The Responsive Counselor on a Podcast

Sunday, June 10, 2018
After a few years of obsessively listening to all sorts of podcasts (true crime, home DIY, TED talks, etc.), I had the honor of being the first guest on a brand new school counseling podcast. Alaina of Cutting Edge School Counseling took on the challenge of hosting and I'm really excited to add it to my weekly listening list. Click the image below to get to the podcast's webpage, or just find it on the podcast app on your phone! Alaina's awesome (I connected with her on IG) and I had a blast chatting with her about school counseling things keeping me up at night.

School Counseling Office Tour: Round One

Saturday, June 9, 2018
I've been meaning to do a post about my office for five years. I procrastinated because my office was either "too messy" or, when it was clean, I realized it looked crazy blue due to the filters I put on my fluorescent lights (#excuses). So then when it got closer to time for me to pack up and move to a new school and new office, I decided I needed to make it happen before it was too late! I'll go ahead and apologize now for posting an office tour again in August when I'm in my new one.

My office was small, but could have been smaller. I managed to squeeze quite a bit in the 13'x18' space. Because I worked in a fairly old building, I had the luxury of painting and decorating however I saw fit. It's a challenge to create a space that's child friendly, professional enough for meetings (we have a conference room but I hold some meetings in my office if I think the main office may be intimidating/threatening), and also a safe haven for when I'm pulling my hair out during test coordination. I worked in this space for five years, improving on it bit by bit, and I absolutely loved it (minus the nasty chipping wall paint I didn't have time to paint over). The biggest challenge with the space is the complete lack of closed storage - everything is totally out in the open, meaning it looks cluttered very quickly.

The Kid Trapper Personal Safety Lesson Plan

Wednesday, June 6, 2018
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A couple years ago I wrote about my love for Julia Cook's The Kid Trapper. My love for it stays true! This year, I finally made a complete lesson plan to go with it, pushing beyond just the content and message of the story. The school counselors at the middle school many of my students attend are awesome, but middle school is full of sticky situations and I needed to talk through some of them with my students before I let them leave me.

kid trapper personal safety lesson

I start off with a little spiel prepping them for the book. I'm honest with them that some of the situations I read about in the book might make them feel a little uncomfortable because they are inappropriate and scary for him. This spiel has the added benefit of piquing their interest - my students are more engaged with this book than with any other. Whereas I usually stop to make comments or ask questions during my read alouds, this one I read straight through with the exception of, in some rooms, letting them know that when the author wrote about Frank and the boy hugging, she may have been really trying to talk about inappropriate touching.

Going to a New School

Thursday, May 17, 2018
This is my final year at my school - I accepted a new position for next year. To say that I am filled with feelings about it all is an understatement. A month from now I will be saying goodbye to a major chapter in my life. This change was entirely by choice, and I wanted to take the time to write a post explaining how I knew that it was time to move on. I imagine I am not the only school counselor who has or will have to grapple with this decision. And as much as a "5 Ways I Knew It Was Time for Me to Leave My School!" is the type of blog title that's all the rage right now...I'm just gonna narrate this out and hope it's just as helpful and that something resonates with some of you.

Stand in My Shoes Lesson Plan: Redux

Monday, May 14, 2018
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Many moons ago (4 years and 3 months to be exact), I wrote a blog post about teaching empathy with the book Stand in My Shoes and a bunch of old shoe boxes. I used it a couple more times in the classroom and then a few more times in small groups. And became time for an upgrade.

Stand in My Shoes Empathy Lesson Plan

The lesson was originally designed for 4th grade, and with a specific cohort of students in mind. The needs of my students have changed since then (holy guacamole - they are so much kinder to one another now!), this year I needed to do an empathy lesson with 2nd grade, and I was a bit tired of carrying the boxes around to each classroom (#shrug). I also saw a decent chunk of students get too distracted by the shoe brands on the boxes. This lesson needed a reboot.
shoe box empathy lesson

Stand in My shoes empathy bookFirst, I tried to find another book. A better book. I failed. I could find some marvelous books that had 1-2 examples of empathy in them (Those Shoes, Each Kindness, etc.) - but I needed a book that explained empathy and gave several model examples! I looked at Hey, Little Ant (again, since I did perspective taking using this book last year) - but again it only had 1 example and it wasn't very applicable to my students. I read through How Do I Stand in Your Shoes? - and I couldn't get over the awful illustrations and the wording that seemed so out of touch with how my kids think and talk. was back to Stand in My Shoes. Not perfect, but also not bad and at least it has several examples. I did skip a few pages in it (a couple "examples" were not what I actually would call empathy), but I do that now and then in other books too. (Note: I love the Sesame Street empathy video and I use that in small groups all the time, but I really needed and wanted more examples to scaffold the concept whole group before having groups practice showing empathy on their own).

Because of my EL learners, and just to make sure I was making it as concrete as I could, I also had some student volunteers come and "stand" in the shoes of some of the characters to tell us how the main character showed them empathy.

Stand in My Shoes Empathy Lesson Plan

Then I introduced the activity. This was where I had previously whipped out my super cool shoe boxes. Less exciting (but also less distracting), were the file folder scenarios I brought this time. Inside each was a printed photo of someone wearing shoes and a written scenario with two questions (how was the person feeling and how could you show them that you care). I laid one on each table and explained to students that they'd be rotating around, practicing standing in the shoes of the characters in each scenario. We did one together and then they were on their own!

empathy example activityempathy example activity

Even in spring semester, with 2nd graders that have been receiving regular SEL instruction for years, and that just had a lesson on identifying the feelings in others, this was a little bit of a challenge. The could ID the feelings in a snap, and unlike my previous students they didn't all try to say what the character themselves should do. It was tricky for them to think of actual things to do or things to say in the situations though. But I think empathy is also just tricky in general - it's easy to describe but it's a complex skill that takes repetition and reinforcement and modeling and practice to take hold!

Looking for the lesson plan pieces and parts all typed out and ready to go? You can find it in my TpT store by clicking below:
stand in my shoes empathy lesson plan

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stand in my shoes empathy lesson plan

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