It’s Never Too Late

As I enter this new chapter in my life I am making an extra effort to take care of myself physically. I have hired a personal trainer hoping to kickstart a stronger me. I have always been physically active having played sports like hockey, basketball, volleyball, baseball, ringette and more most of my life. I played lacrosse up to the age of 60. I still play pickleball which is my new love, but I have never done much in the area of weight training. As I age I know I need to ensure my body and mind are strong.

I am constantly looking at ways to improve my life and next month I begin focusing on this new area of my story, hoping a personal trainer will kickstart me off in a positive way.

I do many things that help me including my involvement in Second Chants an adult show choir.

I paint on a regular basis.

I volunteer with Calgary and Area Child Advocacy Centre, Online with School Counsellors and #scchat, Be My Eyes ready to help those with visual impairments.

I walk almost every day.

Keeping active, volunteering and working with adolescents all keep me positive and healthy. It is never too late to start something new, so keep moving forward as we all journey through this pandemic in the best way possible.

Everyone Has A Story

@sspellmancann

Especially during this time everyone will have a story of how they got through Covid19 or what happened to them , a family member or friend.

Our role as helpers will be to listen and support, no matter the story. It won’t necessarily be easy as sometimes we may be triggered when listening to others. We are not perfect, I know I am not that’s for sure. I want to give myself an extra dose of compassion at this time as I too have had a range of emotions. Maybe you should too.

We are humans and our humanity makes us people who are often complex. Being the best person we can be is a lifetime venture, filled with many bumps along the way. Through this pandemic many will have gigantic bumps to deal with, my heart goes out to those that do.

As you and I both navigate this chapter in our lives may we do it with courage , grace , compassion and help others along the way that are struggling to the best of our ability, because everyone has a story that they may or may not be willing to share behind the smile..

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.

Lesson 2 for a New School Counsellor : Keep Learning and Base it on Theory.

pic from Nicole Lisafeld

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 JacobsDavid 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:

If you haven’t already read it , I highly recommend Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Ed Jacobs Impact Therapy Actually anything by Ed and Christine Schimmel Counseling Children and Adolescents is also fantastic.

Dr. Allen Francis Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life is a must for your bookshelf.

Dr. Bruce Perry The Boy Who Was Raised by A Dog. A must read to understand the impact of trauma.

Dr. Erin Mason 101 Solutions for School Counsellors and Leaders in Challenging Times. So many great tips, resources and helpful strategies.

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?

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-? …

Life … Look For The Small Things

The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention

J Burroughs

As each day passes I continue to look for the little things in life because really the little things are the big things.

The way you treat a friend.

The smile that you give someone.

The kindness that you show.

How you interact in the world.

The moments you make matter.

The way you listen.

The time you take.

The way you count your blessings.

The ways you find to live, love and laugh.

10 Ways To Kick Start Your Day Just for Today #2

  1. Just for Today I will make my moments marvellous.
  2. Just for Today I will write messages and jokes in chalk. Carol Stevenson
  3. Just for Today when I take a shower , I will sing my favourite song at the top of my lungs. Neil O’Flaherty
  4. Just for Today I will share my favorite song that reminds me of them with someone I care about. 
  5. Just for Today I will sit quietly and listen to the world around me. Susan Viveiros
  6.  Just for Today I will think before I act. 
  7.  Just for Today I will give up complaining .
  8.  Just for Today I will stop overthinking.
  9.  Just for Today I will enjoy the little things in my day.
  10.   Just for Today I will share my favorite memory of someone with them. Andrea Hecker Cumatz

If you’d like to check out our old posts here they are: 101 Ways To Kickstart Your Day In A Positive Way and 10 Ways to Kickstart Your Day Just for Today .

I shared my music that reminds me of my friend and she shared hers today you can check them out on Twitter @sspellmancann

Erin Luong and I would love to hear how you are using these or please add your Just For Today in the comments …

Keeping Our Students Safe

As School Counsellors and educators one of the biggest responsibilities we have is to keep our students safe .

How do we do that? Very carefully and with much thought and effort as well as an understanding of the research around what works best. Bruce Perry founder of child trauma academy states that active shooter training is not always done properly , the training that occurs in schools should focus on adults. He says, “if the educators and people who are responsible for children remain calm then the students will reflect that emotional state”. Read more about what he says here.

What can be done? The answers are complex and require teams of people to assist. That is where a Comprehensive School Counselling Plan comes in. School Counsellors are always looking at ways to make school better for students, putting the psychological health and safety of students as a priority. We need to get students the help they need long before a serious threat occurs. The answers are not easy , but those who have learned before us can teach us some things we may need to know. Take a look at these recommendations from the Sandy Hook advisory committee.

As stated in that report , “There is at least one place, other than a home, in which every person, whether a child or adult, should feel absolutely safe and secure from the threat
of physical harm: school. ” I could not agree more. School Counsellors can take the lead along with staffs to make schools a safe place to be. Mental health literacy is essential for all students and staff members. Building relationships is one small step towards creating a community that focuses on what is important.

Working to ensure that we have a safe and caring school community is always on the mind of a professional school counsellor. Best practices should be reviewed and reflected upon each year based on individual school needs. School Counsellors are in a unique position to assist in preventative measures helping students to deal with stressors and social isolation. We also know it takes a team and we don’t have all the answers, but there are many things we can do and are doing already. We are but one of a community of people that make a difference. We as School Counsellors can help make our schools a safe place to be.

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.

The Effect You Have As A School Counsellor Is Not Always Measurable

Cq4QzbFUkAEiZCS.jpg-largeYou have them , I have had them. You know that student that you had no idea you had such an impact on, but they let you know years later. Sometimes 36 years later as I did two years ago. A young man came into the office at the High School I was working in at the time. He wanted to see me to tell me how I had influenced his life. He had googled me and tracked me down because he wanted to tell me his story . I am grateful he did as I would have never known that I had affected his life in the way he let me know I had.

I have been blessed with letters and notes from students who have told me they believed I had saved their life. It is an honour and privilege that they believe something I said or did had impacted them in such a positive way. More often than not we don’t get these notes, calls or letters and we may not know the impact we have had on students. Not because we did not , but because the person may not have put their thoughts to words for whatever reason.

A couple of days ago one of my best friends who is also a retired School Counsellor , got one of those notes from a student whom she had known 18 years ago. The note was from a young woman reporting she was now happily married with two children , She told my friend that she was the reason she was alive, happy and successful today. She let her know it was World Suicide Prevention Day and that maybe my friend would like to know the impact she had on her life when she was in High School.

The woman had tracked my friend down on Facebook and felt compelled to write her the beautiful moving, heartfelt note (I’m purposefully leaving out the details, but trust me we both cried a lot reading it) . Of course she had no idea that particular student felt that way. So what a gift it was to receive a note like this. It is truly why we do what we do choosing to be in education.

If one young person is impacted in this way by what we have said or done, then our years of dedication to a career we have loved is all worth while. We both agreed that we were so fortunate to work in schools with amazing young people and feel truly blessed to have had a career we both were passionate about.

So many still do not fully understand what a School Counsellor does behind closed doors, but know and trust that you need to keep doing what you are doing as a School Counselor wherever you are in the world. You can never know the impact you can have. Small gestures and words can matter.

The effect you have as a School Counsellor is not always measurable , but that does not matter. What you say and do everyday does.