Santa Letters

The truth about Santa Letters...what they really say!

Ho!  HO! hO!

Santa Letters being published in the local newspaper might be a small town "thing" that occurs.  Even if those cute little Santa letters no longer get published in your local newspaper, your teachers may partake in this Christmas tradition.  Are your students still writing them?  Are they hanging on their lockers or on a teacher's bulletin board?

Well, our small town still publishes those cute little letters and I always hurry to get multiple copies for my children's scrapbook and all the grandparents.  However, this year as I was reading those Santa letters I was really shocked!  Yes SHOCKED!  I am not sure how I missed this, but Santa letters reveal so much about our students.  

My children attend the school that I am also a counselor for.  So, as I read through the Santa letters I noticed things about my students that I miss in the hallways.  I read about a little boy that wished for his mom to come home because he didn't know where she was.  I read about another student that was hoping his parents would make up for Christmas.  I read about a little girl that wanted money to give her parents because they didn't have any.  

Santa letters show so much that we often miss.  They really say, I need someone to talk to!  I am struggling at home.  

Take time to read those cute little letters, where ever they may be posted.  I certainly learned a lot that I didn't know before about the students in my hallways.


I hope you are enjoying your Christmas break and catching up on some much needed rest and family time.  Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!

Don't forget to follow me on Instagram at KayelaHarrell or twitter Counseling Hearts @KayelaHarrell

Trevor Romain

Trevor Romain has wonderful videos for school counselors.  
This week, I used his video: " Trevor Romain: Cliques, Phonies, & Other Baloney" to 
discuss how to be a true friend and how to be yourself.  We also discussed how you do not have to change yourself in order to have friends.  Real friends accept you for who you are.

You can also rent his videos from Netflix, if you do not have the money to buy his videos.

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.

A little Disney World Holiday fun...

Grinch Bullying

I am currently teaching a Bullying lesson over
You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch!

I start off by showing students a video clip of the Grinch at school from the movie.  Here is the Youtube Link:

The Grinch at School

I ask students how was the Grinch different from the other Whoville characters?
-He looked different.
-He was green.
-He was hairy.

The students made fun of the way he looked and the gift he wanted to give Martha.

We then read the story and I show them my little Grinch.  He comes out of a green bag...

I put together a packet for the students to work through.

(Mean, ugly, rude, stinky)

This page says:
If you are being bullied.
1. Tell them to stop.
2. Report it to your teacher.
3. Ignore, walk away, and think of your JOY.

When you are feeling sad or mad, if someone is upsetting you, don't let it bring you down.
Think of the JOY in your life.

Draw a picture of yourself in the O.
Write things that bring you joy in the letters J and Y.

I also created a page similar to the one above that asks
"Write adjectives to describe the Grinch's Heart at the beginning of the story."
(small, cold, mean)

I also included some coloring pages from free sites.  I just googled Grinch coloring pages.

Books to Share

I always have a book with me wherever I go.  I am currently reading:

Jesus > Religion (love this book)
By Jefferson Bethke

Start Something That Matters
By Blake Mycoskie (TOMS founder)

ASCA Journal

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover."  -Mark Twain

During a time of grief

As I continue to grow in my profession, one thing I have learned is: Children Grieve Differently than adults do.  I have seen my fair share of devastating losses with the children in my schools (current and past).   It is not unusual to see children crying and then want to go play a few minutes later.  Children still pass through the stages of grief just as adults do.  However, children will look different.  Adults can grieve for a long hard time, whereas children can go through cycles or spurts.  Another aspect to remember is that children will grieve as they grow.  Years later, a child may miss a loved one during holidays or during a family time that triggers loss.  

Contacting the Family
Learning to speak to families during a time of loss is difficult.  This never gets easier, but my hope is that I continue to grow with this process.  Speaking to families during their grieving time can be challenging and it is easy to feel as though "we never say the right things."  A pastor friend always seems to know what to say and what to do.  I have learned the most from him. 

Some helpful questions and statements.
It is always important to express your condolences to the family.  Let them know that you are sorry for their loss.  Ask them, what can you currently do to help the family?  Let them know that your staff would like to bring food.  Ask them where the family is gathering.  It is also helpful if you can gather information about the funeral services.

Student’s Possessions
As soon as you are aware of a loss that affects a student, it is important for you to gather their belongings.  These are items that the family will want to keep and it is important for you to secure those possessions from their desk or locker, so they do not go missing.  These are cherished items for grieving family members.

I am not an expert, but I am always seeking information to help myself grow as a school counselor.  I hope you can take a little piece away from this post to help you with future grief counseling.

the {crawl}

i AM crawling to the finish

It is definitely December and I feel as though I am about to cross the finish line of Christmas Break.  Only a few months ago, I was packing a great lunch for my kids, had their backpacks ready, and clothes laid out the night before school.  However, at this moment I am doing the exact opposite.  I didn’t realize how I was completely failing at this thing called motherhood until last week. 

Addisyn came home with a star sticker on her face.  I asked her, “How did you get that awesome star?”  (Anticipating a great response like: I was quiet today, I was a great helper, or I was caught doing something great….)  Instead, her response was, “Mom this is what happens when YOU sign our discipline folders.”  My response, “Oh- so you get a star when mom does her mom job?”  “Yep, mom and you are not always the best at that.”

UGHHHH!  Yes, I sometimes forget to sign that lovely little folder that comes home every – single – day.  But I always look at it and it is always blank – which means my kids are doing good.  Although, their teachers repeatedly tell me that they talk nonstop.  HMMMMM… not sure how that all works, but it is working out for my kids!  So discipline wise- they are doing great! 

But let me say – in my defense.  I am tired.  I am tired of the spelling words, the nightly chapter books, & the math facts.  I know I am such a bad mom right now.  (I shouldn’t even be writing this post and admitting my defeat.)  I am an educator people!  I get the importance of all of this.  BUT- it is almost Christmas and I desperately need a mommy – school break.

Teacher Gifts

Christmas is in the air.
Bring on the cheer!

Here are some great ideas for Teacher gifts to celebrate the holiday season.

For the love of spelling

I love working with my kids and going the extra mile at home in regards to their education.  I know parents make a difference.

BUT- oh my... For the love of spelling words! Er-ir-ur!!!   Urghhhhhh!  They are seriously doing me in this weekend.

All I can say is bless it...

Good luck my little love bugs. So thankful will not be devastating to their college future. So thankful for spell check!

Snow Babies


Here is a list of some of my favorite books to help children cope with divorce.  I love Barnes and Noble (my little shout out), not just because of the wonderful Starbucks smell that feels my soul the minute I walk into the door, but also because they offer educator discounts.  Check with your local store for details.

Counseling Techniques

Think back to when you entered your theories class in graduate school, all bright-eyed and ready to take on the world.  Do you remember that moment?  What about the moment when the class was coming to an end and you may have been like me, anxiously waiting to get that final paper behind you on: "What counseling theory do you most relate to?"  One thing I have learned with experience is that not one single theory defines me.  Some counselors may find that revolting.  I probably would say I most align to cognitive behavioral and solution focused therapy.  Which leads me to some great positive outcome questions that I hope you currently use in your program as a school counselor.

"If a magic wand was waved over your head and solved your problem, what would be different?"
"If you were getting along with your classmates, what would you be doing different?"
"If you woke up tomorrow and something changed for you, what would it be?"
"If you went to bed and hoped for a miracle to occur, what would that miracle be?"

Maybe you have a student with a behavioral issue.

“If you woke up tomorrow and a miracle happened, and your problems were gone, what will be different about the way you act, feel and think?” 

The next step, after defining the problem is to move toward a solution.  The miracle questions can help your student see things that maybe they did not see before.  This vision that is instilled, will help the student become their own problem solver.  Remember, with SFBT, the student is the expert on their life.

The Counseling Ambush

I am often approached by parents, teachers, or administrators to counsel students.  This should come at no surprise.  I am a school counselor.  But, what does that title entail?  I have a master’s degree in counseling and my job is clearly outlined by the American School Counseling Association.  However, sometimes the title of counselor is confused with therapist.  As school counselors, we have responsibilities of meeting, working, and counseling students.  Often I have found that if I counsel a student for whatever issue that is at bay, I am “expected” to be counseling that same student multiple months later.  Frequently, I have noticed that my job is viewed as a therapist, one that meets with a person repeatedly or ongoing.  There are times, that a student requires more than one visit and I need to visit with them consecutively.  Conversely, I do feel as though most people do not understand the job of a school counselor.  Which offers the ever-growing need to define and advocate your position.  It is so important to define what your job is up front, to the student or parent.  It is also pertinent to discuss how many sessions you expect to occur. 

I love the grounds in which solution-focused brief counseling (SFBC) has laid out for school counselors.  A significant amount of improvement for students can be obtained through the SFBC model.  After rapport has been developed, counselors can begin concentrating on the area where change is needed, believe in the model that small changes in student behavior can have a ripple effect on others, focus on the small changes and build upon those to help resolve other tribulations, and work toward affirmative goals.   

Do not allow yourself to be ambushed.  You are not a keeper of a magic wand, although I love the magic wand model by SFBC.  There are some students that need a psychologist or therapist.  There are some students with issues that are bigger than you as a school counselor.  Always, counsel and refer when needed.  Let teachers, parents, and administrators know that you will work on the situation at bay and are always willing to see them if future dilemmas arise.

Do not allow yourself to be in a predicament of, "you are the all knowing and all healing."  The counseling ambush of being locked into counseling with a student every week for the rest of their education.  Advocate that counseling occurs on an individual basis.

Defining You

Do you ever feel as though you are put in situations that are not related to your job?  I am sure we all have at some point.  Even before I became a school counselor, there were assignments or tasks given to me that were not specific to my job title.  That never meant I was not willing to offer a helping hand or do those jobs.  Sometimes we do tasks that are not specific to our titles, but we are part of a community of educators that know the importance of every job. 

The importance of getting the job done. 

The importance of the greater picture.

Currently school counselors in Texas see their jobs and roles changing.  House Bill 5 has brought about several new changes and implications that impact school counselors considerably. The Dallas Morning News stated, “When the state Legislature upended high school graduation requirements this year, guidance counselors were put on the front line of education reform with unprecedented new legal responsibilities.”  For starters, counselors must meet with every child and parent regarding their graduation program and plan, which any educated person can quickly see the hours this demands.  Now, let me state this, as a school counselor it is my job to help students and families plan for their future, so I am more than willing to take on this job.  This is part of the reason I became a school counselor.  

However, after several meetings with other colleagues in the counseling profession, the new stipulations have brought on challenges.  For starters, the time school counselors spend on other tasks is not changing.  State Legislatures and bill makers certainly did not eradicate or diminish any of our previous responsibilities.  Counselors will still be in charge of the many other tasks that already occupied their time, plus the new task of “Graduation Plans 101.”  

So, the real question we must resolve is: are the other tasks related to their job title?

I believe we must advocate for ourselves.  Nevertheless, there is also a fine line between a helping hand and requirements.  Meeting with every student and parent one-on-one was once an end of year objective and desire, but now it is a legal requirement.  I think school counselors must advocate by defining who they are and what their job is, as defined by the ASCA National Model. With every new task, administrative support is key to any successful program.  So, I challenge school counselors to take a step back and see what tasks they currently employ that are not outlined by the ASCA National Model.  If they are not outlined, are these tasks necessities to helping student growth though?  Would it hinder your students if a certain task was diminished?  Always look at the bigger picture.  Remember why you became a school counselor.  

I believe Texas School Counselors will rise to the challenge of their new responsibilities and the way they view their position.

Baby it's cold outside...

Winter has blown in; it is FrEeZingggg outside.  We are suppose to have football tonight and the town's temperature where we are playing, currently has a windchill of 1!  Buuurrrrr.

I have been playing Christmas music nonstop at my house and office.  I have not forgotten Thanksgiving though.  Thanksgiving is actually one of my favorite family get togethers.  I have the best childhood memories of Thanksgiving time with my grandparents.  My grandad, whom we called Poppie, would sneak He and I a roll and butter it up for a taste test.

I am currently trying to decide what type of fun guidance lessons I can use in December to help celebrate the Joy and Love of Christmas.  I am researching ideas on Christmas and Holidays around the world.  I am hoping to do a diversity lesson with traditions incorporated into the topic.  I am envisioning the hallways decorated with traditions around the world.

It is such a wonderful time of the year.

Personalized Senior Newsletter

I have decided to send home a personalized Senior Newsletter for every Senior student at the end of the Fall Semester.  
My hope is for senior parents to know where their child is in the college planning process, what needs to be completed, and lend a helping motivational speech to their child to help get the college planning process done.

My Newsletter outline contains:


FASFA Form Returned: Yes/No

Your Senior has applied to the following colleges/universities:

Local Scholarships will be available in the Spring.  These will be handed out in a packet.

To Do:
Register for the ACT or SAT test
Housing Application
College/University Scholarship Application complete

Red Ribbon

This year during guidance lessons, my students created a class display for Red Ribbon. Here are some ideas that you might can use:
Kindergarten: Stay Sweet!  Drugs are corny!

2nd Grade: We SCARE drugs away!

2nd Grade section 2: Don't get wrapped up in DRUGS!

1st grade: We scare drugs away.

4th grade: Look WHOOOOO's pledging to just say no!

3rd grade: {chalk spiders} We would rather eat bugs, than do DRUGS!!!

High School Seniors

I am wanting to gather ideas on how High School Senior Counselors keep their parents posted on everything their Senior child needs to be doing.....

How do you share:
Application deadlines
Reminders to sign up for the ACT/SAT
Etc., etc., etc

Year after year I hear from parents, "that we didn't know."

What I currently do is:
Senior class email notifications
 Letters to parents
 School website

&&& the (but) is.... We didn't know!

How do you make sure your parents "KNOW?"

I would love to hear your ideas!

Please share.

Suicide Link

I loved this and really wanted to share with my followers.  The Middle School Counselor has a great form posted: suicidal severity rating scale.

Please check it out.

The Middle School Counselor

I think as school counselors, we can never have too many great resources.

September Checklist

September Checklist

Textbooks (funding)
At-Risk list completed

Do your teachers have:
Special Education List/Accommodations
504 List/Accommodations
Gifted and Talented List
ESL List

Renew AP Course (Audit)
STAAR updates
Senior Meeting (things to do each month)
ACT/SAT Test dates to Juniors and Seniors (mail-out)
Personal graduation plans completed and mailed home
Upload test data to Eduphoria

August Checklist

This year, I have started a checklist system for every month.  I thought I would share it with you.  It is absolutely NOTHING fancy, but I love to share ways to keep me organized, to keep me from forgetting those very important items, and from going off the deep end.

August Checklist

Eduphoria new teachers/archive records
Schedule Changes (Check Transcripts)
Modified Courses updated
Textbooks (Allotment fund/Auditor list)
Special Education List
504 List
Gifted and Talented
Renew AP Course (Audit)
Check new 5th & 8th Grade STAAR scores
STAAR Enrollment Due Sept. 1st
Senior Meeting
ACT/SAT Test dates
Recheck Schedules/Graduation Plans Juniors and Seniors
Guidance Schedule
Recheck new student’s transcripts/records
Schedule ASVAB
Order PSAT, PLAN, EXPLORE Tests (set dates on calendar)

6th Grade Guidance

I always struggle with my preteen middle school student's guidance lessons.

Until..... I found this!

I am not going to waste your time {okay... or mine}
posting where I found all the super cool 7 Habits handouts, videos, and lots of freebies!

Just go HERE ----- Pinterest!

I have to be honest.  I was a little worried that my 6th graders would think {blah, blah, blah} BUT they loved it.

Here is the run down:

Each lesson, we will discuss a habit of the 7 Habits of Happy kids.

For lesson 1, our topic was Be Proactive!

I asked the students what does is mean to be proactive?
Students, then had to write down things they were in charge of.  What are choices you can make for yourself? {ideas: choose my friends, choose my clothes, choose what I eat, etc.}

We also did an activity where students had to write down the things they control and those they do not. Some of the ideas I gave them were: a parent's bad day, my day, walking away from trouble, asking for help, where I was born, what other people say or do, etc.

We then watched the videos, I posted to my Pinterest boards.

There are a lot of great ideas out there for lessons geared toward being proactive!  Enjoy!

No David!

1st Grade 
Lesson 1 Guidance 
was the good ole classic books:

1st graders told me ideas for
"What Makes a Good Student?"

I wrote them on this chart.

At the end of the lesson I also used these great ideas from Pinterest!

I found some cute lesson ideas and printables from:

Soda Pop Head

I had the amazing honor of listening to Julia Cook at the Texas School Counselor Association Conference.  I LOVE HER!

This year, I am working extremely hard to set up lessons for each grade level that are unique and different.  That way.... I don't have to keep recreating every year.  In the past, I would take the same lesson and adapt it for each grade level.  Then, I discovered that year after year I was running out of great ideas.

Lesson 1 for 2nd grade was Soda Pop Head!  

Click here for Amazon link!

Before we read the book, I asked the kids to write down one thing they already knew about volcanoes on a sticky note.  They stuck their "What I Know" sticky note on the chart above.

We read the book and then talked about ways to control our anger.
We then came up with "Rules for Being Angry..."

To end the lesson, students had to write down one strategy they would use to keep from erupting!

How to listen

Every year I use chart paper to create this:

One thing I must do as a school counselor is set my standards and rules for my elementary students.  If I don't take the time to go over my rules, then my guidance lessons are {shot}!  They have to know and learn what my expectations are.  I also remind them, that they do NOT want to miss out on our super cool and super fun lesson!

My updated office space

Chevron is the new me!

This year I decided to update my office with some new fabric.

I love how fabric can transform a small space.

My daughter, Addi and I sewed some new pillows!

{I also added a few owls here and there!}

I also had this old desk at home and decided to bring it up to school!

{I really had to convince some teachers that the school did not buy this super cool desk for me.  It has been in my family for a few years collecting dust at home.  My husband swears that HE WILL NOT move it again.  So, if I ever leave this school.... I guess the next counselor gets this super cool desk!}

Check out Pinterest

Hey Guys!  I just got back from Florida and visiting Disney World.  My family had a blast, and I loved the wonderful time we spent together.  

I have been pinning away for the upcoming school year.   I am currently trying to get some ideas posted, so I can have a set of lessons for each grade level.  My goal is to have specific lessons for specific grade levels, so I don't repeat the same lesson year after year.  I want to keep my students engaged.  I have started posting ideas under the tabs of Kinder Guidance, 1st Grade Guidance, 2nd Grade Guidance, etc....

You get the point!

I am thinking of have a theme per grade level.  Like my 3rd grade Monsters!

More to come.  

My crazy brain is at work.


I am currently creating new pillows and decor to revamp my office space!

It is time for something new and fresh!

Did you think...

I fell off the face of the earth?
Well, I felt like it, but I didn't REeeeeAAAllllyyy!

I just became overwhelmed, stressed out, SWAMPED, flooded, and I sunk
in the "fun" world of state assessments.

I am sooooo thankful that Texas passed HB 5!!!

Maybe I can go back to being a counselor... (just joking)

I never neglect individual counseling students in the craziness of testing, but I would
absolutely LOVE to go back to being in the classroom; teaching guidance lessons to little
minds that soak up ethics, character education, and morals like little sponges at the end of the school year... So- thanks to HB 5 - I hope I get to do just that!

So, needless to say I had to put a few things on hold.
&&& my blog (that I love) was one of those things.

With all the new and upcoming changes with HB 5, overall, I am excited.
I am a little nervous about the new changes to graduation plans and the FACT that we will
need to reschedule scheduling until late July, but WE TEXAN counselors will survive, 
I WILL survive.

So without further ado, WELCOME back to Counseling Hearts!


Who was the educator that made you become an educator?