Polka Dots

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vista Print

VistaPrint is such a great resource for counselor. Pretty much all of the school counselor blogs that I check regularly have talked about it. The great thing about VistaPrint is that they are constantly having sales or discounts. If you sign up for their emails, not a week goes by without getting some kind of discount or coupon. I don't think I have every paid full price for any of the items I have created. In fact, I came across a great deal a few weeks ago and only had to pay shipping and handling. I spent a lot of time creating some great posters and tools to use in my counseling office. Here are a few. 

Confidentiality Banner. I ordered a small (3' x 1.6') indoor vinyl banner to explain confidentiality and its limitations. I got the idea from Danielle at School Counselor Blog. She sells posters that she created on her blog if you don't want to make your own. 

 Small group Expectations. Again, I ordered a small indoor vinyl banner, this one going through the expectations I created for my small groups. When I begin meeting with a new group, we go through the expectations and talk about what each one means. We review it regularly to help keep everyone on track. 

 Counselors are... I created this small poster to express the different aspects of a counselor. If I could do it over again, I would change the second "O". Right now it states "offers suggestions", which if you read it as a whole sentence ("Counselors are... offers suggestions") it doesn't really make sense. I got the idea from a tote bag I've had for a few years. If I come across another good sale, I might reprint it, but for right now it will work just fine. 

Classroom Guidance Expectations. I wanted to have a poster to bring along with me when I visit the classroom as a reminder of what I expect from the students and hopefully what they will expect from each other. Visiting each classroom once a month is one of my favorite things, but it can often be a classroom management issue. I wanted to have a visual reminder for the students about how we should be conducting ourselves during classroom guidance lessons. I plan to take this with me to each classroom lesson. 

My school counselor says... stickers. I ordered these cute stickers, which are actually return address labels, to give out to students with little recognitions of their good deeds, hard work, and friendly behaviors. I've seen a lot of idea of using buttons that say things like "Ask me about the good choice I made today!" I couldn't find any inexpensive buttons, so I'm hoping to use these stickers to say "My school counselor says... I made a good choice/ I helped another student/ I showed the virtue of responsibility/ etc". 

To the Parents stamp. I find myself writing over and over again "To the Parents of John Smith" on envelopes or permission slips. I got tired of writing the same thing, so I ordered a return address stamp to do the job for me. I have been using it a lot the past few days as I am sending out small group permission slips. 

Back to School

Welcome to the 2012-2013 school year! We have been in school for about 3 weeks now, so I figured that it was time to update my blog. 

As always, I'm hoping that this school year goes smoothly and that I am able to assist my students in any way that I can. This year will be a little different, though. I am expecting my first child in November, so I will be out on maternity leave for a few months. I have been working very hard to get everything organized for my absence. I have also been combing through my calendar, trying to optimize the time that I will be in school, fitting in as many lessons, groups, and individual meetings as possible. 

My office is virtually the same as last year, with a few additions. Thanks to my nesting sprees, I have been organizing my filing cabinets and shelves. I have also created several great office items on VistaPrint (more on that later).

Here is my door. I still have my "Mrs. Polan" sign that I made last year and my "counselor" window cover. I found some great posters on Pinterest and made a counselor poster on VistaPrint. I'm hoping that my door is inviting and makes the students want to come in. The door is usually open unless I am meeting with students. The younger students love to wave to me if I am at my desk when they walk by and I often get a few drop-ins who just want a check in. My office is in the basement, along with 3rd, 4th, 5th, a computer lab, and the Spanish classroom. All classes have Spanish at least once a week, so I do get the opportunity to see the students as they walk by. I would love a more centrally located office, along with a window, and a drop ceiling, but the office works just fine for me and the students. 

 Here is a view of my desk and one filing cabinet. This is probably the cleanest my desk will ever be. I spent some time right before school started to organize my small filing cabinet attached to my desk as well as both of my larger cabinets. I also found a cute little magnetic chalkboard at a garage sale this summer. It needed a fresh coat of spray paint and a fun ribbon. It holds the school monthly calendar and any notes and reminders. 

 In front of my desk is my group counseling table. I can fit myself and 6 students at the table, although my middle school students make it a pretty tight squeeze. If I am meeting with a middle school group, I usually borrow a classroom so that we have a little more elbow room. You can also see two banners that I created on VistaPrint. I am just about to start my lunch groups in all grades. I am hoping to get one round in before I go on leave and hopefully two rounds when I get back.  

Here is a view of my desk and individual counseling area. Same rug and chair as last year. You can also see my shelves in the background. I would love some hidden storage, but the open shelving helps me to keep everything organized. I keep all of my counseling supplies in bins, baskets, and binders. I am also working on cataloguing all of my counseling books. I'll have another post on that once I get that project underway. 

So that's my 2012-2013 office. I'll go into more detail about my VistaPrint orders, book cataloging, and some counseling documents that I created over the summer to help me stay organized. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

National School Counseling Week - Day 5

Today was the final day of National School Counseling Week! To finish off the week, I brought in chocolate chip cookies, individual fudge brownies, and Hershey's hugs. I included a sign that said "STRESSED? DESSERTS! Stressed is just Desserts spelled backwards". I also included the stress-buster tips that I set out on Wednesday as well as my original sign and more copies of my brochure. I think the teachers and staff really enjoyed all of the little treats all week and I enjoyed bringing everything in.

One of the 1st grade classes made me an acrostic poem and presented it to me today. They came up with some really wonderful words and it was so touching as they read it to me. It really makes me love my job when the students remember what we have been discussing - they used Problem-Solving for the P in my name.

National School Counseling Week - Day 4

Day 4 of National School Counseling Week brought some more small treats for the faculty and staff. I bought packs of Now and Later candies and included an address label sticker on the back that says "If you need to talk NOW or LATER, school counselors are here to for you too!" I wanted to let the faculty and staff know that I am available for them as well as the students.

When I got into work on Thursday, my principal's son had a very nice surprise for me - blue hydrangeas! They are beautiful and look great on my desk in my pencil vase. It made me feel great and let men know how much I am valued at my school! I also got a call from my old principal wishing me a happy school counseling week. It is nice to know that they are still thinking of me at my old school. Tomorrow is the last day of National School Counseling Week and I have one more idea up my sleeve...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

National School Counseling Week - Day 3

For day 3 of National School Counseling Week, I sported my new school counseling t-shirt! I ordered this for about $4 on Vista Print. It says "I Heart School Counseling". I really wanted one of those "super power" shirts that I have been seeing - the ones that say something like "I'm a counselor. What's your super power?" I couldn't find any, and this shirt was only $4 so I went for it! I got a lot of nice compliments from the teachers and I hope that it promoted my program even more.

Since I brought in edible treats the past two days, I decided to go with something a little different today. I found an adorable poem about bubble wrap stress relief online. I printed the poem on card stock and added some green scrapbook paper the coordinated with my bucket. I bought some bubble wrap at Dollar Tree and cut it into small squares to fill the bucket. I also made copies of some stress relief tips for teachers. I included my original "thank you" sign from Monday as well as some extra brochures. The bubble wrap was a big hit - many teachers took a few squares to pop throughout the day.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

National School Counseling Week - Day 2

Day 2 of National School Counseling Week was a little more low-key. I bought mini 100 Grand bars and printed off address labels that say "Your support of the School Counseling Program is worth 100 Grand!". I put them in all of the teacher and staff members mailboxes. It's just a little way of saying thank you and giving my co-workers a little pick-me-up. Who doesn't like chocolate??

National School Counseling Week - Day 1

Happy National School Counseling Week! This is a great week to promote school counseling programs to administrators, teachers, students, and parents. To kick off the week, I baked muffins for the faculty and staff. I put the muffins, a note thanking the teachers for their support, and copies of my counseling program brochure in the teachers lounge. The muffins were a big hit and I was surprised at how many of my brochures were taken throughout the day! I had to replenish the supply a few times!

During my lessons throughout this week, I will be quizzing the students on the different parts of my job. I have pencils and stickers to hand out if they answer a question. I ordered return address stickers from Vista Print that say "My School Counselor thinks I am a SHINING STAR! School Counseling Week 2012: Helping Students Be Brilliant". I picked up several packs of pencils at Dollar Tree. I have a few simple questions to ask the students such as "What are the three main ways I work with students? (classroom lessons, small group/lunch bunch, and individually), "What are the virtues we have learned about so far this year? (responsibility, respect, stewardship, kindness, honesty, and citizenship), and "What are the two weeks we celebrated with a school-wide poster in the main hallway? (Red Ribbon Week and No Name-Calling Week)."

Catholic Schools Week

January 29 - February 3 was Catholic Schools Week. The theme this year was Catholic Schools - Faith, Academics, Service. I decorated my door using my silhouette paper cutter to cut out the letters. For each trait, I printed off examples of how school counselors support and promote trait. Faith - virtue education, personal development, self-awareness. Academics - study skills, goal setting, organizational skills, personal success. Service - stewardship, citizenship, career education, community involvement. I am really pleased with how my door turned out.

On that Friday, we had an all school assembly with games and activities. The teachers play the 8th graders in a volleyball game and special guest showed up to help - Fredbird, the mascot for the St. Louis Cardinals! It was great to see all of the kids get excited when he walked into the gym. He played volleyball, danced with the Kindergarten students, and threw out t-shirts and prizes to the kids in the stands. It was a lot of fun and I got to have my picture taken with him! What a fun way to end the week!

No Name-Calling Week

This year for No Name-Calling Week, I was introduced to some new material that fit in very well with our Catholic school identity. I gave the teachers a packet of information and several classroom activities that they could choose from to introduce the topic of no name-calling to their students. The lessons involved discussing the many names that we have for Jesus and what they mean to us. The students then discussed the names that they are sometimes called that hurt their feelings. The teachers then led discussions about the names or qualities that the students felt God had given them. They then decorated a candle with these names (or their actual names) and I created a large wall display.

One of the Kindergarten teachers did such a great job with this lesson! She first asked her students to think of all of the names they could for Jesus and created a chart. She then talked to them about the importance of names and how calling someone a mean name can hurt their feelings. She talked with her students about the positive names they would want to be called and wrote down each students "inner name" next to their actual name. Some of the examples were "helpful", "loving", "caring", "special", and "joyful". The students then used this to create their candles. It was such a great lesson and the Kindergarten students really got it!

Here is a picture of our final product. Some of the students wrote their actual names on their candles, which is fine - I would rather have them be called by their actual names than a mean name anyway. This large candle is hung in our main hallway and all of the students pass by it on their way to lunch. It is great to see them stop and look at all of the candles, pointing out their own to their friends, teachers, and family. I am really happy with the way it turned out!


Our virtue for January was Honesty. In 2nd grade, we talked about how hard it is to cover up a lie. I saw this cute idea here - "Water" You Covering Up? Fill a large bowl with water and place a quarter at the bottom. Each student is given a penny and tries to cover up the quarter by dropping their penny in the water. My students loved this "experiment". The quarter represents the initial lie and the pennies represent all of the lies told to try to cover up the original lie. We sat in a circle on the floor around the bowl and each student got a turn to try and cover up the quarter. A few students actually did cover up the quarter partially, so I had to remind them that we could still see part of the quarter, so the lie was still there. After everyone had a chance, I asked the students how many more pennies they would have to use to try to cover up the lie completely. We then talked about the only way to get ourselves out of this problem was by telling the truth. If we tell the truth from the start, we don't have to worry about covering anything up. Each student was given a (dry) penny at the end of the lesson as a reminder to be honest.

The Wrinkled Heart

For the 1st grade lesson on Kindness, we learned about wrinkled hearts. I saw this poem somewhere online (I can't remember where) and thought it was just so cute. I changed the words around a bit to fit with our kindness theme, so our poem read: Before you speak, be kind from the start, because it's hard to mend a wrinkled heart. I brought in two paper hearts, one blank one and one with the poem written on it. We discussed the different ways that people can be unkind and with each example, I added a fold, or wrinkle, to the blank paper heart. When we were finished discussing examples of unkindness, the heart did not resemble a heart anymore and was very creased. In order to unfold it, the students had to come up with ways to resolve the unkindness. With each idea, I unfolded the heart until it was back to its original shape. The heart, however, still showed signs of being wrinkled. We talked about how even apologies cannot take away the wrinkles of unkindness. After our discussion, each student was given a small paper heart with the poem printed on it as a reminder to be kind.

Kindness: Post-It Poem

For our December virtue of Kindness, the 6th graders created a post-it poem. I saw the idea here and knew that I could use it in classroom guidance. We first discussed the definition of kindness and examples of kind acts. Then we came up with all of the words that we could think of that we associate with kindness. They could be synonyms or phrases that they felt related to kindness. I was planning on coming up with at least one word per student and then assigning a word to each student, but we were running short on time. Each student was given a post-it note and asked to pick one of the words that we came up with. They were able to decorate their post-it and write the word in any way that they wanted. They then stuck their post-its on a large piece of poster paper. I then took the poster and glued the post-it's so that they would stay.


We learned about Stewardship in November. The focus for grades K, 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7, the focus was on Time, Talent, and Treasure. Stewardship is a tough subject to teach since it isn't a word that we use often in our vocabulary like Respect, Responsibility and Honesty. But, once time is spent defining the word and giving examples, I have found that the students are very capable of understanding how they can share and give themselves in service to others. The focus for grades 3, 5, and 8 was on career education and exploration.

In Kindergarten, we read The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell. In the story, Mooch, the cat, tries to think of a gift to give his friend Earl, the dog. Earl has everything and Mooch isn't sure what to get his friend. In the end, Mooch decides to give Earl "nothing" but his friendship. After reading the book we talked about what "nothings" we had to give others: love, kindness, a smile, asking someone to play, helping a friend in need, etc. After our discussion, the students drew a picture of a "nothing" they plan to give.

In 4th grade, we read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. This is one of my all-time favorites. I love Shel Silverstein poems, and aside from "Sick" and "Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too", this is the best! We read the poem and talked about all of the gifts that the tree gave to the boy. In the end, the tree felt that she had nothing left to give, but she was still able to give the boy a place to rest. After reading the poem, we talked about all of the ways that we can give to others, even if we don't think that we have anything left to give. Each student wrote their ideas on a leaf and we decorated our own giving tree.

In 6th grade, we discussed the definition of Stewardship and examples of how we can share our time, talent, and treasure. We then listened to the song My Own Two Hands by Jack Johnson. The song talks about being able to change the world and make it a better place with our own two hands. We talked about our personal abilities to help other and each student came up with five ideas of how they can show stewardship. The traced their hand, cut it out, and wrote their ideas on each of their fingers.