Tuesday, May 27, 2014

     Fixed or Growth Mindset?

     I wanted to shift from students and make this a professional development opportunity. Every year there are some comments in the school counseling community about not being able to change practice, having large caseloads and work being focused on non-counseling activities instead of working with students.  In the same philosophy of concerns, change is difficult and trying to get out of the known practice requires a different way of thinking! Opening minds to new ways of thinking which lead to different behaviors and actions.  I though I would begin by showing a visual on mindset. Think of your own school counseling practice as you watch the video.

Do you have a Fixed or Growth Mindset as a School Counselor?  Dr. Carol Dweck and her book Mindset offer some interesting insights (http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2007/pr-dweck-020707.html)!  From a personal perspective, most of us may initially say that we have a growth midset, but when we begin to analyze our daily routine and actions, then we come to realize that it may be fixed. Below I offer a comparison of beliefs of how minds can be fixed vs. growing based on the role of the school counselor:

How does a school counselor change into a growth mindset?
1) Create a vision, mission and set of values that will remind you why school counselors exist, what hopes the team has for the program and beliefs holding each other accountable.

2) From the values, select two or three agreed by everyone as the guiding statements for SMART goals.  The goals will lead into objectives and action plans for the program.

3) Identify all of the work currently being done by the school counselor.  This is the school counseling plan.  From the plan pick out the lessons.

4) Map the lessons and share them with the school district.  Lessons should also have assessments for measuring student understanding.  

5) From all of the changes, promote the evidence to the teachers, administrators, students and the community.  Answer the question: Why do school counselors exist by showing!

Change is difficult, time is of essence, so pick one item, find the time and try it out!  Results of change are amazing!  Take time to consider a growth mindset philosophy.  Knowing you can do it as a school counselor also assists students in their growth mindset development!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

How to Develop a School Counseling Core Curriculum Map:

     One of the components of the national school counseling model identifies school counseling curriculum as part of the delivery method.  I often get "deer in headlight" looks when teaching graduates or professional school counselors how to do a school counseling curriculum map for the program.  "We are not teachers!", "I don't have time to write out all of the classroom lessons!", "Does that mean that I have to assess and be measured by growth?", are but a few of the concerns arising from the implementation!

     Let me share a few positive thoughts about curriculum mapping:

     1) Value added - We talk about getting some value from our supervisors, teachers and the community on the work done to support students.  By mapping and giving transparency to the maps so everyone can see what students are learning as a result of the program, provides value to the role of the school counselor.

     2) Reflection - Many school counselors, including myself, have been doing the same lessons for years without necessarily seeing the developmental connections with previous and future grade levels.  Mapping allows for school counselors to reflect on: why are we doing this lesson and how do we know that students are learning from our lesson?

     3) Engagement - A curriculum map leads to discussions on measuring the effectiveness of the lesson.  This answers the questions of what do we do when students don't know or understand the topic or what do we do when students already know and understand the topic?  We often deliver a lesson and move on to the next idea.  A lesson can be part of the Response to Intervention process supporting teachers, students and parents!

     Remember:  Our fears of doing a curriculum mapping often come in two forms: how to do it and will it measure me as a school counselor?  My first response is, it is about the program, not the individual.  To answer the second one, let me show you the simplicity of mapping!

     Begin by getting three different colors of post it notes.  Assign a color for each of the three domains of the comprehensive model: academic, social/emotional and college/career.  Have the school counselors work on writing down the name of the lessons they deliver in class on the post it notes.  What if we do not have an elementary school counselor?  No data is good data because it shows the missing foundation areas necessary for student success!

     Now the lessons are identified, let's begin to anchor them to central ideas of mapping:

                 * Essential Question - Essential questions establish high order thinking, discussion, and alignment   to all disciplines or life skills learning!  An essential question is revisited again and again.  Take a   look at the ASCA National Standards and turn them in to essential questions!  In looking at the national standards for school counseling, there are key points that lead to developing school counseling related essential questions.  It answers: What do we want our students to understand and know?

                 * Skills - Skills define what students will understand, learn or do as a result of the lesson?  These are the ASCA National Standards competencies: "Students will....."  Skills can also become the student learning objectives some states are now requiring for the school counseling program.  For a learning objective, quantify the result expectation: "70% of the students will understand the role of the school counselor."

                 * Content - Content is the indicator on the ASCA National Standards.  What will students know as a result of the lesson?  It is more specific than the skills. "Students will learn how to accept mistakes as essential to the learning process".  Content can include the "how" it will be done in a simple sentence, phrase or word: "Through role playing, students will learn to accept mistakes as essential to the learning process."

                 * Assessment - Finally, how are the school counselors going to measure the student learning and understanding?  Notice I did not say effectiveness of the lesson because effectiveness is measured through student learning and understanding!  Determine the measurement tool or process to be used and identify it.

                 Here is an example of the mapping process done for elementary level:

     Now that the process seems a little easier, the question is finding time to do the maps.  Utilize the department meeting times and ask for summer curriculum days.  Once completed, take time to present the information to your administrators and faculty.

     If you are having difficulties mapping and crosswalking the lessons to the ASCA National Standards, remember that www.schoolcounselorcentral.com has a lesson creator with a dropdown that makes this entire process easy!  Just a suggestion!!!  Happy Mapping!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Getting Ready for a Lesson or Group Demo:

     So this is the round many want to get to.  You get a second call back to do either a lesson or group demo.  What should you do?  How do you prepare?  How many people are going to be watching?  What are they looking for?  Lots of questions go through your head as you prepare and try to keep your cool!

     Let's start with some basics.  Usually it is the Administrators and Director of School Counseling who observe the demo.  They will be looking for the purpose of the activity, creativity and connections!

     1) Either you will be given a topic to do or a choice of doing something you would like for a given grade level.  Make sure you select activities that are comfortable for you and you may have previously done or participated in with your supervisor.  If you are not told the grade level, feel comfortable in asking them what grades will involved in the demo as you have to be developmentally appropriate.

     2) Now that you have your idea, write up your lesson aligning it to the Common Core and the National School Counseling Standards.  The viewers will want to see the "so what" of the lesson and what students will be learning as a result of the lesson.  If you use School Counselor Central, just print up the lesson after entering it on the lesson creator.  Easy!  More time on the activity planning and less researching through different sites and books!  Make sure you have printed enough copies to give to the observers so they can read while you begin your demo.

     3)  Think about the actual activity you will be doing.  Can it be done in 30 minutes?  Do you have too many items on the entire plan?  Try it out before the actual event.  Does it work?  Is it you?  All these questions are reflections for you to consider as you prepare.  An activity that has too many items to go through with the students may end up being overwhelming and not leaving an impression.

     4) Key points to remember in any activity:
               * Introduce yourself.
               * Ask each student to introduce themselves and you may want to have name tags or table name tents for you to remember their name.
               * Remember the rules of groups if you are running a group.  Make sure all students are comfortable with the group rules before moving on.
               * Introduce the activity with the purpose.
               * Make sure it is interactive.
               * Check for understanding.
               * Close the activity with a summary and/or a reminder of the next meeting with its goal.

     5) Flexibility: In any activity, there is a chance that the planned lesson or group may go on a tangent.  I have observed some in the past and those school counselors who can redirect and address the given need show some excellent skills observers want.  Don't try to force a lesson or a group if a topic is brought up that is unrelated.  Just redirect and bring back to focus as necessary.

      6) Student growth: Make sure you take time to provide a survey to measure understanding or to share in your lesson plan how you would measure student growth on the given topic.

     Remember, this is a small view of what would be an activity in the school year with several group meetings or classroom lessons.  Breathe, take it easy and do the best you can!  Remember, have fun and focus on the students!


Friday, May 2, 2014

Getting Ready For An Interview

     Graduation is around the corner!  Your internship not only gave you the experience you were looking for, but also the wonderful feeling that you are a right fit for the school counseling profession.  Now it is time to get the resumes out and hope for that call for an interview.  Having recently reviewed several hundred resumes for an elementary school counseling position, I thought it would be ideal to get back on track with the blog (after hand surgery and limitations kept me from writing) and give some suggestions.

     Cover Letter:  Yes, we do read the cover letter.  The cover letter is a summary of your vision and philosophy of school counseling, in a nutshell.  Here are a couple of tips when writing the cover letter.
          * Address the cover letter to the right school.  I have seen so many anxious candidates forget to change the name of the school on the cover letter and upload the wrong one to the job.
          * Have a colleague or your past supervisor review the cover letter for content and spelling, as well as grammar.
          * Don't get too philosophical, funny, use too many educational buzz words and gimmicks.  Be simple and be yourself as a school counselor.

     Resume:  The resume tells your story.  Make the areas that count towards the job more specific.  I have seen too many resumes with three general bullets under the school counseling experience and heavily detailed in past jobs.
           * Give examples (1 or 2) of groups you may have done -- Girl's Group, Grief, etc...
           * Give examples of classroom lessons done -- Resume Writing, Understanding Differences, etc..
           * If you have done data analysis on a school counseling program, mention it.
           * Have you participated in parent/teacher or team meetings?
           * Did you participate in special education and/or 504 meetings?
           * Were you part of professional development activities?

     Interview:  The interview process can be different for each school.  I will share what schools I have worked in have done.
            * Screening: after reviewing all resumes and selecting those that seem to fit the criteria for the position, candidates are invited to a screnning.  It is a 20 minute conversation to get to know you as an individual.  Questions include:
                  * Bring your resume to life.
                  * Tell us about your experience with a comprehensive school counseling program.
                  * Why "name of the school?"
                  * What is your philosophy of school counseling?
                  * As a school counselor, what do you think are the issues students deal with the most today?
           * Committee: Candidates selected from the screening will be invited back to the interview committee for a longer conversation.  Committee members can include: teacher, parent, administrator, counselor, and student (depending on the level).  Questions now get more specific and on occasion can include case scenarios.
                  * Tell us something about yourself that is not on the resume.
                  * Share with us a success story and a not so successful story in working with students.
                  * A parent tells you they want to switch teachers, what would you do?
                  *  How do you collaborate with the school psychologist, school social worker and school nurse in supporting student's wellness?
                  * How would you introduce yourself to the community, teachers, and students?
                  * What lesson topics have you delivered in the classroom?
                  * How do you measure the effectiveness of a school counseling program and do you share it with  parents, teachers and administrators?
                  * Do you have any experience presenting to parents?  Please share a topic you have done or would consider doing?
                  * What is your experience with Special Education and 504 process?
                  * What questions might you have for us?  Always have some questions about the position - what would student say about the school counseling program?  Does the school counseling department meet on a monthly basis?  What support will be given to a single school counselor?  Mentoring and professional development?

     After the committee has interviewed all candidates, two to three will be selected to do a demo lesson and a writing sample.  Writing samples can be anything from recommendation letters to a letter of introduction to the community.  From there a final candidate will be recommended for the position.

     Last thoughts - If you get called for an interview, always remember to check out the school's website and see what initiatives they are developing and how the role of the school counselor can assist.  Get to the location early and go to a nearby cafe to observe the town, sense of community and even ask some questions about the school to folks.

    Always send a thank you note!  Handwritten notes still go a long way!

Good Luck!