Hello!  My name is Sue MacDonald and I am the Counselor for students with last names beginning with the letters A to K.  I am available to assist with students’ social/emotional, academic, and career development. Students can come to see me anytime with their teacher’s permission, but it is encouraged that they try to visit during their Academic Enrichment or Homeroom period.  Each year I try to meet with all of the 6th grade students on my caseload to introduce myself and my role, to learn about them, and to see how their transition to middle school has been.  I also meet with any students who are new to our school at any grade level for the same reasons.  I meet with other students throughout the year as needs and concerns arise.  If any concerns or questions arise, please contact me at (717) 265-7928 or smacdonald@cdschools.org
    My Education
    I have been a School Counselor since 1999.  I worked my first five years as an Elementary Counselor and have been at CD Middle since it opened in 2004.  I have also spent time working as a TSS, Mobile Therapist and Behavioral Specialist outside of the school setting.  I earned my Bachelors degree in Psychology (with a minor in Sociology) in 1994 and my Master of Education degree in both Elementary and Secondary School Counseling in 1999, both from Shippensburg University.  I am also a Board Certified Counselor with the National Board for Certified Counselors and am a member of various professional counseling organizations.







     The following are things that I review with students’ when I meet with them about low or failing grades.  The areas I talk with them about depend on the student’s needs.  Some may be in need of help establishing a strong homework schedule, while others may need to focus on developing better study skills.  I am sharing this information with you in the hopes you may also find some helpful ideas and /or can reinforce some of the habits we are trying to help our students develop. 

    Homework Tips

    1. Have a set time for schoolwork every school day.  It is beneficial for students to follow a routine and do schoolwork at the same time each day.  This sets the expectation that you will be looking for them to be doing schoolwork at that time everyday.  Even if your son/daughter says they do not have any homework, have them use the set time for studying, starting on a project, or reading.  Don’t allow the time to be a “free” time just because they may not have homework.
    2. Have a set place for schoolwork.  Have your son/daughter complete their homework at the same time and location each day.  This could be at a desk, kitchen table, or anyplace that works in your home.  Make sure that the area has any supplies they may need available and ready to use (EX: sharpened pencils, calculators, paper, etc.).  This area should also be quiet and free of distractions (TV, phone, etc.), although some are able to work well with quiet music playing.
    3. When your son/daughter completes their homework, have them pack up their materials for the next day.  Many students finish their homework and then leave their materials sit out.  Then the next morning they are rushing trying to get everything packed.  Packing their book bag as soon as they finish their homework helps them not forget things and not have to rush in the morning.
    4. Encourage your child to use their planner to record assignments.  I know that many of you check the homework online.  While this is a great resource for you and your child, using their planner is also an important skill.  Even as adults, most of us maintain some sort of calendar and/or “to do” list.  This is the same purpose the planner serves for students.  In addition, writing the assignments into their planners during class helps serve as a reminder of what materials they need to take home.
    5. If your son/daughter has been missing a lot of homework, make them show you the completed work every day.  If your child tells you they did it at school, tell them you still expect them to bring it home and show you the completed assignments.  You don’t need to check for accuracy, just check to be sure the assignment is actually completed.  Once they have show a consistent pattern (at least 3 weeks) of doing their homework and turning it in, you should be able slowly stop monitoring homework.  However, if they slack off again, be prepared to start monitoring again.
    6. Tie rewards and/or consequences to grades and homework completion.  Be clear and stay consistent with your expectations and consequences when they are not met.  Tying what matters to you (good grades, academic success) to what matters to them (cell phones/texting, video games, social activities, etc.) is typically a good path to success.
    7. Monitor your child’s grades on Home Access Center.  This allows you to see if assignments are getting turned in and what types of test/quiz scores your child is earning.  I would encourage you to have your son/daughter with you when you check their grades.  Tracking their grades online is an excellent way for them to be aware of both their current grades and what areas they need to improve on.  You’ll be able to see if their grade is low due to poor homework completion, test scores, etc.  
    8. If your son/daughter is struggling, they are encouraged to seek help from their teachers during their academic enrichment period.

    Organization Tips

     Middle school is a time that students are still learning how to organize their things on their own (as I suspect many of you have noticed in their bedrooms).  While organization can look different for different individuals, here are some ideas to consider when you are trying to help your son/daughter become better organized:

    1. Having a different folder labeled for each class helps to keep the materials together for each subject.
    2. A homework folder can also be helpful for some.  This is a folder that is meant to carry all of the student’s current assignments that they are still working on and that are due the next day or in the near future.  One pocket can be labeled “to do” and one pocket can be labeled “done”. 
    3. Color coordinate.  This helps visually organized your things and is especially helpful when you have to find something quickly.  For example, try always using a red folder for math, a green folder for science, etc.  Highlighting assignments in different colors in planners based on subject or due dates can also help.
    4. Use a binder to keep all the folders together, in addition to paper and pencils/pens. 
    5. Some students find they prefer using an accordion style organizer for their items, but use with caution as these don’t always hold up as well.  I would not recommend using an accordion style organizer because in my experience they seem to fall apart more quickly, but I do recognize that organization is a personal thing and some students have found success using one.
    6. Students should clean out their folders weekly, purging items they no longer need!  I’d suggest scheduling this into their homework time and having them do this on the same day every week.
    7. Monitor your student’s organization and give input and suggestions where needed.  Make sure to also get their input on what they think will best help them be organized.  Organization is a very individual thing and what works for one person may not work for another.  They need to have a system that works for them.
    8. Have your son/daughter attend Organizational Help if they continue to struggle.  Myself and the other School Counselor offer Organizational Help twice a month through March.  Students can sign up in the guidance office.

      Study Tips

    Many middle school students openly admit that they do not study for tests, or that they simply read over their study guides the night before.  Very few students are able to do well on their tests without studying and those that don’t study will notice test grades decreasing as work becomes more difficult.  Middle school students are still learning how to study actively and will hopefully continue to learn what works best for them when they are studying.  Below are some study tips to consider.

    1. Start studying at least several days prior to a test.  Trying to cram it in the night before will make it difficult to remember everything and will cause more stress.
    2. One of the best ways to study is to spend a little time each day rereading (or better yet, rewriting) the notes received in class and then study more intensely closer to the test date.  I recognize this isn’t always easy to fit in with all the homework and other assignments and activities, but it’s a good habit to start to get into.  I’d suggest having your son/daughter start doing this with the subject that is most difficult for them and work their way up to doing this with all subjects.  Even if it takes a student until their high school years to form this habit well, it’s well worth their time to work on, especially if they are considering college.
    3. For some people, studying with a partner can be helpful.  This depends on their personality and ability to stay focused when studying with another person.
    4. Make sure they get enough sleep the night before a test and they eat a good breakfast the day of the test.
    5. Reinforce with your son/daughter that when the teacher takes time to review for the test in class, PAY ATTENTION!  The material they chose to review during class is most likely going to be exactly what is on the test!!  I know many teachers read some review items right from the test.  Take advantage of this opportunity!  Along these same lines, if the teacher gives a study guide then make sure all the material on it is studied closely.
    6. Don’t just read over the study guide and notes.  Studying actively is the most important thing!  In other words, do something with the materials you are studying, don’t just read over your notes.
      1. Have someone question you.
      2. Make note cards: 

                                                                   i.      You can make flash cards with vocabulary word on one side and definition on the other.

                                                                  ii.      You can write a question on one side of the card and the answer on the other.

                                                                iii.      Or simply write down important facts on the card that you need to remember.

      1. Make graphs and/or other visuals to help you remember things.  For example, write/draw a timeline of important events. 
      2. Create Venn Diagrams to give visual for facts about important concepts.
      3. If you know what essay questions will be on the test, write out the answers to them to practice and make yourself an outline with key words to help you remember what you want to write.