Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What To Do When I Feel Blue

If you hadn't figured it out yet I love animals, especially dogs and cats. So there is a fun activity I did with a kiddo I work with individually:

We drew a paw and on each part of the paw my student wrote one thing to do when he/she is blue. The teacher told me she keeps it in her desk and pulls it out when she needs it! Yay!

Speaking of helping the blues, I got goosebumps of happiness when I saw that comfort dogs were going to Newtown to assist and comfort the survivors.
 Animals are amazing. Wishing those in Newtown lots of comfort during this difficult time.

Banana Splits

I remember when I got Brooklyn she had a brother with her, and I was torn. One the one hand we thought we could only handle one and on the other we  didn't want to tear apart a family. The lady at the shelter reassured me saying, you are helping one and many people feel this way. If everyone didn't want to tear apart a family then they would always stay here.

As a child of divorce, my banana splits group always hits close to home. I wish I would have had a group like this. Here is how my banana splits group looks:

Our first group we do icebreakers and get to know you games, then in the following sessions we base  the group about the game "Splitsville."
 This is a super fun game that allows the kids to take turn creating banana splits, while answering questions about their feelings, changes that have happened, ways to relax, etc. Everyone in my group enjoys this game and I like the round table discussion that comes from it.

Last year I made banana splits at our last meeting, and although it was fun, it was messy and we didn't stay too focused. So this year we made paper banana splits, here's how they turned out. I love them.

Banana Split #1

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Don't Be An Angry Bird Prt. 2

Here is a lesson I did last year on anger. It was a lot of fun and I can't wait to do it again.

                                                        Angry Bird Ball Toss

I downloaded this game on the SmartBoard Exchange. Students took turns throwing a stuffed angry bird at the game and depending on what color they hit they had to answer the question. If they got a question someone had already answered they had to make an additional comment or come up with a different answer.

Ball Toss Game

Sample Situation Question

An Important Look At Mental Health

There is so much to say about Friday and yet I can't seem to find the words at all.

This article is a heartbreaking look at mental health issues in our schools and in our country. I encourage you all to read:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Top Dog Bulletin

As part of my character education program each month I ask teachers to nominate a "top dog" in their class that  exemplified the word of the month. (Here is a list of my character education words:
 I honor those students by placing their names on a bulletin board for all to see and creating a "top dog" certificate. They love it! Next year my plan is to have the top dogs eat breakfast together to celebrate.

Our Student Council board in August

Look Whose Been Spotted

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don't Be An Angry Bird!

Last night my foster pup, Seven, and my pup Brooklyn were playing when things got a little rough. There was a little too much growling and nipping my for comfort and I could see their friendly play going from joking to anger. Swiftly they were in their crates for a time out. Seven was snoring moments later.

How ironic that hours later I would be at school hosting my final "Cool Beans" small group, a group for students with anger. Today we finished up our group by creating "cool down goodie bags." Here's a peak:

I laugh too much to be mad.
A reminder to listen to calming music.
  • The Bag: To start the group I had them docorate one side of the bag with words and images that helped them calm down. One student drew a chair with the words "push, pull, dangle," a method we learned about when reading Julia Cook's "Soda Pop Head." Another drew the beach, a claming image, and surrounded it with cool down methods. My example bag had three pictures glued to it, each that make me giggle. 
This picture not only makes me laugh, but reminds me that a bath always calms me down.


On the other side of the bag I had the kids write their final "warm fuzzy." One nice compliment to each other or a finally good-bye wish. I wrote one as well.
  • The contents:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Shhh...when we can't use our words

On a recent dark, chilly fall evening, a three year old child wandered out of his home un-noticed by his parents. His departure was, however, observed by the family dog, a large neutered  male Pit Bull, who took it upon himself to follow the little boy and stay close by his side. 

This adorable pup and his microchip saved his three year old brother, without even a single bark. Read more at:

This year we have a student that started Kindergarden that has been diagnosed with Selective Mutism. When she started our school she didn't say a word and constantly wore a stone face, but to date I am proud to share that the students have reported they aren't able to work because "she was chatting too much."

I remember meeting with the mom and the beginning of the year and we discussed what would happen if she got lost. The fear is having too much identifying information on her, because that could be just as unsafe. When I saw this article at I really thought wow wouldn't it be amazing to help train therapy dogs for these students and the dog carries the identifying information.!

Watch a wonderful video from ABC on Selective Mutism here:

 I also want to share a tip that our counseling supervisor shared with me this year. It has to be one of the single best tips I have gotten this year! Often when students are angry, frustrated, mad, upset, struggling we say "Do you need help?" and then probably follow up it with a little talk that goes something like "When you need help you need to ask an adult for help. I can't help you when you get upset, you need to use your words and calm down." Well as my supervisor pointed out many of our students don't have the maturity or skills to do this yet. When we ask them if they want help we are teaching them that if they get frustrated enough, melt down, then someone will step in and help. So instead of asking when the student gets upset just look at them and say "I need help." That's it. Model the words you want them to use.

Sounds crazy right, well I tried it out this week. I was working with a student that just won't complete any work. I could see he was getting frustrated so I said " I need help."  He looked at me puzzled so I continued "I would be glad to help you....." We did a problem together and I let him continue alone. A little while later I could see that same look so I said "I need help" and we repeated the scenario. As if on cue (seriously it was straight out of a training video) another girl walked up and said "Ms. Filtness can you help me?" I went above and beyond with the "Yes_____ I would LOVE to help you. Thanks for asking for help." You would have thought she won the lottery. About two minutes later my student looked and me and said "I need help." I almost fainted with excitement. He got it!

I shared this strategy with another teacher who has a student that melts down. We are creating a cool down area for him and I suggested when he got upset to just say "I need to go to my cool down spot." Today he melted she used the cue and I am happy to report he pouted right over to his spot. I'll blog more on this later, but I had to share this tip!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Play That Funky Music

I love incorporating music into my lessons, because I think it really sets the tone. So I have created several play lists for my classes.

My Current Playlist:
"Better Together"- Jack Johnson
"You Were Born"- Cloud Cult
"People Watching"- Jack Johnson
"Life Less Ordinary"- Carbon Leaf
"Let Your Troubles Roll By"- Carbon Leaf
"Safe and Sound"- Taylor Swift
"Mango Tree"-Agnus and Julia Stone
"The Wind"- Cat Stevens
"Shed Their Fear"-Yael Meyer
"Keep On Pushing"- The Impressions
"The Weight"- Aretha Franklin
"You Are The Best Thing"- Ray LaMontagne

Relaxing at the DSRR (My play list to encourage the kids to calm down and mellow. Perfect for the classes I see right after their recess.)
"Fairytale"-Enya (anything Enya is always on)
"Edwards Lullaby"- Twilight Soundtrack
"Dirty Rain"- Ryan Adams *for 6th grade and older
"Heartbeats"-Jose Gonzalez
"The Light"- The Album Leaf
"For You"- Coldplay
"Where The Road Meets The Sun"- Katie Herzig *for my middle and older kiddos
"Home"- Dierks Bentley

*Also one of my teachers shared this iTunes App for Relaxing Melodies.

Helping Hands Playlist
"With My Own Two Hands"- Jack Johnson
"You've Got A Friend In Me"- Toy Story Soundtrack
"We are Gunna Be Friends"- Jack Johnson

Get Energized Playlist
"Good People"- Jack Johnson
"Life Less Ordinary"- Carbon Leaf
"Harlem River Blues"- Justin Townes Earle
"Amazing Life"- Jem
'Pride and Joy"-Stevie Ray Vaughn
"Groove Is In The Heart"- Deee Lite
"Different People"- No Doubt
"Raise Up"- Ledisi *for my older hs students
"Stand Up"- Sugarland
"You've Got The Love"- Florence and The Machine
"Even Better"- U2
"We Take Care Of Our Own"- Bruce Springsteen

My favorite song to play for 1st and K- "Sharing Song" by Jack Johnson!

Here is a great Christmas play list created my one fun blogger I follow:

What music do you play? Share your favorite play list.

Labels and Self Fulfilling Prophecies

Labels and Self Fulfilling Prophecies

See anything funny about the wording on this kennel card? We did and so do the brand new managers of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. So starting this week, Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter will be removing all stereotypical language from their signage and describing each dog's individual personality traits rather than tired and outdated definitions. We can imagine this is going to help their adoption rate in really BIG ways too.

Thanks guys! We salute you and look forward to seeing big and happy changes roll out at your shelter. Learn more by liking Bad Rap on Facebook.

When I saw this I started thinking about labels and the self fulling prophecy.

I have seen lots of lessons on labels on Pinterest and around my school. I have seen activities where a student draws a picture of themselves and then adds labels like "smart, funny, etc." So if a child labels themselves smart will they live up to it?

When I was in school I remember learning about the idea of a self fulling prophecy and not thinking too much of it. Now I feel like I reference the idea daily. According to Wise Geek. com "The self-fulfilling prophecy is a statement that alters actions and therefore comes true. For example, a person stating “I’m probably going to have a lousy day,” might alter his actions so that such a prediction is fulfilled by his actions."

I truly believe we live up to what we think we are capable of, but also we live up to the stereotypes placed upon us. For example, if you are so certain (despite all evidence to the contrary) that pitbulls are likely to bite then you will probably be skidish around the breed and treat them differently than other dogs, maybe even be cruel to them. If the dog picks up on this and eventually becomes so scared or frustrated that they do act out, then you are going to say "see told you so."  The opposite could be true. You could believe the facts and know that this breed is snuggly, loving, compassionate, and protective; then when you treat them with love and respect and they do the same in return say see "pits are amazing" (something I say daily also.)

So the same is true for our kids. This is why I know some teachers that want to know nothing about a child's educational and behavioral past. They want to make their decisions and form their own opinions,  and thus not letting others sway how they treat a student.

The past two years I have had a student who is so attention starved that he acts out behaviorally. He is mean, hurtful, rude, and finds every way to get under you skin. Last year the kids had enough and when the teacher asked them to give input into their new seating arrangement every student in the class requested that they didn't have to sit by him. This year I feel like he is living up to that image, he is full filling his own self full-filling prophecy. If everyone hates him then he is going to do things to make them hate him. The students gave him a the nickname "not so smart" and this year I see him making "not so smart" choices.

In a recent article by the Huffington Post they posed the question "Is Bad Body Image A Self-Fulling Prophecy?" I thought this was a fascinating question. I, for one, when feeling 'fat' or 'unhappy,' tend to eat to eat junk, stay indoors, and mope. So if I feel fat and partake in activities that will in fact lead me to gain weight have I fulfilled my prophecy?

So how do we break the cycle, how do we break the prophecy?
How do we change our future? Well here are my thoughts:

1) We teach students how to use positive "I- messages." I think the "I" gives the student a sense of of ownership. If we can teach them to use positive messages then we are setting them up for a postitive frame of mind.

2) Teach our students cognitive-behavioral techniques. One of my favorite series of books is the "What To Do When..." For example in "What To Do When You Worry Too Much" there is a great chapter on talking back to your 'worry monster' and changing negative thought patterns into positive ones. By taking kids from "I'm so stupid, I am going to fail" to "I didn't do well on this test, but with more practice I'll ace the next one" we can hopefully change their prophecy.

 Have you seen the inspirational story of London? Here is dog that despite being abused and loosing his two front legs, probably never thought "I can't catch that ball." No, he probably thought really hard about what we was going to do to catch that ball and did it!

Inspirational videos I think are good to set the mood, but to really get student "buy in" I think our students need to inspire themselves.......

3) So, we need teach our students to be optimistic. Here is a Ted Ed I found from Martin Seligman on positive psychology and the 11th reason to be optimistic.

"Seligman believes that there are three different types of happy lives: the pleasant life, the engaged life, and the meaningful life." One of the dig deeper ideas is to "try what Seligman calls the “Gratitude Visit” [16:53]. Keep a written journal or a video diary to record your feelings before and after the exercise." 

What do you think?

Helping Hands

Hands are not for hitting! Hands are for helping!!

This is a must have lesson for Kindergarden (although I remember working in a high school thinking they needed this lesson too- you know the saying everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarden!)

Here is how I approached the lesson this year:

A counseling must have book.

  • I use the "Magic Coloring Book of Feelings" every year in K to introduce myself and my job. The kids sometimes see me in the hall and say "hi magic book lady." So I start my lesson with this book and it's an instant attention grabber, because they are always begging for it even if I bring it every time.

This year I couldn't find my copy of the book so my awesome music/tech teacher found it online:

  • At the  end of the book we chart what hands are for, what we NEVER do with our hands, and what we should do when we are mad. This is also when I discuss that this goes for people, belongings (throwing, ripping, etc.) and animals! I think it's really important that we include animals in this. *

*Speaking of helping hands and animals. This holiday weekend 65 wonderful, but terrified dogs were rescued from a county nearby.  These poor babies were in deplorable conditions because they were being fought and many had their teeth pulled so they could be bait dogs. I encourage you to extend your discussion to animals. Although I did not discuss this case with my class, we always discuss how to treat others and that we should treat animals the same way. It's a conversation I don't think is happening enough.

  • After the discussion I have the students create their own hands and write two things they should use their hands for. 

  • To end, if there is time, we review the lesson and then read a book. This year I read "You'll Be Sorry." Which I actually found at Hastings for $1.50!  

*Please consider donating items or money for Operation Broken Chain and the 65 dogs that were rescued by visiting: or liking ARC  or Nashville Pittie on Facebook

Monday, November 19, 2012

D is for Data: No Friends We Can't Escape It

This is the face I make every year preparing for evaluations.
Today I was preparing for my evaluation this year and don't get me started because it's absurd to me. So before I get on my soap box let me focus on the current trend I see in counseling: data. We are becoming a data driven program, and the data we use is just as important as the data teachers use. We can't escape it, data data everywhere.

So what are you doing to gather data?
Here's how I am trying to incorporate my data.

First, our teachers sit down monthly for "data meetings." During this meeting our amazing intervention teacher goes through each student looking at the numbers. They discuss who is showing improvement, who needs additional help, who can move out of intervention, etc. I sit in and give them generic information "well there is so home issues I am working on with that student so just remember that when looking at the data."  These meetings are very productive, we often can't fit everything we want to into the meeting. Here is how I see my role in the meetings:
1) Reminding them of the child and the history/story behind the numbers.
2) Getting referrals for small groups (this is a great place to hear teachers talk about so and so and his/her anger).
3) Identifying the students that might slip through the cracks. I like finding the students that are doing fine, but perhaps with a small group on study skills could be even better.

Here is what I take to "Data Monday's":

Permission Forms to see students we think would benefit from a small group.
A schedule of dates for teachers and copy for each student in the group.

Sample invitation to a small group.
Since I just started attending regularly my goal is to track the students I see in small groups for two years and chart their improvement in standardized testing as well as classroom grades. Check out Mrs. Bunyi's list of "Assessments A-Z."

Mrs. Bunyi's List of Assessments A-Z

Second, surveys. I give a survey for everything. Survey Monkey is the easiest way to collect data and administer pre and post tests, so I send out surveys for everything.

Here are a few examples:
Internet Use Survey-

What Do You Worry About-

Team Building Survey-

How Can Your School Counselor Help You-

Here is another great self assessment I found for small groups  so students can gather their own data. I don't remember where I found it, but if I had to guess it was the ASCA Scene.

Third, I track participation. I have data showing how many parents attend my workshops, how each topic we do a workshop on does as far as participation numbers, the best times and months for workshops, numbers on how many students receive my services, etc. I have a lot of numbers.

Sample of a newsletter I sent out to teachers. It included data for our teachers to see that I don't just sit around all day.

Lastly, I look at behavior by the numbers. This year our school incorporated the behavior section of AimsWeb. It asks teachers complete a behavior survey on every child three times a year, which I know it's timely but it can be so helpful. It also asks students complete a self survey. This program has it's pro's and con's but it makes for good data.

My new favorite data tidbit! Love Pinterest.

Speaking of data, I just started following a super cute website "Life With a Pit Bull By Your Side."
She has a super cute and funny entry on data and facts. For example, did you know in Miami you can own a tiger, but not a pit bull. Also, did you know that in canine temperament tests the data shows that about 86% of pit bulls passed showing no signs of aggression, higher than many other dogs including Beagles.
Don't believe just look at the data: