Feelings, Feelings Everywhere!

This month, we focused most of our classroom lessons on feelings. In kindergarten, we discussed how to know what you are feeling, and how to show what you are feeling. We got to watch a video clip from Daniel Tiger and read a really fun pop-up book titled “Color Monster.”

In second grade, we discussed showing concern for another and dealing with anger. We were able to practice these skills, and watch a fun video from Brain Pop Jr. where Annie and Moby discuss being angry. We also read a book titled “When Miles Got Mad” that discusses Miles getting angry with his younger brother, how his anger manifested itself into a monster. Through talking about what he was angry about, Miles got the monster to shrink and was able to manage his anger.

In third grade, we started our lesson by discussing how to deal with someone who is angry. While it is important to know how to manage our own anger, like we discussed in second grade, it is also important to know how to help those around you who are angry. The rest of the lesson was focused on giving compliments. This may seem like something simple, but we really discussed the minutia of where and when to give a compliment, what a compliment is (not just saying “Thank you”), and how to be specific when giving a compliment (“You did a great job lining up quickly and quietly,” versus “Good job”). Students then identified three people to whom they could give a compliment, what they would say, and where and when they could give the compliment. It was a very fun exercise to end the lesson.

Fourth grade started the fourth grade lessons with a review of bullying. We discussed how to recognize, report, and refuse bullying, as well as what to do if you are a bystander to bullying. We then discussed how to show how we are feeling in an appropriate way, and how to manage fear or worry. The lesson concluded with an activity during which students wrote down their fears or worries on “Worry Beads” and then identified the top fears they had. This was a great opportunity to talk about real versus imagined fears, and how while both types of fear feel the same to us, we can manage them a bit differently.

Fifth grade’s lesson was about having self control and problem solving. The steps to having self control include calming down, thinking about how you’re feeling, thinking about your options (move away for now, talk about how you’re feeling, write about how you’re feeling, doing a relaxation exercise), and then doing on the options. Problem solving involves being calm, defining the problem, thinking about ALL the ways to solve the problem, trying one way, and then evaluating how the problem was solved. We ended the lesson with identifying what fifth graders are worried about as they transition to middle school. The top three answers were schedules, lockers, and homework. I have worked with the Park Middle School counselor to get information about these areas, and we will be discussing these worries in May.

While the rest of the grades focused on feelings, the first grade teachers requested our lesson be on kindness this month. Therefore, we focused on how to be kind, what examples and non-examples of kindness are, and how when we are kind, it can be transferred to others being kind too. A fun video we watched was the kindness boomerang.

We also watched as Mark Ruffalo explained empathy with a Sesame Street puppet.

In May, classroom lessons will focus on friendships. Students will also answer some questions about our school climate, so that we can “take the temperature” of our school.


I want to take this time to say a BIG THANK YOU to Domino’s Pizza on “P” Street for donating pizza, plates, napkins, and soda to the counseling program. Over the last 10 weeks, 11 students have met weekly to discuss previous trauma and learn coping skills to help deal with trauma. To celebrate their hard work, we hosted a Pizza Party for the students and their trusted adults.

Domino’s Pizza was generous enough to donate FIVE large pizzas along with soda for the cause. We want to give a big thank you to Domino’s and to the assistant manager, Samantha, who were fantastic to work with. She even made sure to tell me how proud of the students she was, having never even met them.

Thank you again to Domino’s and to Samantha!

Teen Dating Violence

As we get ready for the end of the school year, it is apparent that we now have teenagers at our school. While, they may be pre-teen ages, it won’t be long before they are teenagers. We’ve also had some “boyfriend and girlfriend” labeling happening. While this is very normative for students this age, it is also important to remember that there can be some dangers to look for in teenage relationships. I found this great article about teen dating violence. To read the article, click here. I have also included the text below.


Domestic violence is common among adults, and women are most frequently the victims. In fact, nearly half of women killed by homicide in the United States are killed by their former or current intimate partners.

Now a new study finds that this kind of violence also poses a risk to the lives of adolescent girls.

The study found that of the more than 2,000 adolescents murdered between 2003 and 2016, nearly 7 percent — 150 teens — were killed by their current or former intimate partners.

Ninety percent of the victims were females and their average age was around 17 years. In almost 80 percent of the cases, the perpetrator was 18 years or older.

The findings were published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

“People think that intimate partner violence among adolescents is less serious than among adults,” says study author Avanti Adhia, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington. “It’s important to highlight that this can really lead to death. It’s not something to brush off as ‘This is just an argument between kids.’ ”

If you need help

Young people who are experiencing emotional abuse or fear they are facing danger can

call the National Teen Dating Abuse helpline, 1-866-331-9474 or text

LOVEIS to 22522 and be connected with a professional who can help. Teens can also chat with someone for help at loveisrespect.org.

The study may be the first to offer a national estimate for deaths of teenagers due to dating violence, says Anita Raj, who directs the Center for Gender Equity and Health at University of California San Diego, and wasn’t involved in the new study.

“I have never seen this kind of work with this very young [age] group,” she says. “I did not know it was an adolescent issue at this scale.”

The new study also offers details about the circumstances of the deaths.

Adhia and her colleagues looked at information in law enforcement records and medical examiner or coroner’s office for each case. And they found that firearms, especially handguns were the most common cause for injury, accounting for 61 percent of cases.

“When it comes to lethality, it was very much related to gun availability,” says Deborah Capaldi, a developmental psychologist and senior scientist at Oregon Science Learning Center who has studied teen dating violence, but wasn’t involved in the new study. “When they’re in a situation where they’re angry, mad, out of control, they’re able to reach for a gun. That is more likely to end in the partner being killed.”

The new study also explored the precipitating events for these deaths. The most common reasons was the victim breaking up with the perpetrator or refusing to start a relationship with them. That accounted for 27 percent of cases. The perpetrator’s jealousy was also included in this group.

Previous research shows that jealousy is a common issue in teen relationships, says Capaldi.

In one study, she and her colleagues brought in 17- to 18-year-olds to discuss relationship conflicts they were facing. The most frequent issue raised by the teens was jealousy of their partners, she says.

“This was equally by girls and boys,” she says. “The most dangerous situation is when you have a history of poor [emotional] control, hostility, and then they’re placed in a high risk situation like, becoming jealous.”

And breakups, she adds, are a particularly volatile and dangerous time in abusive relationships. “We found breakups are for dangerous periods for more likelihood of injury,” says Capaldi. “When partners are together, although they might engage in intimate partner violence, they’re not trying to do severe damage. When they’re breaking up, they lash out, and they’re trying to hurt the other person.”

About 25 percent of the cases were triggered by heated arguments between victim and perpetrator, making this the second most common precipitating event.

Reckless use of firearms had also led to some deaths, whereas others happened because the victim was pregnant and the perpetrator did not want to have the baby or feared arrest for statutory rape.

Dating violence is common

The results are “shocking and frightening,” but “unfortunately, it’s not surprising,” says Megan Bair-Merritt, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Centre and Boston University School of Medicine, who wrote an accompanying editorial on the study.

Dating violence among adolescents is “incredibly common,” she says.

According to the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence, more than 60 percent of teens said they had experienced some kind of abuse — physical, sexual and/or emotional — by someone they were dating or previously in a relationship with.

“We have to recognize how prevalent teen dating violence is,” stresses Bair-Merritt. “It can have incredibly substantial consequences on health and well-being, including mortality.”

Young survivors of intimate partner violence are at a higher risk of being in abusive relationships in the future, says Raj.

“This is how they’re learning to form relationships,” she says. “There is the likelihood of this [kind of violence] occurring again.”

Prevention and help

The new findings raise two important questions about prevention and intervention, says Bair-Merritt.

“How do we talk to teens and children early on about dating violence?” she says, and “How do we set up good interventions?”

She says adults should speak openly to children about relationships even before they are dating. “I think it’s important to talk about what healthy relationships are,” she says.

It’s also important for kids to have many “safe adults” in their lives, adds Bair-Merritt. These are adults — parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, grandparents — who the teens feel comfortable with and trust, who they can reach out to during stressful experiences.

“For young kids, … safe relationships with adults buffer from stressors,” she says. “There’s a physical stress buffer for adolescents in having those connections. The more [connections], the better.”

And pediatricians have a big role in preventing and intervening in teen dating violence, she writes in the editorial.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics says we should be talking to teens about relationships and supporting them,” says Bair-Merritt. “We have a fairly good reach. Most teens see their pediatrician at least once a year.”

And most children have known their pediatricians for years, so they are more likely to trust them for information about dating relationships, she says.

Health care professionals should be aware of signs that suggest their teen patients may be in abusive relationships, she writes in the editorial. Intimate partner violence has been shown to put teens at increased risk of mental health problems like depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Pediatricians can look for signs of these mental health problems, social isolation and changes in their performance at school.

Limiting access to guns is also part of the solution, say Capaldi. Parents should speak to their kids about gun safety, she says, and ensure that any guns in their own homes are kept in safe places. They should also ask their kids if the person they are dating owns or has access to a gun. “Making sure guns are safely kept is a huge issue,” she says.

Schools can also be a big part of the solution, says Capaldi.

School nurses and counselors can spot signs of dating abuse and help support the victims, she says. Schools that don’t have the necessary resources to help should connect victims to community resources, like counseling centers or relevant non-profit organizations.

“Schools and school nurses need to know resources in the area,” she says.

There are several evidence-based programs that teach adolescents relationship skills and how to avoid intimate partner violence, notes Adhia. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of such programs.

And there are hotlines specifically for teens facing intimate partner violence, like the National Teen Dating Abuse helpline, adds Bair-Merritt. Teenagers can call 1-866-331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522 and be connected with a professional trained to gauge whether they are in immediate danger, how scared they are feeling, whether they or their partner have access to firearms and to help individuals get out of unsafe situations. Teenagers can also chat with someone for help at loveisrespect.org.

Middle School Transition

This morning, I finished the last of the fifth grade lessons for April. Each lesson included how to have self-control and problem solve. This information was adapted from the Skillstreaming curriculum, and each skill was broken down into small steps.

The end each lesson, I had students complete a Google Form which asked what their two biggest worries were concerning middle school. 43% of students answered that lockers were one of their biggest worries. 40% felt homework was a big worry, and schedules accounted for 38% of students’ worries. Other responses, such as friends and bullies didn’t have the same high percentages.

I am using this information to decide what to discuss in our May lessons. Since lockers was a big concern, we will practice opening a combination lock, and keeping a locker organized.

The May lesson will also include information about how to organize our homework and time, so that students are able to feel they can successfully complete homework. I will also include information about how students can get additional help with homework if needed.

To address schedules, I have asked the Park counselor for an example of a student schedule so we can look at and discuss how to read the schedule. We will also talk about schedule-related concerns such as finding the classes and getting there on time.

While those are the overall numbers for fifth graders, I also broke the data into smaller sets based upon homeroom teachers. Due to some classrooms having more students concerned with friendships and/or bullies, I will also include some tips in those classrooms.

Classroom Survival Skills

There are lots of different school counseling materials available, and one is called Skillstreaming. This is a curriculum that looks at several different skills and breaks them down into small steps. I used this curriculum for our “Classroom Survival Skill” lessons in the month of March.

Each grade level focused on two skills, and while they may seem like basic skills, it was either a good reminder of how to successful do each skill, an introduction to each skill, or a combination of the two. In kindergarten, we focused on listening and asking for help. In first grade, the two skills we discussed were saying thank you and being prepared. Second grade focused on following instructions and completing assignments. In third grade, we discussed contributing to discussions and asking a question. Fourth grade’s lesson was about ignoring distractions and making corrections. Finally, in fifth grade, we discussed listening and setting a goal.

In April, I will still be using the Skillstreaming skills as our focus, but this month’s skills will be more emotion-based. These are more focused on showing your feelings, understanding others’ feelings, and being able to identify feelings.

I am also having fifth graders complete a google form about what they are worried about as they transition to middle school as well as what they would like their middle school teachers to know about them. I also asked them what they wish we would have spent more time on. This will help guide next year’s lessons too. I already have a few students who have said “lockers” was something they are worried about, and I’ve talked with our school library teacher, Mrs. Anderson, about getting some combination locks for students to practice with. I’m hoping they leave fifth grade feeling a bit more prepared and less stressed!