All It Takes Is A Defining Moment

Photo by Daniel Kux on Pexels.com

For Desmond Tutu meeting Trevor Huddleston determined the path of his life. In my own life there are many defining moments that led me to who I am today. Teachers, coaches , community members and a School Counsellor had an impact.

In grade 12 (1976) my School Counsellor Mrs. Brown gave me $100.00 towards my post secondary education. My family could not afford to pay my way. I was the first in my family to go to University so it was certainly a big deal. I did not realize at the time just how much money that was or even how incredible it was that she did that. What a gift and an impact she had on the trajectory of my life. A lacrosse scholarship and a bursary ( both recommended by community members) paid for all four years of my Bachelor of Child Study degree. How fortunate was I ?

I never underestimate the power of a small (albeit grand) gesture in forming who we are and what we choose to do in our lives. I intentionally make sure each day I work with students I keep that in mind. I intentionally pay it forward on as many occasions as I can.

All it takes is a defining moment and you might be the one that makes that happen and if someone makes that happen for you tell them.

You Put The Heart In School Counselling

As you begin this year you may have a School Counsellor you wish to acknowledge. please feel free to edit and use as you like.

You put the heart in School Counselling

It’s the students who matter to you

Thanks for being at ___________ this year

And doing what you do

School Counselling for you is a joy not a job

A gift, not an obligation

A place where you can be brave, not cowardly

A place you have found, not somewhere you can get lost

An open space, not a closed door

Somewhere to stand tall, not sit and waste time

A place to create hope, while listening to despair

Where you focus on encouraging, not discouraging

A place to build up, not tear down

A space to be present to those in need

School Counselling for you is a home away from home

Thanks for having the courage to tackle the hard stuff

Thanks for having the strength to help those students and families in need

Thanks for your dedication and commitment to our students and school community

For being thoughtful, kind, patient and caring

For helping in so many ways

For cheering up a students most distressing days

Thank you for all you have shared

Thank you for all you have given

For all that you are and all that you will be

You put the heart in School Counselling

It’s the students who matter to you

You make a difference

So continue to keep doing what you do

Susan Spellman Cann

School Counsellors Are There To Help

School Counsellors are trained professionals who understand child development, often with Masters degrees in Counselling or more, who partake in ongoing professional development and extensive mental health training . They know school culture and how the education system works, making them readily able to help youth in an effective manner.

Often the first place students present any concerns are in schools because that is where they spend so much time. The educators get to know students well building trusting relationships. School Counsellors have the whole child in mind with access to a comprehensive background regarding the students history in school, so are often able to make decisions collaboratively in the best interest of students.

If you are a new teacher and have never accessed your School Counsellor , please do so. They are there to help you help the student. When all work together to help our youth it is more likely to make a difference in the life of a child. Now more than ever we must do all we can together to help.

Resources Resources Resources

There are these and so much more. Check them out.

If you are an educator or a School Counsellor I know you love resources so I collated a few for you to use as you start the school year. Save these on your desktop as you will want to go back to them often.

School Counsellor resources were created because of a fabulous Math resource I saw on Twitter created by @beatris_mata which you can find here.

Other resources:

Phys.Ed resources here.

When we share we are better. If you remix mine and make it better which I know you will please share back with me @sspellmancann. Who doesn’t like resources?

Empathy Chats

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

School Counsellors -> Students -> Families ->Staff

We all need a little empathy at this moment in time. School Counsellors are a key player in providing these chats with students , families and the staff in their schools. Harvard offers some great tips on how to build empathy in your schools

Administrators->School Counsellors

I had a very wise administrator who once said to me that my job was to look after the students his job was to look after me. We all need support at this time. It is a give and take. All of us need a supportive person in our corner.

Let’s be intentional in supporting one another.

We can all :

Be positive in our interactions

Help others feel understood

Make people feel heard. You can use these creative approaches.

Teach empathy lessons

Utilize some empathy exercises with students

Validate their feelings

Work towards solutions

Together we will make this a better year for all by demonstrating empathy.

OER and School Counsellors

What is Open Educational Resources and why should School Counsellors contribute to the #oer commons? “The term “Open Educational Resource(s)” (OER) refers to educational resources (lesson plans, quizzes, syllabi, instructional modules, simulations, etc.) that are freely available for use, reuse, adaptation, and sharing.”

As an educator I have always been willing to share my work freely. If anyone asked and even when they did not I was always willing and happily shared anything I created. In 2013, I joined Etmooc and developed a new understanding of being an open educator and what a creative commons license meant.

This year a School Counsellor on twitter was asking for a place to collate school counselling materials and @verenanz one of my friends and fellow etmooc ‘er suggested the oercommons. I was excited a place to share freely.

Megan from the commons quickly connected and offered to assist. So here we go the first School Counsellor group on the commons . School Counsellors from Across The World. You too can contribute and join this group.

It’s easy to create and share on the commons and you can feel free to remix any of my work. I say if i can do it , so can you and I am willing to help any of you learn how to just DM me on twitter @sspellmancann.

Megan has also offered to set up PD as well, so be on the lookout in September around the 16th for some great PD.

Need more reasons to contribute ? Watch this …

So School Counsellors join in. We can model for our students why #oer is important. Collaboration is key and we can help each other by working together to share, remix and help each other.

There are so many reasons to use oer. The most important thing about OER is it enables the best quality knowledge material to travel free of charge to the most remote and underserved places in the world. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?

Virtual Locker Introduction Icebreaker

I love finding icebreakers to use with students . This one is a lot of fun and can easily be used virtually. If you want to get to know me better I am adding a little video that I did a couple of years back from our year end production with Second Chants. I put the video in the virtual locker, but if you are like me it is so small (which might not be a bad thing) . I laugh at myself every time I watch it. If it brings a smile to your face that is good too.

This is a great video explaining how to do bitmoji lockers.

Here is the bitmoji locker template

Here is the bitmoji chrome extension

Here is my example of a virtual locker introduction .

Here is another example using this google doc.

You can check out this tutorial below.

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

Living through a pandemic is different for each of us. Your feelings are neither right nor wrong. They just are. It’s ok to talk about and share your feelings. Acknowledging your feelings is essential to your well being. Below are a few feelings that you may be able to relate to. It’s not all doom or gloom.

How you may be feeling:

  • Adaptable You feel that you can roll with whatever happens.
  • Anxious, afraid, or feeling a bit of panic that this fall may cause an increase in infections. Or that someone you care about may now be put in harm’s way when they weren’t before. 
  • Angry or feeling frustrated that some people may not be following the pandemic health rules. Or that the measures in place aren’t enough. Or that you have to look after so many people, your children, your parents, your siblings, others and you may have to work too. Where is the time for you? 
  • Brave You know that you have what it takes to deal with a crisis.
  • Courageous doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid, but that you have the capacity to see clearly and self soothe. It takes courage to be with things the way they are. You feel courage.
  • Conflicted You want to socialize more, but feel that you should still stay at home.
  • Confident that you have the coping skills to assist you during this time.
  • Distrustful of how the government is handling all the guidelines and rules or how things are being portrayed in the media.
  • Determined to live in the present and move forward towards your goals.
  • Grief for a multitude of reasons.
  • Grateful for so many small things.
  • Happy you are surrounded by positive people either virtually or face to face.
  • Hopeful  You acknowledge that the virus is serious, but you will get through this pandemic in the best way possible.
  • Loved by your family. So happy you have them to support you.
  • Powerless like you don’t have any control or say in anything that’s happening.
  • Protective of your routine you do not want to deal with any more change or uncertainty.
  • Positive You get up every day and make the best of your life in a pandemic.
  • Reluctant to rearrange events like celebrations, get-togethers, parties that couldn’t happen during the pandemic
  • Realistic You know that this pandemic isn’t easy, but feel self-assured you have what it takes to get through it.
  • Uneasy about some of your relationships that have changed during the pandemic.
  • Useful You feel like you have been able to contribute in a positive way during this pandemic.
  • Stigmatized or that others may avoid you You may have already had coronavirus, or others think what you do makes you more likely to spread the virus. 
  • Secure and safe You know people are around you that support and help you.
  • Stressed about a lot of things like …
  • Under pressure to return to school/work when you can’t, or when you feel it’s not safe to.
  • Unsupported You may be asked to go back to school/work without having access to things like personal protective equipment (PPE), or feelings of safety and security.
  • Understood You have people who listen to your concerns.
  • Valued Most people respect how you are dealing with the pandemic.

What other feelings are you feeling ? Acknowledge them and share with a trusted confidant. You can also check out some strategies to help here.

Your feelings are important. Each child, teen and adult will react differently based on numerous factors. My hope is that no matter what happens you have the supports and coping skills to overcome whatever challenges come your way, it starts with acknowledging your true feelings. 

Life is not all doom and gloom in a pandemic.

Lessons for a New School Counsellor : Lesson 4 Basics

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What are some basics that could be helpful to you as a new school counsellor?

  • Write an introduction letter to parents letting them know who you are and what you do and post it on the school counselling and school website. (If by chance your school does not have a website design a letter introducing yourself and put it in the school newsletter ( put it in the newsletter anyway.) If you wish to do a digital introduction or video introduction you can do that too.
  • Send this out to students on the school instagram, twitter or other account.
  • Introduce yourself to as many teachers as you possibly can. In a large school, this will take time. Virtually you can introduce yourself and let teachers know what services you can provide.
  • Plan to meet with your administration team at THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR and least once a month. You can do this virtually through google meet or zoom, but put it in your calendar. Celebrate what you do and how you are doing. Discuss what the expectations are of a Comprehensive School Counselling Plan and how you can work together to accomplish this.
  • Implement a joint admin. counseling blog post at least four times throughout the school year. Counsellors and admin should be joint leaders in any school.
  • Show initiative. Everyone in a school will benefit. If you have some great ideas, don’t be afraid to share or try out your ideas.
  • Discuss limits of confidentiality with every student. You might want to put a poster of the limits on your office wall or in your intro to students.
  • Visually make your office a space students want to be in as best as possible during this time. Make your space at home a comfortable place to connect with students.
  • Develop a monthly calendar of things to do and check off when you complete them.
  • Have a plan when meeting new students.  Virtually you will need to connect with their homeroom teacher and then have them connect with you by email. When phoning student find ways to connect that hide your cell number.
  • It might be helpful to keep a notebook of all the things you need to know especially if you are in a new school or counselling a new age group.
  • You will want to find a simple and easy way to curate information. I use livebinders wakelet and pinterest. They can be extremely helpful tools for new counsellors as well as those that have been around for awhile.
  • You need to be a positive PR person for the school counseling program , so find many ways to connect with students. Brainstorm with your colleagues ways to make connections with students so that they know who you are and what you do.
  • Connect with parents. Let them know through parent council or other means what you do.
  • Ask for help. You are not expected to know everything. Utilize the professionals inside and outside of your building for support. If you are an Alberta School Counsellor . Join your specialist council. Join your specialist council in your area wherever you are in the world. ASCA has many supports whether you are American or not, I would recommend joining the American School Counsellor Association.
  • Learn as you go about the many community resources that are available and put them in a binder or livebinder.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your innovative or creative ideas with your counselling team ( if you have one). They and you will benefit!
  • BALANCE we all benefit from taking care of ourselves. Don’t burn yourself out in the first year. Practice self-care.
  • You have a big learning curve. BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF.

Check out this amazing well organized livebinder by one of my past colleagues.

You can also check out some of my past resources here.

For all of you who are new to school counselling have a wonderful experience and know that what you do absolutely matters.

Welcome to one of the best professions in the world,