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!
“You are not here to fill space or be a background character to someone else’s movie. Consider this: nothing would be the same if you did not exist. Every place you have ever been and everyone you have ever spoken to would be different without you. We are all connected, and we are all affected by the decisions and even the existence of those around us. ” David Niven
I believe we all have a purpose in life. Each child that comes our way is precious and we were brought to them to make a difference. It is up to us to leave them feeling or thinking or doing something differently than when they walk into our office. It is up to us to help . That is the reason we do what we do. So keep doing it! The world would be a different place without YOU in it!
As soon as I entered the field of School Counselling I knew I had to be an advocate. I thought as a teacher I knew what School Counsellors did. Was I wrong!!!
Since then my colleagues and I have advocated at a district level to bring more awareness to what we do. Has it made a difference? YES! YES! YES! Our district is one of the best in the country when it comes to supporting , understanding and recognizing the work that School Counsellors do.
I have also advocated at a provincial level by being one of the voices and president of the then Alberta Guidance Council. Today my friend Erin Luong has taken up that advocacy role in the ATA Council Of School Counsellors and they are lucky to have her.
At a national level in 1999 , I was part of the first delegation of Counsellors to go to China along with my leader and friend Maria de Cicco as part of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association . My administrator and district supported me as a School Counsellor advocate on this journey. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will treasure and never forget.
Strong leaders are needed to be the voice along with School Counsellors . We need someone in Canada who has the same powerful, inspiring voice as Michelle Obama does here:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 2, 2018
Today although I am semi retired I still want to advocate. I believe School Counselling is one of the most important positions that every school still needs , maybe now more than ever.
So I say Canadian School Counsellors raise up your voices, if you want change , make it happen … be the change!!!!! We need your voice! Being silent won’t produce the changes needed across the country. You are valuable. You do matter . You are needed and you do make a difference. YOUR VOICE MATTERS!
Want to know how to be a great advocate just follow the #SCCHAT feed on twitter to see how it’s done. Let’s join in Canadians with our world counterparts who are advocating and being the voice for School Counsellors worldwide.
guest post by: S. Helen MacKinnon
The impact that social media has on kids is undeniable. A recent article in the New York Times highlights some of the more concerning issues.
I don’t think we need much convincing that social media has had an impact on all our lives and it is not going away anytime soon. I am a neophyte when it comes to social media, but in my work with children and their families over the past 30 years has allowed me a first hand insight into the world of children and their families.
What can we do as parents, counsellors and educators to mitigate the impact that social media is having on our young people? As in any situation where we are trying to teach children, we ourselves need to be the role model. We need to examine the message we send our kids when we are engaged in use of our own devices. What parameters do we have for ourselves when it comes to use of devices? Do we actually have discussions with our kids about amount of usage, times and places that are no go zones for adults and kids? Do we understand the safety issues and if not do we educate ourselves about these issues and discuss them with our children? Yes, with any privilege comes responsibility, both for us as the adult and for our children whom we must guide to be ethical digital citizens. Don’t let their media skills fool you! Although they appear to be very savvy in the area of technology, they do not have the life experience or a fully developed brain that allows them to project the outcome of what they may see as just having a little fun or wanting to fit in.
With the new emphasis on digital leadership , I strongly believe we as parents and educators need to learn how to develop our own digital identity. How can we truly help guide students to learn concepts of digital citizenship , becoming a digital agent, a digital interactor, etc?
How can we help young people learn how to create change in their community or how to make the world a better place online if we don’t fully understand how to do so ourselves?
Joanna Sanders asks great questions: What does this new emphasis on digital leadership look like in the classroom? How will this benefit our students?
Learning how to be digital leaders starts the day children are born and is a never-ending lesson. How do we celebrate all the good that our youth do while teaching them about privacy, collaboration and how to vet online sources? How do we become the models they need?
Let it begin with me I say … and yes it is never too late. I started learning how to become a good digital citizen almost five years ago after joining #etmooc. I am still learning today and take every opportunity I can to learn. I have made many mistakes along the way just as I did in my own parenting, teaching and counselling , but I really try to learn from those mistakes and model for others what I am learning daily.
I think we need to give educators the time during their days to learn along with their students. Being proactive means we need to learn alongside the students trying to master these skills we want them to have. They can teach us and we can teach them. If we want to drive change through technology we need to face the fear ourselves and take positive risks online. You may wish to join communities like #immooc, where you will find educators learning every day.
Digital citizenship is essential to what educators do. Join me as I learn along the way. You may find a few tips here .
Digital Citizenship Lessons are vital. Empowering proactive digital learners is a process. If we know how to do it , they will too . What do you think?
A guest post by : S.Helen MacKinnon
Often I am asked the question, ” Why do so many kids today suffer from anxiety ?” There is no easy answer to this question but there are many more questions that we need to ask. In particular, “What is it that appears to be causing such an increase in child and adolescent anxiety? Is it related to social media? Are we over pathologizing what may be normal reactions to stressful situations in our environment. According to Dr Stan Kutcher, a leading psychiatrist from Dalhousie University, “anxiety is a gift we have inherited from our ancestors to protect us from threat and to kick-start ambition; to fight it we have to face it.” In order to “face it” we need to first of all understand what is happening and then respond to it in a manner which will allow us to maximize the outcome.
In other words we can use the anxiety or stress, to benefit us in our day-to-day functioning. If we see it as a gift, we respond from a totally different repertoire or mindset than if we see it as a threat. A gift is something positive, something we welcome, something that may make things easier for us, or at times may challenge us and help us grow. How can we work with our kids to help them understand and see anxiety as a gift? What are some strategies that will help them develop a different mindset? Additionally, what part does social media play and are we, as parents, educators, and counsellors, contributing to the mindset of threat or gift? In my next guest post I will explore these very questions and discuss ways to unpack the gift of anxiety.
Engagement and Collaboration
Collaboration is key to being a 21st century school counselor and working with teachers is one of the greatest collaborative efforts school counselors can make on behalf of students. Teachers and counselors have to work together to maximize their impact on student achievement and this can be done in a variety of ways. Whether cross-walking standards for classroom lessons or talking about individual students, this partnership is essential to helping students to be successful.
Engaging students and staff is critical when it comes to school counselling.
Student engagement is vital. How we do it can vary. With so many students in a school you will most likely need to engage students online as well as in person. There are many ways to engage the students whether it is one to one or in groups. Learning to engage online was not easy for me , but it was super helpful. If you are a new School Counsellor #immooc can help with this.
Here are some things I like to do and ask with students in person.
- At the end of every session I check in with the student to see how the session went.
- I will often ask how are you feeling about what we talked about in session today?
- What is the one thing you will use as a result of our time together today? This allows me to gage if I have been helpful and if there is something I said that the student connected with.
- Find ways to collaborate with students on student led initiatives on bullying etc.
Engaging Staff. Get to know your staff. Take time to have lunch with them. It is good for you to take a break and get out of your office. Helping students can be very draining at times especially if you are addressing more serious issues, so get out of your office and make time to recharge. Self-Care is important. If your staff feel you are helpful they will most likely refer a student to you.
We are all working together to enhance the success of all students so if students see us collaborating in their best interest while always maintaining confidentiality we will best be able to help them. For more information on teacher counsellor partnerships click here.
Self Care… not just important Essential
School Counselling can be a very demanding career. I know it can be extremely exhausting as well as invigorating. School Counsellors often hear difficult stories and that can be energy draining. For many students Christmas can be a tough time. It is important for us to take time to heal as well. Pay attention to how you think , feel and act.
The following article discusses compassion fatigue and is such an important topic for any new school counsellor, but also for seasoned counsellors as well. Most importantly for all check out these self-care tips here.
Most importantly laugh and be with people who make you laugh and life as a School Counsellor will be so much more enjoyable.
Would love to hear your ideas.
As I reflect on Seth Godin’s blog today I am thinking about all the educators and what they are doing each and every day as they start a new school year.
Seth reminds us
- that digital learning is a revolution that can transform people faster and with more impact
- to play as if it matters
- that dreams are difficult to build and easy to destroy
Check the rest of his talk out here.
What do you think school is for and how will you make it better for students?
Ken Robinson always makes us think and I hope he does you too. Both Seth and Ken challenge us to move away from compliance and conforming to celebrating students learning. No learning … no education going on says Ken Robinson. So how do educators best go about helping students learn?
Ken reminds us
- that human beings are naturally different and diverse
- to light the spark of curiosity
- to awaken and empower a culture of creativity
- to individualize teaching and learning
Listen to the rest of his talk here:
What do you think school is for?
“Nothing leaves a deeper impact on students than actually allowing students to see proper social media usage modeled daily by respected adults (parents, teachers, administrators) and by allowing students to use social media properly in the actual space” says Nikki D Robertson in her article Don’t Ban Social Media.
Digital Citizenship becomes even more important daily as students and adults figure out what matters online. As School Counsellors you can take the lead in this area. If you know how to navigate and model proper social media usage , then you will be able to assist the students you serve to do so too.
I know for me learning all the ins and outs was not easy ( and still isn’t ) , but the lessons were so important for me to learn as a seasoned School Counsellor. I am here to say we are never too old to learn and we should indeed continue to discover and educate ourselves. Every day I continue to master new ideas and believe we must start early to teach all students and all staff about digital citizenship.
Daily online, I see school administrators, counsellors , teachers and students who do not understand the basic concept of EVERYTHING ONLINE IS PUBLIC. Even if you believe it is private … it is not. Many fall into the trap of the Illusion of Privacy.
If you’d like more articles on digital citizenship you can check out my online School Counsellor Talk weekly here.
I hope to see many more School Counsellors take the lead when it comes to this most important area in a comprehensive school counselling program plan. Won’t you join me on this learning journey?
What do I believe are some important lessons for a new School Counsellor to be aware of ? These lessons will not be in order of importance, but are all lessons I feel are worthwhile for you .
Lesson #1: We can’t help everyone, but we can sure try to help the ones that come to us or are referred to us (and yes sometimes we need to go to them).
Students will often disclose very serious issues that you as School Counsellors need to address. Sometimes when you disclose to parents that their son or daughter is thinking of suicide or some other life threatening concern (the end result might be the student may never return to see you). Hopefully you have connected the student and their family to resources that can improve and indeed in some cases save their lives.
It is important for you the new school counsellor to not get discouraged if a student does not return to see you (don’t personalize it). You may have helped the students tremendously and yes indeed you may even save their life, but they will be unaware of just how at this present time in their life. Know that students have stopped me in stores and other places years later to let me know what a difference I made. So hang in there knowing that you did what you needed to do. It would be great to help all students , but unfortunately even if you do everything correct sometimes we lose a student and this will be absoltely devastating. So make sure you always debrief and get help for yourself.
It is also important to be self-aware, so always run by big concerns with another counsellor and see if indeed there was something else you could have done or ask what if anything could you have done differently. Remind yourself that you are in a process of learning.
Consult… consult… consult… a lifelong lesson for ALL School Counsellors.
It is also OK to recognize that you are NOT a match for every student. Hopefully there are other counsellors in your school or outside agencies that you can refer your student to if this happens. I let students know that they have a choice when it comes to counsellors and they need to see the person they feel most comfortable and safe with. Hopefully, that will be you , but if that is not so that is OK too.
Lesson # 2: We need to base what we do on theoretical perspectives that are useful and helpful. Humanists like Carl Rogers and Victor Frankl have impacted me, but so too 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 the theories work for you and your students.
Each theorist 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 Ed Jacobs, Diane Williams, Deana Helton , Erin Mason , and Helen MacKinnon.
Lesson #3: Find great mentors and learn from them. One of my all time favorites is Ed Jacobs. Ed is a genuinely helpful man as well as being a great therapist. I love how he interacts and works with young and old people alike and makes a positive difference in the lives of others. Check him out on YouTube here:
Lesson #4: There are so many people and resources you can learn from that can impact students in a positive way. I think Leo Buscaglia has the best lessons that can be used in counselling students. I can honestly say I loved Leo . He was and still is an inspiration to me. Which brings me to an extremely important lesson … lesson #5
Lesson #5: Continually professionally develop yourself. Keep learning and learning and learning. One of my new favorite ways to do this is to connect with other school counsellors worldwide on twitter. See my past post on amazing school counsellors and what they are doing. My twitter handle is @sspellmancann. If you are not on twitter sign up TODAY! Join us in #scchat on the first Wed. of every month at 6:30 MT 8:30 ET. Post to #scchat anytime and there is always great resources there for you to access for free.
Lesson #6: Read great counselling books . A few I really like are : Impact Therapy by Ed. Jacobs, Creative Counselling Techniques by Ed. Jacobs, Group Counseling Strategies and Skills Jacobs, Masson, Harvill, Letters To A Young Therapist Mary Pipher, The Gift of Therapy Irvin Yalom, and Mans Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.
As I think about the lessons I believe a new counsellor should be thinking about I realize that there are some practical considerations that a new counsellor might want to implement. Here are a few:
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.Tweet this out to students on the school twitter account and post it to the school Facebook account.
- If you engage on social media please remember that NOTHING is PRIVATE ( even if you think it is ). Digital citizenship is a lesson we all need to learn.
- Introduce yourself to as many teachers as you possibly can. In a large school, this will take time.
- Plan to meet with your administration team at THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR and least once a month. 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.
- 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.
- Visually make your office a space students want to be in.
- Develop a monthly calendar of things to do and check off when you complete them.
- Have a plan when meeting new students. It is helpful to get a cell phone number so that you can follow-up.
- 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 and pinterest. They can be extremely helpful tools for new counsellors as well as those that have been around for a while.
- 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.
- 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.
I am adding one of my live binders called school counsellor resources. Please as in all my livebinders take what you like and leave the rest.
For all of you who are new to school counselling have a wonderful experience and know that what you do absolutely matters.
My next Lessons for a new School Counsellor will be posted soon.
Welcome to the best profession in the world School Counselling.