Saturday, August 25, 2012

Welcome Back from Your DBS School Counselors!

Welcome back to DBS! The 2012-2013 school year is just about to start and we are very excited to see all our students and their families!

As you may know, the school counselors at DBS stay with the students as they move from grade to grade. This year, Rebecca Lallier will be working with kindergarten, second, and fourth grade students. Amy Wheeler, our new school counselor, will be working with first, third, and fifth graders. We work with ALL students - teaching in the classrooms, running groups, and working with individual students who need some help with feelings, friendships, and/or behavior. Here's some more information about what we do. Click on the image to enlarge.

School counseling today may be quite different from what you remember from your own school experience. Gone are the days when you only saw the school counselor if you were "troubled" or needed to change your class schedule. (And chances are that you called that person your guidance counselor - a term which is no longer used since we now provide a much broader array of services. Please don't call us the "g-word"!) Now we are known as school counselors and we provide comprehensive programs that include prevention, as well as intervention, to help kids learn and be successful in the areas of academics, personal-social skills, and career preparation. Here's a brief (and amusing) video that explains comprehensive school counseling:

Kids will see us often in their classrooms and around the school. They can ask us for help any time by speaking with us or leaving us a note. You can do the same. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your child. You can reach us by calling school at 802.295.8647 or emailing us:

Rebecca Lallier (grades K, 2, 4) 
Amy Wheeler (grades 1, 3, 5)

Watch here for pictures, student work, and information about our class councils and other school counseling programs. You can subscribe to DBS School Counselor by clicking the email or RSS feed links on the right hand of the top of this page. And stay tuned for our new webpage, coming this fall. We look forward to seeing you at Open House on Tuesday, September 18 from 6:00-7:00pm.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to Talk to Children About the Recent Shooting

Tragic events like the recent shooting in Aurora, Colorado can be very disturbing to children (not to mention adults). Because going to the movies is such a common activity for kids, the possibility of something similar happening to them or someone they love can seem all the more real. Even if they are not talking about it, it is very likely that they are thinking about it, especially given the amount of media coverage that they have probably seen and heard.

It is important to talk with kids about their concerns, but it's sometimes hard to know where to begin. Here is a link to a guide for parents from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network - Talking to Children About the Shooting.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Brainy Otters

Kids at DBS know a LOT about their brains! In the past few weeks, kindergartners and first graders learned that their brains help them learn, feel, move, sense, breathe, make friends, and solve problems. They made brain hats, which they wore to our Healthy Brain assembly.

Second graders learned about neurons (brain cells) and that healthy neurons have lots of dendrites. (We looked at pictures of healthy and unhealthy mouse neurons!) They also learned about neurotransmission -- how our brain sends electrical signals through our bodies -- and showed how it works by turning themselves into a string of neurons sending a signal. They colored neurons, which now fill two bulletin boards in the hallways.

Third graders reviewed neurotransmission and learned about the parts of the brain and what they do. They assembled brain puzzles that are hanging all over the school.

Fourth graders learned about the brain's left and right hemispheres, and about what happens in the synapses (the spaces between the neurons) to make neurotransmission possible. They also learned about what happens in the brain when a person becomes addicted -- to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or video games.

Fifth graders reviewed everything they already knew (which is a lot!) and learned about how brains are studied in laboratories. They also learned about the effects on the brain of alcohol, marijuana, inhalants, and stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines.

In all grades, kids talked about ways to keep their brains healthy -- by playing, being physically active, solving problems, reading, building, doing puzzles, imagining, and creating.  We talked about how too much screentime (TV, videogames, and computer) takes up the time that they could be doing things that are fun AND good for your brain.

We had a fun and entertaining Healthy Brain/Screentime Turnoff kick-off assembly, our best ever so far! Mrs. McCullar's 5th grade class did a skit of a game show contest between the Brain Boosters and the Screen Team. Guess who won! The Screen Team had a very hard time meeting the physical and mental challenges, and the Brain Boosters left them in the dust! Mrs. Thompson's 4th grade class performed an epic poem that they wrote as a class called "Want to Keep Your Brain Healthy?" Mrs. Torrey's 4th grade did a skit based on the book Mouse TV, in which a large family of mice finds out that they have more fun doing the activities that they have seen on TV than they do just watching them. Mrs. Vielleux's class presented ideas for fun ideas to do instead of screentime and presented their bright and beautiful banners about healthy brains, which the whole audience read aloud. The Otter and Clifford the Big Red Dog made a special appearance to remind the kids how important it is to read. The second grade led us in singing "Take Back Your Brain." Since it is an annual tradition, the 3rd through 5th graders knew the song too, and the younger kids quickly learned the chorus. The gym was rocking!

Want to listen to it at home? (The kids love it and it's got a GREAT message! Download it here for free!

Brain-O-Mania was a great success (watch for pictures coming soon) and the kids (and some parents, too) were so excited to see the real brains and participate in brain-healthy activities.

All week the kids have been talking about the things they are doing instead of screentime. There has been conversation about hiking, catching frogs, bike riding, fort building, family board game night, arts and crafts, and much more. The wonderful collection in the lobby of recycled sculptures that kids have made at home  grows every day. Kids are earning otters by reading at home in the You Otter Read read-a-thon. Each class is competing to see which one can earn the most otters -- the class that does will win a pizza lunch with the Otter!

Watch for more pictures of the assembly, Brain-O-Mania, and recycled sculptures to come!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Second Grade Bullying Unit

Hello!  I know it's been a long time since I blogged.  Balancing all the roles of a school counselor can be quite challenging! 

Second graders just completed their bullying unit.  They know that bullying is:

On purpose to hurt
Happens over and over

They also understand that:
Bullying= Danger

Second graders role played telling an adult if they are being bullied or, if they know someone else who is being bullied   They understand how hurtful bullying can be!

We also read two really great stories:
Froggy Tames a Bully
The Bully Blockers Club

I especially like the Bully Blockers Club because it demonstrates kids bonding together to stop bullying.  Although we don't introduce the concept of "imbalance of power" in second grade, this book does a great job at showing how kids can take the power away from a bully by sticking together.
Here are some of their amazing anti-bullying posters!  I posted some of them on our bulletin board.  We have some really fabulous artists at DBS!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cyber Safety and Bullying

As part of our bullying unit in fourth grade I conducted a lesson on cyber safety.  For this lesson I used the book Mr. Peabody's Apples, by the one and only Madonna!

The students really enjoy this story.  In the book the character Tommy Tittlebottom witnesses Mr. Peabody taking apples from a local vendor without paying.  Tommy tells his friends Mr. Peabody is a thief.  They of course tell their parents ,who then tell their neighbors, until the whole town thinks Mr. Peabody is a thief.  Mr. Peabody is ostracized because of the rumor.  Tommy discovers that Mr. Peabody pays for the apples every Saturday when he purchases his milk.  Tommy of course feels awful that he judged Mr. Peabody and started such an awful rumor.  To teach Tommy a lesson, Mr. Peabody asks him to bring a pillow filled with feathers.  They cut open the pillow and the wind carries the feathers all through the land.  Mr. Peabody then tells Tommy that each feather represents someone in Happville.  He asks Tommy to pick up all the feathers.  This of course is an impossible task.

After reading the story I asked the fourth graders:

How did people communicate in the story?  Word of mouth
How do people often communicate today?  The internet
What in the this story represents all the different ways to communicate over the internet?  The feathers

This then resulted in a great discussion about how once you post something on the internet it is impossible to get it back.  Fourth graders love talking about this stuff.  I informed them that even if they post something and delete it from their computer, the post is still out there for others to find.  This is especially true if someone has gotten a hold of the post and forwarded on to a friend.  To reinforce the discussion I played this youtube video:

In this lesson I only brushed on the topic of internet safety.  We have a group called Techincool coming in May to have a more in depth discussion about internet safety with fourth and fifth graders.  The internet has become such a large part of kids' lives.  This makes teaching internet safety skills a critical part to their education.  As I mentioned before they love talking about this stuff!  This of course makes my job much more fun. :-)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What are they thinking about me?

Third graders are delving more deeply into understanding how their behaviors affect how others think and feel about them. We all want people to like us, and one way to help make that happen is to have expected behaviors, which make people have good thoughts and feelings about us.

In class councils, third graders each came up with examples of  their own behaviors -- an expected behavior that they have most of the time, and an unexpected behavior that they have some of the time. After choosing their behaviors, they considered what others might think about them.

One of my favorite things about having kids learn about expected and unexpected behaviors is that it helps them understand that their behaviors are separate from who they are. Unfortunately, sometimes when kids do things that others don't like, break rules, or fail to follow directions, they think of themselves as "bad" or "stupid" or that the person who is unhappy with their behavior just doesn't like them. This can lead to feelings of shame, and avoidance or lashing out, rather than addressing the behavior. However, when they look at their behavior just in itself, they are better able to identify the behavior as a mistake that they can fix. They can see that it is my behavior and not me that people don't like. Telling a child, "Yelling is unexpected. I am noticing that people are having uncomfortable thoughts. What can you do so that they have comfortable thoughts about you?" helps them move toward changing their behavior.

The third graders did a great job being honest and matter of fact about their unexpected behaviors. No one needed help identifying one -- no one felt shamed! Their ideas about what people might think were spot on. I was so proud of them!

 Here is some of their insightful work:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Standing Up to Bullies

Fourth graders are continuing to learn about bullying.  They are doing a really great job at defining that:

 Bullying = Danger

Bullying is:
On Purpose to Hurt
It Happens Over and Over Again
An Imbalance of Power

The five types of bullying are:

Fourth graders have gotten so good at these definitions that I choose students to teach the review portion of the bullying lessons.  They really love doing this and it is a great way for them to work on their presentation skills.

A critical aspect of bullying education is helping students identify strategies to deal with a bullying situation. 

I used the book Confessions of a Former Bully to provide students with strategies for standing up to a bully.  They love this book because it is written from a bully's perspective.

Strategies for standing up to a bully: 
1.  Say "Stop It" in a strong and assertive voice.
2.  Walk Away from the bully.
3.  Say "Huh, Whatever, So, Who Cares"
4.  Change The Subject.
5.  Act Silly or Goofy
6.  Turn An Insult Into a Compliment
7.  Agree

When I taught these strategies I advised students only to use the strategies they were comfortable with.  For example, not everyone might feel comfortable agreeing with the bully.  Second, I explained that these strategies might not always work in the moment, and that they don't always stop the bullying.  It is still important to tell a trusted adult that the bullying is going on.  

Students were given scenerios and asked to provide examples of how they could use these strategies.  They then practiced by role playing in front of the class.  The lesson went very well!  This week I asked students if any of them had tried the strategies in real life situations.  Many of them had!  My follow up question of course was, "did it work?" and most of them responded with "yes." Thier responses resulted in one happy school counselor!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What's in Your Thinking Bubble?

No matter what we do, our behavior affects how other people think about us. If you help someone pick up something he dropped, he might think: "He's nice," or "I like being his friend." If you say something mean, another kid might think: "She's rude," or "I am not going to sit with her." They might not say it out loud, but you can be sure that these thoughts are in their "thinking bubbles."

In one of our class councils, third graders used personal white boards as their thinking bubbles so that everyone could see the kinds of thoughts people have in response to expected and unexpected behaviors. When we have expected behaviors, people have good thoughts and good feelings about us. When we have unexpected behaviors, people have uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about us.

In these pictures, third graders are showing what is in their thinking bubbles when "Person A" calls someone else a name -- "Person A" is mean, a big bully, not nice, etc. We used several different examples of expected and unexpected behaviors, and the kids wanted to keep going past the end of class council time. It was pretty eye opening for them to recognize what an impact their behavior has on how other people think and feel about them and how it affects whether or not others want to be their friend, work partner, or seatmate.

Monday, February 6, 2012

EveryONE Belongs

To wrap up our first grade unit on bullying we read the book One by Kathryn Otoshi. The characters in the book are colors: Red, a bully; Blue, his target; and Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple, who don't like the bullying, but don't know what to do to stop it. When they don't speak up, Red gets stronger and Blue gets weaker, and everyone is unhappy. . . Until One comes along and shows everyone how to stand up for themselves and each other. One provides a powerful lesson on including others and how sometimes just one person can make a difference.

The first graders thought about ways that they could make sure that everyone is included, then made collage pictures to illustrate their ideas about. Here are a few examples of kids including everyone when they play basketball, read, play foursquare, do math, play kickball, play hockey, and draw:

Happy National School Counseling Week!

The week of February 6 is National School Counselors' Week. We won't be doing anything special to celebrate it at DBS, but this image was just too great not to share.

Unfortunately, school counselors CAN'T always keep up with their blogging. Working with kids, parents, and teachers has to take priority over writing about it. And they can't always do that either, like when they're forced to take time out of school to recover from surgery. I (Rebecca) have been out for a couple of weeks, but am hoping to make a comeback this Thursday. Until then, there's time to catch up on blogging about what kids have been learning in class councils and groups. Stay tuned!

Many thanks to the fifth grade girls who sprinkled me with magic fairy dust so that my surgery would go well (it worked!), and to my co-counselor, Erica Talbot, who has been filling in and working with my 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade students.

Here's a wonderful note I received from a student (complete with his spelling):

Sorry you broke your foot!
I hope it gets better soon.
I am working hard
Just for you
You are good
At wate you do
You are good at teching
You are good at prity much

I feel very lucky to be a school counselor for so many reasons, not least of which is that I get notes like these!

P.S. Do you think the school counselor in this picture got arms like that from using crutches to get around school?