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Top 5 Friday: Records, animals, smiley faces, and more

Well, it’s not Friday anymore, but I promise I have a good reason for not finishing my Top 5 post finished two days ago! After school on Friday, I zoomed to the airport to fly out to meet my niece for the first time. We’ve been bonding ever since, and even though she’s wailing in the photo below, I like to think she’s crying tears of joy at meeting her favorite aunt.

Let’s get to five of the many great things that happened in Love Hall last week:

5. Record-breaking swimming success: The culmination of the swimming units for Third, Fourth, and Fifth Graders in P.E. is one of the most exciting times of the year. At the Third Grade meet, the excitement was worth the slight hearing loss due to the constant cheers (screams). Two Pre-First classes made the trek to Turner to watch their buddies participate in relays and individual events. We saw history made! McKinley Bandy and Nyvette Gray’s student, Cate, broke the record for the Girls 25 Yard Butterfly. The record had been in place since 1985! Way to go, Cate!


Can you hear the cheers/screams echoing? Third Graders have so much spirit!

Cate, our Third Grade record breaker

4. Wildcats, horses, and chickens: I learned a lot about Westminster by reading this blog post by Pre-First teachers Kimberly Rimmer and Jennifer Griffith. Assistant Headmaster Scoot Dimon visited with students to share the history of our school, how we became the Wildcats, why we enjoy Coke products, and lots of information about the rich family history of Westminster. Also, First Grade teacher Andrea Haan visited with the students to tell them all about Cluck Hall!

3. GOAL: A great highlight of the week was the launching of GOAL groups. So much time, careful thought, and detailed planning went into creating the groups of students receiving small group instruction. We’ve had two meetings so far, and the students in my group have shown compassion for each other, self-reflection skills, a genuine interest in the materials we’ll use throughout our sessions, and a sense of humor. If you have questions about your child’s GOAL group, email your child’s homeroom teachers.

2. Chalk time: If you’ve walked through Carpool A and the garden, you’ve noticed the chalk drawings decorating the area. Members of the Kindness Club spent Tuesday afternoon adorning the concrete with happy messages and pictures so that the first thing people see when they arrive at Love Hall is love! Some of the First Graders created a game in which one can step only on the smiley faces on the stairs, avoiding the frowny faces.

KC chalk game 10-6-15

A new game: Step only on the smiley faces! Avoid the frowny ones!

KC chalk 10-6-15

Happy chalk drawing!


When the message is encouragement and love, we’re not sticklers for correct spelling

1. An honor for one of Westminster’s finest: Did you see the announcement in the Weekly Parent Update about the one and only Nancy Beane? Mrs. Beane, Westminster’s wonderful Associate Director of College Counseling, recently was named president-elect of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Here’s another article about this exciting announcement.

Happy long weekend! Teachers and staff will be at school on Tuesday, and students will return on Wednesday. Enjoy the extra time together!


Design Thinking makes people smile

When First Graders ask if they can interview you to find out what makes you smile, they’re off to a smiley start already! A couple of weeks ago, Elizabeth Tozzer and Marlene Getzendanner asked if a few faculty members would sit with their students during Design Thinking to assist with their current project. We took turns chatting with polite First Graders with impressive interviewing skills, firm handshakes included. The kids asked, “What makes you smile?” and follow-up questions. I answered that swimming, eating ice cream, and watching people being kind to each other are things that make me smile. Students around the room took brief notes and drew pictures as we talked, starting to imagine a prototype of an invention that would enhance our lives.

This week, the faculty members were invited back for a presentation. As I sat down at a table, four boys sat across from me holding special contraptions. One by one, they explained that they had built prototypes of things that would make me smile and make my life better. One student had designed a super fast slide that would get me into a pool more quickly than ever before. The other three students showed me wild inventions that infused people with kindness through jumping into tubes and being hit with soft, kind, fluffy bullets. Pretty creative!

Thank you, First Graders!

Read more on the Design Thinking blog here:

Four protoypes of inventions that would make lucky Ms. Strother smile

Four creative inventors in Design Thinking

Rocks, rabbits, LEGOs, and more!

We are almost finished with the sixth week of school! How did that happen? Time flies when you’re having fun in Love Hall. Read on for seven fairly unrelated but fun things to know about our year so far!

1. Fancy decor: My wall tree gets “leafier” by the day! Almost all students’ and teachers’ names are on a leaf. I love to see them when I walk into my room each morning, and I hope that kids and adults feel like they belong in there with me.


Day one — an empty tree


Six weeks into school — check out my tree full of names!

2. Rocks in your shoe: How do you know if your problem is “big enough” that you should seek out your school counselor? Here’s the simple way I explain to students how I can help them with their problems:

“If you had sand in your shoe, could you walk?” I ask the students, holding up a small bag of sand. “Sure,” they reply, “but it would uncomfortable — weird — annoying. I’d want to dump it out!” The grains of sand represent tiny problems or nuisances that kids can take care of by themselves. Through our SEL/Guidance lessons (and everyday teachings by all adults and school and home!), kids can learn problem-solving strategies to deal with sand problems.

Next, I hold up a bag of pebbles. “What about these? Could you walk if you had pebbles in your shoe?” Students’ responses vary, but usually they say, “Yes, you could walk, but it would hurt. You’d be thinking about the pebbles when you take a step.” Pebbles represent the problems that cause pain or feelings of discomfort, and for these, kids can reach out for adult help. I encourage students to go to their teachers as a first point of contact. Are they experiencing friendship drama? Is there a situation at home they need to talk through? Homeroom teachers can help. As their school counselor, I can help, too. A student can write me a note and leave it in the mailbox outside of my door, and soon I’ll find him or her to check in.

Finally, I hold up a bag of rocks the size of small potatoes. “Could you walk if these were in your shoe?” All of the students say, “No way!” I agree. Rock problems are the ones that are so big that functioning normally at school is almost impossible. Teachers and classmates can tell that something’s wrong. Kids should seek adult help immediately. Near the beginning of the school year, a teacher brought a tearful student to my door. The student wanted to participate in morning meeting, but her “rock problem” was weighing so heavily on her heart and mind that she couldn’t think of anything else. We spent 30 minutes together, coloring pictures and talking about her situation.

We all have “sand problems,” “pebble problems,” and “rock problems.” At school, your children are surrounded by adults who guide them toward solving their own problems or step in to provide needed assistance. Don’t forget that this goes for parents, too. Worried about something your child has shared about the day at school? Send me an email or call anytime, and we’ll talk through it.

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Sand problems, pebble problems, and rock problems — we all have them!

3. Pre-First lessons: In Pre-First SEL/Guidance lessons, we’ve focused on good listening skills and the reasons for why we need to be good listeners at school (and home!). Howard B. Wigglebottom is a very silly rabbit who makes poor choices at school by not listening to his teachers and friends. During a stint in time-out, he realizes that it’s up to him to make better choices. He decides to use his eyes and ears to listen, stay safe, respect his classmates and teacher, and allow others to learn. Students enjoyed watching Howard’s animated book online (see this story and many more on and then coloring a paper, making Howard as crazily decorated as possible. They’re learning that Ms. Strother likes for each student’s creation to be different from the next student’s creation!


It’s fun to color outside the lines and make your Howard look different from everyone else’s Howard!

4. Fantastic Five: Do you know the members of the School Counseling Department? I’m thankful to be part of an awesome team. Tray Malloy is the Middle School counselor, and in the Upper School, there are three school counselors to take good care of Westminster’s oldest and wisest Wildcats: Rose Harper, Morgan DiOrio, and Ben Merrill. Our contact information and philosophy statement, mission statement, and belief statement are on my Counseling Department page.

Westminster Counseling department, 9-3-15

The School Counseling Department of The Westminster Schools: Tray Malloy, Kate Strother, Rose Harper, Morgan DiOrio, and Ben Merrill

5. For the birds: The After School Program (ASK!) club of which I am a part is called the Kindness Club. Every Tuesday afternoon is a new adventure. To be kind to our bird population, last week we made a mess pinecone bird feeders to hang outside. From the “to do” list to the final product, it was a packed 60 minutes of stickiness, controlled chaos, and forest exploration. As I explained that they could wait for my assistance, the students surprised me by carefully tying their own pinecones on the branches. It was a humbling lesson for me! Next time, I’ll step back and allow these capable students in Pre-First, First Grade, and Second Grade to lead as I follow.

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Spreading an allergy-friendly mixture of wet ingredients on our pinecones


After rolling the pinecones in birdseed, we were ready to hang them as a treat for our bird friends!

6. Piecing things together: The members of the Lower School Robotics team, the WiredCats, have been busy building mission models and researching “the fascinating world of trash” in preparation for participating in the FIRST LEGO League Challenge with teams across the state. Interested to know more about what we do? Check out the FIRST LEGO League website.


Fifth Grade WiredCats prepare to carefully — very carefully — follow a few dozen steps to build a mission model

7. Game on: Finally, here’s a great blog post from Art it Out Therapy Center about how parents can use games to help improve social skills and self-management in their children. One of the keys to this: Talking before, during, and after the game. Read and bookmark this page for future reference! (I have quite a few card games and board games in my office to get kids talking when we’re in a small group. They share, we all learn, everyone has fun!) Happy gaming!

Top 5 Friday: India, smoothies, and a 5K

What a great week in Love Hall! Here are four things that made your children and their teachers smile and one that we’re looking forward to!

5. India Day: Second Graders celebrated the culmination of their studies on India today with food, music, dance, trivia questions, and crafts. Students rotated through the four classrooms, learning non-stop from parents and grandparents who volunteered to share about their culture. Teachers and some students dressed in traditional Indian attire. It was such a fun morning!

India Day!

India Day!

India Day April 2015

celebrating India Day with a candle craft


4. Fun with Food and FLIK: During Tuesday morning’s Town Hall meeting for parents, Westminster’s Director of Dining Services, Terrence Dromm, and Executive Chef Eric Centeno shared with attendees a wealth of information about the lunches they create for the school. The chicken parmesan on Monday’s menu? Hormone-free, hand-breaded chicken. The tomato sauce? Made from scratch. The brussels sprouts your child hopefully tried recently? A request from a student. FLIK does a ton of programming with the students; if your child tried the black beans available during the celebration of the black bean, he or she received a sticker and a recipe card. Also, FLIK’s wonderful intern, Ms. Busby, worked with Student Council members to educate students about food waste and how to reduce it in our Hamilton Room.

An added bonus at the Town Hall meeting — attendees were treated to a tasty and healthy smoothie made right before our eyes! Thank you, Chef Eric. Also, don’t forget to check out upcoming menus online!

Chef Eric and Mr. McKnight

Chef Eric and Mr. McKnight delight attendees with smoothies all around!


3. Be Responsible: On Thursday morning, Mrs. Plunkett and Ms. Jagger’s Fifth Grade classes taught the rest of the school all about responsibility. The audience enjoyed the older students’ take on well-known fables such as “The Ant and the Grasshopper” and “The Little Red Hen.” Mr. Chalmers and Mrs. Doster lent their expertise to the classes throughout rehearsals and during the assembly. Great job, everyone!

Be Responsible!

Be Responsible!


2. A Sublime way to start the day: He’s so humble that he won’t want recognition for his contributions to the happiness of the Love Hall faculty & staff, so I won’t reveal the name of the male Science teacher who brought Sublime Donuts to school this morning. He also wouldn’t want to receive any thanks for the bagels he provides on some Fridays. And he definitely wouldn’t want praise for the pancakes he’s cooked on a griddle in the faculty lounge. So, let’s leave it as a simple thank you to one of the teachers who cares for not only your children but also his co-workers.

Sublime Donuts? Yes please!

Sublime Donuts? Yes please!


1. Girls rule! Tomorrow morning at Georgia Tech, approximately 20 female Wildcats will run their hearts out in the Girls on the Run 5K. If you’re not familiar with GOTR, take a few minutes and check out their website. Parent coaches, Becky McKnight, and other adult leaders have been teaching a wonderful curriculum and running with the girls for the past few months. Rain or shine, they’ll be running tomorrow! Best of luck, girls!

Have a wonderful, safe weekend!

Articles to peruse and ponder

Parents, it’s likely you’ve read valuable, informative articles from A year ago, they published “A Parent’s Resource Guide to Social and Emotional Learning,” and earlier this month it was updated with new links. Click here for a comprehensive list of many great links related to these topics:

  • Encouraging Kindness and Empathy
  • Cultivating Perseverance and Resilience
  • Fostering Gratitude
  • Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence, and Focus
  • Home, School, and Community Partnerships
  • Children’s Social Selves and Technology

What values and qualities should girls look for in a friend to foster healthy relationships? Are they the same qualities boys should look for? Should children refrain from being angry? When should parents intervene in social conflict? This article from Psychology Today addresses these questions and more subtopics surrounding “frenemies” and friendship as a weapon.

And when you have time, check out this article that responds to the question, “What Do I Do When My Daughter Comes Home Upset?”

Happy reading!

National School Counseling Week 2015


Happy NSCW 2015!


We’re more than halfway through National School Counseling Week, and I’m more thankful than ever to be a school counselor! My work family consists of hundreds of parents, hundreds of children, and hundreds of faculty/staff members campus-wide. How lucky I am to be a member of this family and serve Love Hall!

Thank you, parents, for supporting your child’s homeroom teachers, special area teachers, administrators, and more. The conferences and town hall meetings and birthday celebrations you fit into your busy schedules are deeply appreciated.

Thank you, children, for saying things like “Ooh la la! I LOVE rainbows!” in the middle of my lesson when you see that we’re going to color a rainbow worksheet together and making me laugh so hard.

And thank you, colleagues, for humoring me when I encourage (force) everyone to choose a square for the Super Bowl grid game. Together we buzz around our building every day, doing our best to care for each other and for Westminster’s littlest Wildcats. What an honor!

School counseling has received good press during our celebratory week. Michelle Obama’s thoughts on school counseling appear in a USA Today article here. Details of the 2015 National School Counselor of the Year celebration appeared on the White House blog, and on the American School Counselor Association website, there are many links to articles about celebrating school counseling.

Click below for information about the counselors who will serve your child after he or she leaves Love Hall. Happy NSCW15!

Middle School Counseling

Upper School Counselors

Upper School Counselors’ blog

College Counseling department

The loss of friendship

Today I came across the article below by James J. Crist, Ph.D., author of The Survival Guide for Making and Being Friends, and I loved it.

Every single day I talk to kids about friendship — the ups, downs, hurt feelings, exclusions, and more. Friendships come and go, and they end for many different reasons. The loss of a friendship can be painful for a child (or an adult). When your child experiences friendship loss, the author suggests that you: 1) validate your child’s feelings instead of assuring your child that it’ll be ok, 2) ask questions, and 3) offer suggestions only after asking your child if he/she wants to hear them. Click on the link below for more.

Helping Children Cope with the Loss of a Friendship:


Top 5 Friday: Star Wars, sugar, and a senior

Happy Friday! We’ve made it through our final full school week of 2014! Here are a few things that made the past five days extra fun in Love Hall:

5. A battle for the ages: Who would win in a fight: Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter? At lunch yesterday, this important question sparked a lively debate with three Third Grade boys and one girl. Immediately I established myself in the Harry Potter camp, and across the table it was all about the Force. I claimed (and will claim for all eternity) that Harry’s wand and spells would render Luke helpless. Luke’s supporters maintained that a light saber surely would block all such spells, and the Force would help Luke obtain Harry’s wand. Long story short? We all agreed that whoever got in the first shot would win.

4. Pour some sugar on…: Anyone who passed the First Grade classes this morning got a whiff of deliciousness as students and moms decorated gingerbread houses. I had never seen so much candy in my life. It was heaven. In Mrs. Chapman and Mrs. Haan’s classroom, the visitors also played a greeting/morning meeting game with the students that involved specific clapping sequences and eye contact. So that I wouldn’t disrupt the flow with my eternal lack of rhythm, I took a picture from the safety of the doorway.

frosting + candy + graham crackers + excited students + crafty, Pinterest-loving parents = a fun Friday morning in First Grade


3. A special thank you: Second Graders’ PBL (Project Based Learning) unit on community helpers culminated in a special celebration yesterday morning. Members of the Westminster community were invited to Love Hall for a viewing of the hallway bulletin boards, a visit with the students, and a light breakfast. From the grounds crew to FLIK to our office staff and nurses, these invaluable personnel seemed very appreciative of the students’ interest in their work, but it is the students and the rest of Westminster who appreciate them so much! Thank you!

Westminster’s dedicated grounds crew depicted by Mrs. Bradway and Ms. Shelton’s Second Grade students

A great celebration!

Thank you, nurses and lunch staff!

Thank you, Love Hall office personnel!


2. More appreciation of Westminster’s own faculty/staff: Pre-First teachers Mrs. Dick and Mrs. Widness blogged about their students’ fun social studies project last month, but before this week I hadn’t stopped and taken the time to read the writing and appreciate the drawings on their hallway bulletin board. Take a look at the detail in the students’ work!

Mr. McKnight shared time with the class in his office

Mr. McKnight shared time with the class in his office

Everyone loves learning from Mr. Dimon!

Everyone loves learning from Mr. Dimon!

photos and drawings of the garden between Carpool A and the door to our building and Ms. Hight’s room/studio

photos and drawings of the garden between Carpool A and the door to our building and Ms. Hight’s room/studio

a depiction of Cluck Hall, our chicken coop cared for by Mrs. Haan and Love Hall students

a depiction of Cluck Hall, our chicken coop cared for by Mrs. Haan and Love Hall students


1. A special senior: On Tuesday, a Westminster senior spent a few hours with me to see what a school counselor does. It was fun to hear about her potential college options, current challenges she faces regarding clubs and after school commitments, and memories of Love Hall. When I told her that she’d accompany me to Ms. Tedesco and Ms. Padgett’s class for our guidance lesson, she said, “Ms. Tedesco was my second grade teacher!” They had a happy reunion when we walked into the room, and then the children welcomed the senior and explained the lessons within The Quiltmaker’s Gift, last week’s lesson topic. Ms. Tedesco disappeared for a little bit and then returned with a book of recipes that the student and her classmates had made during their time in second grade!

P.S. Just because hundreds of stuffed animals thrown from the stands onto a basketball court for a good cause is awesome, here you go. Happy weekend!

Art and Science Collaboration

Have you seen the beautiful display surrounding the doors to the front office? Read this blog post from Fifth Grade Science teacher Ms. Linkon for more information about this beautiful artwork!

Fifth Grade Science at Westminster

During our first unit on Ecosystems, students built and maintained living ecosystems in the classroom in addition to researching and learning about common pollutants found in the Atlanta area. Using their research, students designed and carried out pollution experiments to assess how these pollutants might affect an ecosystem.

This year students have also had the opportunity to become working scientists by testing water here on campus (in addition to testing samples from their own neighborhoods) to assess the health of local water sources. We are sharing the data with Lucy Mejia, a graduate student at Georgia State. She will guide them throughout the year in analyzing their data. However, I wanted to find a culminating activity to formally end our unit as we begin to move on to other areas of study.

As a culminating project, students have created an art installation which you will see outside the front office…

View original post 72 more words

Link to ‘About That Child’

I like a lot of what the author wrote in the blog post linked below. Parents, there might be “That Child” in your child’s classroom, and your child’s teachers and I know about him. Please don’t ask your child, “What did so-and-so do today to get into trouble? What did so-and-so do to you? Did so-and-so get a ‘Take 5’?” Please don’t interview your child about other children. Your well-meaning child knows what he thinks he remembers from the school day, but he doesn’t know the whole story. Far from it.

Please don’t ask school personnel about other children. We can’t tell you the sadness happening in the home of “That Child” or how the parents are desperately trying every possible strategy to help with an issue or what the family has been through or the help “That Child” is receiving from multiple resources. If it’s appropriate to mention another child’s name, we will say the child’s name. But in general, we will not tell you information about other families — just like we won’t share information about your family with others. We protect your child and you, too.

Also, students know that when they visit my office to talk, what they say is confidential. That goes for you as well. After we talk, I’ll tell teachers what they need to know but nothing that betrays your confidence. Use me. Call me. Email me. Tell me what you’re worried about, even if it’s something you’re not sure you should be worried about. And if you don’t want the teachers to know that you’ve contacted me, they will not know.

Finally, don’t think that everyone else is doing it better than you. Stop comparing your parenting to someone else’s parenting. No one has it all together. No one. People who seem like they have it all together are faking it just as much as the rest of us. You’re doing the absolute best you can, and sometimes it feels like everything’s falling apart. Give yourself a break, give your kids a break, give your family a break, give the teachers a break, give everyone a break. Maybe someone will give you a break when you need it, too.