Odd Girl Speaks Out Small Group Series Part III: Sessions 4 & 5

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If you missed Part I and Part II of this small group series, you can check them out here:

Odd Girl Speaks Out Small Group Series Part I: Sessions 1 & 2

Odd Girl Speaks Out Small Group Series Part II: Session 3

Today I will share the final 2 sessions of this group designed for middle school girls.


Just like in sessions 1, 2, and 3,  I start off with a check-in, which consists of our “pows” and “wows.” A “pow” is a bad or disappointing thing that has happened recently, and a “wow” is a good or exciting thing that has happened. This allows me to quickly check in with students and assess how they are doing, while giving them an opportunity to learn more about their peers.

Middle School Girls 5th Grade Small Group – Odd Girl Speaks Out – Sessions 4 & 5

Session #4

  1. Check-Ins
  2. Read the “Why Is She Acting Like This?” from Odd Girl Speaks Out {page 139} — This section centers around the different reasons girls might act mean {i.e. going through something at home, wanting to be popular, mimicking older siblings or parents, etc.} It also touches upon jealously and how feeling jealous from time to time is normal and okay, but the way we express those feelings makes a difference.
  3. Discuss as a group. Possible discussion questions:
    • What do you think about fear or insecurity being the root of girls being mean? Have you ever snapped at someone or treated someone badly because you were angry at something else (a bad grade, fight with parents, etc.)?
    • Why do you think that women, for so long, were not allowed by society to show aggression? Has this changed? How so?
    • Have you ever said a mean comment about someone because you were jealous? What would have been a better way to handle jealously?
  4. Read the next 2 sections, titled “Are You Mad at Me?” {pg. 142}. and “IM and E-mail: Clicking Your Way Through a Fight” {pg. 144} — “Are You Mad at Me?” is all about how girls show anger and react to the assumptions that they make. It gives some great suggestions for girls to deal with those moments. The “IM and E-mail: Clicking Your Way Through a Fight” section is a little outdated because it references instant messaging, but the content is great, so I just change “IMing” to “texting,” and it all works out. This part of the book offers solutions for girls who tend to use the internet to work out their conflict  {including the reasons why using the internet or text to work out an issue isn’t always the best choice}.    Disclaimer: this is one of those sections that has some content more suitable for high school, so be sure to screen the book before using it with your groups.
    • Discuss main points
  5. Activity: Play a few rounds of the game telephone. Use the activity to talk about how things get lost in translation, and relate it back to the book sections that were just read.

 

Session #5

  1. Check-Ins — in addition to “pows” and “wows,” have each girl share one thing she liked about group this year.
  2. Read “Finding Your Inner Strength” (pg. 177) and “Why Are We So Cruel?” {pg. 181} from Odd Girl Speaks Out. — “Finding Your Inner Strength” is a very short section that sums up the lessons learned in the book and offers a few more tips for girls who feel different or “odd.” “Why Are We So Cruel?” is a poem written by a 17 year old girl about how girls treat each other and what should change.
  3. Discuss final readings as a group.
  4. Have students complete the group evaluation survey{see my evaluation survey below}:

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That’s a wrap! If you have any questions about how I run my 5th grade girls small groups, please leave a comment or e-mail theschoolcounselorlife@gmail.com


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Odd Girl Speaks Out Small Group Series Part II: Session 3

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Last week, I shared the first 2 sessions of my 5th grade girls small group based on the book Odd Girl Speaks Out by Rachel Simmons. Continuing the series, today I will be writing about the third session of this group.

If you missed Part I of the series, check it out here!


Just like in sessions 1 and 2, I start off with a check-in, which consists of our “pows” and “wows.” A “pow” is a bad or disappointing thing that has happened recently, and a “wow” is a good or exciting thing that has happened. This allows me to quickly check in with students and assess how they are doing, while giving them an opportunity to learn more about their peers.

Middle School Girls 5th Grade Small Group – Odd Girl Speaks Out – Session 3

Session #3

  1. Check-Ins
  2. Review group rules
  3. Read “The Sound of Silence” from Odd Girl Speaks Out {pg. 100} — This story is all about how to handle a fight with a friend {or with a group of friends}, and the author shares concrete tactics girls can use when they are experiencing a conflict with their peers. A subsection titled “Losing Trust” emphasizes the importance of having the support and friendship of other girls. Women tend to claw their way over other women to get to the top, while men tend to help each other out, thus increasing their chances of succeeding {particularly in the workforce}. This section breaks down the reasons behind that and how to stop girls from tearing each other down to get ahead. Girl power!
  4. Break students into dyads to answer the following questions {I normally print these questions on slips of paper to give to the pairs as they talk to each other}:
    • Have you ever been shut out by a group of friends? What did that feel like? What did you do?
    • What are some things the author suggested to do when you are feelings hurt from a fall out with a friend?
    • What is something a friend could do that would completely break your trust?
    • Why do you think it is important to build healthy relationships with other girls?
    • What are qualities you look for in a friend?
  5. Discuss answers as a group, and discuss the following quote:
    • “If you stay convinced girls will hurt you, it’s like opening your wound again and again.”
  6. Summarize the main points of the session, and close out.

Check back next week for my final post of this series, which will include the final 2 sessions of the Odd Girl Speaks Out small group.


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Odd Girl Speaks Out Small Group Series Part I: Sessions 1 & 2

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I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to see all of my middle schoolers in small groups by taking a part of each class from Library about 5 times throughout the school year. My middle school groups are divided into girl’s and boy’s groups, and we cover topics like conflict resolution, body image, gender stereotypes, and communication skills.

The group that I will be sharing in this series is my middle school girls 5th grade small group, which I have based around the book Odd Girl Speaks Out by Rachel Simmons. For those of you who are not familiar with that book, it includes stories written by real girls about their experiences with things like peer conflict, cliques, and popularity {issues that are VERY real in the lives of my 5th grade girls}. Today I will tell you about how I run the first two sessions of this group, and over the next two weeks, I will be posting about the other 3 sessions, so you will have all of the resources to implement this group with your students.

*I begin all of my small group sessions with a check in, which consists of what we refer to as “pows” and “wows.” A “pow” is a bad or disappointing thing that has happened recently, and a “wow” is a good or exciting thing that has happened. This allows me to quickly check in with students and assess how they are doing, while giving them an opportunity to learn more about their peers.


Middle School Girls 5th Grade Small Group – Odd Girl Speaks Out – Sessions 1 & 2

Session #1

  1. Check-ins {*see above note for that process}
  2. Introduce the small group and it’s purpose to the students.
  3. Facilitate development of group rules {I usually make a small poster with the rules they create to hang in my office during their future group sessions.}
  4. Play icebreaker game {This year I have been playing the game 2 truths and a lie to serve as an icebreaker and get them excited about group.}
  5. Introduce the book Odd Girl Speaks Out by Rachel Simmons, and explain that the group will be reading stories from this book during group sessions.
  6. Read “Growing from the Pain” story from Odd Girl Speaks Out {pg. 8}. — The author of this story writes about a girl named Alyssa who made the her life miserable in middle school by spreading rumors and attempting to turn her friends against her. The author later realized that Alyssa’s popularity was fueled by people being afraid of her, and she decided not to give Alyssa any power over her anymore by letting it go. The author writes that she is thankful for her experiences with Alyssa because they made her a stronger person.
  7. Discuss the story as a group.
  8. Introduce activity: Give each student a piece of paper, and instruct the group to write at least one thing that happened last year that they are choosing to let go of. Have them think about pointless drama or things they are holding on to that can be let go. Each member will shred her paper and vow to let it go and start the year with a clean slate.

 

Session #2

  1. Check-Ins
  2. Review group rules
  3. Read “She Copied Me” from Odd Girl Speaks Out {pg. 61}. — This story is written by a girl who was constantly “copied” by another girl name Mara. She writes about how annoyed she was every time Mara copied her and tried too hard to be her friend, and she recounts being very mean to Mara in order to get her to stop. When Mara decides to move on and search for someone else to be friends with, the author of the story realizes that she probably missed out on a really good friend because she was so petty and mean.
  4. Break students into dyads to answer the following questions {I normally print these questions on slips of paper to give to the pairs as they talk to each other}:
    • Do you relate to anyone in the story?
    • How to you think Mara felt, and why do you think she “tried too hard”?
    • When someone copies you, do you think it’s annoying or flattering?
    • What could the girl who was copied have done differently?
  5. Come back as a group, and allow students to share their answers
  6. Talk about the following quotes from the story:
    • “If trying to be her friend was that hard, I couldn’t imagine being her friend.”
    • “I obviously made the wrong choice.”
    • “If people don’t like you for who you are, then don’t bother being their friend. You are special in your own way.”
  7. Introduce activity: Pass out black squares of construction paper, and instruct group members to write or draw at least 3 things that make they dyad partner unique or special. Allow girls to share what they wrote/drew with the group {see examples below}.

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*Just a small note about the book: there are some sections that have language more appropriate for high school age students, so be sure to screen each section before reading. Sometimes I omit a particular word if I think it is inappropriate for my students.

Check back next week to see my curriculum for the following group session!


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Grade Level Brochures for Parents

 

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TGIF! To celebrate the end of the week, I will be sharing with you a new way I am marketing my program to the parents at my school. If you’re interested in reading the other ways I market and advocate for my program, read my “Marketing Your Program & Advocating for Your Profession” post.

As I’ve mentioned before, every year, my school has a “Back to School Night,” where parents come to school to meet the teachers and learn about class expectations for the year. For last year’s Back to School Night, I distributed brochures about the counseling program, and the same brochure went out to the whole school. While this was a great way to get my message across, I wasn’t able to give as much detail as I wanted to because I was limited to one page for everything I do with the entire school.

To refine this method, I decided to make 3 different brochures tailored to each grade level group:

  • 1 for Early Childhood (Pre-K 3, Pre-K 4, and Kindergarten)
  • 1 for Lower School (1st – 4th Grade),
  • and 1 for Middle School (5th – 7th Grade).

This allowed me to add more detail specific to the child of the parent reading the brochure.

 

Here is what I included in each brochure:

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By dividing up my brochure by grade level, I was able to put so much more content that was all relevant to the parent reading it. I’ll probably be tweaking these before next year rolls around, but I’m happy with the what I’ve created so far.

Comment below with how you market your school counseling program to parents!


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The Calm Down Corner

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Last year, I worked with a 5th grade boy who struggled to control his anger. Throughout our time together, he repeatedly made the recommendation that I should have a punching bag in my office for the times that students are so angry they want to hit something {a way he often felt}. I thought this was a great idea, and it led me to create the Calm Down Corner in my office.

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This corner of my office is filled with tons of items that could help a child calm down. Since every child is different, why not give them different choices? Here are the things I have in my Calm Down Corner:

 

Mini punching bag

I found this mini punching bag on Amazon, and I love that it’s the perfect size to keep in my office! The student I mentioned earlier got so excited when I showed it to him {and some of the teachers at my school were pretty happy about this as well}.

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Calm Down Toolbox

In addition to the mini punching bag, I have a box containing the following things:

  • Stress balls
  • Mini dry erase board
  • Stuffed bear
  • Puzzle
  • Paddle Ball Game
  • Temper Tamer Cards
  • Mirror
  • Mini Toy Guitar
  • Slinky

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I also have a few signs I’ve posted on the walls. The first is a grounding poster (see the original I based mine off of here), which encourages students to name 3 things they see, smell, hear, and feel as a way to ground themselves.

The second poster I made gives students 6 things they can try if they’re having a difficult time calming down.

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I plan on integrating this section of my room into anger management sessions I have with students, giving them the opportunity to explore and identify some coping skills that work for them. I’m really happy with how this new part of my office turned out!


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Pre-K Lesson Series Part II: Kindness Lesson Using the Book One

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If you missed out on Part I of my Pre-K Lesson Series, check it out here:

Pre-K Lesson Series Part I: Following Rules & Directions


To wrap up this 2-part series, I will be sharing one of my favorite lessons that I use with my Pre-K 4 students to teach them about kindness.

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I start the lesson by reading One by Kathryn Otoshi. This book {which I included in my “Favorite Books for Elementary Classroom Lessons post} is fantastic. One of the main characters, Blue, is teased by another color, Red. The other colors/characters, Purple, Orange, Yellow, and Green, however, do not have the courage to stand up to Red. Then, the character One comes along, tells Red to not pick on Blue, and finds a way to make all of the colors feel included {even Red}. The last line of the book is, “Sometimes it only takes One.”

Needless to say, there are plenty of good lessons in this book. I talk about the story with the class and let them tell me what they think is important about it. Then I ask the students if they want to hear the story one more time {cue a huge roar of  ‘YES!’ by a group of 4 year olds}.

Before the lesson, I ask each Pre-K 4 teacher to provide me with a list of 7 students who they think have been exceptionally kind to others in the past week, and I use that list to pick my helpers for the next part of the lesson.

The 7 “chosen ones” are asked if they want to help me tell the story on the 2nd reading. No one has yet turned me down. Those 7 students are each given a part to act out, either a color character or the character of One.

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I made the colors and number 1 pictured above out of construction paper and laminated them for reuse. Student helpers are given their corresponding pieces, and the re-telling of the story begins.

When I read the story the second time, the student helpers act out their parts, and sometimes I cue them to say certain lines that their characters say. The audience is told that they have an EXTREMELY important part to play towards the end of the story. When all of the colors stand up to Red in the book, the students in the “audience” all say “No!” as loud as they can so that they can help the colors stand up to Red.


The kids really seem to enjoy this story, and they LOVE acting out the different parts. How do you teach kindness to your Pre-K students? Leave a comment below with your favorite lessons!


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Pre-K Lesson Series Part I: Following Rules & Directions

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This week, I’ll be sharing a few of the classroom lessons I use with my Pre-K students. The first lesson in this series is one I use at the very beginning of the year with my Pre-K 3 students, and it is all about following rules and directions. Enjoy!


Since this is the first time I am going into these classes and meeting these students, I introduce myself as the counselor and ask the students what they think a counselor does {which always provides some fun answers…}. My main goal when going into the Pre-K classrooms is to make sure they know that I’m a counselor and that I help people. That way, they know who I am, what I do, and that I am someone in the school they can trust.

Once introductions are out of the way, I ask the students to tell me what rules they have to follow in their classroom and why it’s important to have rules at school. Then, I read the book David Goes to School by David Shannon.

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When I’m done reading, I let the students tell me their favorites parts of the book, and we talk about the different rules that David had to follow.

I then tell the class that we are going to play a very special game that will test how well they can follow rules and directions, and I show them my “magic wand” {cue oooohs and aaahs from the kiddos}.

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This “magic wand,” which is really the Magic Moves Electronic Wand by Educational Insights, is one of the best purchases I’ve made for a lesson. When you press the green button, the wand gives an instruction that the students have to follow, such as, “dive like a dolphin” or “crawl like a crab.” While the kids do their best to follow the direction, music plays from the wand. When the music stops, the students have to freeze {another rule to follow}.

My pre-k students really enjoy this game and ask me throughout the year if I’m ever going to bring my magic wand to their class again. It’s a simple, fun way to hold their little attention spans while giving them a chance to practice following directions.


Later this week, I will be sharing my pre-k lesson on kindness using the book One, so check back soon for a new post!


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Driving Through the Drama Conflict Resolution Board Game

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There tends to be a lot of conflict or “drama” in the lives of today’s youth, particularly with middle school girls {although no grade level or gender is truly exempt}. An important task to me as a school counselor is teaching effective conflict resolution skills to my students so they are better equipped to handle problems that may arise between them and their peers. To aid in my mission to squash the drama, I created a board game titled, Driving Through the Drama.

 

Driving Through the Drama Board Game

I have been working on this game for A LONG time, so I am thrilled to finally be able to share it with the world! In today’s post, I will give you an overview of the game and its rules, explain how to assemble the game printables sold in my TPT store, and offer ideas of how to incorporate this game into your school counseling program.

 

Game Overview & Rules

I designed this game to be a fun way for my middle school girls {who are most prone to drama in my school} to learn how to resolve conflicts peacefully and to understand the importance of effective communication.

Players begin by rolling dice to determine the number of spaces they will move. Players could land on 6 different types of spaces, and 4 of those spaces indicate that the player should draw a card from that category. These are the different types of cards:

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The other 2 spaces players could land on are “Detours” {meaning the player will move ahead 1 space} and “Pit Stops” {meaning the player will skip a turn}.

The game continues until the first player crosses the finish line.

 

Game Assembly

The game board will be in a pdf file that looks like this:

 

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For my game board, I printed out 3 of the main road pages {for a total of 6 pieces} and 4 of the corner pieces. You can print more of the road pages to make your game board bigger.

Once I cut out the pieces, I used double sided tape to attach them to a poster board. I added the game title and logo in the center of the board (which are included in the pdf file). I also added a Start/Finish line where I wanted it to be.

 

 

I chose to make my game board a little smaller to allow for a short game, but if I wanted to make the game last longer, I would simply tell the players they have to make it around the game board twice before the game is over.

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Once your game board is assembled, print the different game cards double sided so that the text is on one side, and the color is on the other. When you cut out the cards, the back should be the corresponding color.

 

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Print the game pieces {cars}, and then cut out.

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Finally, laminate the game board, game cards, and game pieces. Add a die and some players, and you’re ready to start the game!

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How I Use This Game

I use this game primarily with my Lunch Bunch groups {read this post for more info on how I run Lunch Bunch}, but I also have it available to use with small groups of students who routinely struggle with peer conflict.

The students seem to enjoy this game, and I’ve seen more of my kiddos step up and implement the conflict resolution skills we discussed during the game.

Head over to my TPT Store to purchase the game! It will be on sale for 4 days following this blog post, so make sure you get it before that deal ends!


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Beginning of the Year Check-Ins & Middle School Google Survey

 

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It’s hard to believe that another school year is already underway! To kick things off, I conduct some beginning of the year check-ins with my students.

Lower School Check-Ins

For my lower school kiddos, I make a list of the students I worked with frequently during the previous school year, and I take about 10 minutes to talk to each of those students in my office during the first week of school. Here’s what those 10 minutes consist of:

  • They tell me about their summer breaks {usually with lots of energy and excitement}.
  • They update me on how things are going since we last talked.
  • I remind them that I’m here if they want to talk about anything this school year.

Even though these check-ins are quick and simple, they are a great way for me to connect to students who are likely to use my services in the future {since these are the students who frequented my office in the past}. It also is a great way to remind them they have a safe space to go to at school when they are dealing with negative feelings.

 

Middle School Survey & Check-Ins

This year, I decided to try something new with my Middle School students in hopes of checking in with all 106 of them, not only the ones I worked with last year. Since all of our MS students have Chromebooks, I designed a “Middle School Check-In” Google Form for them to complete.

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I went into each MS library class the first week of school to remind the students the different ways they can see me {stopping by, leaving a note, etc.}. This was also a great chance for me to meet the new MS students, and I had some of their classmates explain who I am and what I do at the school.

Once I finished my intro, students completed the Google Form, which has questions ranging from “How was your summer break?” to “What do you think students at our school need to improve on this year?”

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The final question on the form asks if they want to set up a meeting with me. From there, I make a list of the students who checked ‘yes,’ and I make sure we talk before the end of the week.

This survey has given me SO much information that I don’t think I would’ve gotten otherwise. For example, a very quiet child who rarely speaks {and who has never been in my office} included in the survey that her grandmother died this summer, and she requested a meeting with me. From what I know about her, I don’t think she would’ve come up to me to talk, so the survey was an excellent tool in giving her the opportunity to ask for help.


How to you kick off the school year? Do you check-in with your “regulars” from last year? Comment below!


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School Counselor Office Revamped

 

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I am so excited to kick off a new school year! {Even if I’m not quite as psyched to wake up at the crack of dawn every day again.} In honor of the new year, I decided to give my office decor a little face lift. I settled on a mint and gold theme, and I LOVE the way it turned out. Here are some of the changes I made:

 {Click here to see my original Office Tour post}

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First, I changed the lettering on the front of my desk, using these free banner letters from Somewhat Simple. I also got some new, fun-colored office supplies, like my stapler and tape dispenser that I found at Big Lots…can you guess what my favorite color is these days??

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I also created a new confidentiality sign, which you can download here for free in my TPT store.

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My desk makeover wouldn’t be complete without a brand new planner, and I am already loving the one I created this summer! Check out last week’s blog post for more details, or head over to TPT to purchase!

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This year, I made a quote wall, complete with tons of inspirational quotes for the kiddos to read while in my office. Click here and here to purchase some of my quote posters on TPT. You can even download this one for FREE!

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Another new addition to my office is the “Calm Down Corner”. Stay tuned for a blog post all about this one!

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Finally, I reorganized and redecorated my book shelves. I found some containers from the dollar store that match the rest of my office decor {read my post on how I organize my bookshelves to see how I utilize these bins}, and I bought a 3 tier paper tray to organize my construction paper collection {which was a hot mess before}. To keep my clipboards in order, I turned a magazine rack on its side to contain the clipboards.


Overall, I am thrilled with how my office revamp turned out! I hope this has given you a few more ideas of how you can decorate your office to make it a welcoming, safe, and sometimes fun space for the students at your school to visit.


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