Polka Dots

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thirty for Thirty

I turned 30 on October 29th and I wanted to do something a little different. I have seen a lot of different ideas for doing acts of kindness in blogland and I thought that this would be a perfect way to spend my birthday. I happened to take the day off since parent/teacher conferences were scheduled for that Friday and I do not work on Fridays. My husband decided to take the day off as well, so we made it a family day.

I started planning a few weeks before my birthday so that I could figure out the logistics and start gathering supplies. I tried to come up with multiple acts of kindness for each place so that we weren't running all over town, going to 30 different places. The planning didn't take all that long, but the night before I started to feel a little overwhelmed. But I pushed through and went with it.

I started the day before by leaving some treats in the teachers mailboxes. I also left some notes of encouragement for a few teachers.

The morning of my birthday, we met my mother-in-law at St. Louis Bread Co (Panera) to buy her a coffee and pick up some coffee carafes. I also picked up a few gift cards to leave for the letter carrier, trash collector, and recycling collector. We then went to the local police/fire/city hall to drop off the coffee and some homemade pumpkin spice muffins.

At home I dropped off flowers for our neighbors and went to visit an elderly neighbor that was just recently widowed. I also dropped off some adult clothes at Goodwill and took some baby clothes and diapers to a local emergency women and children's shelter.

The best part of the day happened at the grocery store. I bought some balloons and we passed them out to little kids we passed in the aisles. Two little girls got so excited that they ran through the store. Their mom joked with us, "How could we lose them? They have balloons!" While we were in line, the man in front of us was trying to pay and needed change. For some reason, the checkout clerk did not have a full till so she could not provide any change. The man had plenty of money but was about $3 short of having exact change. I just blurted out that I would pay his $3. He and the clerk looked at me funny. I explained that it was my birthday and that I wanted to do an act of kindness for him. He was taken aback. He shook my hand and thanked me for helping him get on his way and said that he didn't think that there were still people that did random acts of kindness like that.

After he left, I explained to the clerk that I wanted to buy a gift card but that I wanted her to give it to someone in need. I started to get choked up and my husband stepped in to explain the birthday idea. I think it was a culmination of all of the things we had done that day and the idea that someone shopping at my local store, that I shop at each week, may not have enough money to pay for their groceries. It took a few explanations for the clerk to understand what we were doing but then she said that she would personally make sure that the right person would get our gift card. I really liked the idea that she was going to get to pass on our act of kindness.

Looking back, I think that this was the best birthday I have had in recent memory. It took a lot of planning, but it was well worth it. I definitely think that I will be doing something similar, probably on a smaller scale, each year. And I really like how my husband and daughter were involved. That's definitely something that I want to instill in my daughter from an early age. It was definitely a birthday that I will remember!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Virtue of Forbearance

Our new virtue for this quarter is Forbearance. This is a tough one for kids - and even adults - to understand. Forbearance is showing self-control, patience, and tolerance especially in the face of provocation.

One example of forbearance is when one student patiently works with another student on a concept without getting frustrated or complaining. This would be a great topic to discuss when beginning to work on a group project.

Another great example - that happens to me all the time - is when something goes wrong with technology in the classroom. A video won't show up, there is no sound, the smart board needs to be calibrated, etc. Often times all of the students in the room want to jump up and tell the teacher what to do. This can be a great lesson in forbearance. Being patient and understanding while the problem is dealt with by the teacher.

Here are my bulletin boards for the quarter...

BEE forBEARing - in the main hallway. Each of the bees discusses a different way to show forbearance.

Keep Calm and Forbear On - in the middle school hallway. The smaller red pieces have different quotes relating to forbearance, patience, and self-control. I especially love the quote from T.H. White - "The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and silently watch someone else do it wrong." This is something that I struggle with all of the time in both my personal and professional life.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Counselor Style #3

Still doing well without repeating actual outfit. Looking back at these pictures I do realize that I love my khaki skirts! It has been fun looking for inspiration on Pinterest and trying to create outfits out of what I already own. 

Mint Sweater - H&M
Mustard T-shirt - Banana Republic Outlet
Skinny Jeans - Old Navy
Burgundy Flats - Old Navy
Polka Dot Scarf - Target Dollar Spot ($3)

Purple Cardigan - J Crew (garage sale find)
White Tank - Target
Khaki Skirt - thrifted
Burgundy Flats - Old Navy
Leopard Belt - Macys

Navy/Cream Polka Dot Cardigan - J Crew
Cream Shirt - NY&Co
Khaki Skirt - Old Navy
Nude Flats - Target
Coral Necklace - Kohls

Purple Cardigan - TJ Maxx
Khaki Skirt - thrifted
Burgundy Flats - Old Navy
Polka Dot Scarf - Target Dollar Spot ($3)

Pink Sweater - Banana Republic Outlet
Navy Skirt - J Crew (thrifted)
Brown Flats - Vera Wang for Kohls
Necklace - Dress Barn

Blue Cardigan - TJ Maxx
Khaki Skirt - Old Navy
Brown Boots - Naturalizer from Macys
Scarf - Burlington Coat Factory

Mustard Cardigan - Target
Navy Shirt Dress - J Crew Outlet
Cognac Boots - Famous Footwear
Tan Belt - garage sale find

Red Sweater - NY&Co
Khaki Skirt - Old Navy
Brown Boots - Naturalizer from Macys
Scarf - Burlington Coat Factory

Red Cardigan - Target
White Tank - Target 
Black Skirt - Old Navy
Cognac Boots - Famous Footwear
Tan Belt - garage sale find
Gold Necklace - NY&Co

Mustard Sweater - LOFT
Navy Shirt - Ann Taylor
Navy Lace Skirt - Target (garage sale find)
Cognac Boots - Famous Footwear
Tan Belt - garage sale find
Chevron-ish Scarf - Target Dollar Spot ($3)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Kindness Class Projects

Here are some examples of what the classes have been doing for the virtue of Kindness.

In Kindergarten, we read The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. We discussed different examples of kindness and then each student created their own "quilt square". I cut scrapbook paper into 5 inch by 5 inch squares and regular copy paper into 4.5 inch by 4.5 inch squares and glued them together.

For our second Kindergarten lesson, we read The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane DeRolf. We discussed how the crayons were all different but had to work together and be kind in order to create a beautiful picture. We then discussed how the students could work together and treat each other with kindness. The students then decorated their own paper crayons.

For one of my 2nd grade lesson, we read Kindness to Share from A to Z by Todd and Peggy Snow. The students then worked in groups to come up with sentences/examples of kindness for each of the letters of the alphabet. They did a great job coming up with their sentences and were very creative! 

In 5th grade, we discussed the concept of building one another up versus tearing each other down. The students made pledges to build others up by doing kind acts for one another. 

Here are some examples of class projects from around the building.

Kindness Bulletin Boards

I thought that I had posted about this already, but I guess not. Our first virtue for the year was Kindness. I have two bulletin boards that I am in charge of, one in the main hallway, near the front office, and the other outside my office in the 5th-8th grade wing.

The one in the main hallway is in a pretty prominent space and can be seen by all parents and students entering the school through the main doors or going to the front office. I try to keep this bulletin board more "primary" in focus. The theme is simpler and the suggestions are easy to understand. With the leaves starting to change and fall in the air, I decided to play off of the idea of raking leaves, but instead focusing on Random Acts of Kindness. The kids loved see the actual rake on the board. I got it at Dollar Tree in their summer/beach section over the summer.

For the board in the middle school wing, I try to go with more "popular" or "in" ideas. I had seen this idea all over Pinterest so I just had to use it. It is a play on Carley Ray Jepson's song, Call Me Maybe. The kids thought it was pretty funny.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Virtues Rock!

Our Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline program is going very well so far. The faculty, students, and parents have all been educated about the program and "buy-in" seems to be pretty strong. I have visited almost every class for our first virtues lesson and most teacher have created some sort of project in their class meetings. Things are going great but I am always looking for fun little additions.

Inspired by Barbara at The Corner on Character, I created a little song to sing my younger students before our classroom guidance lessons. I incorporated the four virtues that we are focusing on this year: Kindness, Forbearance, Forgiveness, and Unity. Hopefully I will be able to come up with a new verse each year as we move on to different virtues. I plan to use this with JK and Kindergarten and maybe even up to 2nd grade.

Virtues Rock! (to the tune The Addams Family)

Virtues rock! (clap clap)
Virtues rock! (clap clap)
Virtues rock, virtues rock, virtues rock! (clap clap)

When we show kindness to each other,
and bear with one another,
forgive and work together,
we rock our virtues!

Virtues rock! (clap clap)
Virtues rock! (clap clap)
Virtues rock, virtues rock, virtues rock! (clap clap)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Counselor Style #2

I have to say that I am doing pretty well on my goal of no outfit repeats this year! It has been a challenge to find something that fits my in-progress body while still making it easy to pump at school. Dresses have pretty much been ruled out, which takes away a lot of options in my closet. On a positive note, I downloaded a camera timer app so I can take my own pictures and not listen to my husband make fun of my silly poses! 

Black Top: NY&Co
Black and Purple Skirt: Ann Taylor
Black Patent Wedges: DSW
Purple Belt: Target (thrifted)

White Top: TJMaxx
Floral Linen Skirt: garage sale find
Turquoise Sandals: Target
Turquoise Necklace: costume jewelry shop

We honored the victims of September 11th by wearing red, white, and blue and having a prayer service in the morning.
Red Cardigan: Target
White Shirt: Target
Denim Skirt: Eddie Bauer
Brown Wedges: J Crew Outlet
Cross Necklace: Tiffany & Co

Burgundy Cardigan: NY&Co
Floral Shirt: thrifted
Khaki Skirt: Old Navy
Burgundy Shoes: Old Navy
Tan Belt: garage sale find

Dark Green Cardigan: Ann Taylor
White Tank: Target
Khaki Skirt: thrifted
Brown Shoes: Vera Wang for Kohls
Green Necklace: Target

Cream Cardigan: TJMaxx
Cream Shirt: NY&Co
Black Skirt: Target
Black and Gold Shoes: Burlington Coat Factory

Black Cardigan: The Limited (thrifted)
Patterned Shirt: Ann Taylor
Khaki Skirt: Old Navy
Black Patent Wedges: DSW
Pink Belt: Target (thrifted)
Pink Necklace: Ann Taylor

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A School Counselor Lunch Bunch Linky Party

I am participating in the Scrapbook of a School Counselor Lunch Bunch Linky Party! Counselors have so many different ideas when it comes to lunch bunches. This is how we Lunch Bunch!

I use lunch bunches in several different ways. I have the students for about 25-30 minutes, so we go full speed the minute that we start. Since my office is a ways away from the cafeteria, I keep a stock of spoons, forks, knives, napkins, straws, and snacks in my office. I always meet my groups in the back of the cafeteria and before we leave I ask them at least five times if they have everything they need. Our students can often get "seconds" if they buy hot lunch, so I always advise those students to get another helping if they think they will need it. 

For Kindergarten students, I use it as a "getting to know you" tool. Every Monday, I take six Kindergarten students (three from each class) and invite them to lunch in my office. I simply take a roster into the classrooms each Monday and call off the names of the students next on the list. I run through the entire roster and then start over again. I can usually get in at least four rounds before the end of the year, so that's usually my goal. Since I teach Social Skills classes each month at the Kindergarten level, I don't feel pressure to run a small group. I see the lunch bunches with my Kindergarten students as a way to get them excited about small groups. They really look forward to coming and are always asking when it is going to be their turn. So even though we are not focusing on a specific topic or skill, I feel like I am creating an "insurance policy" - get them excited about lunch bunches now so that they will carry that excitement with them when it's time to meet and work on specific skills. 

For grades 1 through 5, I use a traditional small group format. I meet with approximately six students on a weekly basis for five weeks. I was meeting for six weeks, but found that my last session of the year would have to be cut short, so I decided to condense them all so that I could fit in about four sessions during the year. I work with teachers to determine the topic or focus of the group. I usually focus on Friendship & Social Skills with 1st and 2nd graders. For 3rd through 5th, I focus on Self-Esteem, Girl Relationships, or Impulse Control and Boy Relationships. 

For my middle school students, I usually meet with a slightly larger group (up to 8 students) in a classroom. We meet weekly and tend to focus on more academic topics such as decision making, organization, test taking strategies, and study skills. 

For my Kindergarten groups, we usually play a "getting to know you" game, read a story, or just talk. 

For my 1st through 5th grade groups, I break the time up into two sections. For the first 10-15 minutes, the students focus on eating their lunches while I either read a story or tell them about the day's topic. I use that as my "teaching" time so that the students are able to eat and then are ready for the activity during the second section. After every is (mostly) finished with their lunch and we have read/heard about the topic, we move on to the activity. This may be a group discussion, art activity, role play, game, or skit. This section lasts 10-15 minutes and we save the last 5 minutes or so to review, debrief, and clean up. 

For my middle school groups, I try to combine lecture and discussion. While the students start eating, I will outline the day's topic and give them any background information they may need. Then I open it up for discussion. The students share their ideas and are able to ask questions. 

I meet with the K-5 teachers at the beginning of the year and provide them with a handout that outlines what groups I will be offering during the first round. On the back the teachers can list their chosen topic and the students they have selected as well as two alternates in case someone doesn't want to or cannot participate. I give the teachers a list of students that I have worked with in the past. I work with the teachers to help select students that have not participated in a small group or who have and may need additional support. 


For the middle school students, I give them a survey at the beginning of the year to gauge interest in small groups. The students are able to circle potential group topics such as friendship, stress management, grief, divorce, etc. I take the information from the surveys and either create a Lunch & Learn series if there are enough students or follow up with students individually if there aren't enough for a group. 

We have three lunch shifts so I divide the groups so that I am meeting with one or two groups each day and still allowing myself time to eat lunch. I DO NOT eat lunch with the students. I am too busy opening milks, reading a story, passing out supplies and keeping the group on schedule to eat my own lunch with them. 

Mondays - Kindergarten and 3rd grade
Tuesdays - 1st and 4th grades
Wednesdays - 2nd and 5th grades
Thursdays - Middle School

I know that there is some discussion about how much you can actually cover during lunch and if having a small group during lunch time is possible or effective. This technique has worked well for me and the students really enjoy it. I get to spend time with them, we get to cover the topics that they need help with, and I am not taking them away from their core subjects (which the teachers don't like) or their specials (which the kids don't like). 

I made "Lunch Bunch Passes" for the 1st through 5th grade students. I give them to the teachers the day before and then the students wear them to lunch on their day. It makes them feel "official", adds to the fun, and helps the cafeteria teachers and parents know what is going on. It is especially helpful when students ask for "seconds" at the lunch counter.

I have these passes laminated and hanging on lanyards so that I can write their names with dry erase markers and continue to reuse them. 

I send paper notes home after each session. I like to keep the parents informed about what we are covering in the group. Often the students will have some sort of writing or drawing activity associated with the day's topic. I print the activity on one side and the parent note on the other so that parents can see what their child did that day.

That's the basics of my lunch bunches. I really enjoy the time I get to spend with my small groups and they seem to enjoy it as well!

How to do you Lunch Bunch?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Counselor Style #1

In an effort to create new outfits with what I already have and try not to repeat any exact outfits, I will try to add pictures every week or so. I am by no means a fashionista... this is purely a way for me to remember and document what I wear. 

So here goes...
turquoise short sleeved sweater - The Limited, thrifted
cream shirt - NY&Co
olive, turquoise, and cream skirt - LOFT
nude patent pumps - Payless

white sweater - Old Navy
navy shirt - Ann Taylor
green and navy skirt - Ann Taylor
navy patent wedges - DSW
dog tail - Sadie the dog
aqua and gold necklace, earrings - costume jewelry shop

excuse the selfsie in my office... 
navy sweater - Target, hand-me-down from my mom
cream shirt - NY&Co
coral lace skirt - Kohl's
coral statement necklace - Kohl's
nude patent pumps - Payless

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Back to School: Home Edition

It looks like Back to School at my house too! My husband just rolls his eyes, but I love decorating for everything! Decorating for back to school helps to get me pumped up for the new school year.

The whole mantle. I found the flash cards at an estate sale this summer. My sister-in-law found the tiny desk at Goodwill. I think it might be for an American Girl. The school birdhouse came from Joann's several years ago. 

 The Dr. Seuss books are from a garage sale. I found the little globe in the Michaels dollar section. It was cream so I "blue washed" it with a little craft paint to help it stand out a little more. 

I love these vintage letter blocks and ruler star.

We randomly found the G-man book at an antique shop when we were on vacation in Michigan a few years ago. The girls scout handbook is from a garage sale. I'm not afraid to admit that I was a girl scout through my senior year of high school (read: dork!), so I just had to get it!

 More garage sale finds.

I made the pencil vase for a back to school event at my previous school. I made them as center pieces for a luncheon and they were a big hit. I managed to keep one for myself and it has kept up pretty well over the past few years!

Finally, a cute quote from Dr. Seuss.