Polka Dots

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.

Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline

I am really excited about the new program that we are starting this year! It is called Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline (VBRD) and focuses on living a virtuous life and repairing any harm that is done. It takes away from the idea of bullying and focuses more on any harm that is done. Most bullying definitions focus on an imbalance of power and repeated behavior. When focusing on bullying, I have run into several problems - parents want you to focus on bullying but don't want to hear it when their child is "accused of bullying". This often leads to a blame game and chasing who "did it first". Parents and students have a hard time taking responsibility if they are seen as "the bully". 

VBRD focuses on any harm done - whether it was repetitive or a one time incident. The idea is that any harm is harm, and should be taken seriously no matter what. And not just focusing on the harm, but on restoring the harm as well.

And the main focus - virtues - ties in so much better to our Catholic school identity than any other character education program. For the previous 5 years as a school counselor, I have used character education materials but have had to add more to them in order for them to fit in with our faith. Now with this program, it's already done for me!

This year, we chose to focus on four virtues from Colossians 3:12-15 - Kindness, Forbearance, Forgiveness, and Unity. We will focus on one each quarter, starting with Kindness. Our overarching theme is "Crusaders for Virtue" since our mascot is the crusader and our goal for the year is "We will be virtuous in our thoughts, words, and deeds." This goal replaces the Kindness Rules that we previously used with the Olweus program.

VBRD will be incorporated into:

Although this program has meant that I have had to redo almost all of my classroom guidance lessons, I really think that it is worth it. With all of the incorporation details that I mentioned above, it feels like much more of a school-wide effort than previous programs have. I am really looking forward to how the program grows and evolves over the next year and into the future. 

For more information about VBRD, please visit the website www.virtuebase.org 

You can also watch this short video which sums up how VBRD works in schools in our area. 

Back to School 2013 and Goals

I can't believe that my last post was from the beginning of LAST school year! I am going to try to do better - I'd even be happy with one update a week!

This year there are a lot of changes - several new faculty members, a couple teachers changed grades, almost every single classroom physically moved, the addition of two Junior Kindergarten classes, and I (with the help of a wonderful committee) am launching a new virtue-based program school-wide!

My office stayed in the same location - in the basement, still no window - but the middle school (grades 5-8) moved downstairs with me. It's very different being close to the "big kids". I have a few friends that stop by to say "hi" or wave as they walk by, but other than that, they are more concerned with carrying their heavy loads of books and changing classes. I guess that's a good thing but I always enjoyed waving to all the little ones as they passed.

 I added a new sign to my door - My door is closed... Please leave me a note - right above the handle. I am still pumping after lunch for my almost 10 month old daughter, so I'm hoping that this will help some of the "Mrs. Polan??? Are you in there???" *knocking, handle jiggling, more knocking*

I have also included some "Let's Talk" notes next to the door (pink sheets). Most of the younger grades get the sheets from their teachers, but I figured the middle schoolers might prefer to pick up their own when walking by. And my office is right across from the bathrooms (so glamorous), perfect for middle schoolers wanting to stop by without making a scene.

 The inside of my office is pretty much the same. I did get a "new" chair for in front of my desk. I thought that it would be nice to have an adult sized chair for parents and teachers to sit in when we meet. When I meet with multiple adults, we have to sit at the table, but if just one stops by, I like to have options. I always let the parent decide where they would like to sit.

My desk and individual counseling area haven't changed very much. A few new posters and my "new" parent chair, but other than that - same ol', same ol'.

My bookshelves. The left side holds all of my counseling resources, binders, grad school books, and counseling publications. The right side has picture books, craft and game supplies, coloring supplies, and a rice tray. I got the small crate from a teacher that was leaving last year. It was a faded maroon color and had math curriculum stickers all over it. I spent WAY too much time trying to get the stickers off. After a lot of Goo Gone and some elbow grease, it was finally clean and I gave it a nice coat of turquoise spray paint. I used the same paint to spray a thrifted frame, added some yellow/white chevron fabric, and an adorable picture of my little girl.

I asked for a drop ceiling for my office over the summer and really thought that I was going to get one. But I got an email from the maintenance supervisor over the summer saying that they could not put one in. So my office still has exposed pipes and duct work. I'm not a fan of the "industrial look" but I have to make do with what I have! 

Goals for the 2013-2014 School Year
  • Update my blog at least once a week!
  • Do at least one Pinterest inspired project for every 10 that I pin - especially for school and home improvement projects. 
  • No school outfit repeats - this is a goal every year, but I'm hoping to do a better job of mixing pieces rather than repeating the exact same outfits.
  • Provide at least one parent educational opportunity - I've already got this one in the works!
  • Provide four rounds of small groups for grades 1-5. 
  • Revamp my middle school small group curriculum. I have one group that has been successful in the past but I would love to include a new one. It's hard to get the parents AND the students on board at the middle school level. 
I'm sure there will be more as the year goes on, but that's what I'm starting with!

Here's to another great year! My 3rd at my current school and my 6th as a school counselor!