27 Ways to Boost Teacher and Staff Morale

With so many changes, extra assignments, new mitigation strategies, and the added realm of distance learning put on already-overloaded schedules, teachers and staff could certainly use an extra boost of encouragement these days! We want to lean into both self-care as well as the compassion and patience we have for our students and their learning. I’ve compiled a range of ideas we’ve tried recently that you might be able to implement at your school for your teachers and staff. 

Tangibles/Treats

  • Coffee truck: hire a local coffee truck to come to your school to serve the teachers. See if the PTA/PTO or another local organization will pay for the coffees (or at least to upgrade a drink size), or teachers can self-pay — it is still a treat to have a visit from a coffee truck! See if you can arrange to have it come on a workday or during lunch break.
  • Ice cream truck (or other food truck): same idea, different spin
  • Emergency kit: Put together small bags with hand sanitizer, wipes, chapstick, etc.
  • Drink, snack, or donut trolley: Admin walks around with a decorated cart and serves up afternoon treats at each classroom door.
  • Candy delivery: Walk around the school and toss candy to teachers
  • Giveaways: We had a beautiful floral arrangement donated, and then we drew the name of a staff member to take it home for the Thanksgiving centerpiece.
  • Secret Pals: Set up Secret Pals and have them treat each other throughout the year. Have a reveal party at the end of the year.
  • Scavenger hunt: Hiding a small display of treats somewhere in the school on a workday. Make an announcement when it is ready, and staff members can look for it when they get a chance, or all at once. It’s a nice change to to get away from their desks and get some steps in!
  • Socially-distanced events planned by social committee: These might include catered luncheons (sitting 6 feet apart in the cafeteria), staff celebrations, etc.
  • Mindfulness: Pair these free “Hot Cocoa Breathing” cards with packets of hot cocoa mix and put them in all teachers’ mailboxes.

Acts of service

  • Duty-free lunch: Arrange for volunteers to cover lunch duty (or other duties)
  • Clear the clutter: Tidy up workrooms and shared spaces, including the microwave and refrigerators.
  • A quick break: Volunteer to cover a teacher’s class for 15-30 minutes

Words of affirmation

  • Purposeful inservice: Our district invited Gerry Brooks present a (virtual) inservice on boosting staff morale. He gave us so many wonderful, easy-to-implement suggestions!
  • Staff shoutouts: Give staff members a chance to send in shoutouts to other staff members in the staff newsletter. Send reminders each time you need more.
  • Staff celebrations: Establish a bulletin board in staff mailroom or work area for staff celebrations — birth announcements, special awards, etc.
  • Encouragement: Put motivational notes in the bathroom or other common areas.

Privileges

  • Jeans Day: Announce a jeans day or jeans week!
  • Passes: Recently I won a staff competition, and once of the choices of passes was a leave early pass. (I couldn’t take it because of my afternoon responsibilities, but it was a great thought!)

Time together/laughter

  • Quiz Games: Play staff quiz-show games, such as trivia about each other. We recently played a fun Would You Rather? game by The Counseling Teacher Brandy.
  • Get creative: Our art teacher hosted a 2-day ceramics class where we made bowls. She then fired our glazed creations in the kiln. It was so exciting to see the finished design! We did this over the course of 2 workdays (several weeks apart). We sat 6′ apart in the cafeteria and talked/listened to music while we worked.
  • Exercise: Find a group to walk or run together after school. Plan to meet outside or map out a route inside the school. Challenge each other, make it competitive, or just enjoy the company and conversation.
  • Book club: Host a book club outside of school with a book that is not professional development related. These days, it may have to be virtual. Some great books I’ve read lately have been Where the Crawdads Sing, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Big Lies in a Small Town, Just Mercy, Dear Edward, A Good Neighborhood, and Oona Out of Order.
  • Competition: Ask each faculty member to submit their Bitmoji (facing forward). Combine them into one group photo. Make a copy, number each person, and send out a blank key with all the numbers. Staff members will guess whose Bitmoji is whose, and submit their entries. Give a prize to the person who guesses the most staff members accurately. (I won 2 weeks of jeans days from this contest!)

Misc.

  • Therapy dog: Teachers and students alike always enjoy time with our school therapy dogs.
  • Showcase staff talent: Putting art created by teachers in the school’s display cases at the beginning of the year before they fill up with student artwork. If you are virtual, create a virtual display or talent show using pictures and videos submitted by staff.
  • Spirit wear: Host theme days at school (or online) around holidays or spirit week. We even make a fundraiser with Hat Day — students pay $1 to wear a hat, and the money collected goes to a national charity.
  • Create a virtual self-care room: link calming and mindfulness videos and activities.

What are some of your favorite morale boosters? Without taking on too much extra work for yourself, is there something from this list (or another idea) you can offer to your staff? Do you have a specific gift you can offer the staff, such as leading a painting class? Do you have a connection to someone who can offer some of their gifts? Think outside the box — after all, I bet you’ve gotten pretty good at it by now! 😉

I hope you have a safe, healthy, and peaceful holiday season!

~Ashley

11 Ways to Fund Your School Counseling Program When You Don’t Have a Budget

11 Ways to Fund Your School Counseling Program When You Don’t Have a Budget

Years ago, when I started a new school counseling job, I stood in my new office, looking around at 40 years worth of counseling materials left behind from the counselor before me. Trash bags filled with old felt puppets, stacks of outdated curriculum and college textbooks from the 70s, bins of transparencies, binders of lesson plans penciled in cursive writing smeared from years of use. The only technology in the cinderblock annex was an old cassette tape player, which doubled as a tape recorder. A career’s worth of materials and I didn’t know their context.

It was frustrating, especially as a new counselor, to begin a year without a counseling budget or with limited funding. You see so many amazing ideas and book reviews on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, and you want to implement everything all at once. Today I’m sharing 11 ways to think outside the box to find extra funding for your school counseling program needs.

  1. Create and share an Amazon teacher wishlist. I named mine “Ashley Bartley – SEL and Trauma-Informed Resources.” My friends and family purchased 21/29 of the items on my list! I wrote a small caption with each item explaining how I would use the item in my program and posted my wishlist on Facebook. Each time I received an item from my list, I not only sent a thank you note, but also took a picture of the item and tagged the donor on a new Facebook post, and linked my wishlist each time. It seemed like every time I posted, a new person would see the post and purchase an item. Many people asked me for the link. I also paid it forward by purchasing items for my friends off their teacher wishlists. It was so fun to look through their lists! My list is here if you need ideas (not an affiliate link).
  2. If your school has a PTO or PTA, consider presenting a written request for your specific program needs, or attend a board meeting when they discuss budgets. Price up exactly what you need, where to find it, and how you will use it, and write up a small proposal with all this information. I was able to get a SmartBoard for my room and some much-needed hygiene supplies for students this way. If you are running a club or leadership group, the PTO/PTA might be happy to support your efforts, like footing the bill for a pizza party for your 5th grade helpers!
  3. If you have a school counseling supervisor, or someone you report to at the division-wide level, check with him/her about access to funds for your program. Present specific requests and how you will use them. Share what you’ve already done to secure some of the funds. Sometimes conference money is available at the division-wide level. Vendors at conferences often discount their items 10% for conference attendees, and you may be able to use school purchase orders if you ask your school in advance.
  4. Before your school submits its annual budget, put in your own requests for large items. Do you need a piece of furniture or large-ticket item, such as a Cozy Cube, dollhouse, or sand tray?* Or a large classroom counseling lesson plan bundle? Your principal might be able to honor large-ticket requests in the school’s budget, especially if you don’t have a counseling budget of your own. It can’t hurt to ask — one year, right before I purchased a yearlong curriculum from Counselor Keri, I submitted a request to my principal, and she approved my request! I saved myself over a hundred dollars just by asking.
  5. Form school-family-community partnerships to meet the needs of your school. Check out this post about 12 school-family-partnership ideas and this one for supporting your students and their families during the winter holidays.
  6. Look into attending conferences that might provide technology incentives. Recently, many of my coworkers acquired Chromebooks after completing a Google course. I was able to get a document camera and iPod from attending an NTTI conference and completing a small project over the summer.
  7. Partner with a local high school. I was able to get clothes for our clothing closet and Red Ribbon Week materials by partnering with my vertical teams at the middle school and high school level, which freed up my money for other things.
  8. Apply for a local grant! Many times, there aren’t as many applications as you would think, so check them out! Attend a grant-writing workshop or online course, come up with a fabulous idea, and go from there! Conduct a needs assessment and use the data to justify your request.
  9. Check with your school librarian or technology resource teacher. My library had a technology budget for the school, and I was able to purchase a bluetooth speaker* for traveling to classrooms with this money. Your local library may also have many of the books you need. If not, check with your school librarian to see if he/she can purchase the books you need for the school, then check them out!
  10. Raise your own funds in creative ways. The counselor before me always held a plant sale to raise money for her Career Day budget. My co-counselor has a jewelry business where she donates 10% of the proceeds from the sales of her beautiful earrings and mask necklace chains back to our school to help children read and succeed.
  11. Lastly, don’t forget to write off up to $250 of your own money you spend on materials when you do your taxes. Keep receipts organized in a folder along with a spreadsheet to make things easier when you enter your deductions during tax season. When you spend your own money, shop at thrift stores and yard sales to find great deals on books and games you can use. I found The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game at Goodwill for 99 cents, individual Play-doh tubs on clearance after Halloween, and many children’s books from a retiring counselor. Just be careful when purchasing games used, such as Jenga – check the pieces carefully, or you may just end up with an adult version of Jenga!

Remember that it doesn’t happen all at once. You may get a few things here and there, and over time, you’ll find creative ways to fill in the gaps. What other funding ideas would you add to my list? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

*Amazon Associates Program affiliate link

A Fall Update from Counselor Station – Updated Google Slides for Distance Learning!

Hi friends!

How is your school year shaping up? Are you in the building at all? We have some students attending 2 days a week, some 4 days a week, and some 100% virtual. It’s safe to say our teachers are juggling so much right now! 

I’m using the gorgeous fall weekends in Virginia to recharge… lots of bike rides through crunching leaves, pumpkin patch trips with my 3 little boys, a corn maze with cousins, and yummy apple cider slushies! I’m trying to incorporate all 5 senses into my self-care lately. How about you? I’ve also taken to reading novels this year — such a nice escape!

I wanted to give you a quick update on some of the fall-themed resources I’ve made to make life a little less overwhelming for you so you can devote more time to yourself and your people!

Fall-themed counseling resources!

I’m also working on converting some of my resources to Google Slides! Check out these newly-updated resources! Both now include versions in Google Slides, PowerPoint, and PDFs!

If you already own them, simply re-download for free to enjoy!

I’ll keep you posted over on my Facebook and Instagram pages about each resource I convert to Slides as I go! I hope you are making the most of the start to your school year and finding something to look forward to each day! 

~Ashley

How School Counselors Can Prepare for Hybrid Learning

Hi fellow counselors!! I’m back at school in a new routine with hybrid learning and taking each day at a time. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been using with my students as we navigate uncharted waters of socially-distanced classrooms and virtual learning.

My county has adopted a hybrid learning schedule, with students attending in-person (face-to-face) two days a week with three days of virtual learning at home. Some students, including PreK and Kindergarten, attend 4 days a week. We just finished a month of workdays (in addition to summer training) to prepare.

First I prepped my virtual resources, knowing that no matter what happens with our schedule this year, we’ll definitely have distance learners. Just like the spring and summer, I created choice boards for my students at home. You can find 3 of my Social Emotional Choice Boards over in my TPT store, Counselor Station. We are using a few different virtual learning platforms where we can share lessons with our students.

I finally joined the Bitmoji Craze and created a few Bitmoji virtual offices for students to explore. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING YOU SHOULD FEEL PRESSURED TO DO! In fact, I resisted all summer. But then my team was making them, and it was so much simpler than I expected, and gave me a creative outlet during the workdays. I printed the image of my virtual office and added a QR code for students, faculty, and parents to scan if they’re in my office, for quick access at home. I’m also sharing simple monthly activities online. My specialists team is working collaboratively to create fun, engaging activities for our online learners, as well as Google Forms so they can contact me.

For my in-person classroom lessons, I am teaching my Meet the Counselor lesson, where I do icebreakers, an introduction, “I Wish My School Counselor Knew” prompts, and sharing my classroom rules (this year I added masks and face shields to the “Dot Dudes!”). We’ve been doing a “What’s the Feeling Behind the Mask?” Google Slides activity and some other “meet the counselor” activities. With much fewer lessons this year, I’m being super intentional with the lessons I select this year, adhering to ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors Standards in each lesson.

Two things that are keeping me sane during all this: finding my people at work, and having a sense of humor about these circumstances. With so much changing and so much out of our control, it would be easy to feel completely overwhelmed (and that’s completely okay and totally understandable, too!). But it’s also nice to have something to look forward to each day, and having some colleagues you can confide in and laugh with are invaluable. I’m not one to ask a lot of questions, but I’ve found myself being more vulnerable to ask for help from colleagues or ask how to do things I’ve never done before, technology-wise. Just this week, I learned how to open an incognito window (Control-Shift-n on a PC!) so that I don’t have to bring my Chromebook or thumbdrive to classes when I push-in for classroom counseling lessons. With all the new technology, it seems impossible to stay on top of it all, so asking questions is a huge time-saver! It has also helped me make connections with other colleagues as I share what I know.

To break up my workday, I’ve been intentional about getting outside and getting my heart rate up by walking with colleagues during lunch. How are you taking care of yourself? I’m posting more self-care ideas over on my Instagram @CounselorStation beginning next week if you want to follow along and share your own self-care ideas!

However you’re returning to school, I wish you lots of flexibility and patience! Let’s do this!

Ashley

10 Ways to Help a Student with Separation Anxiety

You know the situation. A crying student is clinging to a parent in the office or hallway, unwilling to let go, and the parent is soothing the child and lingering, sometimes offering to walk the child to the classroom. Elementary-age students often struggle with separations after long breaks from school, including weekends, winter break, spring break, and summer break. It’s not uncommon for your newest students to struggle with coming to the school for the first time. Today I’m breaking down tips for helping your student come to school with a positive attitude, ready to participate. At the end of this post, you’ll find a FREEBIE handout to give to parents and caregivers!

  1. Be proactive before Day 1. For your new students, encourage families to familiarize themselves with you, the school building, and new routines. Reach out to families before the first day of school, and arrange a time for students to visit the classroom and find their cubby, table, or desk ahead of time. Open Houses and Back to School Nights are perfect times to ease little ones; nerves. (Check out how I prep for Open Houses here: How School Counselors Can Prepare for Open Houses and Back to School Nights). If an in-person visit isn’t feasible, consider sending home a kindergarten welcome letter or tuck it into your school’s kindergarten orientation packets.
  2. Suggest a goodbye ritual to repeat each day. The parent might have a specific thing they say to their child each day, and saying it is a cue they are leaving. It could be something as simple as “I love you, I’m proud of you, and I know you’ll have a great day.” It could also be a physical goodbye ritual, such as a kiss on the hand or cheek. I always suggest the book The Kissing Hand* to parents to read at home with their child, which offers the idea of holding a parent’s kiss in the palm of your hand throughout the school day.
  3. Encourage the parent to make a quick exit. As hard or awkward as it might be to suggest, insist the goodbyes happen quickly at the car or office and not near the classroom. From what I’ve experienced, the closer the parent gets to the classroom, the harder the separation will be, and then it’s disruptive to other students and the morning routine. Encourage the parent to make a quick exit, but not sneak away. They need to say goodbye so the child doesn’t feel tricked or betrayed. This will help develop trust for the next day’s transition. Be direct, say goodbye, have a goodbye ritual, and then go. Don’t linger or watch through window.
  4. Focus conversation on the school day ahead, not on the parent leaving. If the child is in the main office or sidewalk and hasn’t made it to the classroom, distract him/her by telling them about the day’s schedule. Ask for a lunch choice selection, or offer another choice about whether they’d like to carry their own backpack or have you carry it. You can also try asking them to help you in some way, such as “we need to take a note to your teacher, let’s go take it to him.” Talk to them about recess and or an interesting class that day, and ask the child to show you his/her desk or cubby.
  5. Allow the child to carry a transition object. Offer to let the child bring a transition object to school, such as a stuffed animal, small blanket, or photo. Allow them to carry it and then tuck it into their cubby or backpack for safekeeping during the school day. You might want to talk to the parent about this ahead of time, so they can help the child choose an appropriate object (maybe not the most special thing, but something that would be okay if it were lost or damaged at school). Spell out the rules for keeping the object in a backpack or desk during the day.
  6. Establish a morning routine in the classroom. Knowing what to do when they arrive in the classroom will ease the transition into the school day. The teacher will have already done this, so the child should know the routine. In most cases, once the day gets started, they’ll be busy and happily distracted. Sometimes it may help to contact the parent later (when the child is not without earshot) to reassure him/her their child had a great morning after all. Along these lines, stress the importance of arriving to school on time. Once the day has started, the transition will be that much more difficult.
  7. Provide the child with a sense of ownership in the classroom. Assign a simple daily task where the student can be in charge, such as watering a plant, drying the sink, and making sure tissues and hand sanitizer are plentiful. (Avoid jobs like checking the weather if looking out the window at a parking lot and spotting their parent would trigger another meltdown!)
  8. Involve peers. Be strategic about where the student is seated, putting him/her by a friend, or a peer he/she is comfortable around. Say, “I bet (friend’s name) is waiting to play with you this morning! She’ll be so excited to see you!” Encourage the friend to greet the student.
  9. Involve another staff member. In more difficult situations, you may want to designate a few people (other than the classroom teacher) who might be available to meet the student at dropoff and walk him/her inside. Seeing this consistent face will help, and you also want to have a backup in case the designated staff member is not available. Also look into whether riding the bus would be an option so that the goodbyes happen sooner and the child gets in the mindset of school once on the bus.
  10. Consider the reason behind the separation anxiety. If there is a history of trauma, such as family illness or parent incarceration, attachment disorders or other factors, take those into consideration and work with the family to connect them with resources, which could include a referral for outside counseling or inclusion in a small group or individual counseling. It’s helpful to have a list of local resources you can use to refer families, as well as a list of helpful books. The three I suggest that specifically address separation are The Kissing Hand, The Invisible String, and What to Do When You Don’t Want to Be Apart. If the child is complaining of physical symptoms of anxiety and medical reasons have been ruled out, help to teach the child how to recognize feelings of worry in their body and offer coping strategies for dealing with those feelings.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
What to You Don’t Want to Be Apart: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Separation Anxiety

What are the tricks you keep up your sleeves for students experiencing separation anxiety? Share them with us in the comments below!

I hope you have a wonderful year! You can download my FREE Separation Anxiety Parent/Caregiver Handout for your students and families here!

Let’s do this!

Ashley

*Amazon affiliate link

My School Counselor Professional Development Summer Lineup

I always start my summer with high expectations, even though summer always seems to slip away like sand between my fingers. I’ll be spending almost all of my time with my three small boys, ages seven and younger. We are in the thick of puppy training and potty-training, and I know our days will look a lot like they have during quarantine. And I plan to soak up every minute of it. But without the added layer of distance learning, I’m also hoping to slowly chip away at my professional development goals during their quiet time each day.

This summer offers fantastic opportunities for taking advantage of discounted conference pricing, as many conferences are being offered virtually. Here are a few awesome upcoming conference and online learning opportunities:

  1. June 9, 2020: ASCA webinar – Pop-Up Webinar: Address Students’ Race-Based Stress and Trauma
  2. June 29-July 2, 2020: ASCA Conference: ASCA @ Home virtual conference
  3. July 6-10, 2020: TPT Forward conference (for TPT authors)
  4. July 17-18, 2020: e2e Teacher Summer Reboot Conference
  5. I’ve taken advantage of the discounted rates for many of the ASCA-U Specialist Trainings and have worked my way through most of them, including: 
    • Trauma and Crisis Management Specialist
    • Grief and Loss Specialist
    • Cultural Competency Specialist
    • Anxiety & Stress Management Specialist

I’ve been reading a lot of good novels lately, but I also want to read professional development books. Have you seen the book studies being offered in some of the school counseling Facebook groups? The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma* is starting up in the Elementary School Counselor Exchange group. I’m also planning to work through the books I started during the school year, some of which were for book studies my school had planned for spring before school closures happened:

  1. Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitve Classroom by Kristin Souers
  2. Responsive Classroom for Music Art PE and Other Special Areas
  3. The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language that Helps Children Learn by Paula Denton, Ed.D. 
  4. Counseling Toward Solutions: A Practical Solution-Focused Program for Working with Students, Teachers, and Parents by Linda Metcalf

I also recognize I need grow personally by reading more books related to social injustice and antiracism. Several years ago I read the novel Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, which really started opening my eyes. Here are a few more titles I’m picking up this week:

  1. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  2. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Journals are also great resources for staying up-to-date on current trends and issues related to counseling. If you are a member of a professional counseling organization, you’ll usually receive literature with current issues. I’ll be reading the Virginia Counselors Journal as well as any I receive from ASCA.

I’m also soooo excited about launching my first children’s book, Diamond Rattle Loves to Tattle! It has truly been a dream of mine since second grade. I just received a contract on a second book after submitting the manuscript, so I’ll have another project to focus on even as we launch my first book baby!

Do you have any plans or goals for professional development over the summer?

*Amazon Afflilate links used

Returning to School After Extended School Closures

Even more than ever, schools will be focusing on social and emotional learning (SEL) in returning to school after this extended closure due to COVID-19. So many students have been without structure or consistency for the last nine weeks, and we still have a long way to go. School counselors and teachers will be looking to model or reteach self-regulation skills, problem-solving skills, and social skills. I am guest-posting over at Bright Futures Counseling today with “4 Ways Elementary School Counselors Can Empower Students to Solve Problems.” Our programs are already designed to reach students through individual counseling, small group counseling, classroom guidance, and collaboration, and we can use those outlets for focusing on SEL. In the post, I elaborate on how I use each of these elements of my program to begin to equip students with the tools they need to solve problems. I hope you’ll join me and Rachel over on her blog to check out the post! You can find it here: https://brightfutures-counseling.com/blog/4-ways-elementary-school-counselors-can-empower-students-to-solve-problems.

Is your district creating a school reentry plan? I’ve been reading through idea posts in my various counselor groups, and I’d encourage you to join us on Facebook at Elementary School Counselor Exchange or “CoVID School Re-entry Think Tank” to join these conversations. Feel free to share ideas in the comments below!

5 Ways to Minimize Tattling in the Classroom

I don’t know about you, but now that I’m quarantined at home with my three little boys, I hear their nonstop play-by-plays of each other’s behaviors. Overhead during lunch today: “Moooom, he poured too much ranch on his plate.” “He’s just taking bites and spitting them into the trash.” “Mom, the flower pot is dripping onto the floor.” “The dog just made a mess beside his water bowl!”

Sure, some of these need my immediate attention. (And a roll of paper towels.) But to some of the others, I just want to say, “Whyyyy?” I’ve rounded up some of most effective strategies I’ve used with my students to discourage tattling behavior.

  1. Show students how to discern the size of the problem. When I’m teaching the different between tattling and reporting to my students, I often talk about the “size of the problem” and the “size of the reaction,” and that the two should match. When I refer to a small problem, I emphasize that “small” does not mean “not important.” I use the word “small” simply to mean the student should be able to handle it on his/her own– or at least try. A “big” problem would require the help of a trusted adult. Ask students to try to come up with their own examples of small problems and big problems! For older students, you could even add in a “medium-sized problem” category for problems that are not dangerous, but require immediate attention, such as a spill or losing a tooth. What other situations could be considered “medium-sized” problems? We do the same with discussion reaction size, and what a small reaction looks like, versus a big reaction. We talk about times when we’d need to have a small reaction by letting it go or dealing with it ourselves, and when we’d need a big reaction, especially during an emergency.
  2. Model strategies for solving small problems. I teach and model how to solve small problems using role plays, scoot games, and my favorite, the Kelso’s Choice wheel. Encourage them to try to solve small problems on their own first, before going to an adult. Give them language to use to share how they are feeling with the other person using “I statements.”
  3. Provide examples through storytelling. One of the best ways to model social skills is through storytelling. Susie Allison of @BusyToddler posted an infographic on 5.8.20 highlighting reasons to read to a child, including “Encourages social-emotional skills” and “Builds background knowledge.” Young children tattle for so many reasons, including to show the teacher they know the rules, and through story they can begin to understand that the adult does not need to know of every minor infraction. This is the premise behind the book, Diamond Rattle Loves to Tattle.* It includes helpful tips for parents and educators. Diamond Rattle Loves to Tattle also has five companion lessons that will be available on the Boys Town Press website soon!
  4. Talk through example scenarios. Get them moving! I love a good movement-based activity, and so do my students! This classroom scoot activity gets students up and moving around, responding to 30 different “Tattle or report?” scenarios. Afterward, we discuss our answers and when we disagree in our responses, we talk about extraneous circumstances that could be “exceptions” to the rules. Encourage students to come up with their own examples!
  5. Help children understand the difference between tattling and reporting/telling. Give examples of situations where students would need to report a large problem, such as when someone is hurt or in danger, to a trusted adult. Help them identify trusted adults at home and at school who would be able to listen and help. Encourage them that if the adult does not listen to a big problem, such as bullying, to keep telling other trusted adults until action is taken. Remind students to ask themselves, “Are you trying to get a classmate IN trouble or to help them to get OUT of trouble?”

How to do you address tattling in your classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below! Be sure to check out Counselor Station’s “Social Skills and Tattling” board on Pinterest for more ideas and resources related to tattling.

New title releasing July 14, 2020 through Boys Town Press!
Engage students with this fun movement-based scoot activity!

*affiliate link to support the blog!

Counseling Lessons: 8 Tips for Traveling to Classrooms

In 14 years of teaching classroom counseling lessons, I’ve had every combination of circumstances: splitting grade levels, sharing grade levels, teaching in the specials rotation, teaching out of the specials rotation, teaching in my own classroom, and traveling to classrooms to teach. I’ve put together 8 ways you can make the most out of traveling to your students’ classrooms if you do not have one of your own!

THE POSITIVES OF TRAVELING

  • Students are already in their own classroom. For many, it’s a safe place where they feel comfortable. 
  • Students have their desks, cubbies, or lockers nearby and have access to their own school supplies, which minimizes what you need to carry into the room. 
  • Teachers have most likely already seated students strategically to minimize disruptions or conflict and maximize positive relationship-building.
  • The classroom teacher might be in and out of the room and may catch parts, if not all, of your lesson to be able to reiterate with the students at a later time.

POTENTIAL CHALLENGES OF TRAVELING

  • Each classroom has a different setup to learn and may even have different technology to navigate. 
  • Sometimes younger students are confused and will ask, “Where is my teacher? Why can’t I eat my snack right now?” 
  • If students have desks, they are tempted to pull out a book or other supplies and then fidget with them. 
  • You are still reliant on the teacher to return so you can get to your next class/appointment. 

TIPS FOR MAKING THE MOST OUT OF TRAVELING

Set your own rules and expectations from Day 1 and remind your students frequently.
  1. ESTABLISH YOUR OWN RULES AND EXPECTATIONS

I find that students sometimes have a hard time separating classroom time from “specials” time when I am in their room. To avoid confusion, set your own rules and expectations from Day 1 and remind your students frequently. I bring this set of colorful classroom rules posters on the first day of class and allow students to vote on their top three rules. I write their three choices on the top of my attendance roster and remind them of their classroom expectations for each other each time I visit. They love having ownership over their rules! I usually add, “If you don’t bring it with you to your other specials classes, such as PE, Library, Music, Art, or Computer, don’t take it out during our time together, either.”

  1. CARRY CLASS ROSTERS AND TAKE ATTENDANCE

I carry a class roster with all medical notes and accommodations on my clipboard and take attendance for each class. Even if the teacher tells me who is absent or elsewhere, I make a point to take attendance. This helps me learn names, track attendance for report cards and emergencies, and make connections with my students. I usually ask a “Question of the Day” for students to answer when I call their names for roll.

  1. TRAVEL WITH EXTRA ACTIVITIES

Bring extra activities in case you finish early or the technology in the classroom doesn’t work. Keep a small ball in your bag, like a thumbball or Koosh ball* for simple energizers such as Name Juggling. I have had times where the power went out or the technology was unavailable/not working and I had to improvise. I usually bring a storybook related to the lesson for if we have extra time. Movement activities to recap your lesson are also great ways to fill time! The teachers always appreciate when I return their students back in a calm state, so I keep a ring of laminated mindful moment cards to open and close our time together. (I got mine from Counselor Keri.)

  1. FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH EACH ROOM’S EMERGENCY PROCEDURES

Learn crisis procedures: how to do all drills in that room, locate evacuation routes, and carry class lists with you (there are apps for this). Along these lines, leave this information any time you have a substitute teaching your class. Keep emergency sub plans updated with a map or list of room numbers and emergency procedures.

  1. FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE CLASSROOM’S TECHNOLOGY

Travel with your Chromebook or jumpdrive for quickly accessing your files. If you can, email teachers in advance if you’re going to be using their computers/presenters — as a courtesy.

  1. TRANSPORTING MATERIALS

Carry your materials in a roller case, shoulder bag, or even the cardboard lid from a ream of paper box as a makeshift desk. I loved my IKEA 3-tiered cart (similar available at Michaels and Amazon*), which I used at a pod school, but now that I’m in a two-story building, I try to avoid relying on the elevator. I stick with a tote bag, roller case, or paper box lid, depending on how much I need to tote for each lesson.

Ready for a 1st grade classroom counseling lesson!
  1. WEAR COMFY SHOES!

Wear comfortable shoes for walking all over the school, especially if your classes are back-to-back! For ladies’ shoes, I love my Rothy’s (save $20 with my referral link here!). Side note – I also love my bronze Tieks, but my feet are completely flat and my Rothy’s accommodate for my custom orthotics so my lower back doesn’t ache all day! (Gentlemen — feel free to weigh in with your comfy shoe suggestions in the comments below!)

  1. MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!

Get students up and out of their seats, especially since they aren’t traveling for their specials time. Invest in a small portable bluetooth speaker* for music, an instant energizer. I bring a class set of 30 colorful rubber spots and we do all kinds of games with music and movement.

Music is an instant energizer!*

With these tips, you can make the most out of traveling to classrooms and may even prefer it to having your own space! I love being able to see students in their everyday classroom environment, and I’m able to interact so much more with the teachers by coming to their rooms. Have you traveled to classrooms? What suggestions would you add to this list?

*Counselor Station is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.Thank you for supporting the blog!

Six Fall-Themed Activities for Elementary School Counselors

Happy October! October is by far my favorite month, but also my busiest, both at home and school! From family programs, to community partnerships, Red Ribbon Week, schoolwide programs and assemblies, fundraisers, and preparing for holiday assistance programs, my co-counselor and I stay busy! Can I just add how grateful I am for our local coffee truck that parks right outside of our building with delicious pumpkin roll lattes a few times a month? Here are some of my favorite fall-themed counseling ideas to save you some time and give you some inspiration!

PUMPKIN PATCH FALL-THEMED ACTIVITIES

  1. By now, I’m sure you and your teachers have started to identify students who may need some extra support with friendship skills. Check out my fun pumpkin-themed Pumpkin Patch Friendship lesson for use in classroom instruction, small groups, or even individual sessions. 
  2. Introduce a Pumpkin Patch Breathing Board for a fun, mindful breathing exercise to open and close your classroom lessons and counseling sessions this fall!

PEER PRESSURE AND HEALTHY CHOICES

  • 3. Red Ribbon Week is coming up Oct. 23-31, and I recently wrote a blog post about how I teach “Peer Pressure and Healthy Choices” concepts to my 5th graders using my Peer Pressure and Healthy Choices lesson and a the generosity of a few community partnerships. This year I’m passing out bracelets, pencils, and bookmarks as my flash prizes throughout the lesson.

FAMILY EVENTS

  • 4. It’s also book fair season, which we pair with Donuts with Grownups and other breakfast events — such fun, easy ways to encourage family involvement in your school! I have so many editable flyers for all sorts of creative breakfast events!

NATIONAL BULLYING PREVENTION MONTH

  • 5. National Bullying Prevention Month coincides with a unit I teach 5th grade using Trudy Ludwig’s books, “My Secret Bully” and “Confessions of a Former Bully.” I love how Trudy provides 8 responses beyond simply “just ignore it,” and I’ve created a fun Response to Bullying Scoot Game to practice similar phrases. 

ATTENDANCE

As always, thank you so much for supporting Counselor Station. Feel free to check out more ideas and posts here on my blog, Counselor Station, and on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest).

Happy fall, friends!