Character Breakfast Club

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Before I was a school counselor, I taught second grade for thirteen years.  One thing I found very successful for parent involvement was hosting a Reader’s Breakfast Club.  These breakfasts were held once each grading period.  Parents were invited to bring breakfast from home or their favorite take-out restaurant and come to my classroom.  During their stay, they would eat breakfast with their children and read together.  The students really enjoyed it, and we always had a great turn out.

As a school counselor, you can host a similar event called the Character Breakfast Club.  This club offers another way to infuse character education into your school counseling program.  How often you hold your breakfast club will depend on your individual school, but once per grading period is a great starting point.  You can eventually hold it once per month if your schedule allows.  Character Breakfast Club can be held before school and does not interfere with the school day.

Decide on the number of families you can accommodate, and make that number clear on your flyer. The number will be determined by your breakfast club location and supplies available. Once you receive the allotted number of R.S.V.P.’s, you can send the official invitation.  You can make your Character Breakfast Club grade level specific, or you can supply a range of activities in order to leave it open to all.  You can also group your clubs K-1, 2-3, and 4-5.  The school where I work tends to have a higher parental involvement in the lower grades, so combining K-1 is difficult.  Once you get a feel for the demand at your school, you can better assess how to schedule each breakfast.

Character Breakfast Club Activities

You will need to schedule 45-60 minutes for your Character Breakfast Club.  This will allow time for families to eat their breakfast for the first 15-20 minutes and leave another 30-40 minutes for the character activities.  These activities may include BINGO games, crafts, and small group activities centered around the topic.  For example:  One topic I will address is Bullying.  I have the Bully-Buster Bingo game from Mar*co which shares several strategies children can use when dealing with a bully.  I also have the activity guide for Bullies are a Pain in the Brain.  This guide has a great true/false type activity about the characteristics of a bully that families can complete together.  Students can also make special buttons pledging to take a stand against bullying.  You can have crayons and stickers available for them to decorate their button inserts.  This will give them something to take with them to remember all they did at the Character Breakfast Club.

Mar*co Products has a lot of BINGO games to choose from including Character Education BINGO, Managing Anger BINGO, and Manners BINGO just to name a few.  They also sell Responsibility and Respect Bingo which I have and love to use.  These are additional topics you can use for your breakfast clubs.  It’s not difficult to find a couple of fun character education activities to keep your participants busy and enjoying some great family time.   Additionally, you’ll have excited kids ready to start their school day on a positive note!

One last thing:  Don’t forget to have an exit ticket at the end of each breakfast club.  It should be simple and easy to complete.  This will help you determine what is going well along with what you can do to improve the effectiveness of your event.

Stick around!  I’ll share more about the Character Breakfast Club in a future post.  I will include a sample flyer, invitation, and exit ticket.

You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you!  Is the Character Breakfast Club something you might consider?

3 Important Tips for New School Counselors

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I remember the excitement and the butterflies I felt as a new school counselor eight years ago.  I had just come out of the classroom after thirteen years and was fortunate enough to get hired as the school counselor at a brand new school.  I applied for my job as a graduate student and was able to have a paid internship.  Although it was a challenge,  I learned a lot and had loads of support in the end.

Now having completed eight years as well as having had a school counseling intern, I know exactly what I would say to the new school counselor.  If you are about to embark upon your very first year of school counseling, I’m sure you are spending lots of time looking for resources, ideas, and thinking about how to plan your year.  I wanted to take this time to tell you what I believe to be three important things you should remember as you begin the new school year..

Know Your Support Staff

Get to know your school social worker, school psychologist, school nurse, and data manager. In my school district, the data manager is the only one of the four who works at the school everyday.  The others come on select days throughout the school week. The five of us form our school’s attendance committee and meet monthly to discuss any attendance issues at our school.  We work together to establish incentives for student attendance and divide tasks among the group in order to get things done.  I always collaborate with our school social worker when I’m dealing with a sensitive student issue whether she is at our school that day or not.  (I have her on speed dial!)  The school psychologist is a great resource when dealing with behavior concerns and for developing a behavior intervention plan when needed.  The school nurse is especially helpful when determining calls I may need to make to Child Protective Services as she can help assess a marking or bruise on a child.  The data manager keeps all of the attendance records and gives me the data I need throughout the school year.  Because I am the only counselor at my school, it is wonderful to know I have these support personnel to work with, bounce my thoughts off of, and to assist me when I need a second opinion.   Be sure to get to know your support staff well!

Communicate Effectively With Administration

Always make sure you are keeping your Principal and Assistant Principal(s) in the loop regarding very sensitive student issues.  If you have to make a call to Child Protective Services, let your Principal know what is going on.  If an angry parent shows up a week later, your principal will not be in the dark.  If an administrator asks you to see a child for a particular reason, always follow up either in person or by email letting the administrator know you’ve seen the student and what you’ve done or plan to do to assist him or her.  If you frequently send emails to teachers to keep them informed about a school-wide program or a school counseling program, “Cc” your administrators in the email.   This will keep them informed and aware of the wonderful programs you are implementing at your school.

Create a General Plan for the Year

As you are learning about your new position during the school year, you will become more knowledgeable about the specific needs of your school.  Communication with teachers, parents, and students will assist you with program planning.  Designing your program around the needs of your school is important.  If you are not at a new school, ask about any data that could be of use to your program such as previous office referrals or low attendance data.  Knowing the areas of concern for your school can help you take a proactive stance in your program.  Our school is a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports school, and we use a data system called SWIS (School-Wide Information System).  Before leaving for the summer, I got a copy of all the SWIS data regarding this past school year’s discipline referrals to assist me with planning for the coming year.  Make a general year-at-a-glance schedule listing what you plan to do knowing it could change as you discover the specific needs of your school.

Don’t stress!  You’ll do just fine.  You can’t go wrong with your ASCA National Model plan in place.  While you’ve got time this summer, read up on what the plan includes, and do some preparation now.  This can include developing your mission and vision statements as well as looking through some sample action plans in order to come up with some ideas for your own plan. (ETA on 7/28:  I’ve recently learned the content page which included sample actions plans has been removed.  I can only guess the reason is due to the release of the third edition which includes some changes.  You can read about the changes here.  I still advise being proactive in regards to thinking about your plan for the coming school year.  I know my school district does a wonderful job of sharing samples from our district in order to assist us.  Be sure to ask your counseling and student services department about this.)

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  What questions do you have as a new school counselor?

Guest Blogger for The Corner on Character

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I am so excited to be a guest blogger today for The Corner on Character!

Please click the button below to check out my blog post

“Making a Difference.”

A BIG thank you to Barbara Gruener for inviting me to The Corner.

I am honored to have been asked!



Thanks for stopping by today!  Be sure to enter the Simon’s Hook Giveaway before

11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, July 8th.

School Counselor PR

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It’s amazing how much I look forward to having a summer break, but I spend all of my time thinking about the next new school year!  My first item of business is looking for ways to make my school counseling program even more visible for 2012-13!

As I packed away some of the books in my office for the summer, I came across a book I purchased eight years ago when I first found out I was hired as the counselor at my school.  It’s called Public Relations Toolbox and it is edited by Barbara Muller-Ackerman.  The information and reproducible items in this book come from the archives of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and is “A practical, hands-on approach to promoting K-12 school counseling programs.”

At the top of the first page in section one is the definition of “public relations” which was taken from the Grolier International Dictionary.  Public Relations are:  1. The methods and activities employed by an individual, organization, corporation, or government to promote a favorable relationship with the public.  2. The degree of success obtained in achieving such a relationship.  3.  The staff employed to promote such a relationship.  4.  The art or science of establishing such a relationship.  After reflecting on my school counseling PR over the years, I decided I could stand to increase my efforts to build this area of my program even higher.

This section goes on to share several things we as school counselors need to remember such as why our programs are an excellent investment, the role of school counselors, what a professional school counselor is, and advocating for the profession.  It also spoke about “quiet efficiency” which is a category I fall under.  I do what I’m supposed to do.  I follow up with parents, teachers, and students.  I conduct my guidance lessons and groups regularly.  However, as stated in the book, sometimes quiet efficiency is not enough.

Public relations also involves recognizing our co-workers and making them feel valued for what they are doing. It gives several examples of positive recognition tools to use to build up the teacher’s sense of being appreciated.   It goes on to share ideas similar to those I pin on Pinterest like the Milky Way Bar with the note “You’re out of this world” or  candy corn with the message “It may sound corny, but I think you’re great!”  Every time I see cute teacher appreciation ideas like these, I pin them on my Teacher Appreciation board. I’m looking forward to finding little ways to encourage the teachers I work with next year.

If I were to share every great thing about this book, this post would be a tad bit lengthy.  I’ll just say, everything in this book is just as relevant today in 2012 as it was when the book was published in 2002.  There are so many ways to increase your school counselor PR.  Here are just a few I plan to implement:

  • Brochure (update)
  • Contact Cards (Vista Print)
  • Phone Tree Messages (to promote different program initiatives)
  • Incentive Cards (Vista Print- for students with behavior concerns)
  • Guidance Blog  (to keep parents informed)
  • Bookmarks, Bulletin Boards, and Recognition
This list includes some things I’ve done in the past as well as some things I’ve thought about doing but haven’t.

Finally, I will begin using National School Counseling Week as a time to crank up the public relations for the school counseling program. I’ve never done that.  There is a section in the book dedicated to this.  It even includes a countdown calendar to help counselors prepare starting one month in advance!

After reading a great post, Mirror Mirror: The Importance of Reflectionon Darrell Sampson’s blog- From the Counselor’s Office, I took some time to reflect on my school year, and this area stood out for me.  I have demonstrated quiet efficiency, but now I am ready to increase my School Counselor PR by including more ways to make my program shine! What are your plans for public relations?

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You may leave any comments here or visit my contact page to email me directly.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Connect with me!