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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.

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Day one — an empty tree

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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 www.wedolisten.org) 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!

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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

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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.

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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!

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Confidentiality

It is my privilege to serve the students and families of Love Hall. Trusting relationships are the foundation for all of my work. So, after your child talks with me about something that’s on his or her mind, will I call you immediately and tell you everything? No. My primary relationship is with the child. A school counselor keeps information provided by students confidential.

But shouldn’t parents have the right to know what their children are saying at school? Shouldn’t the school counselor share what has been discussed? Indeed, there are times when parents should know exactly what their children are saying, and when appropriate, I will contact parents right away. However, what a student tells me is confidential unless he is being hurt, wants to hurt himself, wants to hurt someone else, and/or gives me permission to share. To come to me, students must be able to trust me. They must trust that I will help them — and if that means getting help from another adult, including parents, it is my obligation to help them however I can. Below is an excerpt from a 2008 article entitled “What Parents Need to Know About Confidentiality” that explains more.

“While respecting the rights and responsibilities of parents/guardians for their children, the school counselor works to establish a mutual relationship with parents/guardians to maximize a student’s development. … School counselors also adhere to laws, local guidelines and ethical standards of practice when assisting parents/guardians experiencing family difficulties interfering with a student’s effectiveness and welfare. School counselors are sensitive to diversity among families and recognize that all parents/guardians, custodial and noncustodial, have certain rights and responsibilities for their children’s welfare. School counselors also make reasonable efforts to honor the wishes of parents/guardians concerning information regarding the student, and, in cases of divorce or separation, exercise a good-faith effort to keep both parents informed with regard to critical information, with the exception of a court order.”

The guiding body for school counselors in the United States is the American School Counselor Association. The ASCA position on confidentiality is as follows: “School counselors recognize their primary obligation for confidentiality is to the student but balance that obligation with an understanding of the family or guardians’ legal and inherent rights to be the guiding voice in their children’s lives (ASCA Code of Ethics, 2010, A.2.d).” To read the full statement about confidentiality, click here.

You know your children better than anyone else knows your children. I work to establish trusting relationships with students and with parents, consulting also with mental health providers outside of Westminster to deepen these relationships. I will share with you what your child gives me permission to tell you, and if I feel it would beneficial for you to know more, I will gently encourage your child to open up to at home. In some situations, this encouragement will take place over multiple days.

So, in my room, students can unburden themselves and tell me whatever they’re thinking and feeling. They can feel safe knowing that I’ll share their thoughts with others only if one of the four following situations applies:

  • Someone is hurting you
  • You want to hurt someone
  • You want to hurt yourself
  • You give me permission to share with a trusted adult

I am in the process of visiting all classes to explain the confidential relationship between student and school counselor. I discourage the word “secret” when we talk about confidentiality; I encourage students to understand that what they tell me is private. Below is a poster that hangs in my office. Parents, if you have questions about confidentiality or if you’re curious about any part of a school counselor’s job, please email, call, or stop by anytime. I look forward to partnering with you.

What you say in here stays in here POSTER

Confidentiality poster in Ms. Strother’s room

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 edutopia.org. 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

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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: http://freespiritpublishingblog.com/2015/01/30/guest-post-helping-children-cope-with-the-loss-of-a-friendship/

 

Parenting the Love and Logic Way™ course begins Feb. 5

From the Weekly Parent Update:

“Lower School counselor Kate Strother will offer the Parenting the Love and Logic Way™ course (five sessions) on Thursday mornings beginning February 5, 8:15-9:30am. Participants will learn how to avoid unwinnable power struggles, set enforceable limits, help their children learn from mistakes, and stay calm and empathetic even in the toughest situations. This program is designed to give parents practical skills they can use immediately! The curriculum was developed by Jim Fay, Charles Fay, Ph.D., and Foster W. Cline, M.D., of the Love and Logic Institute, Inc., and Kate is an independent facilitator of the program. The sessions will be held February 5, February 12, February 19, February 26, and March 5 in the Smythe Gambrell Library.”

Q. What if I am unable to attend one of the sessions?
Attendance at all five sessions is ideal, but it’s understood that something might come up that will conflict with one or two sessions. (See RSVP link below.)

Q. What materials will be available for my use?
Each participant will receive a workbook and additional printed materials.

Q. What is the format of the sessions?
The course combines DVD clips, presenter delivery, audience discussion, and workbook notes.

Q. Will I be expected to spill my family’s deepest, darkest secrets and personal tales of my child’s meltdowns in the grocery store?
Participants will be expected to have FUN. The atmosphere will be relaxed, honest, encouraging, and safe. If you’d like to share about that time you totally lost it in the produce section at Publix, we’ll make time to hear it! (Prediction: You’ll receive knowing nods of sympathetic agreement from the rest of the room. All parents probably have been there.)

Q. Will I be expected to follow this program word for word?
Absolutely not. A lot of information will be presented, and participants will be encouraged to choose the parts of the program that they’d like to try with their family.

Q. Do I need to read the book Parenting with Love and Logic before attending?
No.

Q. What should I do if I have a question you haven’t answered here?
Call or email Kate anytime! (404-609-6158, katestrother@westminster.net)

 

RSVP here

Town Hall on executive functioning

Dawson-Smart-but-Scattered-BookYesterday morning, Dr. Carol Matheson presented information about executive functioning in the Town Hall meeting. Then she and Nancy Lamb answered thoughtful questions from the audience and talked about the current GOAL groups in Fourth and Fifth Grades focused on this topic. Mrs. Lamb also shared that even the games played during morning meeting in Pre-First help children practice skills in executive functioning areas such as emotion control, self-control, working memory, planning, and problem solving.

Dr. Matheson recommended that parents read Smart But Scattered to learn more about how to help children succeed in everyday tasks — remembering to write homework in the agenda, packing a snack the night before school, finding things quickly in the house, etc. In fact, more than 15 parents in attendance showed interested in having a book club talk on the book! If you’re interested in participating in that get-together, email Becky McKnight. (More information about the book on the authors’ website.)

Town Hall exec functioning, Nancy and Carol 1-20-15

P.S. Check out Nancy Lamb’s blog post from today to find a link you can click on to download Dr. Matheson’s PowerPoint presentation.

 

Common Sense Media: Parent Concerns

If Common Sense Media isn’t one of your go-to websites, make it one of your go-to websites starting today. Is Minecraft ok for Pre-First kids? Should your child be 13 years old to have an Instagram account? Should your child see Selma? Is “everyone’s” favorite new book series truly appropriate for your child’s age level? If The Maze Runner film is rated PG-13, is The Maze Runner action game for iPhone really ok for nine-year-olds? What was that new TV show your child’s friend mentioned? Find answers to all of these questions on Common Sense Media!

Also check out the new Parent Concerns section for articles and advice about screen time, internet safety, learning differences, social media, and much more: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/parent-concerns

Art It Out

On Tuesday, I visited a wonderful therapy center called Art It Out. The therapists there provide individual and group therapy services to children and teens. I have referred families there for a few years and communicated with one of the therapists, but before their open house this week I had never visited the office. I wanted to stay in their colorful, happy rooms all afternoon! Check them out at http://www.artitout.com.

If you’d be willing to share the name of outside counseling center that has been helpful to your family or someone you know, please email me! I look forward to learning about the many places in our community available to help anyone and everyone through tough times.