Monday, May 9, 2016

Building Champions--a small group curriculum for boys!

Building Champions: A Small-Group Curriculum for BoysOne of the things I love most about being a middle school counselor is running groups.  I love being able to talk with the kids up close and personal while teaching them skills at the same time.  What I have learned over the years, is that some groups (actually for me--most groups) should be single sexed and not co-ed.  Their needs are different.  Girls are OK with just talking, boys, on the other hand, like to be moving.  Even the quietest ones become talkers when you have them physically doing something.

I am proud to say that after working with boys for several years now, I wrote a curriculum just for them called Building Champions.  A fun-filled game plan to help boys of upper elementary and middle-school age build trust, respect, and peer connections, Building Champions covers the topics boys most want and need to become better friends, classmates, and citizens. Numerous hands-on and interactive experiences maintain group members’ interest and allow them to practice targeted skills while learning.

Eight group lessons cover the following topics:

  1.  Introduction to Building Champions
  2.  Breaking a Sweat (Goal Setting)
  3.  In the Huddle (Integrity and Respect)
  4.  Hands In (Relationships)
  5.  Game Time (Leadership and Teamwork)
  6.  Sitting on the Bench (Self-Control)
  7.  The Last Play (Confidence)
  8.  Shake Hands, Game Over (Being a Good Sport)

Each lesson after the first includes three teaching options to address the needs of different types of groups. A CD included with the book provides reproducible items, including lesson “exit slips,” student handouts, and program organization and progress tracking forms.

Here are some reviews that have come in about Building Champions:

“Carol Miller’s book Building Champions is absolutely the best group curriculum for boys out there. The activities, themes, handouts, and materials are easily laid out for school counselors to follow and implement in their school counseling programs. Additionally, the curriculum is aligned with the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors, which is an extra bonus! I would highly recommend Building Champions to every school counselor.”
—Malti Tuttle, PhD
School Counselor, Marietta, Georgia

“Who better than a school counselor to design a curriculum for champions? Carol Miller has focused on how boys can improve their academic, social/emotional, and career goals to become champions. I love how she has used a variety of learning styles to focus on each student’s strength. See for yourself how this resource can improve your program.”
— Lisa Koenecke, MS, MCC
Middle School Counselor, River Bluff, Wisconsin
Past President, Wisconsin School Counselor Association
“Carol Miller truly understands the nature of boys! Being a mother of three boys and a school counselor to hundreds more, I appreciate the hands-on activities and analogies that she uses throughout Building Champions.”
—Mindy Willard, MA
High School Counselor, Franklin, Wisconsin
2013 American School Counselor of the Year

Interested in owning your own copy?  You can pick up a copy here or stop by the Research Press booth this summer at ASCA in New Orleans!  I'll even be there to sign it!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sole Hope--how hosting a shoe cutting party helps build a caring school community!

If you are looking for a way to get students involved, to come together to help a great cause, and help bring your own school community closer, then this might be it!

My friend, Kathryn Hoover, from  Washtenaw International High School & Middle Academy in Ypsilanti, Michigan did a really cool and worthwhile project with her students called SOLE HOPE.  

Here is what Laura had to say:

I'm so proud of our students. They have been working on a community service project for Sole Hope organization. We are cutting patterns from used jeans that will be made into SHOES for kids and adults in Uganda. They get jiggers that burrow into their feet from not having shoes. The infections from the sores can even be fatal. I'm so GRATEFUL for all of the donations from students and families. My cup runneth over. My dad even spent a lot of time cutting apart plastic bottles and cleaned all of it. The plastic is used to reinforce the heels of the shoes. His dear Olpa, was a shoemaker by trade in Germany so I find this special. We are holding an event next Thursday after school to finish making the shoes with both our high school and middle school students. I love seeing how it impacts their hearts. What a special project. The students love it. Best community service project! Here is the link:

It is so therapeutic. I have students who have asked to come at lunch to my office to work on it. Then I talk to them about their lives, academics, etc...while they're working on the project. It's wonderful. Teaches CARING. Contributes also to a CARING CULTURE.

I just put a blurb in my counseling newsletter to parents and to our staff. For a month, people have been dropping off bags of jeans in the school office for me! I finally have enough to hold a shoe making party after school. I've been letting some students work on it already in my office as donations have poured in. Almost too easy.


If you go to this link, it will explain on the website how to get involved. I just paid a $15 donation and they send you a sample, DVD and patterns. It's super easy. We're just tracing and cutting the patterns. Then we send them to the headquarters in North Carolina. Then they ship them to the location in Uganda where they hire local people to make and assemble the shoes with the cut outs we sent. So we don't actually put the shoes together. They do.

All I can say, is that I am inspired to hold my own shoe cutting party at my school. I will ask for jean donations in my summer newsletter and put a team together in the early fall when school begins. What a way to bring everyone together right at the beginning of the year. . .plus think about all those jeans kids won't be wearing because they outgrew them over the summer! Win-win!

Let me know what you think about this program. If you have any other great community service ideas, I'd love to hear them as well!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New T-shirts are here!

A few counselors on our Facebook pages have asked for a new t-shirt.  Well, here it is!  

Each shirt will give a donation to the School Counselor Community Scholarship, where Jeff, The Counseling Geek and I will send as many counselors as we can to the ASCA conference next year!

Here's the link to purchase your own shirt!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Guest Post--Positive Mindsets-- how to help students from feeling overwhelmed!

I asked my friend Brandy Thompson if she would like to share with other counselors something that she uses in her counseling program that is always a big hit with students, and she replied, "I know just the one!"

Brandy is a school counselor, and has a store on TpT--The Counseling Teacher - Brandy Thompson. 
Below is the lesson on Mindsets from Brandy.  While this is not an actual lesson, the ideas that Brandy has can be used with both individuals and small groups.  I think this would be a great addition to a lunch bunch lesson or a girls' group.  

"Fake it 'til you make it" is my all time favorite advice in life.   While feeling totally overwhelmed and in over my head during my first year of teaching, a seasoned teacher told me to lighten up and pretend to know what I was doing and it would come to me eventually.  Boy, was she so right.  I was able to stop focusing on what I didn't know and notice the things that I was doing well.  I think the same thing holds true with a positive attitude, especially with middle school children.  They need to be reminded that having a positive attitude is a choice that they can make each day.  I feel like it is important to do whatever we can to lift the morale of our tweens during this critical time while they develop their identity.   The Positive Mindset Toolbox was created to give students the necessary coping skills to overcome a fixed mindset.  

The kit includes a variety of "tools" that can be used individually or with small groups.  I am currently using it with a lunch bunch group.  I have asked them to focus on their thoughts and invited them to "change their mindset."  Below you can see them working on identifying things that make them happy.  I have them share their thoughts and we discuss as a group when everyone is finished brainstorming their own ideas.

Students especially love the coloring pages and often ask for extra copies to take home.  These pages are used as stress reducers and positive reinforcement.

I am always telling my kids that the best way to help ourselves  is to help others.  The "Good Deeds Scavenger Hunt" is a way to guide students through reaping the emotional rewards of helping others.

The "Blessings Journal" is often used as homework to reinforce the work we do in the office.  

After surviving a very miserable middle school experience of my own, I am passionate about helping students find their light and shine.

I hope you like Brandy's Positive Mindset activity set.  I bet you are already thinking of ways to incorporate it into your own counseling program.  Check it out in her store and grab it here!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It's all about connecting--Training for paraprofessionals

Yesterday I had the opportunity to do a training, with our school social worker, for the paraprofessionals in our school district.  We had a professional development day, so it was nice to be able to talk to some people I don't always get to talk with and learn with them.

Our task was to motivate and talk with our paras about connecting and motivating students.  We had a mixture of experienced teacher assistants and aides and ones who were just beginning.  We provided plenty of opportunities for everyone to share their experiences and it was great to see everyone learning from each other.

We started the day off with this video:

And then gave them this quote to think about:
The very intention to teach is an act of love.
 The next few slides are below:

This survey is interesting:

Then I asked everyone to shake hands.  They all looked at me like I was crazy, but they did.  Next I asked them to shake hands with someone different. . .this time however, that person was someone they didn't care for and had a horrible, contagious disease.  Once again they did.  It was interesting to see their actions and expressions.  I asked them to shake one last time but this time pretending that it was with someone who was very important and they were very excited to see.  Again I watched and listened.  It was interesting to see the differences.  

We talked about the differences and related it to working with students. . .thus our connecting and making a meaningful difference.  (Notice how that first quote is important!)

From there we played a little game to make sure we all knew some of the terms used when we were working with our students. . .

Then, we went back to talking about connecting. 

We all know that when we work in a school, we need to make other connections too.  Knowing how to connect with teachers is also important and will strengthen our relationships with our students.

 We asked everyone to think about themselves, as communication starts with what we say and how we say it.

We talked for a while and then showed this video:

From there, we tried to pull everything together.
We asked the group these questions:

Lastly, we shared with them this video:

Really, the very intention to teach is an act of love, and if we go back to the slide with the student survey, kids think of their paraprofessional as their primary teacher.  They have the possibility to be that student's favorite teacher.  The one they will think back of when they think of feeling loved and connected in school.  

While this was for our paraprofessionals, I think we as educators need to realize the importance of having students feel connected, loved, valued, and heard.  I know that how I want my students to feel.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

National School Counseling Week -- Thursday Message

Happy Thursday Everyone!

Today's photo challenge was to send pictures of Thank You's you have received.  This one is the special. . .

In addition, I want to remind everyone it's not too late to thank a School Counselor that you know!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why Bother Celebrating National School Counseling Week?

For the weeks that led up to today I have been reading post after post about celebrating #NSCW16. Many colleagues have stated, "Why should I celebrate National School Counseling Week?  After all, isn't it a week of appreciation for me?  Don't I deserve the recognition?  We appreciate our teachers, why not our school counselors?" or simply state "I don't have time."    For others, they thought they shouldn't have to buy treats or presents for the faculty they work with.  

So Batman, Why Bother?

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Let me share with you my reasons why. . .

(I posted this on our Facebook School Counseling pages, but I thought I would post it here as well, in case you are not a part of those groups.)

I'd like to clarify the confusion on this page about National School Counseling Week. NSCW is about promoting our profession, not about counselor appreciation. One does not need to buy presents or treats as a means of promoting what we do, but we should be sharing with our districts what we should be called, what are job responsibilities should be, what our caseloads should be, and how we should best be utilized.

I keep reading, "people should already know what I do", or "I'm too tired", or "I'm the one who should be celebrated". But this is the age old debate on why should I have to bothered advocating for my profession? Why do I have to do this? Things won't change so why bother trying?

Why bother? Because it bothers me that some of you cover 3 schools. It bothers me that some of you have 1600 students on your own. It bothers me that you have 3 lunch duties instead of Lunch Bunch. It bothers me that you struggle with your administration because they don't understand what you have been trained to do. It bothers me that some of you have no mentor programs. It bothers me that some of you spend more than 80% of your time with indirect services to students versus the 80% of your time you should be providing direct services to students. It bothers me that some of you have no voice, feel hopeless, and question your worth as a counselor. It bothers me that some people don't understand the difference between a guidance counselor versus a school counselor, and that some teachers we work with don't understand what a comprehensive school counseling program means and why it is important and how it can help them.

So why bother? Because I hope these things bother you as well. I hope that you will find the strength to promote our profession. Because that profession helps kids. They are the reason we go to work in the morning. They are reasons why our jobs exists. That are the ones who ultimately benefit from our advocating. If you think it doesn't matter, you're wrong. Sometimes it has to be played like a broken record, being repeated over and over again until the words are embedded in our brains. But, it does have impact. Our words matter. Just as words you say to a student may not seem to have any impact, but then years later that student sees you and says, "Remember what you said to me? It made all the difference."

So please join me in celebrating our profession. You matter. Your kids matter. Your program matters. Our profession makes a difference.

I bothered today to leave another message in teachers' mailboxes. I am participating in th ASCA #NSCW16 photo challenge. I am talking with my teachers about my trip to the White House and sharing with students why I appreciate them. They are my reason for being here. They are my reason for celebrating. It's nothing fancy. I spent no money. I just gave a piece of myself. I bothered. Just as I do everyday. I bothered myself to make a difference.

In addition, I want to challenge each one of you reading this. Thank a School Counselor that you know. Give them a shout out. Let him or her know know you appreciate their work. It's quite simple really, and I can't think of anyone who doesn't like to hear a compliment from time to time. So reach out, and say Thank you. Bother yourself to make a difference. It will mean the world.