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,
Consult, consult, consult. I can’t say that enough. There will be many new experiences that you will encounter as a School Counsellor. You can’t be expected to know everything, so please take advantage of all the great mentors and knowledgeable people that are out there. It is more than ok to not know what to do next. Even after forty years in education , I still consult. I must say that it will be more crucial than ever in a pandemic as the unknown will occur for all.
Caplan said that “consultation has the twofold goal of enhancing services and improving functions, both for the consultee’s current challenge and future challenge”. Sometimes you will be the one that teachers want to consult with and at other times you will need to consult with district supervisors, community agencies, and others regarding the complex needs of students. Your students and you deserve the best services possible. Consulting and collaboration helps School Counselors take action, demonstrate leadership , connect with other professionals who are leaders in their field and ultimately make a difference in the lives of students. So when unsure reach out and consult.
We need to base what we do on theoretical perspectives that are useful and helpful. Humanists like Carl Rogers ,Viktor E Frankl have impacted me, but so to have others in the field of psychology like Albert Ellis, Irvin Yalom, Fritz Perls, Ed Jacobs, David Burns, Virginia Satir, Donald Meichenbaum, Claudia Black, and Mary Pipher to name a few. There is no one right approach. You need to discover what you believe and make sure it works for you and your students. Developing a sound relationship online and off is essential. Using all the skills you learned in grad school can make a difference. Demonstrate empathy, be genuine and respectful, but more importantly be yourself. Therapeutic alliance will always matter.
If you are going to read anything to start your career I would suggest the following:
One of my all time favourite people who has influenced me and the way I interact is Leo Buscagalia. His lessons on life have truly had a positive impact on my life and as a result I have passed this on to others.
“To live in love is to live in life, and to live in life is to live in love.” “It’s not enough to have lived. We should determine to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of person kind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.” Only you will be able to discover, realize, develop and actualize your uniqueness. And when you do, it’s your duty to then to “give it away.” Leo Buscagalia
Each theorist, counsellor and counsellor educator has impacted the way I interact and help students. Along the way I have also worked with some amazing school counsellors , educators and supervisors who have also influenced me in a positive way. Thanks especially to Diane Williams, Deana Helton and Helen MacKinnon. Also to the many School Counsellors in CSSD and #scchat I have much gratitude . Two very special Counsellor Educators and friends Ed Jacobs and Erin Mason thanks for all you do and who you are.
Lesson 2 : Keep learning and base it on theory. Which ones have impacted you?
You have chosen one of the best professions in the world and have the ability and educational know how to help others. This is a time like no other in our profession and you will need to be ok with uncertainty. It is important that you model calm , optimism and psychological safety for students whether you are online or off. Be prepared, be calm, be present, be a good digital citizen and be hopeful. You will find ways to engage students. That’s who you are and what you do. Trust the process and focus on what you can do today given the circumstances that will be most helpful. One of the first things I would recommend you do is join twitter and engage with other School Counsellors from around the world who are willing to help you. It will be one of the best decisions you make in your first year of being a School Counsellor. Connect with School Counsellors from across the world in #scchat or find a way to connect with other School Counsellors from your district, whatever way works best for you. If you don’t have a mentor, set up a mentorship group. It’s a great way to start your career and will continue to be one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself. Filter in the good , let go of the negative on twitter and you will find some amazing people who will become your trusted Professional Learning Network.
It is my belief that we have an awesome opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students especially during this time. What we say and do matters now more than ever. Students will forever remember how their School Counsellor interacted with them. How you connect, build relationship and assist students in feeling like they belong in a time when so many are dealing with collective trauma, collective and sometimes complex grief matters. There will be many feeling similar feelings you are feeling as you enter the profession at this time. You have chosen an amazing profession. Reach out we are here to help and support you.
Communication , connection , consultation and collaboration will be vital at this time. Communicating and connecting with your staff, with students, parents, district personnel, outside community agencies, and especially with other School Counsellors is essential. Use email, ZOOM, Google Meet ( beware of Zoom and Google meet burnout) and other creative ways to stay connected. You have an awesome role to play during this time with so many things to consider. In a Comprehensive School Counselling Program it is the responsibility of all. You are not in this alone.
Surround yourself with positive people those that lift you up especially on twitter or any other social media you engage in. Let go of the negative, stay focused on the positive. Remember what you say and do matters , so take time to take care of yourself that includes taking a break from any social media that you feel you need to at anytime.
The things you learn on twitter are unending and so helpful if you want to make things a little better for your website ,twitter feed or useful for what you want to create for your use in schools.
Today I learned how to make an animated gif in google slides. I learned how to do this from @nadinegilkison on twitter. She is amazing and oh so helpful in learning to create. If you don’t follow her you should.
Step 1 Make an emoji with the app emoji me. Save to your desktop by emailing to yourself.
Step 2: Make a copy of this banner using google slides
Step 3: Add your emoji in by right clicking and replace pic.
Step 3 Change your background to whatever you like
Step 4: Copy and paste your first slide and add a letter each time typing what you’d like to say
Step 5 : Once completed go to talltweets.com and sign in with google
Step 6: Watch the tutorial and then make an animated gif
Step 7: Post gif to twitter and save to your desktop.
Hope this mini tutorial helps you to create something fun and if you learn something new please share with me.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us” Joseph Campbell
In 2013 I wrote about what I thought my ideal school would look like. Never did I or anyone else who was considering what the future of education would look like imagine what would happen in 2020. As I look forward I continue to believe we must educate the mind and the heart while having an extra dose of empathy this year as for some this has been a year of traumatic experiences.
Re -entry will not be a simple process. This year unlike any other year there is so much to consider. The Alberta Government has some ideas here for their school re entry plan. Emotional wellbeing must be at the forefront if we want to ensure our students and staff’s needs are met. Physical and psychological safety are essential for learning. So how are we going to make that happen for our youth as they re enter school? Individual students and staff may experience stressors that the rest of the school and staff are unaware of, soempathy will be essential in any re-entry plan. How do schools ensure supports are available to both staff and students as they make plans to re engage in learning at school however that may look?
I know there are many who have excellent ideas, my ideas are from the lens of School Counsellor and are not meant to be comprehensive, but some things to consider. Strategies will be needed to identify and assist students who may have been more impacted by covid than other students . For some the impacts could be long lasting, for others the impact may be that they are more resilient than ever.
How can schools and especially School Counsellors support all students, making sure to address the social and emotional needs of those who are particularly vulnerable? We need to look at risk factors as well as protective factors in identifying those in most need of supports.
Identify those students who:
Have a history of trauma and chronic stress or other pre existing medical problems.
Have experienced stigma and racism that may occur as a result of COVID-19.Have experienced a loss/death during this time.
Have been exposed to abuse/neglect.
Have parents who have lost jobs and still may be out of work. ( Food insecurity/financial insecurity can vary significantly. Those who were once secure may no longer be.)
Are ELL learners / students with disabilities physical or intellectual.
Develop attendance concerns:Attendancemay drop due to higher rates of school refusal or attendance may become optional due to students being medically fragile. A system should be in place for school counsellors to check in with students and families during the time frame COVID-19 may still be a threat.
Have had a more difficult time because of parental substance use and abuse.
Have been exposed to domestic violence.
Became sick or tested positive for COVID-19 , those who have a family member who became sick or tested positive for COVID-19, those with allergies or respiratory illnesses that may result in coughing or sneezing.
Have equity and access concerns.
Had a difficult time over shut down.
Acknowledge the need to connect on a regular basis with both students and staff, Find creative ways to engage students in the process of returning to school whatever it may look like . Coming back to school will be easy for some and challenging for others. Ask for their input throughout. Acknowledge and validate student and staff concerns.
Identify the protective factors that students may have:
Ask students what it would take for them to feel psychologically and emotionally safe during this time.
Connections : Has the student maintained positive connections, Have them identify who they are.
Coping Skills: Identify what worked for them during covid 19 and ask them what they believe will assist them in coping as they return to school.
Engagement: Have students identify how they will engage in their school community either virtually or in person with all health factors considered.
Supports: Have students identify their supports and community resources.
For some significant academic, emotional and social regression.
For some significant fatigue and sleepiness, particularly among adolescents who have been sleeping in since March and may have irregular sleep patterns.
Challenges and opportunities.
Successes and the ability to learn from things that don’t work.
Using language like anxiety when you mean upset, worried, fearful. This pandemic affected us all ,but it does not mean youth have an anxiety disorder or are depressed because of the pandemic. Let’s not pathologize , but have a wait and see attitude as to the long term impacts of covid19. Frequency, duration and intensity matter when it comes to mental health. School Counsellors will know how to access and when referrals are necessary. Ask yourself Is this normal?
Punitive approaches when managing physical distancing requirements when possible.
Entering into conflict with anyone who is not on the same page as you. Everyone has a story.
Being overly concerned with attendance and more concerned with finding ways to connect with the student.
Getting run down yourself because you are trying to do it all.
Avoid people who bring you down or have unrealistic expectations. . Find people who lift you up and support you. Surround yourself ( at a physical distance of course ) with those people.
Collaborate with colleagues. Using email/ google meet to connect and provide resources that can assist students. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. It can never be understated.
Embedding social and emotional learning into all core subjects.
To connect with other School Counsellors who have found ways to connect virtually. Check out #scchat on Twitter.
Think about your own well being and how to address compassion fatigue and self care . Find ways to live each and every day to the best of your ability. Life will undoubtedly be very unpredictable in the fall using and sharing just for todays can be helpful.
Here are some excellent Just for Today’s from some of the youth I have worked with this year.
Just for Today I will be as happy as I can.
Just for Today I will find some fun.
Just for Today I will try and stay out of my head.
Just for Today I will make sure I get some rest!.
Just for Today I will try not to should.
Just for Today I will give myself a ‘Just for Today’ every day when I get up.
Just for Today I am living in the moment rather than thinking about what I have to do tomorrow.
Just for Today I will prioritize doing things that make me smile.
Just for Today I will trust the process and live in the momen.
Just for Today I’ m going to take some time for self care, go for a walk with my dog and breathe in the sunshine 🙂
Just for Today I am going to express my gratitude for those I love while I have the chance.
Just for Today I’ll take the happy with the hard and let them just happen… 🙂
Just for Today I will not overthink the future and just enjoy the present moment.
Just for Today I will let go of my worries and what this pandemic might bring to all of us, and just focus on the great things it has brought to all of us.
What will school reentry be like ? I can imagine that all educators including School Counsellors will have skills that they did not have before and each will work together to provide the best education possible for their students. My wish for all is to stay connected, stay healthy and safe physically , emotionally and spiritually and have an abundance of love, joy and hope .
Just for today I have a lot of hope for the future of education if we all work together to make our places and spaces a learning opportunity by helping each other along the way. School Counsellors are an essential piece of doing that in every school.
A special thanks to Bryan Sanders @nayrbgo for encouraging me to put some thoughts to paper and for all who I have connected with as we all are #learning2pivot in 2020. What do you think re-entry should look like from your lens?
Just for Today I will think about what makes me happy and snowball ( use paper snowball or a real one if there is any snow) any negative thoughts away. Barb Brown
Just for Today I will visit my old neighbourhood and call an old friend. Graham Kennedy
Just for Today I will acknowledge that I am worthy and loved . Louise Hamilton
Just for Today I will learn a new skill and tomorrow a new life skill. Kim Souillet
Just for Today when I brush my teeth I will pretend that I am a zookeeper brushing a hippos teeth. Carol Stevenson
Just for Today I will read my favourite book. Kate Kucharski
Just for Today I will smile and wave at every person who passes by my house. Susan Viveiros
Just for Today I will tell my teacher about the things I do well and help them understand what makes me feel happy and safe. Verena Roberts
Just for Today I will reflect on where I have been, where I have gone, and the road I have built upon, I will take a step forward into the unknown world with familiar faces … holding hands would be nice too Kristen Copes
Just for Today I will call, text or video chat a peer who needs encouragement. Cynthia Nunnally Morton
Yesterday we published 101 Ways to Kickstart Your Day In A Positive Way : A Guide for Educators Parents and Students. Erin and I love the response we are getting. Thanks George Couros for inspiring the post and for sharing our thoughts. We were hoping that educators would use them and they are already doing just that. Here is one from a school in Missouri …
We would love it if you would continue sharing and using. If you have a Just for Today thought please share it with us.
Just for Today we hope your day is filled with wonderful people who bring you love and joy.
This is a collaborative blogpost by Erin Luong and I along with a few ideas from friends. As mental health educators we believe that a focus on our mental health and well being is foundational to all education. It is impossible to focus on academics if students are not feeling secure. We believe it’s important to intentionally embed a focus on well being into every lesson with young people. All of us need to use positive self talk and coping strategies to feel better . We can all do one thing a day that will help us cope during this unprecedented time.
Hoping some of these tips help you start the day as an educator. You can post a tip for the day using Canva or just text your student the tip to start their day. As an educator I am sure you can find many creative ways to use this as you move online.
Just for today I will start and end my day in a positive way.
Just for today I will remember that I am ok and all will be well with the world.
Just for today I will be proud that I stayed home and did my part to help.
Just for today I will be grateful for all the front line workers that are helping us.
Just for today I will celebrate our shared humanity.
Just for today I will head outside and let the sun hit my face. I will take some fresh air breaths and listen, it may sound quieter and more peaceful than usual. I will think about what I hear, how the sun feels on my face and how those deep breaths make my body feel. Susan Fueller
Just for today I will send some positive intentions out into the universe.
Just for today I will think of ways to make the world a better place.
Just for today I will learn to say I love you in as many languages as I can think of.
Just for today I will post a positive message in my window and or use sidewalk chalk to write a message for others in my neighbourhood to see.
Just for today I will connect with two people that lift my spirits.
Just for today I will write or talk about one thing I am grateful for no matter how small. Helen MacKinnon
Just for today I will remain hopeful.
Just for today I will look back at old photo albums and tell stories from the past which made me who I am today.
Just for today I will look in the mirror and recognize that I have a purpose for being here.
Just for today I will make sure I am moving my body for at least 30 minutes.
Just for today I will be kind to my mind.
Just for today I will have an eye staring contest. Juliana Miller – MacPherson
Just for today I will tell the people that I care about that they matter to me.
Just for today I will not worry about what is in it for me, I will think only about what I can do to help out in every situation. Gail White
Just for today I will dress in my favourite colour and eat my favourite food. Laurel Hunt
Just for today I will listen to one of my favourite songs and sing along. Leena Booth
Just for today I will say I am courageous, strong and can make a difference.
Just for today every time I wash my hands I will tell two silly jokes and laugh. Karen Hudson
Just for today I will talk about helpful and unhelpful worries with an adult.
Just for today I know that I am safe and I can control my thoughts.
Just for today I will wish upon a star.
Just for today I will remember that challenges can be opportunities.
Just for today I will go for a walk and notice all the beauty around me.
Just for today I will remember that all my feelings are ok. It’s ok to be scared etc.
Just for today I will remind myself that just because I made a mistake doesn’t mean I am one.
Just for today I will stay strong and well.
Just for today I will share my favorite song/poem and we can sing or say them together or to each other. Sheri Edwards
Just for today I will not give up.
Just for today I will ask God to get me through today.
Just for today I will look at one way I can see the opportunities because of the challenges of today.
Just for today I will reevaluate my priorities and tell someone what I think.
Just for today I will let go of any thoughts that don’t help my peace of mind.
Just for today I will remember not everyone reacts to events in the same way. I will be positive today.
Just for today I will remember that I am loveable and capable.
Just for today I will take a break from watching or listening to any alarming news.
Just for today wear my clothes inside out and walk backwards. ( Laura Cormier)
Just for today I will take care of my mind by listening to some soothing music.
Just for today I will do one activity that I love and enjoy.
Just for today I will check in with my parents and/ or grandparents to bring a smile to their day.
Just for today I will find a calm space just for me.
Just for today I will write about my feelings in a journal.
Just for today I know that I can deal with life’s difficulties.
Just for today I will smile often.
Just for today I will say to myself I can cope with this uncertainty.
Just for today I will draw out my worries.
Just for today I will talk to an adult about what is concerning me.
Just for today I will visualize my safe place ( a beach, being with my favourite friend , playing and singing in the rain).
Just for today I will do more of what makes me happy.
Just for today I will find two ways to distract myself if I start to catastrophize.
Just for today I will let go of anything that upsets me.
Just for today I will reassure myself that all will be well with the world.
Just for today I will calm my wandering mind by doing something that is fun.
Just for today I will unwind by taking time out of my day to draw, paint, sing, dance or play a game I love.
Just for today I will read a book for 15 minutes for pleasure.
Just for today I will be easy on myself.
Just for today I will look for solutions.
Just for today I will talk kindly and gently to myself just like I would my best friend.
Just for today I will watch a funny movie or talk to a funny friend. I know laughter will help.
Just for today I will remind myself that I matter.
Just for today I can journal for 10 minutes.
Just for today I will open my heart to new ways of thinking and doing.
Just for today I will spend some extra time with people I love.
Just for today I will use my imagination to imagine the best that can happen.
Just for today I will remind myself of one good thing I can do for the world.
Just for today I will love with all my heart.
Just for today I will tell myself that life can be tough sometimes , but so am I.
Just for today I will say I am strong, I am kind and I can do anything I make up my mind to do.
Just for today I will recognize that I cannot change the circumstances, but I can change my reaction to it.
Just for today I will practice breathing deeply.
Just for today I will write 3 things I am grateful for.
Just for today I will look at some old pictures and think of the positive memories of that time.
Just for today I will make something new.
Just for today I will create a song, a piece of art , a new recipe, or something I have always wanted to create.
Just for today I will take a picture of something that brings me joy.
Just for today I will lift someone else’s spirits.
Just for today I will spread some kindness and love in the world.
Just for today I will make hot chocolate and eat my favourite cookie.
Just for today I will write a love letter.
Just for today whenever I find myself thinking negative I will challenge those thoughts.
Just for today I will reach out to someone who needs it.
Just for today I will jump for joy.
Just for today I will start a blog, a vlog or share something that makes the world a better place.
Just for today I will share at least 2 jokes with others.
Just for today I will connect with someone from a different generation than I am, to learn more about how they see the world.
Just for today I will try a new recipe from a different culture.
Just for today I will learn to make a friendship bracelet.
Just for today I will collaborate with a friend on a project to make the world a better place.
Just for today I will make a playlist of songs which inspire me.
Just for today I will play a board game with my family.
Just for today I will make a short video.
Just for today I will try a zoom chat with friends.
Just for today I will focus on what I need.
Just for today I will share something I am passionate about.
Just for today I will tell my colleagues and friends how much I appreciate all they do.
Just for today I will reach out to see if I can help someone else in the world.
What is your Just for Today ? Please share with us so we can share with educators from around the world.
I hear it all too often, youth saying they have anxiety when what they really mean is that they are feeling anxious. If you listen to the news you would believe that our youth are in crisis . The data would suggest otherwise 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime . It’s true and needs to be addressed and has been for the past 20 or so years. The stats have not changed. What’s also true is that 4 out of every 5 Canadians don’t have a mental health disorder and it’s up to us to teach the difference between a disorder and everyday feelings that we all have. Some may need the assistance of a professional to understand the difference. Your School Counsellor is a good place to start. They are trained professionals who understand the difference and can assist in finding supports.
For the 1 in 5 youth that will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime we need to assist them in getting all the supports necessary. For the youth that are experiencing distress over a multitude of concerns we must also listen and support them , teaching them how to cope with life’s challenges and concerns. Supporting youth with their feelings helps us understand what steps to take next. Their feelings are important , so we must not dismiss them.
Words do matter and helping our youth become literate when it comes to mental health can have a positive impact. If you need resources and ideas on how to make that happen check out teenmentalhealth.org. You can also find more information on anxiety here and here.
If you are wondering whether a youth truly has an anxiety disorder, some waitful watching may be in order. Don’t be quick to jump to a diagnosis ( and a reminder that you must be qualified to do so ) even then waitful watching is a good idea.
Some questions to reflect on :
Frequency : How frequent are the anxious feelings? Once or more a day , once a week , once a year?
Duration: How long do the feelings last? A few minutes, hours , weeks , months?
Intensity: Does the youth avoid situations because they are too anxious to cope? Is the anxiety taking control of them instead of them controlling it? Are they having trouble coping with everyday life because of their anxiety?
Have they seen a medical doctor to rule out any other medical concerns?