Hoping and Coping: Volunteering with Students Living in Ukraine

Sometimes you see something and you just know you cannot pass this opportunity by. That’s what happened to me as I read a post by my friend Marian on Facebook on Alberta Teachers volunteering with students in Ukraine. I then contacted David who coordinates volunteers for Smart Osvita and have never looked back.Your legacy in life is created by each life you touch. This is one way to connect with youth who are presently living in Ukraine that is meaningful. I could not pass this opportunity by.I hope you too chose to volunteer.

“This opportunity is going to be life changing for those kids, but it will also be life changing for Teachers, and School Counsellors and others who deeply care about youth”

 D Falconer adapted by @sspellmancann

A Volunteer Opportunity

If you are interested in volunteering on your own please contact David Falconer (see below) , but if you’d like to co-present with me please contact me at @sspellmancann on twitter

Background

David Falconer dffalconer@gmail.com . Volunteer recruiter Principal in Nunavut. More about David and his volunteer work with NGO Smart Osvita   

David signed on to a program that gives children who are presently living in Ukraine hour-long virtual lessons where they get to learn about a place in the world, or a topic of interest. The goal is to provide the youth with an hour that they can escape from their worries and focus on their well-being. So fortunately for me I got to present with my co-workers and wellness team Sheila Stacey and Deanne Arada two amazing counsellors who are passionate about making a difference for young people.

Ukrainian children log in to Zoom sessions at whatever location they can, then Falconer , teachers, School Counsellors and others tell them about life where they are and / or present a lesson. Our goal is to make it interactive , provide as much Canadian content as possible while being fun and letting youth escape the worries of the world.

Falconer has had up to 250 people taking part,in his sessions  providing Ukrainian children “an hour where they can dream and be totally separated from their current reality.” There are thousands of displaced students needing this support. 

Falconer said the lessons being organized are supposed to be educational, but “ultimately, the goal is to have these kids know that people care and indeed that is what we hoped as well. We have completed three sessions and plan on many more and we sincerely hope you do too. Our ultimate goal is to leave them feeling uplifted and hope filled and from their feedback we believe we accomplished this so far.

It is so important to not retraumatize youth providing them with a sense of safety allowing for activities that help them feel truly connected . When planning sessions presenters need to be mindful of this.

For youth who are affected by trauma, the teacher / school counsellor play an even more vital role. Volunteering in this capacity does makes a difference.

What You May Want to Know:

You can do this!!!! It’s fun and a great way to make a meaningful contribution. Feeling powerless like you can’t do anything …well yes YOU CAN, The students so appreciate what you do. They are absolutely amazing. The interpreter is so helpful and positive.You don’t have to do this alone. Find a co-fascilitator. We planned our sessions together and did a run through before each session which was so, so beneficial. We know you will love this experience too. So jump in and do it, you will be so glad you did!

Resources:

These are some potential resources for you, some may be applicable , so please use what works for you. Just be yourself, share some of your life and most importantly pass on a little hope.

Send a message to the people of Ukraine. We’ll translate it.


Please remember to practice self-care and share how you do with the youth. You will be in the presence of extraordinary acts of courage as you connect with these young people. Embrace all the moments.

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.

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-? …

Love Leadership and Lacrosse

 I love lacrosse! Thanks to my past team mates Jane Walsh and Elaine McMullin Descoteaux for inviting me to do a keynote for female  national box lacrosse championship players in 2017. It was an opportunity for me to give back and share my love of the sport. Lacrosse always has been my most favourite sport of the many that I have played.

I started playing lacrosse around 47 years ago (yes, females played lacrosse back then) in Shannon Park Wallis Heights with coaches Cliff Friesen and Donald Koharski. I have so many great memories of those days, We were lucky enough to play lacrosse in Ontario ,the CNE and in Vancouver, We went on to win the NS championships in 1973, so many fun memories.

Today I am a registered Psychologist, I was an educator for the past 40 years and I retired as a School Counsellor in a self- directed High School in Calgary three years ago this June.

None of that would have been possible without lacrosse. In 1976 I was awarded a lacrosse Scholarship from Canada Fitness and Amateur Sport . It paid for most of my University Education. I am so, so grateful for that today!

Lacrosse shaped my future. 

I stopped playing lacrosse a year ago, but would play drop in if it were still on today. I  joined again as an adult in 2008 and loved every moment. I am 61 years old and I played for the Calgary Women’s Master Lacrosse league until I was 60. I can’t run …. but boy can I shoot Tracy Klusky past captain of the Calgary Roughnecks once told me I had golden hands! I’m also really good at being a cherry picker …

Here is a video I put together a while back about the love of the game.

I hope all young lacrosse players think about these 5 things

  1. Find your purpose
  2. Play for the love of the sport , play for a lifetime
  3. Be Passionate
  4. Persevere
  5. Pay it Forward

Find your purpose and be the leader you can be. You can be a leader on and off the floor. I would like to encourage young women worldwide to play this great sport!!!! Not only young women, but moms too. Yes, and dad’s too.

If there isn’t a team where you live START ONE . If there isn’t a scholarship to be found CREATE ONE or find someone who can. We live in a world where social media CAN be used for good SO DO IT be a good digital citizen and connect with others who want the best for young women in sports.

Did you know that 44% of girls between the ages of 3-17 don’t participate in sports? 84% of adult women don’t participate in sports at all. WE CAN CHANGE that stat TODAY. For those of you playing, you are the lucky ones because you get to play the greatest game on earth. So get out there PROMOTE this great game. YOU CAN BE A LEADER. According to Anita Franklin of the IOC “When a young woman athlete triumphs, she has become a role model for her family, her community and even her country” I KNOW YOU CAN TOO!

PLAY FOR THE LOVE OF THE SPORT and do it lifelong IF I CAN … YOU CAN TOO! Play fair , play respectfully and play hard.

BE PASSIONATE and always be kind. Life will give you back tenfold what you have given out.  Passionate people according to research are happier and experience greater well being. My passions have afforded me great friendships, lifelong friendships that I treasure to this day. We have had so much fun together because of sport.

PERSEVERE when you persevere in sports and in life you get back up and keep going. Life throws us all challenges. We are all going to make mistakes and that’s OK  that is the way we learn. Lacrosse taught me to never give up!

PAY IT FORWARD you will learn many lessons through lacrosse. You can pay it forward by helping others. Maybe you will coach or volunteer in some capacity or maybe you will find small ways to give back, but make sure you just do it!

ONE PERSON CAN INDEED MAKE A PROFOUND DIFFERENCE that person could be YOU.

OUR NATIONAL SUMMER SPORT IS THE BEST.

I hope you as young women who play lacrosse go out there and make a difference not just in lacrosse, but in life and remember all the things that lacrosse has given you.! Sports helped me become a better human being and i hope some of you who read this will find that sports does that for you too be it lacrosse or any other sport, many of which I have loved and played like lacrosse, ringette, hockey, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and my latest love pickleball.

I hope you just play … it’s great for your overall well being. and it’s just plain fun!

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 …

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.

Inspiring Leadership Begins With Me

“There are scores of people waiting for someone just like you to come along, people who will appreciate your compassion, your encouragement, who will need your unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because you took the time to share what you had to give.” Leo Buscaglia

This week I am fortunate to attend the Inspiring Leadership Form at The University of Regina. I look forward to listening to women who have had many challenges in life and turned them into opportunities to learn and grow and inspire young women to take leadership roles at an early age. As Dr. Vianne Timmons says to make sure we surround ourselves with others who lift us up.

Presently, I am running a leadership group for a group of grade five students. I recognize that in order for them to take on leadership roles, I must model positive leadership and expose students to as many leadership opportunities as I can at an early age.

Being a leader isn’t always easy. It involves being brave, having courage, love , hope, passion, risk, self awareness, strength and trust among many other qualities. Sometimes it means having a thick skin, not allowing negativity to stop us from reaching higher. Having a growth mindset helps young leaders learn that failure is not a bad word. It is how we learn and grow and gain the strengths to be positive leaders in many ways throughout life. We each have a role to play in being leaders.

As School Counsellors we are in a unique position to not only model leadership , but to provide opportunities for students to thrive as leaders of today and tomorrow who are advocates and not afraid to become the kind of people they are meant to be … not perfect, but full of potential helping to make this a better world.

Collaboration and connecting with other leaders will help us to find our voice and be the kind of leaders our young people need.

Inspiring leadership begins with me and I hope with you too.