My school community was so kind to me during National School Counseling Week 2013! I was given an abundance of flowers and baked goods, as well as student art work and cards. I felt so loved and appreciated as a first year school counselor! Next year, I plan to add pieces of advocacy for my profession to staff, teachers, and students… but for now, I'm just thankful.
The second week of February is crazy, extra, SUPER special at our school! It's Valentine's, a Penny Drive for a local charity, and R.A.K. Week- all rolled into one!
The catch phrase is, "Bring the Change, Be the Change!" When I visit each classrooms, we talk about empathy and practicing random acts of kindness (the super secret code: R.A.K.). In K-1 classrooms, students generate an ABC list of kind things they can do around the school. In the upper grades, we watch a great video about kindness (see below), discuss how kindness comes around full circle, then make a list of ways students can practice RAK in our school community. All students are asked to be RAK spies and catch their peers in the act of being kind to others, then write down each RAK on a simple rectangle of paper. These slips can then be posted in the lobby's display case, or drawn from a basket to be read to the entire school over the intercom. The display case also features a collection of all of the change being brought in by grade level, so everyone can clearly see the changes happening over time. That way students can be encouraged to see that when they BRING the change in, they can actually BE the change in their community!
The idea of a thermometer display came up during a discussion with one of our teachers. This particular class has a tendency to run extremely hot and cool in mood, and we thought it would be helpful to make a visual for students. Then the teacher can explicitly discuss the need to take a break and cool down before engaging in learning again.
I plan to use this thermometer for several lessons. First, we will be discussing the feelings and behaviors associated with each section (i.e., slips of paper with the words "angry" and "yelling" would be taped to the red section. The next lesson would discuss recognizing feelings in the red or yellow zones and what coping methods can be used to return to the yellow or blue zones. The teacher would like to use it with individual student for discussion when they are struggling in the classroom, as well.
My fabulous social work intern, Heather, made this giant 3 foot thermometer with butcher paper. It has little pockets to the right where a little flag can be inserted and is laminated.
Students in grades 2-3 are passionate about fairness and following the rules! When asked, they know exactly the right answers about good sportsmanship. Yet, these passionate feelings rarely translate into recess games and activities that run like well-oiled machinery. In fact, the vast majority of hurt feelings and problem solving concerns seem to center around the arguments arising from these games. Thus, a lesson about sportsmanship was needed.
The lesson began with a discussion about what a good sport looks and acts like. We made a list and the students had all the right "pat" answers (i.e., agree on the rules before you play, pick equal teams, congratulate the winner, don't brag if you win, etc). We also discussed what to do when someone seems to be cheating or not following the rules; students were genuinely surprised at the concept that others may not KNOW the rules and need to be taught, as opposed to automatically accusing them of cheating.
Then I announced that the class would be playing a game with absolutely no interference from the adults in the room (caveat: I would step in if things became too hurtful, which is not always true when they play games at recess or in their neighborhoods). I chose Heads Up Seven Up because most students were familiar with it, but other group games could work as well. Then I stepped back and let them work it out on their own for about 15 minutes. It was interesting to watch the differences between classes. Some classes had a natural leader or two, others worked together to talk it out, and still others consistently argued and struggled for control. I really appreciated how students tried to consider the concepts we had discussed at the beginning of the lesson as they played.
For the last 5-7 minutes, we discussed how the game had gone. I asked if they thought the game was fair, then fun, and why. Many said that they wished a teacher would step in and fix things, so we talked about how they can be empowered to solve the issues on their own. Students came up with some areas they could still improve in, such as how to pick teams fairly and how to deal with students who seemed to be cheating, which we can address in future lessons. I really enjoyed this lesson because I felt that students were fully engaged and appreciated such practical, "real life" learning, and I learned a great deal about the interpersonal dynamics of students when they are not in the classroom setting. Fascinating stuff!