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Teaching Conflict Resolution Skills

Resolving conflicts is a necessary skill for students to learn and we can begin expecting independence in elementary. Sometimes, when you feel like you are lining up 20 kittens rather than 20 students, there isn’t a lot of time to resolve every student conflict.


When we do get involved past the demand for an apology, we often do the heavy lifting for students. They go through the motions, but they don’t learn the skill or why it’s important. The likelihood they are going to start independently and effectively resolving conflicts with peers is pretty much zilch. continue reading

3 Parts for a Purposeful First Counseling Session

I love the first counseling session with a new student. You get to introduce yourself as an encouraging, safe adult that is going to help and support them. It’s the place that you establish norms, build rapport, and involve the student in their own growth. That’s a pretty incredible day’s work.

Until I realized, I was mostly just using the first counseling session to introduce myself, tell them what my job was and ask a few questions. My first sessions were not climbing that aspirational mountain I had in my head. Worse, it was costing me valuable time with students down the line because I had not set the stage I should have set in the first session.

I don’t like when I find myself doing a task without knowing the purpose or losing valuable time. So I asked myself, “What did I want that first session to accomplish?”. I wanted it to: 

  1. Build rapport
  2. Create a safe, predictable place
  3. Encourage student involvement in their progress in counseling

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Behavior Plan Implementation

Happy School Psychologist

Why won’t teachers implement my behavior plans?

You completed a lengthy and thorough Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and you made a behavior plan with perfect reinforcers. The student is even excited about the plan. Yes! Initial buy-in! You convince parents that this will help their child, not make them look different. You meet with the teacher and go over how to implement the behavior plan. Everything looks good. disappointed School PsychologistBehavior Plan

Day 3 and the teacher forgot to complete the plan during the day and tells you it is too much work.

Most of those times, I wanted to scream and tell the teacher, “Well it was a lot of work to get this all set up, but I didn’t just give up!” Then I remember I am good at empathizing and problem-solving. I understand how challenging 20+ students in a classroom can get. Remembering to give a token or sticker does not hit the top of the list. It took excessive trial and error filled with frustrated children and teachers, but I developed an approach that has been successful for me more often than not. continue reading

A Unique and Inspirational Graduation Address

Donovan Livingston, a Ed.M. 2016 graduate from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, gave one of the more powerful 5 minute speeches on race, inequity, and education I have seen. Beautiful and inspirational. Lift off.

“An injustice is telling them they are stars,

Without acknowledging night that surrounds them.

Injustice is telling them education is the key,

While you continue to change the locks.”

3 MORE Ways to Build Relationships with Teachers

As a school psychologist or school counselor, your relationships with teacher are one of the most important factors in effectively supporting struggling students. I need their patience with getting behavior plans implemented. I need their confidence that the plans will work. I need their mindfulness to carryover strategies into the classroom. I need their grace with difficult parents. I need knowing nods when days did not go according to the intervention plan.

That’s a lot of things that I need to do my job well.

To get all this, it’s on me to strategically establish those relationships. To do that, I focus on transparency, responsiveness, communication, and respect. Plainly, I give my time, bake tasty treats, mention a teacher’s efforts to my principal, supervise recess, and listen.

3 MORE Ways to Build Relationships with Teachers

Check out my first 6 ways for other strategies.

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Scheduling Small Group Counseling in 8 steps

One of your primary responsibilities as a school counselor or psychologist is small group counseling. I use these groups to respond to specific student needs that pop up, to reinforce character education or guidance lessons, or to provide Tier 2 interventions. Developing activities for these groups present their own fun and challenges. However, organizing these groups was always my biggest struggle; finding students, getting permission, scheduling quickly, collecting the students from classes or the lunchroom. Our jobs are busy. I hate any task that creates cognitive overhead and takes my attention away from the actual important day to day work with students. I am constantly looking for ways to more efficiently complete tasks that I do every year or repeatedly throughout the year.

Picking Students
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6 Ways to Build Relationships with Teachers

6 Ways to Build Relationships with Teachers


A major part of being effective as a school counselor or psychologist is building and maintaining relationships with teachers. As a beginning school psychologist, I had no idea how to do this other than being friendly. I quickly found myself out of the loop, avoiding difficult teachers, and halfway through the year feeling like my interventions took a long time to get off the ground. Over time, I learned a couple tried and true strategies to communicate and demonstrate my value to teachers. In turn received their 100% buy-in when I had idea or intensive plan for how to help those kids we love the most. Over time, those seasoned, “I don’t need another behavior chart” teachers, were often the ones in my office after school bending my ear about Jimmy Sue with the fidgety hands. continue reading

Change is Good (and Horrifying)!

Change is Good and Horrifying

Just over three months ago, I decided that I needed a change from my position as a Special Education Director and School Psychologist. I wasn’t sure if that meant a different school or a different role within the education realm. While I was looking for positions that might take me in this fuzzy, undefined direction, I made an exciting and even more undefined decision. I decided to travel for the next year. Eek! It makes me nervous even writing it. My handsome partner in crime, Scotty Weeks, writes provocative, page-turning books and does web development. His office is wherever his laptop lands. So we decided come September we would leave our beloved city of New York.  Passport, laptop, backpack, and my diminished Spanish. continue reading