Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Random Recaps

Quick thoughts organized by ASCA's domains: 

  • I finished out the quarter strong. I decided to take the extra class so I can sit for my license some day if I so choose. The class had a lot of potential, but fell incredibly short. I try to search for the learning in the experience, but mostly I just feel like I didn't get my money's worth.
  • I applied for degree conferral and am almost done with my 3 year grad program. How has it been 3 years? It has gone so quickly. At the same time, when I try to think back to life in California it seems so long ago. Time is a funny thing.

  • It has been almost one year since I was on the way to Michigan for my fiance's family holiday party and got the call about my mom's liver failure. My initial thought was, "I'm not ready". Turns out, it doesn't matter if you're ready or not, life doesn't care. Life is funny that way.
  • We're in the thick of wedding planning. I have been neglecting the blog and using all my spare time working on the wedding website: We're going to do online RSVP. I'm sure that will go over well with the 65+ crowd! 
  • I've updated my resume in preparation of starting the job search/fair circuit in January. The next few weeks of break will be filled with creating an awesome cover letter, researching potential schools, and getting in touch with friends and contacts. 
  • I think that we will see more teachers and counselors retiring this year with contracts being negotiated. I know teachers who retired last year in anticipation of the changes. They could have worked a few more years, but decided to get out. This may be good for new professional school counselors trying to break into the field. Unions are a funny thing. 
How many times did I use "funny"? I'm certain I could have used more appropriate words, but it's late, and right now all these things seem funny. Funny strange, funny interesting, funny ironic, funny, funny, funny.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cura Personalis

The principal at my practicum site is pretty neat. I totally drank the kool aid he was serving during the staff days before the students returned. Being a selective enrollment school, there is a huge tendency to focus solely on academics and totally burn out the students. I was wrestling with the high academic rigor at a school like this even before I started. As soon as he referenced Race to Nowhere I knew this school was special. The next thing he talked about was the Latin phrase, cura personalis, meaning care of the whole person. How cool that this super rigorous school with very high functioning students is developing a philosophy that focuses on the WHOLE student! Another indicator of this shift is the first thing the AP mentioned when I asked her what reforms are on the way. Her response? Social emotional learning!  So I forwarded all Dr. Mason's SEL workshop materials and I am going to talk to her about doing a brief presentation during the next professional development day.

During the staff days the new administration asked each department to break out and create a "FedEx" project, something that would be delivered "overnight" or in this case, during the first quarter of the year. The counseling department developed a project to increase visibility, focus on sophomores (often overlooked when focusing on transitioning freshman and getting juniors/seniors ready for college), and address whatever stress they may be facing. 

The intervention developed has been named "Lunch Bunch" and will be an informal group discussion during each lunch period once a week for 4 weeks. The topics are: Too much to do, not enough time-using my time better; They expect too much! Responding to pressures of school and college; Do I have to be the best all the time? Taking care of yourself; and I'm overwhelmed! Sorting out what's important. The only downside is they decided to hold these groups on Fridays when I'm not there! I am so sad to be missing out. The upside? Students will have a chance to  normalize their feelings, find new strategies, develop relationships with their counselors, and maybe develop more specific groups from topics as more needs are identified.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

Today at my site was testing day. The PLAN, EXPLORE, and either the PSAT or practice ACT were administered to all 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students. Unfortunately, I was not at my site to see how it all goes down, but I did have a chance to help organize test materials. I also sat in a meeting where accommodations, and other logistical planning took place. There did not seem to be too much anxiety or stress during the days leading up to the testing. Are these students so used to testing that it doesn't phase them? Will their attitudes be different when they get their test results back? I would assume the students taking PLAN would have some idea of where their strengths and weaknesses lie, after taking EXPLORE the year prior. I hope I can work with some kids to interpret their results. I should make a list of things I'd like to do during my internship.

Anyone else out there help with the testing today? How did it go?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Swish Your Bushy Tail

Grey squirrel, Grey squirrel
Swish your bushy tail.

Put a nut between your toes
Wrinkel up your little nose.

Grey squirrel, grey squirrel 
Swish your bushy tail!  

I love this camp song, but I do not love the three dead squirrels I have seen in the past two weeks. Who is killing all our squirrels?! I don't always like the squirrels, especially when they make that barking sound, but that doesn't mean I want to see them dead in the alley. They are so cute and one of the few species of wildlife we have in the city. I hate to think that people's rat poison is also killing the squirrels. The ones I've seen look in tact, so I know they weren't hit by cars. I wonder if there is anything that can be done about this? Anyone a squirrel expert?

Monday, September 19, 2011

More Second City Firsts

I decided to revisit my list of things to do in Chicago that I created when I first started the blog. I was able to cross off a handful of items. This September I went to my first Chicago Bears game. BEAR DOWN! It was a preseason game, but it was still exciting and nice to see Soldier Field. I was also able to cross off visits to many of the museums in the city. During my job with Disney I chaperoned a few field trips with a student who needed assistance with walking. I also chaperoned the 8th grade overnight that took the students all over the city. This was a great way to get a taste of what Chicago has to offer for free! I would like to revisit some of the spots so I can spend a bit more time experiencing them.

I wish my 30 before 30 list was getting more attention. I just re-read it and I can't cross off a single thing! Even with a list, I have to be intentional and make a plan to achieve goals, whatever they might be.

Bears game. It was pretty hot that night!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Taking a Stance

Right now is such an exciting time to be in education, but it is also a very scary time. There are so many aspects to consider when forming a stance on public/private/charter education and its reform. How can I take a stance when I have no idea where to even begin? Currently I subscribe to a handful of education blogs. Many of the blogs I read probably fall into the more "liberal" stance on education. This is most likely a direct result of my graduate courses that highly emphasize the professional urban and multicultural educator and Vincentian Personalism. I am not a highly religious person, raised in the church, but not an active member since I left my family  home. However, I think the philosophy behind Vincentian Personalism is further reaching than organized religion allows. Sorry for the rambling tangent.

Things that come to mind while trying to discover my stand on education:
  1. The information I continue to read is pretty one sided an I feel like I need to read more opinions and research about the corporate takeover structure of schools and education in general. Are these business men doing their due diligence? What do they really know about classroom management, teacher unions, angry parents, social-emotional learning, etc.?
  2. There are so many amazing things happening in suburban, rural, and urban schools that need to be spotlighted . If we emphasized the positive more often it will become infectious and inspiring! 
  3. While there are exciting things happening, it is very scary with the CPS union contracts being renegotiated. It seems like there is a very real possibility of a strike in the future. What impacts might this have for us entering the field next fall? What will this mean for future union members? What's up with unions anyway? How will this impact the students of today and years to come?
  4. I am currently interning at a school with great teachers and heavy parent involvement. Many of these students have more access than imaginable, while others are on free and reduced lunch. How can we help those with less access and opportunity?
  5. Do I feel called to work in a school like Northside, Payton, and Whitney or somewhere that has no counseling program, where the need is much greater?
In other news: MSU alum, Magic Johnson has just partnered with a charter school. Why not in Lansing, Magic? Can't support your hometown and home state that has been in economic crisis longer than most? Either way, it's nice to see him making an investment in the future. Edison Learning

A few edu blogs in my Google Reader:

Gregory Michie for Huffington Post
Gregory Michie has been a teacher and teacher educator in Chicago for 20 years. He has published numerous essays and articles about his work with children, and is the author of Holler If You Hear Me: The Education of a Teacher and his Students (2nd edition, Teachers College Press, 2009), and See You When We Get There: Teaching for Change in Urban Schools (Teachers College Press, 2005). He also co-edited City Kids, City Schools: More Reports from the Front Row (The New Press, 2008). He teaches in the Department of Foundations, Social Policy, and Research at Concordia University Chicago.

Education Week's Bridging Differences with Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch 
Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch have found themselves at odds on policy over the years, but they share a passion for improving schools. Bridging Differences will offer their insights on what matters most in education.

Chicago Teachers Union Blog 

Ed Week's Why Boys Fail by Richard Whitmire 
Former editorial writer at USA Today and past board president of the National Education Writers Association, is a frequent commentator on national education issues. 

Leave comments on other blogs that are worth reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Final Gifts

I hated Statistics in college, thankfully this is not the Stats I am writing about. Blogger has a new format and it's interesting to easily see the stats of each blog post. No one ever read the ones tagged Death and Loss. I can't say I'm completely shocked. Who wants to read about death and loss? The bf and I are currently faced with a very sick family member once again and it makes me reflect on the past year. I think death and loss are such funny things, but it happens to EVERYONE at some point. Why do we feel so awkward talking about it? I am working very hard to challenge myself to be open about my own personal thoughts on the subject and hope to have more dialogue with people, not just via the blog.

Watching the 9/11 reflections on TV really had me worked up today. It is so interesting how people make sense of death and loss in such different ways. I noticed they only interviewed people who were able to draw strength from the horrible attacks. What factors are at play that allow some to rise above, draw meaning, and turn their hurt and loss into something that serves others? What is missing in those who are still out for blood, unable to cope, and honor those dead by living their best life possible?

After my mom died I read Final Gifts. It truly changed my views on dying and death, not in terms of heaven, hell, and afterlife. Rather, on how to approach those who are dying to make them more comfortable and in turn comfort oneself. I highly recommend everyone read it, even if you don't know someone who is dying right now, chances are you will someday. You can never be prepared to lose someone you love, but you can definitely have some understanding of the process before it comes.