Monday morning I was up at 4:00 am (that is 7 am my time) to get ready and run through my presentation on "Enhancing Your Middle School Advisory" program that I would be presenting at 1:30. Nervous? You bet. I had been texting my teacher friends with the hashtag #nervousnellie. I decided to stay cool. I thought a good breakfast would help, so I gathered my notes and prepared to have breakfast alone to think about my presentation. On the elevator ride down, I met some high school counselors from Mississippi and we decided to eat together. We visited casually about some of the ideas we are most excited about and some of our struggles. When we finished eating we went our separate ways. I went up to my room only to realize that I had forgotten my presentation notes in the restaurant. I returned there only to be told that my new friends had taken my notes to get them back to me. I could not recall either their names or where they were headed. Luckily, the ASCA app has a message component where they were able to e-mail me and let me know where my notes were. Whew! Crisis averted! The ASCA app is amazing.
My first session of the day was with the Granite School District in Utah entitled "Reach Higher With College and Career Readiness Resources." It is easy to see why this school district was represented with the First Lady's initiative at Harvard. This program is easy to modify and replicate with all of the resources they have available. There are simple ways to create an aligned program for K-12 schools to be sure they help elementary students become aware of options after high school and think about high school graduation, create awareness of "possibility" in middle school, and plan and apply in high school. The presentation was well worth attending. Here is a link to the weebly they use:
Granite School District plan
My second session was with Carol Kaffenberger from John Hopkins who gave a fabulous overview of the use and purpose of data in counseling programs. ("Increase Student Achievement Via Data") A funny speaker who drew a standing room only crowd, her key idea and takeaway for me was on the importance of writing a good SMART goal to clearly identify what you want to accomplish and tying that to school improvement plans and achievement data. She talked about using achievement data, but as a counselor "stay in your own lane" and do what you are trained to do. I am planning to steal the survey example she used for school culture and identify gaps that I can help to address. She was clear: we want kids to be happy and safe at school, but our goals are written to make a difference in grades, attendance, or behavior referrals.
After lunch, I presented my session on "Enhancing Your Middle School Advisory Program." One unfounded concern I had was that there would not be enough people in my session to run the activity I had planned. As with most worries, there was no truth in that. A little over 50 attendees came to learn more about using a framework to address adolescent needs and show correlation between adult connections and grades, attendance, and referrals. We do know from research that "one adult connection in school is a protective factor for students." I shared my weebly site
WMS Advisory Activities that is a work in progress to help teachers have a framework or theme to work from as they connect with students. We talked at length about various ways to schedule advisory purposefully to support connections and enhance data from an important middle school component-advisory. I learned so much from my attendees and hope the feeling was mutual.
My next session was called "Games and Assessments for Stress Management" with Grace Wilhelm and I had decided to attend primarily since my parent needs assessment survey from last year showed stress and anxiety management as a very high priority. Grace Wilhelm did not disappoint as she showed (in a rapid fire way) the games she uses in classrooms to teach stress management (and study skills and friendship skills and teaching high school requirements....) The board game approach to school counseling is deep in metaphor and visual learning which middle school students love. Grace is an engaging presenter that made me think I would like to spend more time with her! She is approachable and warm and realistic. She gathers data through games. What is more ingenious than that? Here is Grace's website.
Dinner last night was at the Counter. This build your own burger restaurant was great fun and I enjoyed my new counselor friends from Senegal, West Africa, Florida and South Korea! What a fascinating international group. I was impressed with their knowledge and travel experience. My own journey seemed very small in comparison. Thanks Jeannie Maddox for your stamina in organizing our dinner plans and thank you for the conversation. I am a better person for it.
I can't wait to see what today holds in store!