Monday, September 9, 2013

First Year Office

My first year as a school psychologist is finally here. I started (officially) last week for new teacher orientation and have been participating in professional development until the kids arrive later this week. However, I have been in my school and in my office for about two weeks in preparation.

Knowing myself, I knew I needed to have a physical space to match my mental space. While I can leave my apartment in chaos (which drives the fiancé cray cray!), I cannot stand having my office in chaos. I need it to welcoming, organized, and neat. (Can a Type A personality be environmentally based?) After making a thorough list of everything I thought I would need I scoured sales papers and the internet for all the best deals. As a new school psych, money is tight! In my role as PPT Coordinator my small stipend for supplies gets used up quickly for things like envelopes necessary for the PPT process. In the end it works out because the things I purchased have my name on them and come with me wherever I go.

I purchased some of the standard games, like Trouble, Candyland, Connect Four, Topple, and Uno. I scored Whoonu for $1.50 at Goodwill, which was the best find of the past five years. I mean, where can you get a board game for less than $10 and one that is sooo versatile!? I also got a great deal on a Cranium Brain Breaks game set ($6 in the Target clearance!). I’m not sure its full purpose yet, but I’ll keep you posted. My family introduced me to a dice game called Farkle. It is a great one to have in your personal collection at home, but I think it will be a bonus for the office. It requires math skills (!) and is a game of risk. I think some of my impulsive kiddos could benefit from the underlying principles. I also purchased a set of Rory’s Story Cubes. I think these will make a great ice breaker for groups and have many other uses.

I also got some markers, crayons, color pencils, and drawing paper. I had copies of coloring pages from previous years, which can be found here. I also have the necessary standby: Playdoh. I also have some mini jars I got at the Target dollar bin last year in my counseling materials.

I bought a handful of dolls and plush toys at Ikea, as well as bins to hold them. I had to buy the bulldog in honor of my Yale connections :)

After I spent a lot of money on the various items for my arsenal, I realized I had neglected my bibliotherapy library. However, after collecting some ideas for books I realized that I have a few free options at my disposal, including my school library, teachers, other school libraries, district town library, and my town’s library. I’m hoping to increase my library over time, but I have a few books to get started.

  • Off to Kindergarten: I thought could be a book to read during my intros to the new kinder students.
  • Oh, the Places You Will Go!:’nuff said
  • Psychology for Kids: It includes some “tests” to help kids think about themselves, their learning style, and their outlook/perspective.
  • How to take the Grr Out of Anger! & Stress Can Really Get On Your Nerves!
  • In addition to these items I purchased a two books from You’re a Social Detective and Superflex: A Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum.  I also got these funky rubber chickens (dog toys with the squeaker removed) to use along with the curriculum. (You must have seen Michelle Garcia Winner's rubber chicken moment video at some point!)

(Also, how adorable are my book ends?! I love giraffes and I think they are too stinkin’ cute. Thanks to the fiancé for getting these for me for my birthday this year!)

Counseling Materials

Just as I expect my students to develop an arsenal of skills to be successful, I had to develop an arsenal of supplies to help them on that road. Over the past year I have been “pinning” like crazy for this very moment. I had a solid supply of stress balls, mini containers of play doh, and fidgets from the past few years.

In order to take it to the next level I engaged in some DIY projects. I made “Calming Jars” for my students to shake and settle. I’ll use this in conjunction with my nifty Coping Skills Tool Belt and Coping Skills Wall. In the kit I already have bubbles, bubble wrap, and a red paint chip that students can use as their thermometer for anger. I grabbed both red and blue for students to create their own gradients using their own feelings vocabulary. I need to go back to the store and get green and yellow to align it with the RULER Approach that my district uses. You can see the Mood Meter in my office décor pictures below!

I also create a rice box scented with lilac. I bought two bags of rice at the dollar store as well as a long plastic container. I added a few drops of an essential oil and some glass rocks (for floral arrangements). As students move the rice around the scent becomes more pronounced and is soothing. The Worry Box is something I also saw around Pinterest. I'm hoping to use it with students to help them "lock away" their worries. Sometimes writing it down and putting it outside the mind helps to alleviate anxiety. 

Office Décor
There is A LOT to show you in this area. I’m going to try to highlight all my things I love, which is basically everything J I really wanted to make my office a cozy space. I’ll be spending a lot of time here and I want to like where I work. I tried to incorporate bright colors to mimic my sunny personality, but also make it a warm and welcoming place. So far, I’ve received some compliments. Go me!

I “borrowed” an idea Scrapbook of a School Counselor and used bulletin board border to line my windows at my office. I also attached my “Take What You Need” sign to the window in an effort to create more privacy. As an aside, privacy window film is pretty expensive! I only have these small windows, but didn’t want to spend $30. I’m hoping this will help create some privacy as it hangs at the right level. My office is also down a small hallway, so the window is not directly accessible to the public eye. I also chose to decorate my door with a “Where is Ms. Johnson?” sign. I had seen this on Pinterest and wanted to tailor it to what I believe my needs will be based on my experience last year. I’ve gotten some positive feedback from other school psychs on Twitter, so feel free to copy!

I purchased some cushions at IKEA (in fun colors) for students to get comfortable in my office. They can be used on the floor for play therapy or on chairs when we have a group. The school chairs are not the most forgiving when you’re sitting for a long time, so I wanted to have a preventative solution to this. Also, sometimes students just need something to hug, right? I’m sure it goes without saying, but that fantastic chevron pillow is for the facilitator ;) The bin is also from IKEA and is the same as my stuffed animal one.

My office serves as the home of the special education files for students in our building. I have a locked filing cabinet that the team has access to by key. It is situated near the door and table, and is pretty plain. I purchased a chalkboard decal to use as a quote board. I’ve pinned plenty of quotes to last me the whole year, but I am particularly fond of my first one.

I feel fortunate that I also have a bulletin board in my room. I’ve decorated the border with some awesome Dr. Seuss flair from the Target dollar bin! I decided to put a few posters, a sign my dad bought me (“Kids Rules”), and my confidentiality sign.  It is close by my table I’ll use for groups which is perfect for the confidentiality sign and referring to my Unthinkables poster for social skills groups.

On the front of my desk I managed to hang a bedside storage “thing” I found at Walmart. It’s meant to hold magazines, books, and other miscellaneous items for college kids. I thought it would be perfect for any materials I need for groups or individual counseling. I also have my Coping Skills wall from internship on one of my cabinets. I laminated the papers and attached magnets so they can be moved. It also works to stick to my white board for brainstorming and is close-by for counseling references. Kids can even grab one off the “wall” and take it with them to have a reminder during the day.

I have some other odds and ends around the office to add personality, including my Wizard of Oz bookmarks, a college poster, and some frames. I’m not sure what I’ll put in the frames just yet. I’m thinking it would be great for my school’s emotional literacy charter. Something visible and accessible for reference and reminders. I also got these great magazine racks at the end of last school year (Target dollar bin) and I have dedicated those to holding evaluations that are in progress, reports to be written, and IEPs to be written/finalized. I’m hoping this will declutter my desk area and help me maintain my zen.

Phew, I am exhausted after this tour! I didn’t realize how much stuff I had and how many uses I have for it!

If you see anything in my photos that you want more info about (or know where I bought it) let me know! I’m hoping to go into more details with a few items, including my binder system, once things get underway.

Until next thyme,


  1. FANTASTIC! I wish I had the privacy/space to be able to make an office like this... I'm the desk at the back of the room shared with four other people. :)

  2. I recently discovered this field and am currently applying to go back to school for an MS in school psychology.

    I'm excited to see your journey as a school psychologist!