Monday, February 17, 2014

Lesson 5: Write About This

Lesson 5: Write About This....

       Today I wanted to go back and be creative with an app I came by in researching technology for school counselors.  I began thinking about how difficult it is for school counselors to get into classes and be able to offer valuable lessons on different topics. How do we best connect with teachers without being told we are taking valuable time from class?  I often look at the curriculum mapping of the content areas and begin identifying topics where it would be great to have a collaborative lesson.  In this case, even infuse technology into the lesson!
      Let's work backwards for a bit.  I found an app called "Write About This" where an identified prompt lets students begin writing about the given topic in a creative format.  The prompts are created by uploading pictures, adding a text, and recording an audio.  Below is the picture for the app so you can see how user friendly it is!
     Now that I have an app I want to use, what next?  Well, check in with your English Department and see where the teacher might provide a writing prompt and have students be creative in responding to the prompt.  English seems to be the natural class, but do not discard other content areas such as Social Studies where students write about their hero; or Health where students can share minidfulness ideas that help reduce stress!  Share the app idea and let the teacher deliver the lesson, but the school counselor should moderate the discussions from the prompt.

     Let's go through a simple example.  Let's begin by thinking about a lesson on the power of words.  After all, the lesson is delivered in English!  Add a picture of a wrinkled paper heart.  Then add a text:  "Why is this heart wrinkled?" and record the audio asking the same question or say "give an example when unkind words wrinkled your heart."  I can only imagine the ideas flowing in student's minds!  Once the writing is done, collaborate with the English teacher to do a pair and share or an entire class discussion about the prompt.
     I am sure that the students will connect with the lesson given the technology tool, but also the opportunity to share a real life experience.  From a school counseling program perspective, make sure you have a way to evaluate the lesson's effectiveness and incorporate it to the school counseling curriculum map!

    What other ideas for prompts might you consider?  Please share!!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Future of School Counseling

Reflection:  The Future of School Counseling

     This past week showed school counselors what so many are doing to celebrate our profession.  The celebration is over, but we should continue to promote our school counseling programs and the data surrounding the impact of lessons on student academic, social/emotional and college/career achievement.

     I wanted to connect you to the recent online conversation done by SCOPE on The Future of School Counseling.  It was an amazing event that brought together a diverse group of school counselors sharing their insights on different topics.  Take a moment, see the video and share your thoughts.

    1) Do you have an Advisory Council at your school for the school counseling program?
    2) How are you involved in leadership roles at your school?
    3) How do you show the connections you are making as a school counselor to the administrators, parents         and others?
    4) As a school counselor, what tool is used to evaluate your professional performance?

    The webinar was a great tool to assist us as school counselors to think about our practice, program and results!!!  Thank you Erin for the wonderful work done!!!  Look forward to hearing from school counselors on the questions above!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

School Counseling, It's What we Do

 "Machiavelli was right. Perception—in the public domain–is more important than reality. How you’re perceived, and how your school, grade level, content area, and course are thought of, while possibly not be “true,” are all that really matters. "  
Terry Heick, Teachthought Magazine

     Two days ago, I was discussing School Counselor Central, the website, with a few school counselors who know what it is and the purpose of the professional development tool.  In discussion, a comment came out that was enlightening - "most school counselors believe that School Counselor Central is a Facebook page."

     As the week's celebration come to a closing, I am envigorated to know that there are many school counselors promoting the work being done with students and recreating their comprehensive programs. At the same time, I received the ASCA magazine where the last page identified obstacles to keeping data on the effectiveness of a school counseling program.  Still torn by the many ups and downs of the profession, I decided to write a special blog entry to explaining what really is School Counselor Central!  In a nutshell: It is  What We Do!

     As a Director of K12 School Counseling Services, Past leader (2001-2003) of the NYS School Counseling Association and co-author of the NYS Comprehensive School Counseling Model, I was always concerned about maintaining the value of the professional school counselor.  My doctorate research showed results that indicated that school counselors felt change of practice a difficult issue, but administrators were supportive and interested in knowing what school counselors really did!  

     Finding time to document every component of the model became daunting for me when practice was reactive and time consuming.  If I believed in a comprehensive school counseling program, then I needed to find a way to develop, maintain, and organize the activities.  So with all of this interesting background and data, I created
      What is School Counselor Central: School Counselor Central is a web based program aligning program and practice to results.  School Counselor Central's components include the Foundation, Management, Delivery and Accountability areas of a comprehensive school counseling program.  

School Counselor Central houses and organizes all of your data collection and reporting including:

o  student and group session documentation
o  weekly service reports including chart generation
o  minutes for Advisory Council meetings
o  mission, vision, values and goals for the program
o  school counselor job description template
o  activity and lesson creator including ASCA standards
o  school counseling plan/curriculum mapping

       Too complex?  Not really!  It is a user friendly site and I have been told guides school counselors towards components of the RAMP application!  Here are some comments about SCC:

"School Counselor Central is an essential tool to developing a data driven, effective school counseling program. In one program my counseling department is able to review our foundation, manage our program, record our delivery of services and analyze our time."
   ~ Nikki Ham, School Counselor
"Our intention is to utilize SCC to develop our mission and vision as part of our department goals as well as, ongoing professional development and collaboration with counselors at both middle and high-school.  We are currently logging our student meetings, interaction with colleagues, classroom lessons, and meetings with administration to determine our current practices and if services are overlapping. Our long term goal is to develop a comprehensive model with all lessons embedded throughout the district. SCC is a must have!!!!"
   ~ Linda King, Coordinator of School Counseling, Croton-Harmon School District
"In this troubling time of showing a school counselors effectiveness SCC has given me the tools to show where I am needed most and put a data driven value to the counseling profession. SCC allowed me to keep an efficient record keeping system for a caseload of 1543 students which is nearly impossible to do without. If not for SCC's lesson writer program I would have continued to incorrectly create lessons which were not aligned to ASCA and state standards. Considering changes to the ASCA model SCC is a guidebook for both new and veteran counselors with an updating information system that keeps you in the know!
   ~ Michael Ortiz, Elementary School Counselor, Somers Central Schools, NY


Vision and Mission 

     Lesson Creator with National Standards alignment

Immediate reports on student meeting and counselor time/task

     So now that I explained School Counselor Central, what else does School Counselor Central offer to support the profession, practice and results?
      • Facebook page
      • Pinterest Bulletin Board series
      • Newsletters for current subscribers
      • Blog with ideas for activities, lessons and reflections
      • Free webinars (some archived on the website
      • Home of the National SPARC website with exemplars 
So why not join the over 500 school counselors who have subscribed to School Counselor Central and focused on enhancing practice and program?  Click here for more information and the easy way to begin using the site today: Subscription.

School Counselor Central - It's What We Do!


Sunday, February 2, 2014

National School Counseling Week - Reflection and Resources

     I really enjoy reading about the different activities that school counselors engage during the National School Counselor Celebration week.  Unique bulletin boards, creative lessons, and visuals that remind everyone that school counselors make a difference.  The momentum is for a week and in a couple of days, another week begins, but what is done to continue the reminders of the work school counselors do?
     What are some activities that can continue the momentum of school counseling program celebrations?  I went in search of ideas!

     1) School counseling department websites: I often see websites that have too much information because we want to make sure that we share everything, that we are really not engaging our community.   
                  *  I suggest taking time to survey your stakeholders: parents, teachers and students to find out what information would be essential to have on the school counseling site.  
                  *  Set your links on the side to make it user friendly for those visiting the site!  
                  *  More important, let the community know that the school counseling department has a website.  It was one of the responses I heard from stakeholders I work with!  What an eye opener!  If you are a techie, ask about the sites' system on tracking visits based on what you are posting!
     2) Bulletin Boards:  School counselors use bulletin boards to share ideas on different themes.  There are down times where we are waiting for a new theme to emerge.  Create the visual data theme to show a summary of activities or lessons supporting students.  Be creative and use lesson topics, how many students, months, etc....Here is a visual of one for reading what would a school counseling one look like?  Would love to see some examples!

     3) Technology: There are so many resources available to support technology and the promotion of school counseling programs.  Let me share some of the ones I have found to be user friendly.
                * Constant Contact: a resource for sending out email blasts or newsletters to anyone you identify.  If your school does not have an email blast system, try asking to connect with a tool that helps you get information out.  
                * Webinars - With so many students and parents involved in different activities, it is difficult to get everyone to attend evening programs.  Ask your school tech director about options for using a webinar system.  Do the same presentation at the convenience of being at your desk or home!  Parents will appreciate it!  In addition, record the session and upload it to the counseling site.  You can always refer students and parents to the counseling site!  This is great for secondary level.
                *  Videos - In collaboration with the tech class, having students record evening presentations is a great way to offer additional information on the website.  College Night for Juniors, College Night for Seniors, Financial Aid Night, Career Presentations, etc...all great topics that many parents would like to view over and over.  Why not talk to the tech folks or if your school has a video class, make it an assignment!

     4) Presentations: There are so many ways to spread the word about the school counseling program.  I found this great Prezi presentation on the importance of a school counseling program:
                 * PTA meetings - Beginning, middle and end of year are great times to keep the leaders of the parent/teacher association informed of what lessons students are receiving and the data on effectiveness of the program.  Share the school counseling calendar of activities at the beginning and the progress throughout the year!  Do one of the lessons with the parents and walk them through what students are learning!
                 * Faculty meetings - Simple message - let teachers know the lessons, how it relates to current teaching standards and the importance of collaboration!
                 * Board meetings - By invitation, let the administrators know you would be interested in showing the activities and data related to the different domains of school counseling.  Remember that some board meetings are recorded and shared through a large network!

Enjoy what you do as a school counselor every day, but just don't keep it to yourself!