Lesson #16… How do you make a difference when it comes to bullying?

Who’s Frank ? It’s More Than A Day It’s A Way

“No matter what happens in life be good to people.

Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”

Taylor Swift

We alll need to find a way to empower students and each other to stand up and make a difference. These young students recognize that they can be empowered to make changes and not let injustices happen to others.

Mount Royal University and Bishop Carroll High School students are doing just that … they’ve started a movement #WHOSFRANKYYC

Take a look here for more details.

Here are some handouts from Barbara Coloroso .

Here are some anti-bullying resources for educators and school counsellors.

Here is another school working to make a difference

What ways will you stand up and make a difference when it comes to bullying?.

I Will Remember … Will you?

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cc Image by Bill Barber

Remembrance Day is always a day of reflection. Our Remembrance Day Celebration at school this year was exceptionally well done. I had to choke back the tears several times during our ceremony. One of those remembered was Cpl Nathan Hornburg , a Bishop Carroll alumni who was struck by shrapnel during a mortar attack in Afghanistan while trying to repair his tank at the age of twenty- four ( the age of my own daughter) . I cannot imagine the grief and loss that his and other parents have had to endure. On this day Nathan’s dad joined us at Bishop Carroll in our Remembrance Day celebration. I could hear a pin drop. Our football team wore their jerseys in remembrance. As I looked across the gym floor I noticed one of our students with special needs was holding her hand over her heart as she sang O’ Canada. Another of the many touching moments. I must say I am so proud to be in a school where students , staff and many parents come together to pay tribute and remember.

Growing up on a military base I was surrounded by men and women who had a history of serving. My grandfather served in World War 2. This Haiku Deck is in tribute to him and the men and women like him who have served their country so that we may have the freedom that we do today. I am grateful.

Click here for : In Remembrance Haiku Deck

Below is one of my all time favorite Remembrance Day videos. It makes me stop and think every year. It is only a pittance of time.

 

I Will Remember This and Every Year Will You?
I Will Remember … Will You?

Mental Health Literacy Training

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This week I was extremely fortunate to be Certified as a Trainer for the Mental Health Literacy Program facilitated by renowned psychiatrist Dr. Stan Kutcher

I was excited to be able to participate, as I have known about Dr. Kutcher’s work for a while. I am happy to say all four days were absolutely worth it. I left feeling I had learned many things that will assist me in my professional work and as a result impact the lives of the students we serve in our school community. I also loved his dry wit which absolutely kept me engaged during the process.

The training has fabulous resources for school counsellors, educators and mental health workers to utilize. This program is one of the best I have seen in a long time. It is rich in content, research, and resources.

When it comes to mental health we want students to:

CONNECT

  • With someone they trust like their teacher advisor , teacher, coach or other significant adult in the school who can then assist them in connecting …

CONNECTING

  • With their school counsellor who can assist them in connecting with their doctor, health care provider and or parents to assist them with their mental health concerns

One of important things that  Dr. Stan Kutcher discussed during the four days is the difference between:

  • Mental Health Distress (one example lose your keys)
  • Mental Health Problem (one example a parent dies)
  • Mental Health Disorder/Illness (one example clinical depression)

Too often we do not normalize what young people are feeling. It is normal to feel sad after a break up, but that does not mean the student is in a clinical depression. We need to teach our young people the difference between distress, problem and disorder and the Mental Health Curriculum Guide  does just that. It teaches students and educators the Mental Health Literacy that they need in today’s world based on present day research on the brain.

If you want to learn more you can take a quiz here to get you started…

Below I will share a few of the fantastic resources available. You may want to book a training in your area if you do contact @TMentalHealth

Digital storytelling:

Panic Disorder:

Coping with suicidal thoughts:

http://teenmentalhealth.org/resources/entries/coping-with-suicidal-thoughts/

Depression:

I really hope educators from around the globe will consider this fantastic program as part of any initiative that will benefit every student and family in their school and community.

Lessons For A New School Counsellor Post #2

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Every September I forget just how unbelievably busy a school can be and most school counsellors are not just counselling they have several other responsibilities. That is an important lesson for all school counsellors. Be aware of all that you may be asked to do.

Here are some new lessons. Lessons 1-6  are here.

Lesson #7

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to learn all the things you have to know as a school counsellor and often times you have several roles to play. You may be in a classroom part time teaching and attempting to do a full time job at counselling even though you are half time counselling /half time teaching. You can’t do and be everything for everybody.

Lesson #8

Lists help. Having lists will help you do and follow up on all the activities you are responsible for.

Lesson #9

Technology helps. This year we have a master calendar for all our counselling activities on Outlook. Each calendar is synched with our counselling Admin. Assistant and she makes sure it is coordinated. We discuss our monthly activities in our weekly Counselling team meetings. This keeps us all on track and aware of what is happening. We utilize technology in numerous ways in which I will discuss over the course of the school year.

This year in September we held three different seminars . One on Digital Citizenship, four on Counselling and one on scholarship information for students in grade 12 . Throughout the year we will offer several more.

The first was held at our grade 10 retreat with four hundred new grade 10’s and I will post more on that later.

The second was held in our computer room where we discussed :

  • What school counsellors do
  • What services we offer
  • Confidentiality and the limits
  • Resources we have available like our school counselling website, our counselling course that we offer on D2L, our school twitter site and our school facebook page

The third will be held in the computer lab with access to a fantastic livebinder.

Here are some links you may get some ideas from:

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/seBRTsh6wd/digital-citizenship-bchs

https://sspellmancann.jux.com

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/L1wGnD3MT0/what-high-school-students-need-to-know

Scholarships, Student Loans, Occupational Information livebinders.com/play/play/830830

 

Lesson #10

All school counsellors should be trained in suicide prevention and if they are not they should be trained in their Masters programs. School Counsellors often have to assess for the risk of suicide. Yes, even in the first few days of school when students are back in September. School Counsellors need to be prepared to ask for assistance if they are not trained. This is not something you should handle alone. It can be very scary when a student says they are thinking about suicide and you are not trained to know what to do. Even when you are trained well it can feel overwhelming and so it is important to debrief with another counsellor. In our district all school counselors have to train every two years as well as do a refresher course. This is so important for our students at risk. School counsellors can and do save lives.

As I reflect on the work we do, I think about what we do and how important our role as school counsellors are. Exhausting at times, but so worthwhile. To all new counsellors hang in there. It is and has been the most rewarding career for me. I still love what I do in year 33.

Marc’s reflection on his first weeks as a high school counsellor:

Starting a practicum placement is intimidating.  I am fighting the  presence of ‘imposter syndrome’, feeling somewhat ill-prepared and anxious, hoping that my lack of experience is not apparent to the students or staff in my words or behaviour.  I am fortunate to be in a familiar environment with a supportive supervisor and colleagues, but it will take time to feel comfortable and confident.

It’s been a steep learning curve at my practicum placement.  At first, I was frustrated because the established counsellors were busy with a full schedule of student clients, while I had a slow trickle.

While I recognized that some students may prefer a veteran counsellor, I soon realised this disparity in appointments was primarily due to the students’ unfamiliarity with me, rather than an indication of their perception of my competence or a sneak preview of my upcoming caseload.  The number of students coming for appointments has picked up, but I have come to appreciate any opportunity I have to reflect, consult, complete documentation, or catch up on additional work.  Further, after having an experience assessing an at-risk student, I’ve learned that a gradual immersion into client contact allows me to build competence and confidence at a comfortable pace.  I was not ready to assess this particular client, and missed several key aspects of the necessary process.  It was a good learning experience, helping me to remember the importance of policy and training, but also to pace myself and appreciate any lighter schedules.

 

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. As School Counsellors we need to talk about this very important topic. We need to break down the stigma, one conversation or one assembly at a time.  Our students could be at risk. Sadly, sometimes we can miss the warning signs.

In our opening school retreat we address this issue directly and let all students know we are there to assist them to provide HOPE and support.

We let students know that even if they are not at risk he/she may need to help a friend. Evidence suggests that youth are more likely to talk to their peers about their thoughts of suicide so we need to reinforce in students that they cannot keep suicidal thoughts a secret. We would much rather they had an angry friend than a dead friend.

Later this month we have every grade ten student take a manditory suicide prevention workshop through Canada Mental Health.

Our HOPE is that all students will reach out and get the help and supports they need. Our young people are precious and we want to keep them to understand they have a purpose and are meant to be here.

Digital Citizenship and the New School Year

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One of the most important topics I believe a school can cover is Digital Citizenship. So I went on a twitter search of the top two videos on this topic. If I am going to present to the students in my High School ( which I am ) I want the best of the best. Which videos rate as the top two I think our students should see? So I asked the question to my PLN “ If you had to choose the top two videos on Digital Citizenship for high school students what would you choose?”

You would think this would be easy to answer, but it is not! I am aware of lots of videos on Digital Citizenship, but which ones do I believe I should present to all our new grade 10’s? I’m not sure yet.

Some of the responses I received were:

  • great question let me know what you find?
  • try this for starters thanks Tom Whitby @tomwhitby
  • tough call, but here is a nice collection of digital citizenship videos  thanks Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal
  • thinking on this one
  • I’ve been looking too … please share
  • Retweets and assistance because of @courosa. Thank you so much as always Alec for your help with this. I am continually inspired by you.
  • The search produced ideas , but no top videos people would choose to show to a large group of high school students and I understand why. There are so many to choose from and how to decide which one would be best is not easy and depends on the purpose. Fortunately I will be using several so no real need to find the absolute best.
  • I’ve added videos and ideas to my digital citizenship livebinder so thanks to all of you on twitter who contributed.

In the process of thinking about this important topic I had some insights that I thought were useful.

  • What about asking the students to watch five videos (of their own choosing) on the topic of Digital Citizenship) and pick the ones they think are the top two?
  • What about having students research and create their own videos? Challenge them to create one that other students would pick as their top two.
  • What do students think should be the criteria for picking a video as one that should be in the top two?
  • What do educators think should be the criteria for picking a video that should be in their top two?
  • What are the essential components of a great assembly on Digital Citizenship for high school students?
  • If you had an hour to present to all new grade 10’s on the topic of Digital Citizenship, what would you present?
  • What do I really want our students to be aware of?

What I do know is that I want our students to think a lot about this very important topic and as a counselling team we will be covering this topic throughout the school year.

  1. I want to model positive digital citizenship
  2. I want students to know that being online in a positive way can make a positive difference in their life. Students throughout the world are doing many great things online
  3. I want students to learn all they can about being a good citizen online and off
  4. I don’t want to scare students.  I want to inform them and assist them to act with integrity on the web
  5. I want students to be safe, responsible, and use good judgement online
  6. I want students to be aware of their identity
  7. I want students to learn and understand creative commons
  8. I want to help prepare students for ” a society full of technology” Ribble
  9. I want students to be able to be learn to create and be proud of what they create and learn and share on the net
  10. I want students to be able to “understand how networks work ” Rheingold

Here is  a past post that I wrote on the topic: Making A Difference On Line where you can find other resources on this very important topic.

As school counsellors this year we will be:

  • sending Digital Citizenship tweets to students on the school twitter account as well as through remind 101
  • posting articles and videos on the school facebook account
  • sending out @HaikuDecks on the topic to students
  • sharing information on the topic on our school counselling website
  • focusing on where we can add information on Digital Citizenship in our learning guides
  • posting information on bulletin boards (our students look at these) caught them many, many times

I especially want students to know as Seth Godin says, “Everything you do now ends up on your permanent record. The best plan is to overload google with a long tail of good stuff and always act as if you are on Candid Camera because you are”.

We need to be congruent on and of line and we need to model integrity and teach this to our students . This is a  process and we will slip up along the way,but for today we will do and be the best we can.

I certainly recognize that helping students be more aware of digital citizenship is the responsibility of teachers, parents, educators and the society as a whole , but as school counsellors we can assist students in their understanding of this very important topic. I would love it if you would share your ideas and tell us what you think some of the best videos and ideas are around this topic. Please comment below if you have ideas. This is a work in progress.

Lessons for a New School Counsellor … an ongoing dialogue for this school year

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This year I will be supervising another first year school counsellor, the difference being this time I want to blog about it so that I can help him as well as learn new things myself. I also hope this will help other new school counsellors in the process.

I absolutely love being a school counsellor. It is a career that I have never regretted choosing. I registered as a psychologist in 2007, and tested out private practice part time. The decision to do this helped me realize just how much I love being in a school helping students and connecting with educators. The work of a school counsellor fulfills me and makes me very happy. I love going to work every day. It is extremely rewarding because I know I can make a huge difference in the life of students and their families.  I believe as school counsellors we can change the path that a student’s life will take to a more positive one.

I know that school counsellors can save lives by what they do . They can be the first person to assess that a serious concern exists and connect the family with resources that can change the lives of the student and their family for the better.

When a student walks into my office the first question I often ask is “ how can I help you today” ? I always want to be helpful. I believe that if we are not being helpful then we are not meeting the needs of our students. At the end of the session I usually ask what did we discuss today that will be helpful to you and what will you use as a result of our spending time together today.

As a school counsellor I want to be able to replace despair with hope and sadness with joy not unlike the words in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

I want the school counselling office to be a safe place for students to explore what isn’t working and find out how they can make things work in their lives. I like to focus on the strengths of the student. Often times students have told me they would not go to or do not like going to see counsellors. They say to me that being in my office is different ; meaning somehow I am different and that I don’t seem like the perception of what they think a “counsellor” is.

Now don’t get me wrong I have had students who did not like me. It is part of what happens as a school counsellor, teacher , educator or anyone in any profession and if that happens hopefully they will connect with the person who will be most helpful to them.

What do I believe are the important lessons a new school counsellor should know? These lessons will not be in order of importance, but are all lessons I feel are worthwhile being aware of. As the school year progresses I will continually add to this list.

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 sometimes we need to go to them).

Students will often disclose very serious issues that we as school counsellors need to address. Sometimes when we 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 new school counsellors to not get discouraged if a student does not return to see you (don’t personalize it) it may just be that you have helped them a great deal, but are unaware of just how at that time. 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 is also important to be self aware, so also run by your 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 not 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 ,Victor 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.

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 Diane Williams, Deana Helton 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!

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, Mans Search for Meaning 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.
  • 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.
  • My plan this year is to 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.
  • 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 especially in a self-directed High School.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

As I learn along with my new school counsellor I will be sharing any insights that we both might have. For all of you who are new to school counselling have a wonderful experience and know that what you do absolutely matters.

Welcome to the best profession in the world school counselling.