Friday, September 30, 2011

Five Fabulous Facts

In an effort to appreciate the positive things in my day-to-day work and personal life, in order to not let bigger issues and things out of my control weigh me down. I realize that I already blog about the little positive things, because only I could find kids screaming their hate in my face, having The Hulk destroy my office, and doing food-related ice breakers with emotionally disturbed 11-year old boys endearing.

Regardless, here's five fabulous things about today...
  1. Getting some awesome loose tea samples from one of my special ed teachers, whose having a Tealightful party that I am unable to attend (she gave me Carrot Cake Rooibos and Tealightful Sangria... yummers) 
  2. Getting to announce and take pictures of all of my students of the month, plus the three homerooms of the month.
  3. Collaborating on and finishing an FBA/BIP for a kid that is in desperate need of some behavior modification.
  4. Going into a first grade classroom and having a little boy say, "You're the lady that people go to when they're sad." <3
  5. Having a pair of young ladies drop off a cupcake for me at the very end of the day. Ain't nothing like elementary school birthdays.
Have a great weekend, folks!

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Said Yes!

For those who did not see my Facebook post, Boyfriend is now Fiance. Yes, it's true, we got engaged over the weekend! So giddy, excited, cloud 9-ish, etc!

One of the kiddos said to me Monday, "You mean you won't be Miss ___ anymore?" No... instead of Miss Last-Name-You-Can't-Pronounce, I'll be Mrs. New-Last-Name-You-Still-Can't-Pronounce. :)

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Checking In, Hopefully Not Checking Out

After blogging about a universal Tier I PBIS support our school has, our Tiger Ticket program, I wanted to share another initiative new this year in our building. Check-in, Check-out is an evidenced-based Tier II intervention program promoted by the gods at the OSEP Center on Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports. Tier II are secondary prevention measures designed for 10-15% of the school population, or those who do not respond to the universal measures enacted for the whole school at Tier I. Behavioral Tier II typically looks like small group interventions and mentoring in my district.

Check-in, Check-out (hereafter referred to as CICO, because I'm too lazy to type it out every time) is a simple, individualized mentoring program. A mentor is given a case load of approximately 10 students to meet with individually during the first 15 minutes of the school day. Students were chosen for CICO by examining data from last year. If a student had 10+ office discipline referrals during the 2010-2011 school year, or if they have a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP), they were put into CICO. From this data, we started the year with 55 students on CICO. Yeah... we've got some behavior problems.

Every day in the morning the mentor "checks in" in the classroom during breakfast and gives CICO students a daily report card. There are three goals they are working on in our building: be safe, be kind, and be responsible. The student then goes through their day and teachers rate their behavior on a 0-2 point scale in every subject area. During the 15 minutes before dismissal, the mentor returns to "check out" and see how the student did for the day. They record the number of points they earned on their daily report card, make sure they're ready to go home, and praise them for (hopefully) great behavior. Here are our daily report cards:
This is the card for our PreK-5th graders.
This is the card for our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.
Due to a staff shortage and my principal's preference, I took on a CICO caseload. I have seven 6th grade boys, all in self-contained classrooms, two of whom were part of my social skills/anger management group last year. I also have one 8th grade girl who is new to our school this year who has already proven to be an interestingly behaved young lady. I shall have my hands full.

I'm really looking forward to getting into the data. Every two weeks, CICO mentors will be turning in a data sheet with all the point totals from the daily report cards, which will be entered into an online behavioral database. From there, we'll be able to analyze the data at 6-week intervals to make decisions about what the students need. Are they meeting their goal of 80% of their points? Should we prepare to phase them off CICO? Are they holding steady just below their goal? Should we continue CICO or add more mentoring to the program (Check and Connect)? Are they not meeting their goal? Do we need to look into more individualized services at the Tier III level, like individual counseling or a BIP?

Check back in, hopefully I'll have some interesting info for you to check out! (oh word play, I am so witty)

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reminiscent of a Headless Chicken

So the start of the school year has been uber crazy for me. With my CSE chairperson being out on medical, not having a clerk since May, and my social worker only at our building 3 days out of 6, I've been wearing a lot of hats. I've been on the phone constantly with parents, placement, etc, running around helping teachers, making copies, emailing the upper up's about building issues, scheduling CSE meetings and testing munchkins, and meeting on/discussing kiddos. Normally, I take stress and a fast paced work environment super well. I love to be busy because I feel productive and like I'm making a difference. Today though, I had an experience that pretty much summed up my overwhelmed feelings lately.

There's a little boy who has never attended school before and was placed in first grade this year right off the bat. He is totally drowning--no understanding of structure, won't write his name or any words, won't follow routine, etc. Poor little munchkin. Anyway, he got moved down into kindergarten part way through today, and not long after, he got dropped off by his teacher in my office... screaming. At the top of his lungs.

He was utterly inconsolable and would scream in your face if you tried to calm him down. Didn't want a hug (which always works, uh hello), didn't want a tissue, didn't want to color or draw, didn't want anything except to scream. And scream. And cry. And then scream some more.

He screamed for virtually 30 minutes straight. Yeeeeppp...

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Too Important to Fail"

If you missed this PBS special when it aired, you totally need to check out School Counselor Blog's post about Too Important to Fail, a PBS special discussing how schools are failing African American youth, particularly boys. I haven't had time to watch the entire video yet, but I watched about 10 minutes and it was wonderful (not the issue, but the content). If you work in an urban district, it's a must watch.
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Awesome Bullying Resource for Staff & Students

My building, like so many others, faces a big problem: bullying. Most of it is verbal, done online, or done on the sly during the day. Most of it doesn't get reported. When it does, action is taken, but is it ever enough? Can bullying ever truly be eradicated from a school building, or any other establishment or workspace? I could blog on this forever, it's a never-ending battle. Last year I attended a two day training on today's bullying, bullying theory, the district's anti-bullying policy, and the severe negative effects of bullying.

We watched a video that I HIGHLY recommend you both view and purchase for your school. The 40-minute documentary is called Bullied: A Student, a School, and a Case That Made History and it is absolutely free through the Teaching Tolerance website. Bullied tells the inspirational and eye-opening story of Jamie Nabozny, a young gay man who was severely bullied in school. From the website blurb:

"Bullied is designed to help administrators, teachers and counselors create a safer school environment for all students, not just those who are gay and lesbian. It is also intended to help all students understand the terrible toll bullying can take on its victims, and to encourage students to stand up for their classmates who are being harassed."
I can't speak highly enough about this excellent documentary. It is SO powerful. Aside from the fact that it is free to order (why haven't you ordered it yet, you've had a whole paragraph!), it comes with a great viewer's guide with lesson plans, quizzes, and facts for both staff development and student discussion. There are "school climate" surveys for both teachers and students, to gauge how safe invested parties view the school. There are talking points and activities to address empathy, discrimination, courage, and justice when showing Bullied to students (I would recommend it for the 7th grade+ crowd). There's also information specifically targeted towards bullying and LBGTQ youth.

Go now! Order it for your school! Use it for staff development or in classrooms and to start the discussion about bullying at your building. A "zero tolerance" policy is only as good as the universal enforcement behind it. To quote the sign on my door: "Bullying: Confront it. Report it. End it."

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011


My mother always said, "It never hurts to ask. The worst they can say is, 'no.'" She was a smart cookie.

As I discussed previously, I'm in charge of the Students of the Month and Homeroom of the Month initiatives at my building. Over the summer, my principal discussed a few changes to the way the students and homerooms are chosen with me, which I don't really agree with. I'm of the opinion that we should reward kids frequently, consistently, and for relatively simple and minute things. Build up the sense of self-esteem and self-worth in knowing that they can "do it," then increase the expectations and level of performance for a reward, otherwise you'll have no student buy-in. My principal has very high expectations for our students, which in theory is a great thing, but it's hard to expect high poverty, low performing students to have 95% attendance, 100% uniform use, etc. But I digress.

My principal did make some great suggestions though. She wanted to reward our star homerooms with a pizza or ice cream party every month and award repeat winners with a special class field trip at the end of the year. Our student winners get some neat things already--their picture taken and put on a bulletin board, their name announced over the loud speaker and put in the school newsletter, and a certificate--but, I suggested more meaningful incentives, like gift cards or "good for" coupons to local restaurants. My principal also suggested a special field trip for multiple student winners, to really recognize their substantial achievements. Bigger and better rewards for being a kick butt student? Sign me up.

Off I went to fundraise. I totally spammed the postal service asking local fast food chains, grocery stores, dollar stores, etc for donations and funds. Mind you, I'm absolutely prepared to shell money out of my pocket to reward my kiddos, but I knew this was going to be too big of a cost. We typically have 20 students and 1-2 homerooms crowned every month. At first, I had no bites and only rejections, and I was bummed. Then, I started playing phone tag with our local McDonald's corporate office, who wanted to donate coupons. When they asked me what I was looking for, I said that we expect to give out 25 coupons to kids a month, and left it up to them to determine their contribution. Well, they offered me 25/month for the ENTIRE YEAR, all personalized for "McStudents of the Month." Later that week, I received 10 certificates for a free pint of ice cream at a local frozen custard store, 100 coupons to Wendy's, and today, 50 coupons to Burger King, all personalized for my school. Woah.

I was so totally blown away by the generosity of the local business community. True, I understand that they have a commitment to donations and giving to causes in the area, but I never expected such a great response. I'm so thrilled and excited to shower my school with incentives and rewards!

Moral of the story: if you want something, ask for it, because you just might get 250 McDonald's hamburgers and fries out of it.
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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Professionally Proactive

This weekend, I attended the New York Association of School Psychologists (NYASP) executive board meeting in Albany. Wow, what an experience! We covered so many topics and I haven't totally processed everything yet. There were about 40 attendees from all over the state, representing NYASP's public relations, legislative involvement, budgeting and accounting, the newsletter, the awards committee, continuing professional development, conference committees, and of course, local chapter representatives, which is were I fell.

I have to admit, I was wary of attending the board meeting. I wasn't sure what to expect, but only heard great things when I asked colleagues in the area that I traveled with. While my co-representative is a newer member, the other three ladies are seasoned practitioners in the field and with NYASP, so they took us under their wings, which we needed and appreciated! Once the board meeting got going, it was quite enjoyable to discuss issues in the field with like-minded professionals. Mostly, I just sat back and took it in, or chatted with my co-rep. The other board members know their stuff and care so much about the field of school psychology, our interests and expertise, and of course, the kids. It was so great to be with people who "get it" and are working to make sure that other stakeholders do too.

My co-rep and I left with tons of ideas and things to plan for our chapter in the coming year. The first step towards reaching that goal of being more involved in the profession is complete!

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

When Getting a Ticket is a Good Thing

With the first week back to school coming to a close, I thought I'd write about one of the new Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) programs we're going to be rockin' this year. In past years before I came around, the Tiger Ticket system was in place, but not used extensively or to it's fullest potential, so we're trying hard this year to make the most of it. The Tiger Ticket program (aptly named after our mascot) is a typical school-wide, ticket incentive system that fulfills the universal stage of PBIS, which is supposed to meet the needs of 80% of our students (the green base of the pyramid below).

Tickets are awarded to kids "caught" showing good behavior that reflects the values of responsibility, respect, and success. All tickets go into a tub in the classroom and every day, each teacher draws a winner from their tub to receive a small prize (pencil, crayons, stickers). All the tickets go back into the tub, and at the end of every week, a winner is chosen to win a bigger prize (small gift card, small toy or game, homework passes, special lunches). Then, once a month, all the tickets go into one large tub for the whole school, and a winner is chosen for an uber prize (large gift card, passes to a local event or amusement park, video games, etc).

We also are giving out Tiger Tickets to homerooms, in addition to individual kids. If a whole homeroom is "caught" showing good classroom, hallway, cafeteria, or auditorium behavior, or generally going above and beyond expectations, they'll get a Homeroom Tiger Ticket. The homeroom tickets will be one of the criteria for a class to win Homeroom of the Month.

I've decided that every day I'm going to make a point to leave the office and go hand out Tiger Tickets to kids and classrooms. First, it gets me out of my office, and one of my goals is to be more visible and involved in the classes this year. Giving out tickets gets me seeing kids and visiting rooms looking for positive things, not going because someone is throwing a chair, running around the building or has a weapon. Second, it reinforces the PBIS initiative in our building, and gives both the students and staff buy-in to the program. If teachers see someone giving out tickets, or if their kids come back from specials with a ticket, it makes it more likely that they'll start giving tickets out too. Plus, if the kids see their peers getting rewarded, they're going to shape up to try to earn a prize.

Only thing stopping me from showering the world with Tiger Tickets? The pain as my feet get used to wearing high-heeled shoes every day again. Oy.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

You Can Ring My Bell

Staff reported today, and it was great to see my staffy friends! Lots of people were moved either in, out, or around my building, so there are lots of new assignments and grade level changes. Everyone seems to have those back-to-school jitters in the anticipation of seeing how the new school year goes. Love it!

I have a relatively twisted sense of humor, so I find things funny that most people don't. During my opening day chat today, I wanted to tell my co-workers that our CSE chairperson is out on medical leave, so they would be up to speed and know to come to me or Ms. B with any questions or concerns. Here's how it went:

Me: "You're probably wondering why Ms. B and I are up here and not MB. [somber face] MB went to the doctor a few weeks ago, and during a procedure, the doctor found a tumor in her colon that was cancerous...
**school bell system chimes through entire auditorium and cuts out my microphone, mid-serious talk**
Staff: "*GASP!* murmur, chatter, gasp, 'oh dear'"
Me: "... that was probably the worst timed interruption ever."

Hilarious, right?! No? Do I just enjoy awkward humor too much?

Regardless of the inconsiderate bell system, the rest of the opening day activities went well. Can't WAIT to see the kiddos tomorrow! I'm so glad that giddy, back to school feeling arrived.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Goal Setting

Well, with Labor Day tomorrow, the summer truly is coming to an end. Boyfriend and I are having a family get -together tomorrow with our parents, my grandpa, my future step-brother, and Boyfriend's niece (referenced in this blog entry).
Tuesday is the first day back at my building, staff only. I'll be leading much of the opening day activities for the staff, as my colleague and CSE chairperson recently had surgery and will be out until at least October. I'll be discussing new Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) initiatives for the year, the upcoming Response to Intervention (RTI) regulations, new Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) expectations, and other tidbits. Hopefully I won't be a snooze! Wednesday the kiddos return. I have to be honest, I really haven't been excited to return to school since I spent almost the whole summer working, but I am really looking forward to seeing my munchkins! My running friend S, Squirmy McAntsypants, and other blog stars will be returning, but others have moved on. D, the kiddo who Hulked out and threw a chair across my office, was placed in an agency program due to extreme unsafe behaviors, and A was placed at a different school in a class for students with Autism.

As I start the new year, I want to go back to my roots. Every year during my graduate program, we had to update a portfolio of our experiences, case studies, reports, and other important work samples. It mostly was the bane of everyone's "busy work" existence, but once we graduated, it ended up being a comprehensive testament to our Master's degrees (see me being glass half full). One document that was constantly tweaked was our "role reflection," where we had to outline three goals we had for ourselves for the coming year. Here's some new goals for the 2011-2012 school year:

  1. Be more visible. As a school psychologist, I spend an insane amount of time testing, writing reports, and developing IEPs. Sometimes I don't notice I've wasted half a day at my desk until it's 1:00pm. This year, I want to be in classrooms more, whether it's assisting with a lesson, observing, doing whole class interventions, or catching kids "being good." I want to have a positive image for myself not only with the kids, but with the staff. Since I've been in the building for a year, I want to end the adjustment period and make solid, positive relationships with my staff.
  2. Keep better data. Our district was evaluated by the state this year with regards to our BIPs, and only one school passed (not mine, but thankfully the school of one of my Master's cohort friends). I'm going to be a stickler this year both for myself and my staff about BIPs, hence our opening day discussion. I'm a total data nerd, so I'm going to work on getting better, more consistent progress-monitoring data for the behavior plans in our building. It requires a lot of time and energy, and often gets pushed by the way-side when other more critical things come up, unfortunately. Data will be useful not only to monitor student growth, but also for reporting out to parents and administration, and at the CSE table.
  3. Be more involved in the profession. Sure, I'm a member of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), the New York Association of School Psychologists (NYASP), and my regional school psych organization, but that doesn't necessarily mean I do much more than pay dues. I recently became the co-chair representative of my NYASP chapter and am on the planning committee for the 2012 NYASP Conference, which will be held in my area. Next weekend, I'll be attending the NYASP Executive Board meeting in Albany, NY (which I'm sure to blog about), and later this month, will be enjoying a regional luncheon conference. I would love to attend the 2012 NASP Conference in February in Philadelphia, PA, which will be dependent on funds. Professional organizations can be hugely important and beneficial for your career, so I'm looking forward to cultivating those relationships.
What are your goals for the upcoming school year? T-Minus 3 days folks...

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Great Counseling Resource Giveaway

School Counselor Blog is having a giveaway on the great Girls in Real Life Situations, Grades 6-12 program. Thought I would share not only to encourage others to enter to win, but also to give myself a bonus entry. Selfish, I know! This is an excellent resource that I've wanted for a while, but haven't had the occasion to buy yet because I did so few groups last year (just the boys social skills/anger management group, remember?)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm on Facebook!

I've just created a Facebook page for my blog. I thought I ought to get with the social networking times, so please "like" me! :)

I even figured out how to add a button to my side panel! Joy!