Polka Dots

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New School, New Office

I am slowly getting acclimated with my new school. It has roughly 300 students, with two classes per grade. My half-empty office has been transforming into a cozy counseling "suite". I have been picking up materials and resources where ever I can, sometimes in the most unlikely places. I found of bunch of great "teacher" things at Dollar Tree at the end of the summer - stickers, awards, stamps, and small toys. I also got some great books at Goodwill. Another school in the area must have downsized their library because I found so many great picture books - and they were only $.25 each! I must have picked up about 15 books, many of which I was getting from the public library because I didn't have the budget to buy them. But at that price, how could I pass them up? They have really helped to increase my counseling library.

My New Office Space

My parents had a never-been-used rug just sitting in their basement. It is now party of my individual counseling area. Students can sit on the rug or in the butterfly chair that I found at Target. Also included in the area is a bean bag donated by one of the teachers. The students love the "comfy chair" and I am hoping that it creates a soothing and safe place for them to visit. I also have two filing cabinets behind my desk. The dark grey one holds all of my files and lesson plan resources. The light grey one holds some counseling supplies such as a rice tray and foam noodle pieces.

Group Counseling Space

When my principal asked me to describe my dream counseling office, I told her all about the groups that I would run during the year. I mentioned the need for a kidney-shaped table with enough chairs to meet with 5-6 students at a time. I love sitting in the cut-out and being able to see all of the students. I also love having the dry erase board next to the group table. It will definitely come in handy when we are learning specific skills or keeping track during games and activities.

Bookshelf Storage

I found some great plastic bins in the Target Dollar Spot. They are colorful and I can use them for so many things. I have the blue one full of "Lunch Bunch" supplies such as paper towels, straws, plastic cutlery, hand wipes, and Clorox wipes. I keep the bin next to me during lunch bunch in case the students need anything. I also use this side of the bookshelf to hold all of my lesson plan binders, resource books, graduate school books, and counseling publications. This shelf is right behind my desk for easy access.

The bookshelf runs across the back of my office and has a lot of great space. I am trying to stay organized by keeping all of my supplies neat and tidy. I found some great clear boxes with green lids at Target to hold all of my stickers, awards, craft/art supplies, game pieces, and small counseling supplies. This side of the shelf also holds all of my games, legos, construction paper, stuffed animals, and stress balls. Basically anything that a student might need during a counseling session.

New Counseling Resources

Over the summer, some friends and I created some great counseling resources. I had been wanting to make a sand tray for a while and when a friend showed me a picture of a colorful rice tray, I knew I had found what I needed. We found some fun beach items at Dollar Tree and went to town coloring the rice. I'll post more instructions later. I have not used it with my students yet, but I am sure it is going to be a huge success! I am now on the lookout for some inexpensive people and animals to add to the tray.

We also created some anger management glitter bottles. The kids have really enjoyed shaking the bottle and watching all of the glitter spin around and settle at the bottom. They were super simple to make - just add glitter and food coloring to a clean soda/water bottle filled with warm water, shake and enjoy! I have the glitter bottle sitting on my bookshelf and it has sparked many great conversations. The kids are drawn to it's sparkly colors and want to know more about it. It gives me the opportunity to do some impromptu anger management lessons. I am considering adding this activity to an anger management small group. Maybe instead of making stress balls we can make glitter bottles!

So far I am really enjoying my new school and new office. It is slowly coming together but I am excited to be making it "mine". Since I am the first counselor the school has ever had, I really have the opportunity to define myself and my role in the school. As my office evolves I will be sure to add more pictures!

Big Changes

The past few months have brought about some pretty big changes. I know I have not been keeping up with my blog very well, and I have resolved to do better this school year (although I am making this resolution later than I would have liked). I am hoping that I can document all of these changes with better constancy.

My husband's job was transferred from Washington DC to St. Louis, our hometown. He moved back around Easter, while I still had to finish out the school year in Northern VA. I officially moved back to St. Louis at the end of June. We are finally settling down, having found a house not too far from our parents. We have been enjoying getting to spend time with family and friends and working on our new house.

I was very fortunate to find another school counseling position before I left Northern VA. I am working at another Catholic K-8 school very similar to the one I left. There is one major difference - my new school has never had a school counselor. I am starting a program from scratch. I walked into a completely empty office in April when I came to meet my principal and tour the school. When I came back in August, the office contained a desk, filing cabinet, u-shaped table, and five chairs. While the furniture was there to fill up the space, I was still missing a crucial part - all of the counseling materials. Luckily, I have been a packrat since graduate school and have been collecting materials, lessons, books, and other resources. I was able to fill up the office pretty well without having to purchase very much. I have pictures that I will include in another post.

I am very excited to be starting my own program and having the freedom to define my role in the school community. It has been thrilling and stressful all at the same time. I am modeling my new program after my program in VA, with a few changes. I have been trying to get as much information about my program through my website, newsletters, notes home, and at both Back to School Nights. I am working on educating the student, parents, and faculty about what a school counselor is and what a school counselor does.

The one thing that I am still struggling with is having a professional network. In VA, I had a great network of school counselors in both public and Catholic schools. The Diocese of Arlington held several school counselor meetings each year and we were able to communicate with one another through online forums in between meetings. Although one of my friends in St. Louis is a public school counselor, I have not been able to form a solid network of Catholic school counselors.

I am hoping to keep up with my blog to help me chronicle the start of my new counseling program. Here's to a new school year, a new program, and a new life in St. Louis!