Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Students...Now What: School Counselor Introducation

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The Helpful Counselor website.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

School Counseling Introduction - Get the Word Out

To run an effective school counseling program, people need to know the who, what, where, and how of the services we have to offer. It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that people know about our programs. This is not always the case. Heck, in some situations parents may not even realize that there are counseling services in their child's school.

Given the current financial crunch our schools our facing, it is increasingly more important that our presence is felt in the school environment. Letting parents and teachers know what services we provide and how to access those services is a crucial step in strengthening your counseling program.
Maybe being a school counselor is old hat to you…but don't fall into the trap of thinking that all teachers remember from one year to the next (or several years down the road) what kinds of services your provide.

The truth of the matter is that teachers that have had several of the students on your caseload will be far more familiar with how you can help them and their students than a teacher who has had less students on your caseload. In addition, new teachers or transfers may be "working the kinks out" their first year and may need to have a handy reference to access your help when it is needed.

The problem of being an "unknown" resource is further complicated when you are split between three buildings. It is even a bigger mess when you start mid-year (as I did in 2006). Yikes!

You know the old saying: You don't know what you have, until it's gone? Well, parents and teachers won't have to experience that feeling if you proactively advertise your services.

Informing others of what you do transforms your role into more than just someone who helps students; you become a valuable resource that makes the lives of teachers, administrators, and parents easier.

To help "get the word out" about my counseling program, I created an overview of my program into an easy to read brochure for teachers and parents.

After I printed them out, I delivered them in person to each of my 48 teachers. Hand delivering them is a nice touch as it shows that you are willing to work at helping them and their classroom. (Plus I find that it is really nice to personally know everyone that works in your building!)
If the image below does not show, click "previous page" inside the viewer or click the download link to be taken to the google doc.

I tweaked the brochure to remove my schools' info but I left my schedule and a few other things in case you wanted to check it out a bit. I included the link to the Publisher file so you can just plug in your info & print up a few of these to support your program.
I hope you find the brochure helpful! I would love to hear from you. How do you promote your counseling program?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Response to Intervention: Attendance Support

Michigan law has become more and more stringent in regards to student attendance. Starting with this year's current freshmen, all students are required to attend school until they are 18 years old. In addition, parents are held criminally responsible for truant students.

I developed the following forms to follow the requirements of our state's attendance policy and to document the interventions and supports I utilize to assist the student.

See below for download and contact sheet.

I would say about 75% of the attendance issues I handle are eliminated with a phone call to the parents. I use that first phone call to reach out to the family. They may be dealing with a tragic life event or their child may be experiencing school anxiety (bullying, friendship issues, etc). This first phone call allows me to notify the parents that their child's attendance is being monitored, inform them about state requirements, and identify any roadblocks the child or their families may be experiencing.

I hope you find them helpful!

(The frame isn't showing up completely in the preview but it is a complete in the download.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Daddy Skills - Parenting Rap

I think the following rap about "Daddy Skills" would be a great conversation starter for teens, especially when addressing all of the "little things" that it takes to care for a child.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

School Counselor Introduction Power Point

I created the following School Counseling Intro Power Point when I first started in my school district. I started in Febuary and had to find a way to quickly introduce myself. I used the following presentation in grades 2nd-5th.

See the full presentation at the bottom of this post.

Scheduling Tip for multiple buildings:

  • Organization is key when you are covering more than one building. To keep on-track I typically schedule the same grade level presentations during the same week (or two). 
  • My K & 1st grade presentations are between 15-30 minutes & 3-5 are 45 minutes. I can typically fit Kindergarten and 1st grade presentations in the same week.
  • I try to have two or three different presentations to cover similar topics. This allows me to rotate my presentations every year (i.e. 4th & 5th grade receive the same presentation)
  • I keep a sign up sheet (with available time frames) on our staff's shared drive. I then send an email out (with instructions on how to reach the drive & sign-up sheet). As the saying goes, early bird gets the worm!
  • After the teachers have signed up, I send out an invite on Microsoft Outlook to confirm the time/date. If a teacher does not sign up or accept the invitation, I send them an email or check with them in person. Email tends to work best, in this situation, as "non-tech teachers" prefer this method and will wait for me to come to them. Meeting with individual teachers in person is important, but it is not the best use of my 1 1/2 days in their building. (I would rather spend that time discussing student concerns!)
Download the following Power Point by selecting to view on Slide Share (upper left hand corner).

I hope you have found these tips helpful. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Anger Management - Anger Gage

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Use a Social Skills Checklist to Identify Group Needs

This post has been moved to my new website, The Helpful Counselor. You can find it by clicking here.

Play Therapy Introduction Video for Children

Thank you Deeray8 over at Youtube for this great video!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Counseling Program Management & Goodreads

School counselors are pulled in a million directions. Okay maybe not a million, but it certainly seems as though we could easily be drawn and quartered with the demands on our time. We need to find ways in which to reduce time spent managing our counseling programs and materials so we have more time to spend with our kiddos. Enter Goodreads!

For those of you that may not have had the pleasure of discovering Goodreads until now, it is somewhat of a Facebook (without the games & pokes) for book lovers. I have used Goodreads now for several years to keep track of my personal book collection and to connect with other like-minded readers.

After reading Entirely Elementary Counseling's Dr. Susan Fuller's Facebook post about cataloging her books on Library Thing, I found a new batch of motivation to reorganize my professional book stash. I have been using a clunky excel spreadsheet, but it hasn't really been an effective way to get my books into the hands of my teachers.

Okay, now enter Goodreads (along with the help of my iPad). The whole process is fairly simple and took me less than an hour to catalog over 100 books.

1. Open a Goodreads account.
2. Download the Goodreads app onto your iPad or smartphone.

3. Scan the bar code on each of your books by selecting the scan feature and lining up the book's bar code in display window . (This goes quickly if you stack your books first, bar code side up. Stacking your books also helps identify which books you have already scanned. This may not be such an issue if you are only scanning a few books).

4. You will know when your book has been scanned when you see the ISBN pop up on the screen of your iPad or smartphone.

5. After you scan a book (or several) you need to select "add to shelf".

The app falls a bit short, in that you can only upload your books into either your "read" shelf or your "to-read" shelf. To bypass this short coming, you can open Goodreads on your computer and "batch edit" the scanned books and tag them onto their appropriate shelves.

I still have about 20 books that didn't get along with my scanner. Most of them were purchased from specialty stores (like The Self-Esteem Shop) or conferences. I will need to go in and type the names in individually, but I would much rather type in 20 than 120!

Please let me know if you have any questions. I would love to hear from you!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

ADHD Conner Screening Flow Sheet: Program Management

The Conners Rating Scale can be a helpful diagnostic tool for children displaying ADD/ADHD symptoms. The Conners Rating Scale comes in a few different forms; I prefer using the long form. It only takes a few more minutes more to complete but provides a wealth of information. Comparing the teacher rating form and the parent rating form can really help identify the students' strengths and areas that can use further support.

I developed the following form so I can see the status of the Conners that I have given out. The form may seem really simple but it definitely makes my "essentials" list.

*It is important to note (hence the bold and underline feature used above), that the Conners is only a diagnostic tool. I do categorize the Conners as an intervention when I am completing my Response to Intervention (RTI) documentation, but the form should be used as a starting point in the clinical/counseling setting.*

ADHD Teaching - Classroom Strategies

This "ADHD Teaching Tips" booklet was assembled by the US Dept. of Education. This is a great resource for teachers who are dealing with attention and/or hyperactivity in the classroom.

ADHD Parenting Handbook

School Counselors are often asked about what parents can do to help their children who display ADHD symptoms. I give out the following booklet during my parent consultations or when they request information. If I am giving the booklet out during a consultation, I will highlight specific areas that could prove helpful or that address the parents' concerns.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Response to Intervention - Counseling Child Study Form

Organizing a school counseling program is not an easy task. Providing services to students, parents, teachers, and administrators can leave one contemplating the benefits of human cloning ;) .

Child Study Meetings provide me with an effective way to collaboratively work with teachers and other staff members. During the meetings, my role is as the counselor is to help define the concern, identify interventions (both past and future), and help create a plan of action for the student.

Let's be frank (no offense to anyone named Frank), Child Study Meetings can be a tidal wave of information. This is especially true if your building is in full RTI and PBS swing. Covering three buildings does not leave a lot of extra time for paper work and administrative type tasks, so I need to keep it as manageable as possible.

 For me, I like to be comprehensive so that I can develop a clear understanding of the concern being brought to me for support. However, the process needs to be simple enough for me to not get lost in unnecessary steps.

In an effort to give back to the school counseling community: I am sharing the form I created that has helped me immensely. I included a jpeg image so I can pin it on Pintrest. If you would like, you can download the form by clicking the link below.

Child Study Form

Monday, July 30, 2012

Play Therapy: Illness/Accident

You can find this post here at thehelpfulcounselor.com!

School Counseling Blog: Onward & Upward

Hello and welcome!

My name is Heather Thomas and I started this blog for several reasons. Let me start off by telling you a little about myself:
  • I love kids
  • I love my work
  • I love to share ideas with other people
  • I love being creative
  • I love to learn new things
A bit more of the nitty-gritty:

  • I have worked with at-risk children and their families since 1998
  • The bulk of my clinical experience is from working with abused and neglected children (ages 18 months to 19 years) at Whaley Children Center.
  • I have worked as an elementary school counselor for 6 years.
  • I cover 3 buildings (1,500 students)
  • A mix of play therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy is my perfered approach to working with children.
  • Trauma response and intervention certification through the TLC Institute
  • I took the past year off to obtain my teaching certification (secondary English) and my special education endorsement in Emotional Impairment
  • I conducted one of my student teaching positions in a self-contained EI classroom at the middle school level. I taught writing and literature at the high school level. (A full school year's worth & Yes! I'm so glad to have that off of the to-do list.)
Up & Coming:
  • I have been offered a spot at Taylor Psychological Clinic & will begin my private practice in September (Yay!)