Thursday, August 29, 2013

SEL Lessons

Lee Elementary is pleased to announce that we will continue teaching weekly Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons in all grade levels.  Social Emotional Learning helps students acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Teachers will utilize a curriculum called Second Step, which has been purchased and approved by the Austin Independent School District. This rich curriculum is developed to teach elementary school students social and emotional skills, which can lead to an increased success in school and life and a decrease in risky behaviors such as aggression, emotional distress and conduct problems.

The Second Step curriculum is targeted to meet the needs of each grade level and will be taught on Mondays starting the second week of school. Themed units of study include:

  • Skills for Learning
  • Empathy and Communication
  • Emotion Management
  • Problem Solving
  • Bullying Prevention

To access more information about Second Step, please visit  Also, check out my blog page on SEL featuring local and nationwide informational videos at   

If you have any questions about the program, please do not hesitate to contact me for more information. Thank you for supporting your child in learning these new skills designed to promote success in school and life.

Schools, Families, and Social and Emotional Learning
Ten Things You Can Do at Home

1. Focus on strengths. When your child brings home a test, talk first about what he or she did well. Then talk about what can be improved. Praise specific strengths. Don’t just criticize things that were done wrong.

2. Follow up with consequences for misbehavior. Sometimes parents say things in anger that don’t curb the behavior in the long run. You might say, “Because of what you did, no television for a month.” Both you and your child know that after one or two days the TV will go back on. Decide on consequences that are fair, and then carry them out.

3. Ask children how they feel. When you ask your child about his or her feelings, the message is that feelings matter and you care.

4. Find ways to stay calm when angry. It’s normal to get angry or irritated sometimes. Learn to recognize “trigger situations” and do something about them before you lose control. Try taking deep breaths for a few moments. Consider having a “quiet area” where people can go when they are upset. Or you can just stop talking and leave the room for a while. Sit down as a family and talk about what everyone can do to stay calm.

5. Avoid humiliating or mocking your child. This can make children feel bad about themselves. It can lead to a lack of self-confidence and, in turn, problems with schoolwork, illness, and trouble getting along with friends. Unfair criticism and sarcasm also hurts the bond of trust between children and parents. Be mindful of how you speak to your children. Give them the room to make mistakes as they learn new skills.

6. Be willing to apologize. Parents need to be able to apologize to their children if what they said was not what they meant. Calmly explain what you really wanted to say. By doing this you’re being a good role model. You’re showing how important it is to apologize after hurting someone. You’re teaching that it’s possible to work through problems with respect for the other person.

7. Give children choices and respect their wishes. When children have a chance to make choices, they learn how to solve problems. If you make all their choices for them, they’ll never learn this key skill. Giving children ways to express preferences and make decisions shows that their ideas and feelings matter.

8. Ask questions that help children solve problems on their own. When parents hear their child has a problem, it’s tempting to step in and take over. But this can harm a child’s ability to find solutions on his or her own. A helpful approach is to ask good questions. Examples include, “What do you think you can do in this situation?” and “If you choose a particular solution, what will be the consequences of that choice?”

9. Read books and stories together. Reading stories aloud is a way to share something enjoyable and learn together about other people. For example, stories can be a way to explore how people deal with common issues like making or losing friends or handling conflicts. Ask your child’s teacher or a librarian to recommend stories on themes that interest you and your children.

10. Encourage sharing and helping. There are many ways to do this. Together you and your child can prepare food in a homeless shelter or go on a fund-raising walk-a-thon. You can help out elderly neighbors or needy families. This teaches children that what they do can make a difference in the lives of others.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Welcome Letter

My name is Ms. Sepp and I am the school counselor at Lee Elementary!
I work with every student individually, in small groups and in their classroom. 

         For small group counseling, I send home a permission form that lets parents know what the topic is, what will be covered, and the goals of the group. Parents have the option of allowing their child to participate or declining the invitation to the small group.  Groups will meet during their lunchtime once a week for 4-6 sessions.

         For classroom-based counseling, guidance, I collaborate with teachers on units that he/she thinks the students need most. Common topics might include: self-esteem, making and keeping friends, positive school behaviors, and bullying.  This year I will focus on reinforcing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) topics that classroom teachers will be teaching on Mondays.  I am on a two-week rotation, meaning I will see every student at least twice a month.

         To receive individual counseling, a student’s parent, teacher, or principal can refer them.  Students can also request to see me by filling out a counseling request form and turning it into the mailbox outside my office. Students come to my office to talk about things that impact their learning at school, such as friendships, study skills and self-esteem. In my office, students can feel free to talk about what worries them and to ask questions. 

         As part of my effort to maintain consistent and clear lines of communication with parents, I will inform you if your child is repeatedly requesting to see me.  The goal is to meet with your child regularly at first and then slowly decrease services to an “as needed” basis or give you referral options.  My goal is to help your child be successful both academically and socially through scheduled counseling opportunities so please feel free to contact me with any background information you’d like to provide.

         If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at or (512) 841-3906. I also have a website listed below with very helpful information.  I am happy to work with you to make your child’s time at Lee successful!

Monday, August 26, 2013


Look who stopped by to say hello on our first day of school...

Left to right: Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, Asst. Principal Nikki Murphy, Counselor Jaclyn Sepp, Principal Elyse Smith

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Week: Meet the Counselor

During the first week of school I will be visiting each classroom to introduce myself to new students and refresh previous students of how I can help them.  In the younger grades I'll be reading a book I created to explain my role at Lee Elementary.  Inspired by Lauren Gentry at Cool School Counseling, I created the book to help students learn about me, explain how I can help, and where they can find me.

Here are a few sample pages:

In the older grades I will speak with students about my role at the school, how to meet with me, confidentiality, and answer any questions they have through a powerpoint.  They will fill out an organizer, created by Vanessa at Savvy School Counselor, to keep in their binder if they needed help remembering.

Additionally, students can individually sign-up to meet with me when they need to help.  Last year I prioritized requests on a first come, first serve basis.  Last years' fourth graders and I realized that this didn't prioritize students that might need to see me more urgently.  This year I'm revamping self-referrals by having students check how soon they'll need to see me on their request.  I found this other great idea on using rock sizes from Vanessa at Saavy School Counselor to visualize urgency and size of problem.  I created this poster to help students pick their rock:
Students can use this self-referral sheet to put in my mailbox:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Beginning of the School Year: Easing Separation Anxiety

Starting school can stir up anxiety for both children and parents.  I found a great blog entry from Christie Burnett of childhood101 with suggestions for easing those back to school worries.

1.  Burnett suggests going to orientation sessions offered by your school to become more familiar with the school, classrooms, teachers, and routines.  Lee Elementary offers 3 opportunities throughout the year to help with the transition to our school.  On Friday, August 23rd, students and families can come meet their teacher, see their classroom, and drop off their school supplies beginning at 11:30am.  For new families to our school, stick around until 12:30pm for an orientation to our school hosted by our principal, Elyse Smith.  Each January we offer an Open House for prospective families and in early May we have our Kindergarten Round-Up.  Check our school calendar for dates and times. 

2.  Her second tip is to "Acknowledge your own level of anxiety privately and model a sense of confidence and calm to your child."  Children can sense your energy and they can feed off of it.  Depending on your child's age, modeling how you cope with anxiety can also be therapeutic for children.  No one is perfect and by showing your children that you experience the same feelings they do, they can see healthy ways of coping.

3.  We all fear the unexpected and change can be difficult to adjust to.  By preparing your child for what will happen, you can lessen their anxiety.  Role-playing what going to school will look like can be helpful.  Have your child pick out stuffed animals or action figures to play different characters in their life (parents, siblings, teachers) and act our potential situations.

4.  Bibliotherapy!  There are many picture books that teach children about new experiences, such as what going to school is all about.  Check out some of the suggestions listed on Books That Heal Kids.  By relating to characters in the story, young children can more easily understand the abstract meaning of feelings and coping skills.

5.  Let children express their fears and concerns.  Instead of questioning, sit back and listen to what is bothering them.  Acknowledge their feelings by using a "You Statement."  For example, "You feel scared about the first day of school."

6.  Wake up EARLY the morning of the first day.  You may not be able to predict any hiccups that can occur, so by giving yourself extra time you can ensure a calmer morning.

7.  Send your child to school with a family memento.  It could be a family photo, a worry stone, or even a sweet, handwritten note they can keep in their pocket.  They can easily pull this out to remind themselves that you'll be coming back to get them when they're starting to become overwhelmed with change.

8.  Help your child get settled by going into the classroom with them.  Help them hang up their backpack, put away their lunch box, and find their home spot in the classroom.  When it is time to go, tell your child goodbye (don't just sneak out), give them a hug and kiss, and let them know you will be back to pick them up when school is over.  Your child may get upset when you leave, but it is best not to hover in the hallway or peak back in.  If you're worried about them calming down, leave your number with myself (the counselor) and I will check in on them and update you.  You can also call the front office and they'll send me in to make sure everything is okay.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

SEL Highlights from 2012-2013

Lee Elementary, as part of the McCallum vertical team, began implementing the SEL program in the 2012-2013 school year.  Our efforts were recognized and featured on the Austin ISD's SEL blog multiple times for our successful activities school wide.

June 7:

 March 29: