A Little Appreciation

There are a lot of people at work in schools right now doing some pretty amazing things. They are tired, overworked, feeling a multitude of emotions and often underappreciated for what they do. If you are a principal, supervisor, superintendent or someone who has a team working with you, take time to appreciate them. My challenge to you is to carve out 5 minutes to ask them how they are and tell them how much you appreciate them and what they are doing during this time. It matters. A little appreciation goes a long way.

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.

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?

Lessons for a New School Counsellor: Lesson 1

Lesson #1 What You Say and Do Matters

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.

Stay tuned for lessons 2-? …

Twitter Life

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

When I first joined twitter , it was such a lovely space. At least that’s the way I viewed it. People in my PLN were always willing to jump in and help. Connections were amazing. I felt I was able to reach out and my questions were answered. Twitter doesn’t always feel that way today. I still love the connections I have made and for the most part when I reach out eventually someone helps.

I do like is when someone reaches out to help like @oercommons did today when I asked a question of my PLN and they so readily jumped in to assist.

I love that you can connect with people from all over the world and people will collaborate on projects even when there is no money involved. They do it just to help.

Twitter is still my go to place especially for everything educational. My PLN is amazing and Twitter offers the best professional development ever. The resources I find on twitter are exceptional. I just wish we had a little of old twitter back when it seemed as if the world was just a bit closer and kinder.

Re -Entry from a School Counsellor Lens

“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, so empathy 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: Attendance may 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.

Anticipate

  • 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.
  • Missteps.
  • Successes and the ability to learn from things that don’t work.
  • The unexpected.

Avoid 

  • 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.

Consider

  • Embedding social and emotional learning into all core subjects.
  • Reading How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi over the summer.
  • Using Race and Equity resources
  • Connecting students with a virtual calm space . You can find one here and here.
  • Providing students with opportunities to discuss any concerns or challenges they are experiencing or needs they may have given Covid19’s impact.
  • Focusing on social and emotional skill building, mental and behavioral health, personal safety and self-regulatory capacity, which likely regressed with a lack of social interactions.
  • Finding opportunities for students to work cooperatively, feel empowered and able to help others.
  • Finding ways to build on some of the unique experiences students have had at home.

Continue:

  • To find ways to connect and empower students.
  • To involve and support families (we are in this together).
  • To use trauma informed resources and trauma informed practices
  • Informal virtual check ins. Use a google forms such as this
  • To support students in finding ways to engage in their learning. 
  • To develop ways to build upon relationships.
  • Understand how grief has impacted us and our students. 
  • To use developmental assets as a guide.
  • 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.

If you want to use some Just For Today’s with your students check out 101 ways to kickstart your day .

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?

Reference: School Reentry Considerations National Association of School Psychologists and the American School Counselor Association

25 Ways Of Making The Best Of Each Day : Just For Today For Educators During Covid19

Choose ONE of the following tips. You may want to post it on your mirror at home or pin it to your desktop and remind yourself of what you need during this time.

  1. Just for Today I will acknowledge that we are all grieving the world as we once knew it. I will be compassionate with myself and my students.
  1. Just for Today I will take the necessary actions so that I don’t burn out during Covid 19. I will take breaks and put things on pause when I need to.
  1. Just for Today I will be grateful I am an educator who loves and cares for youth.
  1. Just for Today I will remember that relationships are a key factor for academics to occur especially as I move online. 
  1. Just for Today I will trust the process . If I don’t get exactly how to use the tech at this time that is more than OK.
  1. Just for Today I will acknowledge that I need time and space for myself and my family,  I will take time to care for my own well being and theirs.
  1. Just for Today I will share a just for today , a positive quote or thought with my students.
  1. Just for Today I will not speak negatively about myself, treating myself empathically focusing on what I do know, not on what I don’t. 
  1. Just for Today I will focus on doing my best and let go of the rest, acknowledging that I care about all of my students.
  1. Just for Today I will make sure that I take time to have a proper lunch and take breaks.
  1. Just for Today I will find ways to decrease my workload.
  1. Just for Today I will connect with a colleague and  collaborate knowing this will lighten some of my load. 
  1. Just for Today I will focus on my strengths and not fall into the trap of comparing myself to others .

14. Just for Today I will not put 20 things on my to do list. I will tackle one concern at a time.

  1. Just for Today I will centre myself while helping students find ways to centre themselves.
  1. Just for Today I choose the path of being there for a child.
  1. Just for Today I will acknowledge that I cannot be everything to everyone.
  1. Just for Today I will accept support from others.
  1. Just for Today I will find a way to celebrate student success.
  1. Just for Today I will film a short message to check in with my students.
  1. Just for today I will avoid overthinking by attempting to stay in the moment.
  1. Just for Today I will remember that it’s okay not to feel okay.
  1. Just for Today I will collaborate with my team to share resources.
  1. Just for Today I will send a message of thanks to a member of my school community.
  1. Just for Today I will turn my computer off at the end of office hours. 

Want to check out previous posts for students. You can find them here.

What is your Just for Today Tip? Please share in the comments. Erin and I would love to hear your ideas.

School Counsellors Collaborating With Librarians: An Exceptional Way To Help Students

Collaboration is a wonderful thing. Tonights #scchat was so inspiring. It got the creative juices flowing and I am sure will be helpful to so many School Counsellors from across the world.

Find ways to connect with your School Librarian today.

Thanks to the amazing @angcleveland @kiddcounselor15 and @lieberrian who co-moderated #scchat on Dec. 4th , school counsellors now have several new ideas they can use to help students . Take a look at the chat on wakelet .

It will most definitely get your mind thinking of the many ways you can work together and in the end help you to serve your students and community . I think we can never underestimate the power of collaboration. We are definitely #bettertogether. I look forward to hearing the many ways you have collaborated. Please do share.

You Are There For A Purpose

Each day as a School Counsellor you have an opportunity to impact a child’s life in a way unlike others are able to do. Never ever lose sight of that. It might be a small action that touches a child’s heart and makes a difference for a lifetime. You have the time to truly listen and understand what it is a child needs and how to help them in a way that can change their perceptions of themselves and the world around them. It is a gift you have been given to give away , so treasure the moments that are right there in front of you each day as you enter your school. You are there for a purpose.

Ways To Get To Know Me Better

At this time of year I know some of you are already preparing for next year, so I thought I’d add a little way to get to know your students and their stories better. If you’d like to do this yourself and share with me, that would be great too. Have a fabulous summer. You deserve it!