Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Be Prepared for a Parent Conference

As a school counselor, parent conferences are always a indicator of the involvement, investment, and commitment a parent has to their child's education.

A student who does well in school has parents who are attentive and invested in their child's education. In an article on, it states "parental involvement in school life was more strongly associated with high academic performance."

One of the ways for a parent to be involved is to meet with their child's teacher and/or school counselor. In most elementary schools, teacher/parent conferences are routine and are built into the schedule of a school. Yet, in most middle schools and high schools, it's left to the parents to schedule their own conferences with teachers and/or counselors.

I always ask parents to please be patient if they are trying to schedule a meeting with their child's teachers and/or counselors.

Be advised the average school counselor ratio is 295-to-1. My ratio is 360-to-1. Some schools have over 600+ students to 1 counselor.

Teachers are in the classroom most of their duty hours, and their preparation "hour" (more or less) is taken up by lesson planning, organization, collaborating with colleagues, and grading. I always tell my parents to give the counselor and/or teacher at least three days to respond to an email and/or phone message requesting a parent conference. After that, it's OK to send a follow up email or phone message.

So, what should a parent ask when they have the conference with the school counselor and/or teacher?

1) The first question to ask...

In elementary school...
  • Is my child on track for their grade level?
In middle school...
  • Is my child on track promote to high school?
  • Is my child on track for high school English and Math?
In high school...
  • Is my child on track graduate?
  • Is my child on track for admissions to a college/university?
As a parent, it's tough to hear the constructive comments from a teacher or counselor. Remember, the teachers and counselors are there to work with you so the constructive comments should come with an action plan on how to best support the student.

2) Ask how well your child interacts with their peers and participate in class.

3) Ask for examples of assignments, projects, and/or tests.

4) Ask for detailed grade report.

5) Ask about what kind of homework your child doing at home and how you can help.

6) Ask if you can do a classroom observation.

7) Ask about academic interventions like tutoring, study groups, and/or school sponsored extra-curricular activities.

8) Ask for any websites, videos, and/or apps that can help your child practice skills at home.

Teachers and school counselors are here to help your child be the best they can be with your help and support. Working as a team is truly in the best interest for the academic success and emotional/social well-being of all children.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Visiting the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park

One of my favorite places in San Diego is Balboa Park. There is so much to do and see.

For Christmas, hubby bought us a year pass to the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. It's been recently upgraded, renovated, and expanded so we were excited to have the next year to explore and enjoy the garden,

Tips for visiting the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park:
  • Check Groupon for deals on an annual pass
  • Stressed out? There are lots of quiet spots to sit and meditate. My favorite spot was at the bottom of the waterfall. You can sit in the shade under the awning of the Inamori Pavillion, listen to the waterfall, and watch the koi swim by. 
  • Plan for several visits throughout the year to see the foliage and flowers change with the seasons. 
  • Visit the website for special programs and events like a Tea Ceremony class or the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. 
  • 3rd Tuesday of the month the Japanese Friendship Garden is free for San Diego residents.
Don't forget ALL the museums at Balboa Park participate in the FREE Tuesdays for San Diego residents program. 

We had a great time visiting the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. We look forward to a year of visits!

Everything is Awesome at Legoland California

Audrey Kramer is a stay at home mom of her daughter, E who is 2.5 years old and her fur baby, June Bug. She resides in San Diego, navigating life as a mom, military spouse, and that all so relatable friend who never truly has it all together, but somehow makes it through the day.

The minute I announced that we are going to Legoland, my child ran from one end of our apartment to the other yelling “Emmet, Batman, Lucy!” Just a few name drops from “The Lego Movie.” The excitement of Legoland is the equivalent that most have for Disneyland or Vegas. Having only been twice before, she knew what was in store for this adventure.

My two year old adores the park. Upon entering, the Lego Batman Movie was the main attraction. Children were parading around with Batman masks much like E was in the picture below as well as my much enthused man-child of a husband who also wore the mask proudly.


There was a staged area dedicated to a meet and greet with Batman periodically throughout the day. We made it first in line to a late afternoon meeting. While we waited for Batman to make his grand entrance, E was running around in circles around her toddler friends chanting “Batman, Batman,” and upon his approach, the poor thing was starstruck. She did get comfortable enough to hold his Lego hand eventually.

The park also provided a crafting area, where Batman enthusiasts were able to build a Batmobile out of Legos as well as a scavenger hunt promoting the film. Our group of toddler friends were more interested in other aspects of the park like the rides and the various play areas.

The Duplo Playtown was were it was at for my kid and her friends. Everything from the Legoland Express, (which is an obscenely adorable train for little ones that takes them on a quick loop in the playtown area), to all the fun play structures for littles to galavant around, to the fun brick sized Legos for kids to build. It was a utopia for both my child and man-child husband who love to build and tinker around with blocks.

E building her robot giraffe.
My favorite part of the park is the carousel with Lego Horses. My inner child was smiling inside as we went around in circles; sounds of trotting echoed throughout the ride. My friend’s son couldn’t get enough of the ride, trying to make the horse “giddy up” the entire time.

All in all, our day at Legoland was great. The children were overjoyed and us adults had a great time watching our children light up with excitement. We will be returning in the near future. In the spirit of the Lego Movie, “everything was awesome.”

Don't miss the Lego Batman Movie in theaters NOW!

Visit Legoland California's website for special deals for your upcoming visit!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What Makes a Dream Job?

Everyone has their dream job. Perhaps, for some, it's a fat paycheck and flexible hours. For others it might be the corner office with an ocean view. Being able to explore out-of-the-box ideas and explore ones creativity may be a draw for many.

Although I wouldn't describe my job as my "dream job" it comes pretty close. My paycheck isn't going to make me a millionaire but it allows for a comfortable life for my family. My work calendar follows the schedule of the school year with weekends, holidays, and summers off which I am grateful for it allows me to spend quality time with my family. Each day comes with it's unique challenges which allows me to be creative and flex my problem solving skills for the betterment of the students I serve. 

Yet, out of all of this, my dream job is being able to work with an awesome group of people who I consider my "work family". We act like siblings bickering at times, but having each others back when need be. We find ourselves working collaboratively and cohesively. One compensates where the other is not comfortable. The others support when one can't do it alone. Each of us bringing our unique talents together to provide the best support for not only our students, but the entire school community. Some of us have worked so long together we'll finish each others thoughts, and even read each other's thoughts from facial expressions we make from across the table. 

A few months ago, a few opportunities for promotion for school counselor positions at the district office opened up. Two of my colleagues, including myself, applied for these positions. In preparation for the interviews, we helped each other prepare. We speculated on possible interview questions, consulted each other on format of resumes and whether or not to solicit letters of recommendation.

I wasn't quite sure I wanted to work in the district office. I wasn't sure how I felt about not working with students so much, but working with adults most of my days. Yet, I put myself out there. I figured, let God's will be done. I allowed myself to go through the process with faith it would work out in my best interest. 

The interviews happened. I sat in a panel of 7 people: administrators, directors, and my counselor colleagues from other school sites. I felt good about my interview. The interviewers smiled back at me as I answered their questions. The 30 minutes I sat with them went by like a flash.

My two colleagues received calls with an offer of employment. I got the "thanks for applying but, the position was offered to someone else" call. 

Of course I was disappointed. Was I not good enough? Did I ramble during my interview? Were my examples not enough to show I had the experience to do the job well? Perhaps, the interview panel felt I wasn't ready to leave a school site. Maybe they know, as I know in my heart, my talents are better used with direct services to students and their families at a school site.

With two of my colleagues  leaving I was a bit distraught. I've worked with for over 10 years. Ok, I was not "a bit" distraught. I was a mess. We did the ugly cry at work. Yes, we even cry together. We all cried for different reasons. For me, it was the anxiety of not being able to see my two colleagues every day. I'd miss their laughs and jokes, and their lunch time stories. I'd miss the comfort of being able to be me with two of my colleagues who have been so supportive in my professional growth. 

Would our team still function? Would we still be able to work well together? With hiring new people, would we still work cohesively?

I allowed myself to have my moment of separation anxiety. But I had to snap back into work mode. I had to remind myself of my 4 other colleagues who have been a blessing to work with. We will still compensate where the other is not comfortable. We will still support each other when one can't do it alone. We will still share laughs and stories at lunch. We will still bicker like siblings and have each other's back when need be. And when we hire our new team members, we'll be sure to choose those who value teamwork and cohesiveness as we do.

It is my hope that everyone has the opportunity to have the "dream job" of being able to work with people who make your job worth coming to everyday. The tasks and responsibilities of any job can be demanding and stressful, yet the companionship, camaraderie, and support of caring colleagues can make work more enjoyable and rewarding. 

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