I could go on and on, but I'll try to get right to it. Teaching is hard. Teaching virtually is super hard. Engaging students while teaching virtually takes a special skillset, endurance, and unbeatable self-care. There are some tools that make it a little more fun and a less easier! Here are a few of my faves.
1. A Ring Light- Sorry, I'm sooooo not sorry. For around $30-$50, this thing gives SUCH a good payout. Imagine being well lit, appearing with smoother skin, balanced complexion, and feeling like a put-together human being while you hop on video meetings, lead live class, and record a million asynchronous lessons & videos.
Here's one that's $30 on amazon. You will not regret this. I promise you.
2. A Second Monitor- If you know, you know. It makes a huge difference to have more screen space with everything we have going on during virtual instruction. I wanted to include this here to let you know about Two Screens for Teachers. If you can't afford to buy another monitor, and aren't given one by your district, you can apply to receive one for free from this awesome program. If you'd like to donate to an educator in need, you can do that there too.
3. Virtual Randomizers- Virtual instruction makes engagement more tricky, but it's possible. A lot of the ways we typically gamify lessons (scoots, task cards, movement, popsicle stick name picking, etc.), can be tough virtually. The teacher-author gals from Happily Ever Elementary, have created a huge (& fabulous) bundle of virtual randomizers which I purchased, and am loving. They sell them broken down by holiday or content area or you can purchase the entire growing bundle. Check out their instagram for posts about the bundle.
4. Streamdeck- Ok, ya'll.. hear me out. Do you need this? No. Will people respect you if you buy this? Also no. Is it amazingly indulgently fun & a super cool treat? YUP. The streamdeck is one of the coolest purchases I've made in a long time and I've just begun to scratch the surface of its use. Go see my instagram highlight to see how it works.
5. Spotify- Music makes virtual learning better, I'm convinced! Playing some pump up jams when students are logging on, or while I give them a task to do, is SUCH a game changer for engagement, tone, & mood. You don't even need to buy this. I use the free version of spotify. Here's the key part- Josie Bensko, from Maniacs in the Middle, has created a whole bunch of public *school appropriate* playlists. I use them every day. She even has holiday themed ones. The work is done for you- you can feel good about using them and it's fast and easy.
OTHER HELPFUL THINGS:
Stay tuned for another gift guide coming soon.
Before the school year even ends I'm fantasizing about all of the productive things I'm going to accomplish in the summer time. Will I actually accomplish them all? NOPE. Does that mean we should give up and not try to accomplish anything? ALSO NOPE.
I totally respect the need for a mental shift away from work and all of the stress of our jobs. I enjoy getting creative and giving my brain a break, while still doing things that will save me time and give me less to do later on once the year begins. Here are 5 things you can do this summer whether you're in your 15th year in the same position, starting a brand new school, or jobless and praying for luck.
1. Make a Teacher (Counselor) Toolbox
I first became aware of this when I saw teacher blogger Teach Create Motivate post about it on instagram. I used her blog post tutorial to create mine and ended up buying her labels to decorate mine as well. There's just something so satisfying about 1) being able to find what you need quickly and 2) seeing these bright colors and adorable design desk to your desk each day. NO REGRETS!!! You could even make a couple as gifts for other counselors / interns / teacher friends and have on hand for that next occasion.
2. Prep your "Meet the Counselor" Materials
I don't know about you, but this is something I really enjoy. I mean.. who doesn't love talking about themselves and bright colored designs? I love creating a little brief one (or two) pager to allow families to get to know me and feel like they can approach me. My "Meet the Counselor" page changes every single year and I re-distribute it each year because there are always new families coming in and out. I also love taking advantage of this chance to "pre-educate" folks on what our role is and what they can expect from us. You can find an editable template for the Meet the Counselor form as part of my School Counselor Parent Engagement Pack on TPT.
3. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts
This might seem a little silly, but I bet you don't realize exactly how much time you can save by using keyboard shortcuts. Literally HOURS per year can be saved by learning shortcuts. I've mostly focused on GMAIL, MAC, and Google CHROME shortcuts, since that's what I use the most. You can definitely find info on Windows shortcuts as well. "How do I learn them?" you might ask. There are a few options:
4. Unsubscribe from Email Lists
I could probably talk for hours about email organization and productivity- 1) because it's REALLY tough to get a handle on for most people and 2) because I'm a real big nerd. Even if you're not in the mood to revamp your whole email system, one thing that will benefit you in the long run is to spend 2-3 minutes a day looking through your inbox for email lists that you can unsubscribe from. You can likely unsubscribe from 2-3 lists for every minute you spend doing this. So say you spend approximately 3 minutes each night before bed doing this, 5x a week, for the month of July- you will have unsubscribed from 150 email lists. If each of those email lists sends approximately 1 ad per week.. that's SIX HUNDRED LESS EMAILS for you to have to sort or delete during the month of September when you're back at school and swamped.
If you are an email list hoarder and thinking to yourself "but what if a coupon comes through that I might need?" or "but the info in the newsletter is relevant to me!" here's a shoutout to you! First of all, 9/10 you don't need it so just unsubscribe from it. But if you're still struggling.. ask yourself the following questions:
5. Create & Use a Plan for Program Ideas
I don't know about you, but when I'm finally starting to sink in from break and let go of all of those thoughts about last year, my head starts swirling with new ideas about things I want to try in my personal life or in my school counseling program in the future. Minds are meant for having ideas, not for storing them! Whether it's a page in your trusty paper planner, a google doc in your drive, or a list in your task management app (todoist, trello, wunderlist, etc.), you need to store those ideas somewhere you can easily find them when it comes time to plan next year's program. Getting things out of your head and into that system frees you up to 1) focus on your family and enjoy your summer and 2) have the creative energy to create more great ideas! The keys to storing ideas- be consistent (get it down EVERY time), and have a plan for regularly reviewing those lists (if you never touch the list again and forget where it is in August when you go to plan, it won't do you much good!).
I think these 5 things will have a HUGE payout for you once the school year kicks back into action. Your future self will thank you! Have a great summer!
Here are 5 of my OG and most recent favorite instagram accounts to follow and learn from. I hope you enjoy!
Haley's insta feed is so aesthetically pleasing, even if you're not a bride to be. I love looking at her lettering and calligraphy photos and getting ideas for work or home decor as well. I'm not going to lie, one of my FAVE part of her page and the reason I know her insta name by heart, is the fact that she logs her weekly meal plans and shares them on her blog for free. She is THE QUEEN of freezer prepping meals ahead of time and showing on her stories how she manages wholesome meals for she and her husband utilizing the make ahead approach.
Ashley Berry, spiritual queen & coach, providing Card Readings, Reiki, Breathwork, and AromaTouch services in Ojai, LA & Remote
I want to be Ashley Berry when I grow up! Seriously, she has one of those energies that gives you energy and inspires you. Her feed is a STUNNING visual representation of her deep healing work, radical self-care, and spiritual wisdom. I've had the pleasure of doing two readings with her in the past, and messages that she helped clarify to me through spirit, have transformed my life. RUN don't walk to follow her and see how you can connect more deeply with the spiritual realm during your 2019 healing journey.
Landyn Hutchinson, Living with Landyn lifestyle blog superstar and influencer
Landyn is a working mama of 2, running her own business and KILLING it at all things lifestyle. You also may recognize her as the wife of Steve Hutchinson, former 12 season NFL player for the Seahawks, Vikings, and the Titans. She has a robust insta feed and blog, but I'm in it for her insta stories. She talks all things party planning, skincare, weeknight recipes, home decor, mom life, dry shampoo, lash extensions, hair color, gift guides, and more. She's hilarious. I PROMISE you won't regret it.
Kelsey Preciado, Little Bit of Real Food: food blogger, "health conscious foodie"
I love following lots of food bloggers because .. let's face it.. I love food. BUT many times the "health conscious" food bloggers lack the #realness I'm looking for. I want to be healthy and fit, but I also want to live my life. Kelsey is hilarious and shows plenty of food but also a lot of life. Famous for her 5 foot cheese boards, delicious desserts within reason, she'll have you laughing and not taking yourself too seriously on this life-long wellness journey.
Danika Brysha, a self-care junkie, wellness entrepreneur, body positive fashion model, and business owner
If ya don't know, now ya know. Where to start with this one. I've been following Danika for years now. I think I initially stumbled onto her through the Whole 30 page, since she is a Whole 30 coach, but man did I hit the jackpot with that follow. Danika is a model, owns her company Model Meals (healthy whole 30 meals delivered in CA), and is a major influencer in the way of self-care and routine. My words won't do her justice. Follow along and get a fascinating glimpse of her world.
I love when I finally find a great product. Drinks, make-up, books, podcasts, etc.- it's great for someone else to weed through the not so good, and share the tried and true. The things I'm sharing today are my all-time favorites. These are things I have tested and loved for a LONG time and that have beaten out many other products of their kind. I figured summer is a great time to try new things, so I hope you enjoy!
Mascara: Benefit BADgal BANG! volumizing mascara
Podcast: The 5 AM Miracle Podcast and The Self-Helpless Podcast
Dry Shampoo: Klorane is my fave, but Batiste is a close second
Favorite Colored Pens: BIC Gel-ocity Quick Dry Retractable Gel Pen
Daily Planner: My Next 90 Days Daily Action Planner by Savor Success
Goal Planner: Cultivate What Matters Powersheets Goal Planner
It's no secret, I LOVE DATA!! I wasn't always like this, though. I use to think of data as a burden and a means for dehumanizing the very human work we do as school counselors. Now, data is my best friend! I'll tell you why.
Why data rocks:
Data to collect at the end of the year:
Each program is different and you may have other components of your program you need to track as well. The most important part of tracking data is consistency. You have to commit to the importance of tracking and plan thoughtfully and reasonably about what you can keep up with. If you only track for half a year or a few months, your data won't be usable. When you plan for next year, think about little changes you can make in your daily habits that will set you up to be able to easily and quickly pull some of these number!
Comment below some other types of data you round-up and I will add them to a list for a follow up post! :)
It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Most people might say that about the Christmas season, but the start of the new year is my absolute favorite component of the winter season. (I phrase it that way because I can't say it's my favorite time of year necessarily, I mean hello .. summer, but I do like it very much).
Being cynical about it is a fear response.
Many people laugh and tease about resolutions, since they often go unaccomplished, but I promise you it can be done. Something important to remember though, is that "there is nothing magical about January 1st". Lara Casey from Cultivate What Matters, author of my beloved goal setting method of choice, the Powersheets, says that phrase frequently. We should be reflecting, setting goals, and planning regularly throughout the year if we want to accomplish big things. Living intentionally, with purpose in this way has even been found in the research to correlate with higher income and living a longer life!
Methods for setting goals can vary.
The reason so many folks tease about resolutions, is because they have felt the disappointment and shame of not accomplishing something they've set out to. The reason I think most people fail is that they set a goal (usually only in their mind or carelessly written) and then do not implement a trusted system to help them stay on track and revisit their plans regularly. I use the Cultivate What Matters Powersheets for this reason- to keep myself on track. I have a lot of ideas naturally and have many different components of my life I am setting goals for, so this works perfectly for me. If goal setting is hard for you or you are challenged when trying to come up with goals, I would suggest reading the book The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. This will help you narrow your focus and start small. It works.
Where to start?
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. -Mother Teresa
Happy 2018! Make it a great year!
5 Life Lessons I Learned from Ellen DeGeneres
In a world where the media is plagued by news of tragedy, controversy, and debate, let's take just a few minutes to glorify some great things that are happening in media, as well. If you've seen The Ellen DeGeneres Show, you can't deny the "feel good vibes" that radiate from this programming. I hardly EVER watch TV, as most of the programming leaves me feeling unproductive, brain-dead and like I've wasted valuable time. The Ellen Show leaves me feeling refreshed, happy and hopeful for a world where people are genuine, authentic, kind, and loving. The Ellen Show is one of the few programs on TV that give me inspiration and can be a valuable part of my daily self-care.
I'm a 25 year old new middle school counselor, and I often find myself emotionally drained at the end of a hard day advocating for students and navigating an often "lacking" educational system. Since my job requires me to be in my best mental and emotional health, I am so thankful to have such a simple yet effective media outlet to tune into for a funny/inspirational boost.
Here are 5 Life Lessons I've learned from Ellen:
1. Being comfortable in your own skin is the greatest beauty product on the market.
Ellen does some marketing/modeling for CoverGirl. This is cool and all, but I know that the GLOW we see on Ellen in her commercials, TV Show, and other appearances comes not from Covergirl Olay Simply Ageless Serum, but from her confidence and authenticity in her own skin. I would venture to guess it took some practice and hard work to become this authentic- we all face insecurities. Ellen's authenticity and radiance inspire me to make daily purposeful changes to the things I tell myself and the goals I make for myself. We can grow our self-love with practice and mindfulness.
2. Being vulnerable is to be lovable.
There is nothing more vulnerable than to choose to do what you truly desire and ignore the fearful part within you that screams "What if people think you're weird?!". To dance is to be completely organic. So few places in our country is dancing socially acceptable- night clubs, weddings, etc. So many other cultures dance daily! Some African cultures consider Dancing, Singing, and Instrument playing activities that occur in groups for EVERY occasion. You might experience more joy and vibrance at a Ghanian funeral than you would at some weddings in America! To dance is to use one's body to express personality and life in a unique and individual way.
When we watch these clips of people dance we get the warm happy fuzzies. Because of our viewing this, we deem these people lovable. Let us all rejoice in our individuality and dance! Choose to be vulnerable. We are lovable too.
3. We must embrace diversity within the human species to live a full and free life.
The Ellen Show is one of the only "talk shows" you can watch and consistently "meet" and hear from people and groups who are not already famous. This is because, Ellen sees the value in diversity. Ellen realizes that we ALL have strengths and talents, and OH what a magical world it is when we highlight each other's strengths and seek to learn from those different than us. Can you imagine how few ideas and inventions we would have if we were all exactly like Donald Trump?! If we were all like Matthew McConaughey? I thank god for diversity every single time my boyfriend and I try to pick a restaurant to go to for dinner. He gets out a list and uses his logic to narrow down the choices according to our needs. I'm usually already drowning in feelings, too hangry to communicate in a language other than grunts. We need each other! Our brains were designed to be together, and what a wealth of opportunity we miss when we consistently seek people and things that are just like us.
4. To give is to gain.
Most people I've met, regardless of religion or lack of religion, can agree that they aim to "do good" while they're on this earth. Not only does giving to others make us feel great but I believe that the good we do creates a chain reaction. This "pay it forward" mentality inspires others to do good and by being selfless and thoughtful we can work together to "grow" the good in our society. Ellen has this as a main priority on her show and in her life. I know that if Ellen were asked she wouldn't want to be glorified or praised for her giving, she would ask that we each go forward and use the energy to "pass it on". Let this be a reminder of that choice.
5. Play is an important part of adult self care.
Think of a child you know and what it looks like when they're playing. Children can play for hours, living in what seems to be a land of imagination. They play with things that "aren't toys" in ways that they "weren't designed for" and they often make up an imaginary dialogue to accompany their play that often exceeds the realm of logical, adult understanding. It is magical to watch a child play. We, as adults, still have this part within us. We need play, too! It's vitally important for us to break down the barriers that keep us from playing and having fun so that we can engage in this liberating form of self-care. Ellen has "play" down pat. "Play" is the atmosphere that encompasses the entire Ellen Show Studio. When the audience is filmed in transition or in idle periods, they are buzzing with energy and having fun! What a vibrant life we would live if we could continue this playful attitude into our daily lives.
Thanks Ellen & all of the crew at The Ellen Degeneres Show, for being you!
Hi there, I'm Alaina! I am an Elementary School Counselor in Pennsylvania. Prior to moving here, I was a middle school counselor in West Virginia and Florida. In addition to my role as a school counselor and teacher, I am a PRODUCTIVITY and SELF DEVELOPMENT junkie, planner addict, and new wifey!