Posts Tagged 'sabrina bartels'

How to host a Career Fair

office-2065542_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

Every year, my school hosts a career fair for our 8th grade students. Around 30 individuals coming from a wide variety of careers take time out of their busy days and spend time in our school gymnasium, talking to students about their careers and what to expect for high school and beyond. It is an exhausting process every year, and one that leads to a lot of stress and frustration. And yet, every year, the excitement on our students’ faces puts everything into perspective. Despite all the tears and anxiety (on my part,) it always turns out pretty well, and our students learn some valuable lessons.

If you are interested in starting a career fair at your school, here are some tips and tricks that I’ve learned throughout the years!

  1. Start recruiting early. It sounds ridiculous, but we are calling people months in advance to see if they are available for the career fair. People’s schedules fill up fast, and the sooner someone is able to let work know that they are taking a day off, the better. This also allows you more time to find people for each career. It’s always going to be hard finding someone in the medical field, since so many offices book out appointments several months out.
  2. Decide on what style works best for you. What we do at my school may not work for everyone, but it definitely works for us. We used to schedule students for three “mini-classes” and they went to those classes and listened to the presenter talk for 20 minutes. Just last year, we switched to an arena style career fair, where students are able to roam the gymnasium and speak to whomever they wish. While we still set a time limit (45 minutes,) we found that students were much more engaged if they could visit with multiple individuals about their careers. This also led to less chaos if a presenter called in sick, or was unable to attend that day.
  3. Represent as many career clusters as you can. This year, we have all 16 career clusters represented by different individuals from a wide variety of careers. You never know when a career that isn’t as “popular” or “typical” might catch a student’s interest!
  4. Displays are key. We encourage our presenters to bring some sort of interactive display for our students to view. And what a turnout we had last year! A group of tile setters came in with a wall that students could place tiles on using their equipment and grout. A warden brought in animal pelts that the students could touch. A veterinarian brought in her dog, and taught students how to check his ears. The sky’s the limit! And the students were talking about all of these experiences for hours, days, and even months after!
  5. Set a timeline and stick with it. Our team tries to do as much as we can in advance. We are doing table layouts and name tags as soon as we have presenters confirmed. While there are some things that you won’t be able to do until the day before, having things done early will help alleviate a lot of the stress. Along this line, make sure you stick with the timeline you set!
  6. Send out thank-you notes after. We send out an email thanking all of our presenters for their time, in addition to a handwritten thank you note. We are lucky to have so many different people from all over the Milwaukee area who volunteer their time to visit with our kids, so we want to make sure they know how much we appreciate it!
  7. Ask for business cards, or interest in next year’s career fair. We’ve been doing the career fair for several years now, and each year, we make sure to record everyone’s name, business, and either email or phone number. This helps us grow our career fair each year, while also helping us maintain that connection with the individual. Many of the presenters enjoy the feedback we receive from students!

5 Things to Remember About Middle School Students

7841950486_428fcebe11_bBy Sabrina Bartels

I want to tell you a secret: I initially did not want to be in a middle school.

During my interview, one of my interviewers asked which age level I would most like to work with. At the time, I replied that I wanted to be in a high school. Talking about college, advising students on their application essays, and discussing scholarships sounded like what I most wanted in life. The interviewers then asked what age group I did not want to work with. I laughed and responded “Middle school!”

Here’s why I initially said no: middle school is a really tough age. In fact, that’s probably an under-exaggeration. Middle school is probably the toughest age. You’re not an adult, but you’re not a kid either. You want to be independent, yet you want rules. You want your parents’ love, but then you hate it because it’s so overbearing (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “Oh my God, Mom! I can’t hug you in public!”). You’re hormonal and cranky, and no one seems to understand you. Trust me, I remember.

With all that on my mind, I was full of trepidation when I went into the middle school.

But now, I love it. I thrive on it. Because as crazy as these days may be, I love my students. I love my job. I also love quoting my parents, which I do on a frequent basis (I can’t tell you the number of times I say “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”).

I recently stumbled across an article by Jennifer Gonzalez that was entitled “8 Things I know for Sure About Middle School Kids.” It was a hilarious, but very truthful list of things to know about middle school students. While her thoughts and tips are spot on, I thought I would add a few lessons that I have learned as well.

  1. Middle school students are (surprisingly) very forgiving. Whether it’s you or their best “frenemy,” middle schoolers are willing to bury the hatchet with others. Enemy talks about them behind their back? Two days later, they are best friends. Student gets into a verbal disagreement with a teacher? The teacher is back in his good graces before the end of the day. And when I need to have a serious discussion with a kiddo and give her a consequence, the pouting lasts for a day or less.
  2. They really do appreciate the boundaries you set. How is this possible when they argue with you at EVERY turn? But I have found that my middle school students feel much safer and more secure when there are firm boundaries set. For example, my students know that when they come into my office, they can say almost anything they want. My only rule is that they not swear. When I have students who need to vent, they often come in furious, spewing out all their hatred for school, their teacher, or their homework. But the minute they swear, many of them turn bright red, apologize, then proceed in a more neutral tone. It teaches them that they can have feelings and they can be angry, but they have to moderate their anger and be appropriate with it.
  3. Respect is expressed in so many different ways. This was one of the biggest eye-openers for me coming into a middle school. I’ve been raised that respect looks like polite words and gestures, calm tone of voice, and eye contact. Some of my students do not have the same ideas of what respect is, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t show it; they just express it in different ways. I remember one student mentioned to me that the reason he never shouted at me the same way he yelled at other teachers because he didn’t want to make me cry. I don’t know why he thought I would cry over this, but he was very careful and mindful never to shout at me. I think it was respect, and it really flattered me. Even if students don’t meet my definition of “respect,” they still find ways to demonstrate it.
  4. They are still learning how to ask for help … and that’s hard. I can’t tell you the number of students I meet with who are struggling in class, yet when I ask them if they have spoken to their teachers about this, they say no. Some are too embarrassed, some are just plain shy, and some have honestly no idea how to ask for help, since they never had to in school before. I was one of those kids when I was in middle school, so these kiddos have a very special place in my heart. As a counselor, the best thing I can do is model with them how to ask for help, and assure them that there is nothing wrong with it.
  5. They really are watching everything you do. Every year, you would think that I would get used to the fact that being a middle school counselor is the equivalent to being a goldfish in an aquarium. And yet, every year it still surprises me. While I don’t run into students too often, they do randomly appear at different places: State Fair, Summerfest, various restaurants, and the mall. Some say hi to me in the moment; some pretend I don’t exist, but mention it the next time they see me at school. I know some of my students try to find me on social media. What does this mean for me? It means that wherever I go, I’m mindful of how I act, speak, and dress. Before I post anything on social media, I consider what would happen if my students ever saw it. I want to be a role model for my students, both in and out of school. It’s important to me. Even when they act like they could care less about me, I know they’re watching.

Those are my five thoughts! If you want to read the original article, you can find it here.

On Not Judging a Field Trip by Its Cover

images (3)By Sabrina Bartels

When I was younger, my parents would always tell me not to judge a book by its cover. I used to think that they would say this just because I was always going to the library and finding new books to read. I would always pick the books with the brightest colors and the most pages, regardless of whether I liked the subject matter or not. It wasn’t until I was older that I began appreciating the nondescript books hidden on the shelves: the romantic escapades penned by Jane Austen, the tragic love story told in The Great Gatsby, and the adventures experienced in The Chronicles of Narnia. To this day, my love of reading has not changed.

But I’ve thought about that age-old adage that my parents used to tell me, and it’s taken on a whole new meaning after a recent experience.

One of the perks of being a school counselor is getting invited on field trips. This year, two of the sixth grade classes asked me to chaperone their trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo. The first group told me that they were going to place all of the kids I hadn’t gotten to know as well in my group. Perfect! I got to spend some one-on-one time with seven really awesome kids. I learned about their hobbies, their passions, their quirky personalities, and their hilarious senses of humor. I came back from that trip feeling awesome and ready to conquer the next field trip.

And then I was handed my group assignment. Not going to lie, I cringed a bit.

In an effort to reduce the sheer amount of drama/conflict going on in that class, all of us chaperones were handed at least one girl who was heavily involved in the drama. In my group were three girls whom I knew were often in the thick of things. Okay, two of them weren’t always the prime suspects, but they definitely had a hand in contributing. I was worried because not only did I have three possible girls who were involved in drama, but I had one of the top drama starters in my group, someone whom I talked to on almost a daily basis about starting drama. I almost cried.

So the next morning, I prepared myself. I set ground rules. I told them that if I had to speak to them even once about drama, they were getting a detention the minute we got back to school. As we started our walk through the zoo, I found myself dreading every minute, because every minute brought us closer to possible drama.

But you know what? It didn’t.

I spent a lot of time before the field trip worrying about how I was going to control my particular group. I didn’t need to. This group turned out better than my other, which is definitely saying something.

These girls – these girls that I had worried about with drama, and girls that I had talked to earlier that month about keeping their nose out of it – were perfect. And I do mean PERFECT. They were quiet. They were patient. They did their worksheet with little to no prompting from me. They were polite to the younger kids, letting them get closer to the windows so they could see the animals. When one older gentleman walked through the aviary with us, pointing out every species of bird that the zoo had, my girls were attentive and asked great questions. I was worried that they were going to roll their eyes, or get on their phones, but they didn’t. They acted so incredibly mature. It was amazing.

As we rode back to school, I began chastising myself. Here, I had been dreading the entire affair, and it had turned out that my fears were groundless. My students were great. In essence, I had done exactly what my parents had always warned me not to do. I had judged all of my “books” by their covers.

To see that my students had this whole other side to them was fulfilling. It raised my spirits. It reminded me that I only get to see one facet of my students at school; it is so rare to see every side of my student in the seven hours that I have them. (How often do we show all of our own sides to the people we work with?) And then I reminded myself that I need to love and appreciate the side of my students that I do see, whether it’s their best side or not. I need to cherish these students as they are. No matter what, they are still my students, and still deserve my care, concern, and support.

It was a good lesson. I hope you all get to experience it someday as well!

Culture and How It Creates Us

cultureBy Sabrina Bartels

During one of my PBIS meetings, I was able to get a little insight into culturally responsive practices. These practices ask educators to examine their own culture and how it shapes their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. While this topic in general fascinates me, I was really intrigued by one of the activities that we did.

The facilitator of this discussion asked all of us to write down – in one minute – what our culture was. As everyone put pen to paper, I remember staring at the blank sheet in front of me. My culture? There were so many things that fit my culture. What exactly did he want? My nationality? The culture I most identify with?

For me, going through culturally responsive practices training is a little awkward. Part of it is because I am one of the few minorities on staff; part of it is because I view culturally responsive practices in a slightly different light. For me, my culture is a glaring obvious part of my life, and yet, it is also a huge question.

I was raised “American.” Or, to be really specific, I was raised to be a true Wisconsin girl. I say “bubbler” and think cheese curds should be a major food group. Every Sunday, it’s hot ham and rolls while watching the Packers take on their latest opponent. I know how to tailgate with the best of them, and I know that really good tailgates usually involve beer-boiled brats (and of course, it’s Miller beer that we use) cooked on a charcoal grill. It’s “soda,” not “pop.” I can say Milwaukee, Oconomowoc, and Ashwaubenon with minimal difficulty (and yes, I could spell all of those without looking them up.) I can whip up a brandy old-fashioned if anyone asks, I eat custard and cream puffs, and I’ve seen a cow in real life. Most importantly, I know how to polka and, in fact, requested that one be played at my wedding.

However, you could argue that I do not look like a Wisconsin girl. I am 100% Korean, and was adopted when I was a baby. I do not look like my German/Polish/French/Welsh parents, a fact that used to lead to a lot of embarrassing interactions between my friends and parents.

Friend: Who are those people?

Me: Um, those are my parents …

Friend: But you don’t look alike!

Me: Well …

My parents have always encouraged me to explore my Korean side, and in some ways, I have. I participated in both traditional Korean dance and Korean drumming from the time I was seven until I was well into high school. We would drive up to Minnesota in the summer for a Korean Culture Camp, which exposed me to the language and history of Korea, as well as take classes on self-esteem for Korean-American adoptees. My family has constantly worked to integrate my Korean side into my life: my mom has learned how to make traditional Korean food, my dad is a chopsticks champion, and both did their best to get me involved with learning the Korean language. While I embrace being Korean, I can honestly say it doesn’t guide my life the way my “Wisconsin” culture has.

So which culture should I identify with? Is it wrong of me to identify with just one? Both? None at all?

And I think about how it must be for our students. If I, as a 28-year-old adult, struggle to define what my culture is, I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for our 12, 13, 14-year-old students.

Let me give you an example. I have a student who does not believe that education is necessary. According to her, mom only finished high school, and dad never passed middle school. Both parents have jobs and can provide for my student. In their household, swearing is a part of normal conversation.

For my student, who has grown up believing that education is not as crucial, it is a struggle when she comes to school. She often sleeps through class and refuses to do her homework. Swear words have a habit of sneaking into her daily vocabulary, which irritates a few of her fellow students. When I talk to her about her attitude or behavior, she is confused as to why she is in trouble. She explained that mom and dad never went to college and are doing fine; she says that mom and dad swear often in the household, and that she, as a result, does too. And then I talk to her about why we are making her do her homework and stay awake in class. We talk about how some sort of higher education is important, maybe more important than it was back when her parents were in school. We talk about how swearing is not appropriate in school, whether it is casual or whether it’s provoked. And we find out how our cultures differ in this regard, because while she listens and asks questions, I can’t guarantee that she’s going to change. And, to be honest, she may not want to … and there isn’t anything wrong with it.

But here is this student who, every day, is forced to wrestle with the culture that she has grown up in versus the culture of the school she attends. They are drastically different. Which is right? Is one right? Is one wrong? And which one wins in the end?

I remember the movie “Freedom Writers,” where some of the students told their teacher that their goals for their future were drastically different than the ones she had. She imagined them graduating from high school, from higher education, of them doing something with their lives. For her students, their idea of “graduating” was living through each day, as they encountered gang-riddled neighborhoods and violence every day of their lives. That lesson wasn’t lost on me. For some of my students, getting an education is the ultimate goal. For some students, the ultimate goal is just surviving each day.

And this is why culturally responsive practices are so critical for everyone to engage in. Our culture makes us who we are. I may identify with two cultures, but both have influenced me to become the woman I am today. The same can be said for our students. How they view the world, how they view education, and how they view their futures may be different than what we imagine. But by engaging in culturally responsive practices, we are opening our eyes to the cultural conflict our students may be experiencing, and learning how we can engage our students with open minds … and open hearts.

Tell Me Something Good

confetti_5878997537By Sabrina Bartels

This past week, one of my students mentioned that he finally got to go see a Marquette basketball game. He was so excited to share this experience with me, and immediately launched into a description of the arena, the players, and how cool it was seeing a court that has hosted Marquette alums Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, and Steve Novak. He spoke about how near it was seeing all of the student section, wearing their blue and gold t-shirts, turn their backs on the opposing team when they were announced, and how his favorite part was when the student section threw confetti in the air to celebrate Marquette’s first basket of the game.

This made me smile for so many reasons. It’s been a little bit since I went to a Marquette game, and even longer since I attended a game and stood in complete awe of what was going on around me. If I really think about it, I can remember the very first time I attended a basketball game: I was with a bunch of girls from my floor, and as we were walking in, some upperclassmen gave us a bunch of newspaper. We were perplexed until we saw all the students around us ripping the paper into tiny squares. We automatically followed suit. And when Marquette scored their first basket that night, everyone threw their confetti in the air. As it rained down on us, I remember thinking that there was no way any moment was more perfect than that one.

It’s been four years since I started counseling, and sometimes I worry that I have lost some of the wonder and awe associated with my job. Sometimes, I forget what drew me to counseling in the first place. Some days, I am so exhausted and frustrated with the drama associated with being a middle schooler that I miss some of the fun, charming moments. I miss the lessons that I’m learning. I’m so fixated on what is “wrong” that I’m not always thinking about the positive, good things that are happening at work and in my world.

So I decided to start writing down some of the good parts of my day, to remind me why it is that I’m a counselor. Here are some of my favorite things:

  • A parent told me that I’m someone her daughter really trusts.
  • A kid stopped me in the hall on my way out the door. She told me to go home and eat because I “work way too hard.”
  • A student told me I was beautiful (never mind that the next words out of her mouth were “for being that old!”)
  • I spent some time with one of my students helping him catch up on work. The smile on his face when he finished it all was amazing.
  • A bunch of our Student Ambassadors made posters and visited classrooms to promote our food drive. Having students conquer their fear of public speaking and give a mini presentation to the classes was a great moment to watch.
  • Hearing our Student Ambassadors talk about our food pantry and community closet. We recently started our food pantry and community closet. Parents can donate to it, and they can take what they need from it. When explaining this to our Student Ambassadors, all of them were very compassionate. Many wanted to know what they could do to help, from volunteering to help organize the pantry, to donating more clothes and food to help stock our shelves.
  • A few of my students volunteered to help a student with Down’s Syndrome. They let him eat lunch with them and taught him how to play Uno.

Take the time to remember the good things!

A Day in the Life

day-planner-828611_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

During my last two years of undergrad, I shared an apartment with four other girls. And by the time we all graduated with our various degrees, two of us dove headfirst into the world of education. Caroline became an elementary school teacher, (3rd grade, to be exact) and I became a middle school counselor.

The five of us text and chat all the time, but Caroline and I often talk one-on-one about work. We each have our fair share of kids that range from sassy to silly to sweet. The fact that our students are three to four years apart doesn’t seem to matter; we always manage to find common ground in terms of antics. And when we can’t laugh, we find that by simply telling the other person what kind of crazy day it was, we can walk away feeling a little bit better. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve talked to Caroline on the phone, then hung up and said to myself, “Well, it could’ve been worse. I could’ve had Caroline’s kids today.”

One day, I was telling Caroline all about my crazy day, and she laughed and told me to write a blog about it. Challenge accepted. Here is what one day in the life of a middle school counselor is like:

5:30 am: Wake up. Grumble at alarm for waking me up at this crazy hour. Hit snooze.

5:40 am: Wake up. Mentally wonder why in the world I chose a profession that involves me waking up this early. Consider changing jobs to something that lets me sleep in until 7 am, at least. Remember that I have an awesome job. Finally crawl out of bed.

6:30 am: Leave for work. Time to rock out to Luke Bryan on my drive in! (Also, a great time to eat my granola bar.)

7 am: First IEP meeting.

7:45 am: IEP meeting still in progress …

8:30 am: IEP meeting ends with student storming out of the room.

9 am: Second IEP meeting.

9:30 am: Meeting ends. I run to the copy machine to print off my documents for the next class.

10 am: Teach class. I love this class. I love these kids. I love the fact that my co-teacher is calm and rational while I feel like such a flake running around. Today, we are having the kids take an assessment about their skills.

10:20 am: Laugh hysterically as one student declares that she wants to be a veterinarian who never has to deal with people. Hmm …

10:40 am: As I am walking out of class, I see a student crying in the halls. Try to coax student to my office, but student doesn’t want to go. Instead, we sit on the floor in the hallway and work on ways to calm down.

11 am: Student is calm enough to walk to my office, and we talk about the awful situations going on at home.

11:15 am: Student leaves my office. I have three voicemails waiting for me. I listen to those, and call the first person back.

11:16 am: A teacher comes to talk to me about one of their students.

11:18 am: Get off phone, talk to teacher. When we are discussing the situation this boy is dealing with, we both tear up a little.

11:30 am: Teacher leaves office. Time for lunch duty!

11:38 am: Our PBIS external coach (the PBIS coach for the entire district) comes to talk to me about my new role for the PBIS team.

11:39 am: We are walking to my office and a student shouts that she is going to leave the school building, and walks out the door. I follow her.

11:45 am: Student grabs her bike and starts to ride away. I jog after her. Good thing I’m wearing high heels that I can run in!

11:46 am: Administration follows. They pursue her. I give up my chase as they follow her, finally getting her to stop and talk to them.

11:50 am: Get on phone and call student’s parents about her leaving.

12 pm: Open yogurt. Yummm …

12:01 pm: Get phone call that a bunch of my students are involved in some sort of drama, and I am needed to mediate. Time to go upstairs!

12:05 pm: After convincing the girls to stop arguing in class, the three of them march to my office where they promptly resume their screaming match.

12:06 pm: I intervene by telling all of them to sit down and knock it off.

12:15 pm: Girls walk out, a little bit calmer. Walk them back to class.

12:16 pm: Another student is having a meltdown in the hall.

12:45 pm: Student stops crying and yelling. I send him back to class.

12:47 pm: The yogurt that’s sitting on my desk is still good, right?

1 pm: Remember those three voicemails from around 11:15? I finally call those people back.

1:45 pm: Student Services meeting to discuss RtI.

2:15pm: Go support one of my Special Education students in his class.

2:45 pm: One of our wonderful secretaries comes to tell me that I have two new students joining the school tomorrow.

2:46 pm: Start building schedules and emailing teachers to let them know about their new students.

3 pm: Catch up with Special Education teacher about her caseload and some of the students we are struggling with. Time to brainstorm some plans to support them!

3:45 pm: Yep, still at work. Finish building schedules and assigning lockers.

4 pm: As I’m about to leave, one of my students in the after-school program comes over to me, upset about some drama going on.

4:30 pm: Drama solved. Time to go home …

To be fair, this is not an every day occurrence! But some days are just that crazy. What does your typical day look like?

What It Takes to be Smart

nerd-23752_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

Question: Who is the smartest person out of the list below?

  • The President of the United States, Barack Obama
  •  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
  • Astronaut Sally Ride (the first female astronaut)
  • Minecraft creator Markus Persson
  • World champion chess player Bobby Fischer

Thoughts?  I’ll be honest, I was torn between a couple of people. I always think people who play chess, like Bobby Fischer, must be intelligent. They plan out their moves carefully and well in advance. Then again, Markus Persson created an entirely new world on the computer. The President must be smart, because he has to make decisions that affect the entire nation. Astronauts have to be smart; think of all the calculations and data they must acquire! And think of all the routes, plays, and passes Aaron Rodgers has to memorize!

So who is the smartest?

I teach a lesson about multiple intelligences to my students every year in Career Pathways class, and it’s one of my favorites. I’ve learned that through the years, my students acquire a definition in their minds as to what it means to be smart. They then compare themselves to that definition. Some of my students are proud that when they compare themselves to their definition, they are smart. And some think about their definition, compare themselves to it, and conclude that because they are unable to do x, y, or z, they are “dumb.”

This is where the theory of multiple intelligences come in. It shows that there are several different ways that people can be smart. In Career Pathways class, we name eight specific intelligences:

–          Body smart (kinesthetic) – people who express themselves through movement; often have a good sense of balance and hand-eye coordination

–          Music Smart – may produce and appreciate music; often think in sounds, rhythms, and patterns

–          Nature Smart (naturalistic) – appreciate and are knowledge able about the natural environment; often have interests in animals, plants, and being outdoors

–          Number/logic Smart – people who use reason, logic, and numbers; often think logically and make connections between pieces of information

–          People Smart (interpersonal) – people who are able to relate to and understand others; often try to maintain peace and encourage cooperation

–          Picture Smart (visual spatial) – people who tend to think in pictures and enjoy creating visual images; often read maps, charts, and diagrams

–          Self Smart (intrapersonal) – people who try to understand their inner feelings, goals, strengths, weaknesses, and relationships with others

–          Word Smart (linguistic) – people who have highly developed listening skills and are generally good speakers; often enjoy reading and writing

We then have students take a mini quiz to find out which “smart” they are strongest in and discuss what that means. We talk about how we can use our smarts to our advantage and how that can help guide us down a career path that we are interested in.

It’s most refreshing to see my students who initially believed that they were “dumb” realize that they have definite strengths in certain areas. One student of mine, who always declared that she was “dumb” because she couldn’t do math well, felt better after realizing that her strength in art was considered a smart. My students who struggle with reading or writing suddenly have a new appreciation for their athletic and musical ability. Even I felt better after realizing that my ability to listen to and empathize with others is considered a smart, even if I struggled with math.

I encourage all of my students, and all of their parents, to check out what their “smart” is! It is not only a great self-esteem booster, but it helps everyone appreciate how we are each unique, different, and smart in every way!

To check out what “smart” you have, go to this link: Once you finish answering the questions, it will bring up a chart with how you rank in the 8 different categories. Enjoy!


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