Thursday, March 28, 2013

Self-Esteeming Through Spring

Self-esteem is how one feels about oneself.  This encompasses pride, respect, and sense of self-worth.  There are five building blocks to self-esteem:
  1. Security: feeling comfortable and safe
  2. Selfhood: feeling a sense of individuality, self-knowledge
  3. Affiliation: feeling acceptance, relatedness, and a sense of belonging
  4. Mission: feeling a sense of purpose, setting attainable goals
  5. Competence: feeling successful and accomplished, awareness of strengths and acceptance of needs
All human behavior is based on the need for esteem and intrinsic in human nature is the need for esteem.  Dr. Nathaniel Branden regards "self-esteem as the single most powerful in our existence...[He states that] the way we feel about ourselves affects virtually every aspect of our existence."  The good news is that self-esteem is learned, therefore, it can be taught. 

Here are some strategies you can try at home: 

  • Post affirmations that describe your child around the house or hide them in places (like a sock drawer or pocket) to build them up.
  • Hang up an "I Can" calendar in your child's bedroom or on the fridge (someplace where they will see it often).  Make sure the calendar has enough space available for your child to write something they are proud of themselves for doing at the end of each day.  They could share this at dinner or as part of a nighttime routine.
  • Model healthy ways that you deal with feelings, this will aid your child to connect feelings with responses that show respect to themselves as well as to others.
  • Enjoy family time together and integrate self-esteem building activities such as: the high and low of your day, compliment each other, highlight different family members on different days, etc.
  • With the plethora of schoolwork and artwork that comes home, it becomes difficult to continue posting each masterpiece.  One easy way to organize and preserve work is to have your child pick out the ones they are most proud of and add them to a binder or scrapbook each week.  This is a simple way to let your child know that you value their work.
  • Have your child make a superhero card that advertises their true characteristics: statistics about themselves, groups/teams to which they belong, abilities, hobbies, interests, likes, beliefs, history, birthplace, where they live, school, etc.  They may even wish to design their own "crest" or symbol that represents them.
  • Practice "I Statements" (I feel _____, when you ____, so please _____.) to encourage healthy expression and positive means to conflict resolution.  In doing this, you acknowledge that your love for them is separate from your disapproval of their actions.

Around the hallways I have hung up different posters that promote self-esteem to encourage and remind children to have a positive attitude about themselves.  April is a great time of the year for this with the stress of STAAR testing looming above their heads.

Here are some posters I found on Pinterest:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How Big is the Problem?

As the school year has progressed, I have noticed a pattern developing with my fourth graders.  Most days when they come in from their morning recess a line starts forming outside my office of students furiously writing requests to see me.  If they see me in my office I am occassionally attacked by an angry mob. :)  In looking at the sheet I record my self-referral requests, the column of fourth graders seems to reach the bottom of the page while other grade levels are still hovering at the top.  I decided it was time to step back and use my next guidance lesson to re-evaluate when it's time to seek out the counselor.  Inspired by Social Communication Services with Mrs. Cardenas, I found the perfect way to solve this growing problem of my own!

I started off with shocking news.  I would not be there to help them with their problems for the rest of their life.  I know, very sad. :(  Some kids were shocked...others were like, "Duh!"  I will be here for them while they continue through Lee Elementary, I will be here for them when they come back to visit, but once they've moved onto high school/college/real life - they are going to have to depend on themselves to find the resources they need.  I reviewed some of the lessons we've worked on throughout the year and how I've been preparing them to solve conflict on their own for these dangerous times that lie ahead in the future.

I then introduced the Problem Scale to them.  The Problem Scale can help us evaluate how big our problem is.  Is it a glitch on the radar or a small problem (0-3)?  These can be handled on our own without adult assistance.  Is it a medium problem (4-6)?  These can be attempted & be successful or attempted & need additional assistance.  Or is it a big problem (7-10)?  Big problems = See Ms. Sepp immediately.  I passed out 2 post-its to each student and had them anonymously record  2 separate problems that they have encountered or heard of a friend encountering.  It needed to be a recent problem, but it could have happened anywhere.  Students took a few minutes to brainstorm, and then they stuck their post-its onto the Problem Scale based on how large they felt their problem was.

Once all students had posted, we went through the post-its together and decided if we agreed or disagreed on where it was placed.

The smaller problems included things such as losing your pencil, whereas the bigger problems included things such as my parents are fighting.  Most post-its we moved a little bit up or down the Problem Scale after discussion, but there were definitely ones that were perfectly placed.  I did reinforce that we all handle problems differently and only we are in charge of how we feel.  What might roll right off someone's back might feel like the end of the world to us - and vice versa.  I also shared with them that when I have 15+ requests to see me, it becomes a waiting list that could go on for weeks.  I want to be there for them to listen and problem solve, but the sheer number of self-referrals prevents me from getting to everyone in a timely manner.  Going forward I asked them to use the Problem Scale before they fill out a request to meet with me.  Ask your teachers for help and report to them while you're out at recess because they are here to help with those medium-sized problems.  Think about which problems are small and can be solved on your own.  This way when you really need me, I can be there for you asap! :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cyberbullying Presentation

On March 22 we were lucky to invite an amazing speaker come talk to our 5th & 6th graders about cyberbullying.  Reggie Cajayon, School Safety Specialist from the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University, brought to life an important safety message that continues to surface at schools across the country.  He presented a hands-on, engaging, and interactive way to educate students on what is cyberbullying (what it includes), the effects of cyberbullying (for both the victim and the bully), and steps to take if cyberbullied or know of cyberbullying (who to report to, etc.).  Students left feeling safe with what steps they need to take to prevent the threat of online predators and bullying.


Although Lee Elementary does not have a widespread issue, even one incident is one too many.  We are enlisting our families to help monitor online activities.

What to Monitor:

  • Online Gaming/Chatting: Game systems (Xbox, Playstation, Wii, etc)
  • Laptops & Social Websites
    • Grades K-2: Disney, Webkins, Poptropica etc
    • Grades 3-5 – Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo! Groups, MySpace, Twitter,
  • Cell Phones, iTouch, iPad ‘Apps’ (Instagram, etc)

How To Monitor:

  • Know the minimum user age recommendations for all sites
  • Read up on the American Academy of Pediatrics policy on media use:
  • Password protect all screens in house (TV, computer or internet devices, cell phones)
  • If children use technology, teach them to keep passwords secure and log-in where others can’t see or learn the password.
  • Know the safety measures to prevent access or bloc inappropriate content
  • Be cautious about your own social media habits.  Status updates, twittering details about daily activities, and “checking in” at locations leaves you vulnerable.  Children will want to do what you do when they get their own accounts.  Bullies and/or predators rely on posted information when they hunt for targets.
  • Maintain full parent access to all student use of email, phone and computer
  • Routinely log-in to see what persona your child projects when using technology
  • Talk about the short-term and long-term effects of what is posted online.

How to Intervene

  • If the privilege is being abused or is the source of too much distraction, remove the device or the power source.
  • Tell them to “Stop, Print & Tell” if they receive something that makes them uncomfortable
  • Contact social network providers to access the full range of options available to you to safeguard your child and his/her information.
  • If you have a concern off-campus, call Austin Police Department by dialing “3-1-1”, the non-emergency line.  Call “9-1-1” if you fear a threat or imminent harm is involved.

 What is Lee Elementary Doing?

  • Guidance lessons on building relationships, practicing social emotional skills, lessons on bullying, decision making, tattling vs. reporting, conflict resolution, and internet safety
  • “No Place For Hate” Campus – Promoted by the Anti-Defamation League to conduct annual building-wide activities that combat bullying, violence, including student-signed “Resolution of Respect”
  • 5th & 6th Grade Cyberbullying Presentation
  • Staff Training - Cyberbullying and bullying prevention, reporting incidents, prevention, internet safety

We all work hard to raise children who grow into caring, thoughtful adults.  They make mistakes in the process and hopefully learn along the way.  However, the permanence of words and images in cyberspace adds intensity and longevity to the consequences. 

For more information go to:

US Dept. of Health and Human Services: 

Center for disease Control: “Electronic Media and Youth Violence”:

Also check out my tab on Cyberbullying and Internet Safety with links to games, activities, and resources.
Thank you for your partnership in helping to keep all children safe.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Self-Control with Kinder & 1st

Our character trait for February and March is self-control/self-discipline.  During our morning announcements we have been reading famous quotes and elaborating on the meaning of this.  Self-discipline means following tasks to completion and being dependable for doing what you say you will do.  What skills and attitudes are needed to take more responsibility for our learning?  What are the rewards of having self-discipline?  To make good choices we sometimes need to gather information first before a final decision is made.

I started by reading Words are Not for Hurting written by Elizabeth Verdick.  In this story students revisit how every word in our language is made by just rearranging the 26 letters in our alphabet.  Some words are short, some are long, some are silly, and some are loud.  Verdick goes into a great explanation of how to carefully choose our words to be helpful, rather than hurtful.

After the story we discussed that the only person who has control over us is ourselves.  We control the words we choose to say, the ideas we choose to think, the actions of our body, and even our own feelings.  By having self-control, we can carefully choose kind words over hurtful words when faced with conflict.  In first grade I then introduced the Self-Control Stop Light.  Our body gives us warning signals when something is not right.  Our face might feel hot, our body might be shaking, our muscles might feel tight, etc.  When we acknowledge the alarm in our body going off, we need to STOP.  Then we THINK about how we're going to respond.  Is it a good choice?  Is it a bad choice?  What are the consequences of responding that way?  What are the benefits?  Finally,  we ACT on our decision.  We brainstormed different ways to cool ourselves down to think more clearly and show self-discipline.

In kindergarten we brainstormed different kind words that we hear others say to us and that we can say to them.

My first graders created self-control kits, inspired by The Crafty Counselor.  First we wrote down different ways we can handle our body when our "alarm" goes off.  Then we glued our kites together and decorated them.

My kindergarteners thought about kind words they can say to each other and drew a picture of themselves saying it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Working Through Spring Fever

Winter has come to an end and springtime is finally here.  Your children are tired of wearing heavy coats and having indoor recess.  While they would much rather think about summer vacation and playing outside than concentrating on homework, the school year is not over yet!  You can help your child WORK THROUGH SPRING FEVER by understanding basic motivation in children, being involved in their learning, and knowing ways to redirect them.
Motivating Characteristics:
  • PERSISTENCE is the ability to stay on task for a period of time.  There are measurable differences in children's abilities to engage in activities.  A highly motivated child will stay involved for a long period of time, whereas an unmotivated child will give up very easily when not instantly successful.  Children learn persistence when they are successful at a challenging task.  Parents can help build persistence by offering tasks that are just challenging enough, but not overwhelming.
  • CHOICE OF CHALLENGE is a characteristic of motivation.  Children who meet a challenge will feel success and welcome another appropriate challenge.  Unmotivated children, those who have not experienced early success, will pick something that is very easy and ensures an instant success.  These children feel only low success because they know the task was not challenging.  Parents can help their child find an appropriate challenge while still allowing the choice to be the child's.
  • The AMOUNT OF DEPENDENCY ON ADULTS is another indicator of motivation.  Children with strong intrinsic motivation do not need an adult constantly watching and helping with activities.  Children who have a lower lever of motivation or are extrinsically motivated need constant attention from adults and have great difficulty functioning independently.  Independence is an important aspect of quality learning.  Too much dependence on adults can limit a child in school.  Parents can increase independent motivation by encouraging activities that require curiosity and creativity.  This encourages children to invent their own worlds rather than depending on an adult to entertain them.
  • EMOTION is also an indicator of motivation.  Motivated children will have a positive display of emotion because they are satisfied with their work and show more enjoyment in the activity.  Children without appropriate motivation will appear quiet, sullen and bored.  They will not take any apparent pleasure in their activity and will often complain.  As a parent, you are probably the best judge of your child's moods.

Secrets of Friendship

Over the past decade we have been hearing more and more about girls bullying girls.  The words "mean girls" seem to be used more freely.  While we used to think of bullying as acts of physical aggression more frequently occurring among boys, more recently the focus has shifted to girls.  However, female bullying does not typically occur in the traditional form.  Girls don't usually punch each other...they rely more on words and the manipulation of friendships.  It's earned its own title, "relational aggression."

 Relational aggression can be define as "behavior among girls that is intended to harm someone by damaging or manipulating her relationships with others."  Relational aggression "actively excludes girls from making or maintaining friendships."  They use tactics such as rumors, exclusion, and gossip to get at another.  They know how to use these techniques in unobvious ways, so it is much more challenging to identify and may be more likely to go unnoticed.

With my 6th grade girls we spoke about relational aggression and the keys to having a successful friendship.  I found a great informational slide on Scrapbook of a School Counselor by Tabitha Panariso.  She hosts a "Girls Night Out" with her 5th & 6th graders one evening after school where they learn about relational aggression, watch "The Clique," and enjoy each others company.

During our discussion, we defined behaviors that other "friends" do instead of openly communicating their feelings.  Many girls identified these kind of things happening within their friendships and seeing them happen with other students at our school.  Any girl can wind up being involved in acts of relational aggression.  It does not just affect the "tough" or "weak" girls.  Interestingly, research has shown that girls who are involved in acts of relational aggression typically have experienced both sides of it.  Relational aggression rarely just involves one bully and one victim.  More often, it happens in girl groups, or in the presence of many girls who "stand by" either providing support for the bully or feeling uncomfortable about what is happening but afraid to stand up for the girl being hurt.

Then I told students that I am going to give them the secrets to a quality friendship that will last.  Inspired by Crazy Days Counseling, I passed out different objects and we inferred what they might represent in a good friendship. 
  1. The first item was a resealable plastic bag.  This represents "Zip Your Lips."  It is important to be trustworthy and keep things private in a friendship.
  2. The second item was a popsicle stick.  This represents "Sticks & Stones."  It is important to be careful with your words.  Choose carefully what you say because it is not always easily forgotten or forgived.
  3. The third item was a blank mailing label.  This represents "Stereotypes."  It is important to form your own opinions about others, rather than following the crowd and listening to rumors.
  4. The fourth item was a cotton ball.  This represents "Delicateness."  Remember that friends are there to lean on and protect each other.
  5. The fifth and final item was a list of affirmations.  This represents "Build Each Other Up."  Compliment yourself and others, smile.  Each student was given a list of 101 affirmations to peruse and choose ones that described them.  They could put them in their pocket, hide them in their sock drawer, or write it on their bathroom mirror to stay positive. 
What can we do to help our girls?
  •  Increase your awareness of relational aggression.  Knowledge is power.  Discuss the various types of bullying behaviors.  Point out that even the more covert behaviors are indeed bullying behaviors.
  • Outline consequences of this type of inappropriate behavior.
  • Observe your child.  Take notice of her verbal and nonverbal interactions with others.  If you hear or see something you feel is unacceptable, address it with your daughter and brainstorm more acceptable behaviors, and role play these scenarios.
  • Help your daughter understand that conflict is a natural occurrence in a friendship.  Encourage the use of communication in dealing with conflict.
  • Listen to your child.  If your child tells you she is being bullied, talk with her and get as many details as possible.  Stay calm and try not to get upset in her presence.  Send her the message that you are there to support her.  Commend her on her bravery for sharing what is on her mind.
  • Encourage your child to choose friends who treat her well and make her feel good inside and not just girls who may seem "cool."
  • Model respect and caring in your own interactions with your daughter, family, and friends.
  • Reinforce the importance of friendships.  Encourage play dates and social interactions outside of school.
  • Encourage assertive behavior.  Teach your child the difference between being aggressive (too much), passive (too little/not enough), and assertive (just right).  Practice having her stand up for herself first in safe family situations.  Encourage her to use these skills in peer situations as well.       
101 Affirmations

1. I can do whatever I focus my mind on.
2. I am awesome.
3. I am very intelligent.
4. I am a fast learner.
5. I am worthy.
6. I deeply love and accept myself.
7. I enjoy learning.
8. Learning is fun and exciting.
9. I understand the lessons taught in school completely and quickly.
10. I believe in myself and my abilities.
11. While I appreciate details, I am able to also see the big picture in things.
12. I have many gifts and talents.
13. I learn from my challenges and can always find ways to overcome them.
14. I am open to possibility.
15. I embrace my fears fully and calmly.
16. I make like-minded friends easily and naturally.
17. I am healthy and am growing up well.
18. I have persistence in what I believe in.
19. Miracles happen to me all the time.
20. I am very creative.
21. Ideas for problem solving come easily and quickly to me.
22. I am a great listener.
23. My family, friends and teachers love me for who I am.
24. I am unique and special.
25. Opportunities come to me in good time.
26. I may make mistakes sometimes but I choose to learn from them.
27. I accept myself even though I sometimes make mistakes.
28. Every day and in every way, I get better and better.
29. My intuition guides me in what I do.
30. I am calm, relaxed and peaceful.
31. I am always in the right place at the right time.
32. I enjoy being, feeling and thinking positive.
33. Problems challenge me to better myself in every way.
34. I trust myself in making great decisions.
35. I am loving kindness to all.
36. I do my best in my work and tasks.
37. I am present.
38. I trust in my ability to solve problems.
39. I enjoy my own company.
40. I accept compliments graciously and openly.
41. I am whole and complete.
42. I enjoy trying new ideas.
43. I embrace changes in peaceful, harmonious and positive ways.
44. I believe I can be whatever I want to be.
45. I can visualize very well.
46. I am vibrant and have lots of energy.
47. I am divinely protected.
48. I am kind, generous and loving.
49. I complete my school work on time every day.
50. I am deserving of love, trust and kindness.
51. I achieve great and successful results.
52. I am brave.
53. I experience beauty wherever I go.
54. I have got an awesome imagination.
55. I am able to solve problems creatively.
56. All is well in the world.
57. I am thankful for my blessings.
58. I have a healthy relationship with my teachers.
59. I choose to forgive all others for any mistakes they have done.
60. I feel confident and secure.
61. I enjoy letting events unfold in good time.
62. I have loving, positive and happy thoughts.
63. I express my ideas easily.
64. I am courageous even when things are unknown to me.
65. I reach my goals easily.
66. I am in charge of my own life.
67. I enjoy playing games with my friends.
68. I am gentle with myself.
69. I have many friends who like being near me.
70. The trees, flowers and birds are my friends.
71. I radiate love and compassion.
72. Miracles happen to me every day.
73. I am on my way to creating great wealth.
74. I am excellent in languages.
75. I am quick and accurate with Mathematics.
76. I am able to analyze and see clearly for problem solving.
77. I read, write and learn fast.
78. I absorb knowledge like a sponge and am able to apply what I have learnt.
79. I do my best for my studies.
80. I am attentive in class.
81. I am a natural in _________ (sports).
82. I am on top of my classes.
83. I enjoy challenging myself in new ideas, possibilities and directions.
84. I am a winner!
85. I turn failures into opportunities for success.
86. I handle all my responsibilities and tasks well.
87. I enjoy eating healthy snacks.
88. I love my body.
89. I am honest and trustworthy.
90. I choose to look for the best way forward for myself.
91. I am able to understand and solve complex problem sums or questions easily.
92. I enjoy experiencing life in multiple ways.
93. I love being healthy!
94. I manage my time well.
95. I like being punctual.
96. I enjoy having habits that will help me have a happy, healthy and successful life.
97. I listen to my gut or inner wisdom closely.
98. I am able to easily draw inspiration from nature and life.
99. I believe in my dreams.
100. I have an excellent memory.
101. I am Me, and I am Okay!