Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Structuring counseling and social skills sessions...what works!


I do a LOT more sessions with students individually and in small groups this year than I ever have.  I often go for a few hours without a break in between to catch my breath.  I thought I'd start a resource to share ideas for small groups in schools. To start out, I thought I'd start with the basics, scheduling and structuring groups.  I have been following the same format for 4 years, and I have no plans to change it anytime soon!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A day in the life of a school psychologist

My daily work life is different this year at my new school than it has been in the past.  I counsel way more students, and find myself with less and less time to plan and prep, which is certainly an adjustment for me.  I have a lot less administrative duties however, which is nice for my time and stress level!  Here is how my day went on a recent Friday.



8:15  I roll into school, large coffee in hand, still trying to fix my hair and look presentable as I walk in the door.  Thus is the never ending life of a working parent.  As I walk past the office, the school secretary gives me a phone message, another message from a pediatrician in town.  We've been playing phone tag for a few days.

8:30  As I drop my bags down, two teachers come in to talk and touch base on things.  One teacher is reporting something a parent emailed her about last night, another is sharing what happened at a parent conference the night before.  As I run to check my school mailbox, another teacher reviews an email she sent me last night about a student I need to observe.  And my to-do list is already growing for the day!

9:10  I head across the hall to a classroom to do a Mindfulness lesson during morning meeting.  I do twice weekly lessons with this class, and I know them pretty well.  Today's lesson goes well-except for the fact that during my lesson on a 1-5 scale, I forget to cover up the Minecraft chart I have on the back, which serves as a distraction to every. single. student.  Oops.

9:30 During my lesson, I saw a student pacing in front of my door, wanting to talk to me.  I try to catch up with them, but see my next individual student coming down the hall.  It will have to wait!  After that student, I have another group of 2.  Things go well.  I recently restocked my prize box, which is a win for everyone.

10:30  I check and return emails, phone calls, and make some plans for testing and observing next week.

11:15 I head down to the lunchroom.  One of my students from earlier was having some anxiety about getting hot lunch, and hasn't been eating.  I am happy to see my suggestions along with the teachers' have worked, and he is eating pizza.  Meanwhile, another student comes in upset.  I hang out for a little bit to make sure things are going smooth.

11:30  I quickly grab my lunch from the teacher's room fridge and almost get to start eating it.

11:45  "Lunch bunch" with a student.  I have 1-2 of these everyday, and really enjoy them!  I get to eat my lunch with the student.

12:30  After some behavior issues that I'm called to attend to, I'm now running late for my recess support.  Oops.

12:45  I attempt to run inside for a bathroom break before my next group.  A parent stops me in the hall to talk about her son.  Oh well, I tried.

12:50  My next 2 students are waiting outside my office wondering where I am.  "You're late!  We just saw you!"  It feels nice to be valued :)

1:15 During my scheduled "lunch" time for the day, I decide to scrap any semblance of a break (aside from texting to check on my daughter), to move up a student I need to test.  I use my "walking feet" as quickly as I can to get to the other side of the school and back.

1:45  Last minute meeting with someone in the district about district planning

2:00  I head to a classroom to support a student with organizing in writing.  I like these times in the classroom because I get to see so many students I don't normally.  They are writing research papers and their topics are amazing!

2:30  Head back to my office.  Finally get to call the pediatrician I've been trying to talk to, input some new 504 plans and print and file those.  Schedule some student meetings about students in the behavior intervention process.

3:15  Students are heading down to buses when two of my students come in with a "friendship" problem they need me to help solve.  I do a VERY quick talk before sending them on the bus home.

3:30  Touch base with some teachers on students and meetings from the day.  Attempt to make my office look less like a tornado has hit it.  Happy Friday!




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I AM: Self-Esteem Activity

You guys, I just love this activity.  I saw something similar to it on Pinterest (of course!), and thought that it would be perfect for one of my students that is struggling with self esteem, and very artistic.

The thing with art therapy is that it calms you and relaxes you, right?  I mean everyone I know is buying adult coloring books now!

So, the way I used this activity was that I presented the idea of self-esteem, and talked with my student about what that meant, and how we were going to talk about positive traits she had, and things she was good at.  Upon an initial, cold question of this, she couldn't come up with anything.  So, we got started painting.  And the great thing about art therapy and crafts like this are that the words just start to flow.

As she started painting, we began talking more about positive things, and what it meant to have "talents".  The whole project took about 3 weeks, between letting the paint dry, brainstorming the traits, designing the words, and then in the end, Mode Podging the whole thing.

In the end, it got the conversation going about positive traits, and allowed my student to be creative, but also be able to share things that she does well!


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Case Managing 504 Plans

One of the first memories I have from my first days of a School Psych was searching for  504 plans.  You see, my school didn't have an electronic list anywhere, and the former psych left no indication of a list of students with 504's.  As case manager of 504 plans in my building, this posed a significant problem.   So, I did what any dedicated newbie would:  I searched the file drawers for the correct folders, and went from there.

Because of this, I was determined to be set up for my second year in the easiest way possible, so, part of my end of year routine involves prepping all my plans for the next year.

I created a cover sheet my first year that I have been using ever since.  I usually copy it in a bright color so that it's easy for teachers to locate, and clip it to a copy of the plan.  I've seen teachers pull it out at meetings, so I assume it's working pretty well.  I also make a copy of every students accommodation pages for the specials teachers.  At the beginning Of the year, I am good to go!


Here is the Cover Sheet I use:  (download it from google docs here)



I also send a letter out to all parents of my 504's at the beginning of the year, using this template:


And here is the letter I send to special area teachers, who get copies of multiple plans:







As I do with all meetings, I schedule all meetings at the beginning of the year, and mark all dates off on  my SPED organization chart.  I get the above going in June, so it's one less thing to do at the start of the year.  What do you all use to help case manage?

Friday, May 6, 2016

School Psychologist: Getting started with Assessments

Oh Spring.  What a dichotomy for School Psychologists.  The weather is warm, you can break out bright colors and iced coffee, but at the same time, you are scrambling, trying to beat the federal timeline on the most popular time of the year for special education referrals.  While that  will probably never change, I have developed a system over the years, for organizing and keeping track of my evaluations.



I've finally developed a system that is pretty smooth, and allows me to balance multiple evals with once without going nuts.  Here is my system:

1.  Create a cover sheet for your folder you'll keep everything in.  This is what I use, and it's been super efficient for me for the past 3 years.  It has everything I need on it, including:

  • Assessments I am doing
  • PPT dates, due dates
  • A way of tracking what assessments & observations I've done, and when I send them out/return them.

I staple that sheet to the front of your folder, write the student's name and due date on the tab, and staple a copy of the consent for testing form to the back inside, just in case there are any questions.

2.  The same day I create this, I send out a copy of all forms I need other people to fill out (developmental history, rating scales, etc.), and write those down on my form.  Another way I have made this really easy is having pre-written letters that I can quickly fill in.  Then, I stick those in an envelope and send them home/put them in teachers mailboxes.

  
One more tip:  Write "To:" and "From:" on the outside of your envelope.  Chances are, the parents will just cross out those words and switch them, and the chances of your envelope going back to the classroom teacher or random other person, are slim.



  3.  Also the same day, I get a copy of the protocols I need and put them in the students folder.  This saves last minute scrambling of me using the last protocol!





4.  Once things come in, or I finish them, I write those dates down on the cover sheet.

5.  If you don't already, as I mentioned in this post, you NEED a report template.  It will make your life  6 million times easier.  For mine, I try to go through and update things once a year to add any new assessments I have learned.

What's your secret to Spring eval season success?

Here are my go-to forms:

Testing planning form on TpT (Cover sheet)
Observation form on TpT
A student interview (I use this as an informal ice breaker for students)
A template letter for parent rating scales
A template letter for teacher rating scales



Friday, February 5, 2016

5 More Pinterest Ideas

A while ago I shared some pins I love.  As much as I love Pinterest, sometimes I get overwhelmed at the ideas, and, more often than not, I pin something and then forget about it.  So here are 5 pins that I have actually used, and love!


I love reading books in groups, but I also love then someone else reads them!  This website has an animated version of Howard Wigglebottom books.


I need to write a post on these hearts (which are a great activity for following directions!).  They are perfect for Random Acts of Kindness or Valentines Day!


Let's face it-it's hard for kids to understand what we do.  I get called a social worker more than a psychologist. I love this counselor's idea and post about explaining her job to kiddos, and I use some of these when I go and talk to classrooms about my role.

I love a good check-in.  I pull this one out often as an alternative to my regular one because of the great t visuals.


 Let's face it:  Legos make anything more fun.  I have used this with a few different groups, and it's great for a variety of ages!

What are you pinning lately?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Random Acts of Kindness 2016

Last year, my favorite school wide activity was RAK week-except we did it for a month, because collecting hundreds of hearts was a little more than a week's worth of work.  Essentially , we asked       all students and staff to complete any acts of kindness that they could think of (we also gave suggestions), and write them down on red hearts we distributed.


This is such an easy project for a class or school,  and I just updated mine for this year.  Use my FREE template here!