Lessons for a New School Counsellor : Lesson 4 Basics

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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,

Lessons for A New School Counsellor: Lesson 3 Consult

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.

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-? …

Learn Something New Every Day You Can

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.

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.

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.

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 …

10 Ways To Kick Start Your Day Just for Today

  1. 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
  2. Just for Today I will visit my old neighbourhood and call an old friend. Graham Kennedy
  3. Just for Today I will acknowledge that I am worthy and loved . Louise Hamilton
  4. Just for Today I will  learn a new skill and tomorrow a new life skill.  Kim Souillet
  5. Just for Today when I brush my  teeth I will pretend that I am a zookeeper brushing a hippos teeth.  Carol Stevenson
  6. Just for Today I will read my favourite book.  Kate Kucharski
  7. Just for Today I will smile and wave at every person who passes by my house.  Susan Viveiros
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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.

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.