow!
Book shelf. The Container Store really should give me a kick-back. Here are all my kids' books, also organized by topic. That's Mr. Squishy on the chair. He's WAAAAAAY more popular than I am! But he doesn't have his own website, so take that, Mr. Squishy!
My desk, which will never be clean again until June. I haven't decided yet how to decorate or use the space on the front of it, but I will.
My bulletin board (being photo-bombed by a corner of the file cabinet).
I'll update the photo when the board is complete (see update below). The first week or two I'm going to have kids trace their hands and arms onto big pieces of bright construction paper. They'll write a personal goal on the hand (I'm going to review my IEP goals with some of them as part of this process). Then on the arm they'll draw a ladder where they'll write the steps they'll need to follow to achieve their goal. It'll be a good way to monitor progress and keep us all on track. Love you, Pinterest! Mwuh!
Oh yeah, I HAVE STORAGE CABINETS! I'm using the outside space to put up some of my Social Thinking visuals, like the Thought Bubble vs. Speech Bubble and the Be a Social Detective graphics. I actually made up both of those on my own without Pinterest!.
Huh. I'm just noticing how gross that chair is. We'll have to do something about that...
The "word wall" (or "word tree" if you want to get technical) and the blackboard I'm going to use---or have the kids use---to write positive things about the day. At the top it says "Today's good thing..." and at the bottom it says "Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day." As part of my campaign to foster resilience, we're going to spend at least a little of every session accentuating the positive.
The back of my door is the "Worry Board" since I ran out of wall space for a Worry Wall. There's nothing on it yet, of course, since school hasn't started. This is another great way of visually tracking how kids are doing from week to week. Click on the above link for details.
The imagination station. I'll use this stuff mostly for individual work. That dollhouse was the best $5 I ever spent (I got it at my church fair). In the plastic bin by the puppet theater are all the little puppets kids have made over the years out of card stock and popsicle sticks. Some of them are 20 years old!
Hope you enjoyed the tour!
*** Update ***
Here's my bulletin board after we did our personal goals. They ranged from "Get a pet" to "Earn a Chief's Award" (a big deal at my school) to "Stay off punishment at home." The kids did a terrific job.