Friday, September 30, 2016

SLHS School Counselor Update for October, 2016

October 2016
Dear Ms. Mouw
My second year of being a school counselor is on its way.  This year I am responsible for the seniors and sophomores  and Mrs. Theisen has juniors and freshmen.  I am test-driving  a Dear Ms. Mouw segment, so if you(this "you" is is directed towards anyone who is reading this blog--students, parents, teachers, etc. . . ) have a question, click on the link, ask, and I will give you an answer or find someone who can answer you.

Seniors and their parents:
1.  If you are a senior, get your FSA ID and be sure to save the user name and password. A good place to keep it is in your wallet behind your drivers license because you will use it until you no longer go to college.

2.  Because you can file for the FAFSA starting October 1st, this handy guide tells students and parents what they need to fill out the form.  I recommend you fill out the  FAFSA  as soon as you can.

3. Here is the link to the FAFSA, which is always free. Never pay money to fill out the FAFSA.

4. Finally, if you want other tips for paying for college, go to this site.

1.This year, Storm Lake Community School was given the opportunity to administer the PSAT for free if only juniors take the test, so we took on that challenge. More than 80 juniors signed up for this opportunity.  

2.Juniors who signed up will be taking the PSAT on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 from 8:15-12:30.
If you'd like to know how and why this test can benefit students, here is a handy guide.

3. If juniors and seniors want to take the SAT, be sure to sign up by November 3rd for the Dec. 3rd test that will be given at the Storm Lake High School. If you get free or reduced lunch, you can get a fee waiver from Ms. Mouw or Mrs. Theisen.

Leadership Series with Iowa State Extension
Students involved in International Club, Student Council, and National Honor Society can volunteer to get some leadership training from 10:00-12:00 on October 26, November 30, February 1, and March 15 with Nichol Kleespies and the Iowa State Extension group. Students  will be trained  on teacher professional development days to learn leadership skills as well as build the legacy they want to be remembered for at SLHS.

National Honor Society 
The new auditorium will be the setting for the National Honor Society Induction with forty-nine inductees on October 27 at 7:00pm.  We hope many will attend this special event.

Current members of National Honor Society will make a trip during homeroom to East to read to the preschoolers.  We are planning to do this once per quarter.

Tornado Talks (Small Groups)
Mrs. Theisen and I sent out a survey wanting to know what students want to learn more about from their counselors, and 142 students responded.  During study hall we have set up a schedule to meet with students starting October 3.  By far the most interest was in making and keeping friends with "What should I do with my life" in second place and stress management a fairly distant third. We are planning to meet twice a month with each group of students that has been randomly put together based on the study hall they have.  These groups are strictly voluntary.

Parent-Teacher Conferences
Parent-Teacher conferences are roughly a month away, so anticipate a letter home that will tell parents how to sign up for conferences. Mrs. Theisen and I are hoping to have second semester schedules ready for the students, and if they are flawed hope to have the fixes made before winter break.

Dollars for Scholars
If you know of an adult who is willing to serve on the Dollars for Scholars board, please contact Laurie Gaffney at

To think about:
We are called to be excellent, not mediocre or below average. We have met our quota of self-centered, wimpy people who have no imagination about how we can rise above what is difficult, reach out to others, and solve problems with compassion and respect knowing that nothing is more important than each individual, unduplicatable human life. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Speech for the National Honor Induction Ceremony on March 12, 2015

Hello National Honor Society members and inductees, their parents and guardians, teachers administrators, and community members. I am  honored to be selected to speak tonight, and I thank you, students, for choosing me  to present.

In my nearly billion and a half seconds of life, I have picked up some lessons, and I want to share that encouragement with you.

First of all, you are constantly making split-second decisions, and the decisions are actually quite simple:  they are either for your and others’  benefit or for your and others’ detriment.  I congratulate you on making up your mind somewhere along the line in your approximately 555 million seconds or so of life to have consistently made decisions that benefit you and others.  That truly is a big deal and should be celebrated just as joyously as  your birthday.  So many fall to the decision of desolation at a young age, and they can turn into adults who  live cynical lives with little or no hope.  So many listen to their inner critic who says, “You can’t do that.” or “No one else is doing it this way.” or “This moment right now doesn’t matter.”  You did not fall into that temptation.  People who value time value themselves because they know there are only so many seconds in a day and each tick matters until the last tock.

Being inducted into National Honor Society shows that you have outstanding character.  Being an English teacher, I love characters and details in fiction and nonfiction, and that’s why I love seeing those who exhibit responsibility in all matters big and small or who can be trusted to follow through on what they promise or who tell the truth rather than hide behind a lie.  It takes great inner courage and reflection to take the path of allowing  others to rely on you.  Character stays with you for your whole life.  It’s what others notice. It’s what gets you scholarships, friendships, offers you a start in a career. All of you have proven to have exemplary character through  your interactions in and out of school.  Character is not GPA. It is what you have sacrificed to get that grade point average.  It is the late nights and early mornings and the juggling of your schedule to meet deadlines; it is taking time to follow through on the demands of extra-curricular activities; it is knowing your family needs you to do your part to make your household run smoothly. It is found in reaching out to others with a hello or in listening to another in conversation.  You matter, and so do others, and what you do matters to others. What you do inspires others because of your character..

Scholarship is another area that is more than GPA; it is learning at a high level.  Scholarship is an outlook of curiosity, of asking questions and finding the answers because you have a natural love of knowledge.  Some of the greatest personal joys include finding  your interest niche in this gigantic world of opportunity.  Do you remember as you prepared to write your career paper, you were asked to write a  freewrite detailing some of your favorite play as a child?  And do you remember in another writing you were asked to share your dreams about what you hope your family will be like one day?  How your daily life will look?  Where you will travel? How you hope to spend your time when you have a career?  Those assignments encouraged you to reflect on the cherished parts of your past and encouraged you to picture what you want and don’t want in your future, so you can find a career that merges what you value with your aptitudes.  Scholarship is not just studying for the big test. Rather, scholarship is knowing  that each second you are being tested about how you are spending  your time because once it is gone, it cannot be gotten back. But the good news is that whenever  you want to revamp how you spend your time, one split-second has you back on the right path.

Leadership is a rare gift. It really is.  How many people are visionaries who can see how to solve problems and then implement a useful solution? Leaders do not allow themselves to stay stuck in the muck of rumor, envy, uncooperativeness,  knowitallness without the courage to do what is best. And worst of all hopelessness. Leaders know that perfection is impossible, but that hope is imperative. That’s right.  Hope is imperative. As leaders, I envision each one of you as adults sharing that hope and taking care of your family and other families by serving on school boards, library boards, hospital boards,  the city council, scholarship committees, being advocates for those whose voices are not being heard, heading fundraising events for community upgrades, mentoring youth, making the elderly’s lives comfortable.  I envision you as being the go-to people of others who need help and guidance.  You are leaders now, and you will be leaders later in life because these traits do not disappear; they expand.  Leaders who care  are needed in the world you will be raising your children in.  Take that responsibility seriously.  It’s a gift others need you to share.

My final point is what I hope sticks with you for the rest of  your lives.  Honor without action is selfish egoism. It goes nowhere except to your head.  Do accept the accolades of others.  You  deserve to be congratulated on being pillars of the Storm Lake High School.  But do not allow arrogance into  your being because arrogance leads you away from selfless service.  If you are arrogant, you do not care about others, you care about only yourself,and what a lonely, dark life that is.

This is what I want you to remember for the rest of your lives.  Honor with action is selfless sacrifice.  It is service. When you agreed to apply for National Honor Society, you reflected on and categorized your accomplishments during your 14th through 17th or 18th or 19th years of life.  I am hoping you saw the pattern of sacrifice that came with those accomplishments.  You took risks by trying new clubs or extra curriculars, by finding jobs, by maintaining a high GPA. Those are all practice for adulthood. Do not undermine the value of these split-second decisions to be resilient. Your cooperation as role models encourages your peers and siblings and probably your parents and teachers  and neighbors to strive to be their best.  If we have a whole school of students  doing their best despite suffering from  injuries, illness, loneliness, losing loved ones, moving,         their families going through divorce or remarriage or arguments or rough financial times, or even being abused or neglected we will have resilient students who  become resilient adults who teach their children to be resilient.

If there is one aspect of this ceremony that I wish I could change it is this:  I wish it were done in front of our entire student body.  Yes, entire.  Preschool-high school. Year after year after year of the formal solemnity of this event would get  embedded into each student’s heart who watches with awe and reverence as students like you are inducted into National Honor Society, and they can begin to dream they too will one day be a part of this elite ceremony.

I hope, just like I do everyday in the classroom, that you take something from my words.  I thought long and hard about what to say, and I want to end with this.  You make me proud.  You make Storm Lake High School proud.  You make our community proud.  I can’t wait to hear  how you change the world for the better because you have continued your commitment to scholarship, character, leadership, and service well into your own retirement from your career..When  you are at your nearly billion and a half seconds of life, may you be able to reflect on your decisions and find that  others have thanked you for how you have made their lives better.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parenting Students

On the first day back to school, our superintendent, Dr. Turner, challenged all of us teachers to treat our students like they are our children: to go the extra mile, to fight for them, to make sure they are nourished educationally, and to think about their future as citizens of this great country.  As teachers, to raise the next generation to meet the challenges of its day, we can inspire dreams by teaching students to manage their time, to follow through on their responsibilities, to see that their decisions do lead them down certain paths.  If we care about our students like parents care about their children, we will create lessons that will make students feel growing pains that cause them to even make startling statements like "I can't do this!" or "It's impossible," or "I need help" or "I'll hang out with my friends as soon as I finish my homework," or "I really like being challenged by this material."  Eventually, if we stick to our guns, students may reflect on their education and say, "I hated going through that class, but it taught me how to . . . " or "Now I see why we had to do this work."  Or perhaps they will even say, "Thank you. You believed in me when I did not believe in myself." Parents and teachers have a tough job filled with satisfying sacrifice and love like none other, and the adults of tomorrow deserve that sort of love so they can pass it on to the next generation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

See How They've Grown

When school dismissed for summer, I transplanted the two inch tall plants, which had been growing in my classroom since my homeroom students planted them in January, into the earth. Not all have survived: rabbits, deer, weeds and the issues of being started indoors all threatened their existence, but now, finally, they are starting to bloom. It is worth the wait. Soon the juniors who planted these seeds will start their senior year. I can't wait to see them on August 25th, the first day of the 2014-2015 school year.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Students as Teachers

Gabrielle took charge of the classroom.  She handed out small pieces of paper from a sandwich-sized Ziplock baggie.  She asked twenty-four of her peers to anonymously write down an insecurity on the paper.  Without hesitating, students wrote.  Then, following her directions, they fold the paper in quarters and submitted them to the box she designated.

Next, Gabrielle told students to grab an insecurity from the box and to make sure it was not their own.  Quickly and quietly all selected and were directed to write a letter of advice to the insecurity.  Students wrote with great focus and with much to say.  

When the ten minutes were up, Gabrielle called students one-by-one to read their advice.  The insecurities did not vary much and all could relate:  Seven of the twenty-five had issues with the perception of being fat, six had issues with the way they perceive their looks, one each feared being a failure, feared being alone, compared oneself to a boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, feared that life has no purpose and the advice was what each and every student needed to hear.

Jaleesa  wrote this:
“My Eyes”
What is wrong with your eyes? I see nothing wrong with them. They are actually very beautiful. The color that you have makes your eyes twinkle. I can tell when you are happy, nervous, or scared because your eyes always tell a story. Your eyes are special. They stand out like no other. You are a very mysterious person, but when I look into your eyes I know you have a kind heart. Please do not dislike your beautiful unique eyes because they are what make you “you” and you are a beautiful person. Embrace them.

Jocelyn wrote this:
Your Depression will lose

Who ever you are, I need you to know that you can conquer your depression. You can fight it! Whatever it is that is overshadowing you and making you feel the way you feel, please, know that there is someone out there that wants to talk to you and listen to every word you have to say. I don’t know if you do talk about your depression, but if you do and do not talk to anyone, you will just build up more weight on your shoulders. Let me tell you that I can understand how hard that can be; to find someone who you can trust and be honest to, but don’t give up. Find someone, let them know how you feel because letting out all your emotions will take some weight off. Please, I beg that you do this! Please!
I don’t want to say that I know how it feels to go through depression because I’m writing about you. Not about me, but I know what depression feels like. I wish I didn’t. HONESTLY I wish I didn’t. Depression is such a terrible state to be in! I hate it! With all my heart I do. I don’t know how bad your depression is but please, find what can free you from this. ASAP! There is someone out there that wants to support you and care for you. I am writing this in a serious matter. From my heart. I don’t know who you are but please don’t take this the wrong way. I love you. Whoever you are, I love you. Everyone is loved and needs to be loved. Love is what can help you escape from this. Love conquers everything. I believe it. To believe it, you need to love yourself and I hope that you do.
I’m sorry that you are going through what you are going through. Depression is hard to get through and I know you can fight it. I need you to believe that. I believe that you can do it.
Find something or someone that makes you happy and smile and laugh. One true meaningful smile can help with your depression. If drawing makes you happy; draw. If singing makes you happy; sing. If exercising blows off some steam or clears your mind; workout! Find your freedom. Find what helps you not ‘just make it through the day’, find what can free your from this forever.
If you need to speak, I am here. Please, do not hesitate. I mean it.

This timely exercise, generated by a student, had a carryover effect.  I tried the same exercise with my freshman English class, and with some guidance about taking the exercise seriously and maturely,the same results occurred.  Students opened up and their peers came through with good advice.It is a reminder that students with a say in their classrooms can create lessons that resonate with their peers in a much more profound way than any teacher could develop.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Growing Together in Homeroom

On January 24, to beat the winter doldrums, I wanted my 25 homeroom students to plant zinnias, so I bought an inexpensive starter kit that conveniently had 50 spots to grow seeds and I put together these instructions.

Displaying IMAG3010.jpg      Displaying IMAG3013.jpg 
  Displaying IMAG3014.jpg                                    Displaying IMAG3011.jpg

In a brief ten minutes, the students had the seeds planted.
Now it is February 11 and the seeds look like this:  Displaying IMAG3033.jpg 

And we are collecting milk cartons so in a week or so we can transplant the zinnias.  Who knows, maybe they will bloom in the classroom.

A Novel Way to Write Creatively

We have just started the process of piecing together a novel in Creative Writing class.  Twenty-five students, each writing one chapter, are figuring out character sketches in the pictures below.  All will use the same information so their chapters make sense in the end, but for now, we are in the creating stage.

Backing up to the beginning of this project, students received several slips of blank paper to record ideas so we can randomly yet in an orderly way figure out the basics of the novel. A box was placed at the front of the classroom, and students submitted their ideas each time we had a decision to make about where the novel would go.  First we brainstormed on the board the potential types of fiction as a class; from that list, students individually submitted their choices. Fantasy was drawn by the student chosen to be the selector and the novel had a genre.  Next we determined settings for the movel, so the drawee selected five of the twenty-five suggestions for time and place and those places will house the entire novel's plot.    Then students wrote character names and brief descriptions.  We decided six characters would be plenty for this novice novel, and that's how we ended up with Jericho, John, Carson Clayson, Semilla, Julie, and Skylar.  Then students submitted ideas for the title, and voila, Broken Wing it is.  Finally, we chose chapter names in the same way.  Students submitted two ideas on two pieces of paper. Then we numbered the chapters, one per student, drew an option, and that became chapter 1; we also drew out a student's name to match up an author with a chapter.  Here is the first sketch of the  project's foundation.  To determine more fully who these characters are, the class was divided into six groups and created this for all students to reference as needed.  Finally, each student is assigned a chapter per day.  The first student wrote chapter 1 for Feb. 10th.  The second student will write chapter two for Feb. 11th and so on until March 17th when the last chapter is due.  I'll update the blog when that occurs.  Who knows what will become of this project.

Title: Broken Wing
Characters (6):
Jericho, angel, appears to be 18 age and origin unknown, black hair, blue eyes,
lean and wiry, wears jeans, a black plain t-shirt with a dark green jacket and
pale skin. His personality is cold, calculating, quiet and stern, observes and
speaks coldly, jerkish and moody
Semilla: origin, born in the underworld, sad, bipolar, hairy
Julie, red hair, blue eyes, short, 18, smart, shy but tough, loves to sing but only in
the dark alone, determined but scared but brave, can never balance the
John:  origin Italy, short, chubby, 25, fat arms, rolls around everywhere
Clayton Carson:  Manipulative, sly, works alone, sociopathic, seems personable,
from England, 19, birthday on June 4, tall, handsome, dark hair, blue eyes
Skylar:  lost, 17, girl, long blonde hair, green eyes, average, very sassy, listens to
music because she is alone, born in Illinois, impatient

Plot: Skylar is missing and many are out to find her for both good and bad reasons.
Setting: (see the last part of each chapter listed below)

Genre:  Fantasy

Ch. 1 Danny “Goodbye”  Italy 6829 AD
Ch. 2 Mariah “Tales of Draccosack” 2083 underground
Ch. 3 Kelsie “The End of the Unicorns” Spring time in the magical faerie forest
Ch. 4 Gabrielle “Fading Away” 1442 Bulgaria, midmorning
Ch. 5 Ivette “The Fantastic Wilma Wigoo” 1997, Edinburg, Texas

Ch. 6 Jessica “The Fearsome Adventures”Italy 6829 AD
Ch. 7. Esmerelda “Float”  2083 underground
Ch. 8 Jocelyn “The Fall” Spring time in the magical faerie forest
Ch. 9 Kelvin “Wonderland” 1442 Bulgaria, midmorning
Ch. 10 Erika “Expecting Trouble” 1997, Edinburg, Texas

Ch. 11 Jaleesa “Visiting the Neighbors” The Fearsome Adventures”Italy 6829 AD
Ch. 12 Fernando “Unicorn and the Castle” 2083 underground
Ch. 13 Kate “The Rival Kingdom” Spring time in the magical faerie forest
Ch. 14 Laci “Unicorn Lays Eyes on Rainbow Puff” 1442 Bulgaria, midmorning
Ch. 15Karen “Inside”  1997, Edinburg, Texas

Ch. 16 Juan “Fairy Underworld” The Fearsome Adventures”Italy 6829 AD
Ch. 17 Kimberly “Frozen” 2083 underground
Ch. 18 Alisha “Red Velvet Cake Time” Spring time in the magical faerie forest
Ch. 19 Sarai “The Floating Car” 1442 Bulgaria, midmorning
Ch. 20 Lizzie “Unicorn in Love” 1997, Edinburg, Texas

Ch. 21 Varinia “Turned 18 and Everything Changed” Italy 6829 AD
Ch. 22Diana “The Magical Discovery”  2083 underground
Ch. 23Raquel “The Found Remains” Spring time in the magical faerie forest
Ch. 24 Alejandra “Surprise”  1442 Bulgaria, midmorning
Ch. 25 DeAnna “Parallel House” 1997, Edinburg, Texas