Mr. Harris' Blog

Welcome... I hope this blog can be useful, particularly to parents and the community, as another way to stay connected to what's going on around McNair. Find out more about McNair school counseling by clicking around the blog or reading my program brochure. Students can use my "Mr. Harris Please Help" form to let me know they need to chat. Please browse around and contact me ( if you just cannot find what you're looking for! It's my pleasure to serve McNair and the community.

Child just needs more help?

Here are a couple options for therapy at no charge:
- Family Solutions for Kids offers a great variety of services to meet the needs of children and their families including therapy and psychiatric services (brochure).
- Community Psychological Service (at UMSL) offers therapy for children & families for a variety of concerns. Psychological evaluation is also offered.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Intentional Parents for Healthy Children

How do we raise our children into healthy functioning adolescents and adults?  That is a big question with plenty of possible answers.  Every child is a bit different and every parent surely has a different style.  And we all face different circumstances or challenges along the way.  But a key point for any successful attempt at steering our children down a healthy path, I believe, has to do with being intentional.  So what might that look like?

There are couple ideas worth thinking about.  The first one is discipline.  Many say the key to discipline is consistency and it’s true that this is very important.  But doing something consistently does not make it effective.  My dad used to tell me, “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect”.  Finding a system that works for you and your child(ren) is key, then understand what is supposed to make it work and practice it (the intended way) until it becomes second nature.  Some systems of discipline I like are 1-2-3 Magic, Conscious Discipline, Nurturing a Child’s Heart, & Love and Logic.  You can find these and many others online or at the library.

The other idea I wanted to mention was thinking about what children need.  Besides discipline, children have a deep need for emotional connection.  That’s why striking a balance between being a healthily “demanding” parent and being also a “warm” parent is ideal.  When it comes to intentional connecting I’ve definitely seen examples where “a little bit goes a long way”.  Many times students will present a strong need to connect to their parent.  It’s amazing how often, when I’ve encouraged these students to ask for special time from a parent, even just 30 minutes a week to play a game (not a video game) or do activity together, that they come back saying that it worked and are smiling ear to ear.  But I think kids do not always know how to express that without some prompting.  So if you are concerned about how connected you might feel towards your child or he/she towards you, start by setting aside some special time every week.  Be intentional about it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Focus on Prevention Using the “Second Steps” Curriculum

Part of my goal as a school counselor is to find ways to help all students learn the skills to succeed at school.  Classroom teachers already deliver lessons on Monday mornings related to life-skills, regularly teach routines and expectations, and engage students on Friday mornings in classroom meeting discussions (all part of our school-wide PBIS efforts).  However, another effort this school year was to focus on visiting each classroom more frequently myself to teach whole-group lessons using the new Second Steps Curriculum.  [As of late Novemember] In grades K-2, parents received a letter at the beginning of the school year explaining the Second Steps briefly and also have seen “Homelinks” handouts/activities come home with students explaining specific “skills for learning”, such as listening, following directions, focusing attention, using self-talk, and being assertive. Grades K-2 will In grades 3-4, students have received instruction on bully prevention and conflict resolution, listening, identifying and responding to feelings, and empathy training.  In grade 5, students received instruction in bully prevention and conflict resolution, then engaged with Officer Novak for the remainder of the fall semester for the DARE curriculum.  In the spring semester, I am excited to continue visits to all grade level classrooms regularly, teaching skills and offering opportunity for students to practice together.  For more details on the “Second Steps” Curriculum, you can visit

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dads (and other father figures) can make a difference!

Last school year, I became aware of a program called WatchDOGS from a parent who emailed me the link As this school year approached and I started to think harder about the needs of our students as well as the resources available to us in meeting those needs. Also, as a team of staff members we considered the needs of our students before the start of this school year, looking at data trends from last year. In September, the school held our first “Donuts with Dads” event. I was blown away by the numbers of men who showed up to visit with their child that morning. All of this led us to order the start-up kit for the WatchDOGS program and begin the process of inviting dads (and other father figures such as fathers, grandfathers, uncles, etc.) to volunteer a day as a Watch DOG at McNair. As I type this, our first Watch DOG volunteer came to school yesterday. I’m pleased to say that the feedback and excitement I’m hearing from students and staff is tremendous!

Here is a little more on goals and potential impact of the WatchDOGS program-
Two Main Goals 1) To provide positive male role models for the students, demonstrating by their presence that education is important. 2) To provide extra sets of eyes and ears to enhance school security and reduce bullying.

Who are the winners in this program? 
The first winner is the student! Study after study shows the negative effects that fall upon children when a ‘dad’ checks out, whether physically or emotionally. But students also show the positive effects that children receive when ‘dad’ is present in the home and positively engaged in the lives of his children. Ironically, when most men who are going to be Watch DOGS attended school it was a negative thing when dads showed up! It usually was the result of a behavior problem at school. But today across America, when dads are showing up to be WatchDOGS it is a positive thing! 

The second winner is the school, and ultimately the community! In many cases, when a WatchDOG shows up for his day of volunteering, it will be the first time in a long time that he has been at school, so he may have no concept what it is like to be an educator in the 21st century. When dads show up and become actively involved, we quickly move from possibly being a cynic of public education to a strong advocate, and a stronger bridge is built between the home and the school.

The third winner is the ‘dad’! Regardless of his educational or athletic background, when he is in the student’s school, he will become Michael Jordan on the playground, Albert Einstein in the classroom and Superman in the hallways. In essences, he becomes the “Big Man on Campus”. This motivates dads to continue to be involved both at school and at home because it feels great to know how to make a difference and have the opportunity to do just that!

So dads, do you think you’re ready to volunteer for a day at McNair as a WatchDOG? Here is what to do next:
1. Fill out a school volunteer packet (available in the school office on request) including background check forms. This is necessary for any volunteer in the school district. Link to Volunteer Packet 
2. Fill out a WatchDOG Registration Form (available in the school office on request or at This Link)
3. Andrew Harris, School Counselor, will contact you once the volunteer packet process is complete to schedule you for a day most convenient for you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2-1-1 to Find Hope or Give Hope

A brochure came in the mail today regarding 2-1-1... says, "2-1-1, unlike 9-1-1, is NOT the number you call for fire, police or emergency needs. Instead, United Way 2-1-1 IS a toll-free phone number connecting people with available community resources and volunteer opportunities." It lists what it provides as basic human needs, physical and mental health resources, work initiatives, support for seniors and those with disabilities, support for children, youth and families, and much much more.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fine Dining- Friday 8-17-12

The kids love our "Fine Dining" reward.  This was the first one this year.  Thanks Mrs. Hildebrand (counselor intern) for helping to supervise!  Students can win this reward by by placing earned tickets into their classroom drawing.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Limit Setting with A.C.T Model

I’ve heard it said there are two basic questions children long for answers to.  The first is, “Am I loved?”.  The second is, “What can I get away with?”.  Likely, if you have children, you know the feeling of being asked over and over again for something, responding “no” multiple times to no avail, each time becoming more frustrated with the lack of appropriate acceptance of the answer.  This sort of behavior is common from kids.  Last school year, I promoted the “1-2-3 Magic” system among the teachers and parents.  This really works well for setting limits for that nagging behavior or questioning when used correctly.  But I wanted to offer another simple technique that you can try today to improve the results you may get when telling a child “no”, hopefully saving you and the child some frustration and preserving the relationship.  The ACT Model (by Gary Landreth) is simple to use.

Here are the steps: 
            1.  Acknowledge the Feeling
“I know you would really like to…” or
“I can see you are feeling very…” 
2.   Communicate the Limit
             “…but you may not______....(because…)”
             “but your sister is not for hitting.” or
             “but the answer is no.”
           3.  Target Alternatives
            “You can_______if you would like” or
            “What you can do is______ or_______ (give a choice).

Some examples of how it might work:
-        -  “I know you would really like to go outside to play, but you may not because it is raining. You can choose to either complete a puzzle or we can play a game together."
     -“I know you’re very mad at me, but yelling at me is not okay.  You can go to your room or the basement and cool off for 5 minutes before choosing something else to do.”
-        - “You really would like to have a few pieces of candy, but dinner is coming soon, so you can have one piece or none.”

Sunday, April 29, 2012

University of Missouri Extension

University of Missouri Extension offers an enormous amount of information and resources on a variety of topics to the public.  When it comes to families and parenting, this is no exception. (click on Families and Relationships Tab) is a solid and trusted website for families to find information related to child development, parenting and family care, and relationships, among other topics.  The site is easy to navigate and includes publications on various topics that are reader friendly.  Besides publications, on each topic, visitors can find links to quality websites, news, and even courses to take.

Also from this website, there is an index of scores of programs that may be beneficial to various families.  St. Charles County (St. Peters) is the closest brick and mortar extension office listed and holds "in-person" parenting classes.