I Am A School Counsellor

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I am a School Counsellor

I was a School Counsellor the moment I realized students needed help and I could make a difference

Throughout the day I can be called upon to assist, encourage, intervene, give support, make serious decisions and more

I am privileged to see the potential in each and every student

Honoured that students and their families allow me to help them

Thankful that I have chosen a profession I can be proud of and one that allows me to leave a legacy

You, the parents allow me to enter your world and help the most precious gift you have been given in life your child

Students matter to me and I will counsel your children from my heart, always maintaining a professional response

I am a School Counsellor and I will never take that responsibility lightly 

I will have the courage , strength and hope to do what is necessary

I will provide a place and a space where you can trust what I do 

Knowing that you have allowed me to spend my precious days with the future

I am a School Counsellor and for that I am filled with gratitude each and every day

Susan Spellman Cann

Summertime Reflection

Sarah summersalt  Sarah beach

One of the many blessings of the career I have chosen is that I get to kick back and relax and reflect over the summer. As I do that in Nova Scotia a place where I was born and love, I watch the children around me and think about how summer should be , but often is not for all too many children.  Summer should be a time to truly be a child, to feel the exhiliration of doing cartwheels on the beach or rolling down your front lawn like I watched a group of young boys do, yes it should be a time to be free. Free from the big concerns of life. Abandoning wordly concerns for periods in time is good for all of us. We as school counsellors need to do this too.

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School counsellors can assist children to get back to being a child, finding the fun in the moments. We can remind students that:

  • It is OK to laugh even when things don’t seem all that funny
  • It is OK to feel free even if they live in chaos, or are dealing with the many stresses that surround them
  • It’s OK to let go
  • It’s OK to play , be curious and enjoy life

Too often children who live in a home where dysfunction occurs become much too adult like. We can remind them and ourselves that is OK to enjoy the childlike sense of wonder.

Students mental health and wellness is our concern. We have a lot to offer students as they proceed through their developmental stages in life and go on to make important choices about their education and careers.

Coming to my childhood home and reconnecting with friends and family reminds me that how we handle these precious moments in time in students lives can have a lifelong impact. We can and do make a difference, but we also need to take time to kick back ourselves and take time for self-care. Summers often allow us to do just that.

Susan

I will #reachigher to increase the graduation rates of students at risk.

Conference With A Difference #ASCA14

I have been to many school counselling conferences over the years, but this one was different why?

1. CONNECTING : As much as I loved Michelle Obama and I did believe me. I’ll share more about that later. I love connecting with people in real life, people that can and do support you, people that make a difference in your life and you get to share that F2F. Twitter allows you to do that. It really does! So many school counsellors have not quite figured that out yet. Twitter helps you do what you do and do it better. Ultimately impacting our students in so many positive ways.

 

As you can see from the video my favorite part of #ASCA14 was connecting with so many school counsellors in one space. I need to thank my wonderful roomie @bridgethelms. I want to thank her nephew and friend for helping make my experience in Orlando so enjoyable. Also a  big thanks to @FSabens for rescuing me when I could not leave Orlando because of the storm. Thank heavens for twitter again. To Danielle Schultz @sch_counselor it was my pleasure to sit down and chat and learn about the many wonderful things that you do. There are so many extraordinary school counsellors that I met F2 F in Orlando and for that I am extremely grateful. Look out world there are many more amazing things to come from these vibrant, intelligent, caring school counsellors.

What difference did twitter make? Well because of the twitter connections I have made I could come to Orlando by myself and NOT feel alone in any way. I had not met any one of my twitter friends F2 F before the conference, so it was fabulous to feel like I was coming to a reunion with so many who had impacted me in my profession in such a positive way and who were so helpful online. I can thank twitter and our twitter chats #scchat and #SCCrowd for making my conference experience so much more enriching.

2. COLLABORATING: I met counsellors from all over the world that I plan on collaborating with in the future It might be in a hangout or maybe just on twitter. However, I most certainly will look forward to the future collaborations that will help me and our students.

3. CARING: I met so many fun and caring school counsellors that it gives me much HOPE for the future of school counselling. Check out these fine people :
• @apoovey
• @bridgethelms
• @carlicounsels
• @ChrisWood
• @CounselingGeek
• @cscaMatthew
• @c_morten
• @cfsml
• @ecmmason
• @erebss
• @FSabens
• @JoryHouser
• @humbleofferings
• @KellyHanscom
• @mertensminute
• @MrJGoldman
• @MrSchoolCounslr
• @nemmers_nat
• @PhilEchols
• @SandraLogan
• @sch_counselor
• @SvySchCounselor
• @tmscounselor
• @tx_sch_cnslr

And of course to @rawolfon and @ConnieMWard who led the #notatasca14 chat . I missed you. @EHordyskiLuong and @charlieosenten amazing Canadian School Counsellors  I know you were following along and may join in next time!

4. CONTINUING EDUCATION: I absolutely loved the session School Counselling: Running Groups on a Duct Tape Budget  Yes, duct tape there are so many ways to impact student in groups using duct tape. If you ever get a chance to go this session in the future , please do it was fantastic and so much fun.

Ed Jacobs and Group Counselling techniques. Go to downloads from here. I never get tired of Ed’s sessions and although we have become lifelong friends ( I met him at a conference fifteen years ago in Florida) , I love hearing him present along with his co presenter Dr. Chris Schimmel. This is a must see at any conference you go to.

Branding and Marketing Your School Counselling Program. Jeff and Jeremy give wonderful tips on how to market the amazing School Counselling Program that you have developed in your school. This session is especially great for those new to the profession.

Resources: For the best notes ever check out @FSabens . It is like you are there with her.

Franciene’s  ( Notes )

So many resources: Check out these posts:

 

Check out the local news with some of my favorite school counsellors @bridget helms @tmscounselor and @MrSchoolCounselr  here.

5. COMPASSION: As for seeing Michelle Obama  @flotus well it was an absolute highlight. She epitomized compassion .  I am not American, but felt she was directly talking to Canadian School Counsellors. Everytime she said a gem I would edit to make it that she was talking to Canadians, talking directly to me and others like me.  The ripple effect of her message will undoubtedly affect students and school counsellors from across the world now and for years to come.

#ASCA14 for me was definitely a conference with a difference because of my connections on twitter, the great people I met and having the privledge to see Michelle Obama who was extraordinary. How often will I have the opportunity to see and listen to an amazing role model with a message like she did that will have the impact to create change for students and school counsellors? This was most likely a once in a lifetime event for me.

To all the School Counsellors worldwide . Keep making a difference and stay connected and even though you were #notatasca you can live virtually through others especially on twitter. I look forward to the next time our paths cross maybe on twitter and hopefully in a chat #SCCrowd or #scchat. Until next time. For now it’s time for self-care on the beaches in Nova Scotia.

“With every life you transform, with every life you save, you all have an impact that is truly beyond measure,” Michelle Obama

Living Aware … Living Informed … Living Empowered

Alec presenting

I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health and wellness since our mental health symposium facilitated by Alec Couros. Thinking about and discussing mental health is so important. This day was a culmination of five months of meeting with students and staff to discuss what we would like to do. I’ll share more about that later. Check here for some more information on our symposium. Our teachers , counsellors,  students and Alec worked very hard to share with the whole school the importance of mental health.

 Thanks to Kevin , my twitter friend I noticed this tweet:

There are so many things in the article that resonate with me and things I believe high school students , teachers and staff need to know about mental health.

1. Stigma matters: We need to teach students how to pay attention to facts not myths when it comes to mental health

2. Media can either lift up or tear down our understanding of mental health. That’s why we held a mental health symposium and tied it to social media and digital citizenship.

Our students were empowered to use social media to develop mental health literacy skills and to break through some of the stigma around mental health.

3. We need students to understand the difference between a mental health problem, mental health distress and a mental health disorder. Thanks to Stan Kutcher’s materials  students can explore and discover the differences. Let’s begin to STOP over pathologizing.

4. We must continue to dialogue about this important issue.

 

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By having elementary students involved in this symposium , they could see that our students were modelling that mental health and wellness is important.  Digital Citizenship was experienced and shared.

We know students find most of their mental health information on line,  so we need to assist students in finding valuable information that will help them. Mental Health Literacy and Digital Literacy are extremely important. We want students to understand both.

Thanks to #DCMOOC I can tie these two literacies together even more.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW: According to media smarts Matthew Johnson:

  • If there is a rule in the home about respecting others online students will more than likely engage in positive online behaviour.
  • Focus should be on ethics , rather than scare tactics.
  • We can encourage empathy. We need to understand that online we are often missing cues that help us feel empathy . We fall into empathy traps online where we are missing the facial cues, tone of voice , body language etc … Students need to understand this.
  • Don’t be a bystander … be an upstander .
  • ” Many problematic behaviours-bullying, sexting, plagiarism etc. are less common than students think” Knowing this will help the rates drop.
  • To be a citizen means students need to understand and exercise their rights.
  • Let’s help students be involved in civic debates on and off line. We need them to have the skills to be able to do this.
  • Give students opportunities to contribute positively online by not blocking sites that can help them.
  • They need to know how to interact positively in gaming communities. As a member of a community they can change how a community behaves. They can be empowered to act in a pro-active way.
  • Students need privacy policies explained to them. I would guess that many teachers need these explained too.
  • Young people need to know that they have rights to freedom of discrimination, they have the right to be free. Girls often have different experiences on line. Boys and girls have the rights to be free from harassment. Students have a right to be heard. Students need a chance to present their works to authentic audiences. Students have a right to education. Most importantly an education that uses digital technology to explore and understand their world.
  • Students need to know … it is OK to make mistakes.

Thanks so much to Matthew for sharing his expertise.

I believe students when on line and off line need to be good citizens which will in turn affect their positive mental health and well being. Let’s continue the dialogue.

More Than Better Students … Better People… Isn’t That What All Educators Want?

Found this tweet from George Couros and think this is a great way to connect with elders in the worldwide community. We already connect F2F, but I believe this is another way to make positive connections.

Isn’t this the kind of students and relationships we want students to have ? Never mind all the wonderful educational benefits this kind of connection has the ability to elicit.

BCHS Italy 2014 Connecting with Students and Staff in a Whole Different Way

Haiku Deck of Italy 2014

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Who would of thought that going on a school trip with ninety-four students and ten chaperones to Italy would turn out to be the trip of a lifetime? These pictures pretty much sum up the amazing adventure we were about to go on starting April 11 . Every detail was planned and coordinated by our outstanding music teachers at BCHS. I knew they were amazing before this trip, but I gained a new respect for them after this outstanding experience that would last ten extraordinary days.

Here is just a snippet of the 10 wonderful days of music:

FACTS:

Destination Calgary airport.

Group 1 departing for Amsterdam on route to Venice.

Group 2 departing for Toronto on route to Venice

 

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Our students performing for unsuspecting audience in Amsterdam airport joined by two unknown travellers much to the delight of  travellers
  • Landing in Venice tired but excited Saturday, APRIL 12TH, 2014AT 6.P.M. arriving at our hotel Hotel Villa Florita

Sunday, April 13th Venice, Italy DAY TWO

Our days would often begin early,so that we could fit in as much as possible for our students.

FACTS:

Day starts at 6 a.m. Arriving at Tronchetto Parking lot to transfer by boat to San Marco Area.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica
  • Gondola ride
  • Mask making workshop and painting masks ( a lot of fun had by all even the chaperones made masks )

Monday, April 14th Venice DAY THREE

FACTS:

Day begins at 7 a.m. arrive back at hotel after 11:00 p.m.

Each night we debrief with students and each other ending with a prayer

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • St. Mark’s Basilica tour
  • Visit San Vidal Church
  • Pizza Supper where we met up with a choir from South Africa singing together in a moving moment that brought tears to many eyes  as the two choirs spontaneously joined in to sing for each other and then join in together to sing shosholoza
  • Concert Interpreti Veneziani program Vivaldi/Bach/Hasse

 

Tuesday, April 15th  Cremona DAY FOUR

FACTS:

Day begins at 6 a.m. for a two and a half hour bus ride to the Cremona

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • A visit to Museo Stradivariano
  • Students perform in courtyard of Museo Ala Ponzone  facts ( first official concert of the tour and it was delightful)
  • Modena Balsamic Vinegar factory tour ,very tasty and what a beautiful location (got to bring back many gifts for families and friends)
  • Arrive at our hotel in Bologna ( Grand Hotel Bologna) another beautiful little town

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16th Bologna, Italy DAY FIVE

FACTS:

6:30 a.m. start

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Walking tour through beautiful city . So many beautiful churches and squares in all these spots
  • Lunch where we attend a great cooking school and make pasta Vecchia Scuola Bolognese (the lunch they made for us was amazing,but we had so much fun making linguini together in groups. The students sang to the owners and helpers to thank them for such a delightful afternoon.
  • Arrive at Grand Hotel Bologna E del Congress

Thursday, April 17th Florence and Assisi DAY SIX

FACTS: start 6:30 a.m.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Friday, April 18th Assisi  DAY SEVEN

FACTS: start a little later this morning

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Visit the Basilica in Santa Maria Degli Angeli
  • Held our own liturgy for Good Friday which was also amazing. The organ playing  done by our student . The horn playing by our choir teachers husband and the beautiful readings and prayers done by students and staff made this one of my favourite memories of the trip.
  • Stayed at Hotel Casa Leonori
  • A talent show by students and chaperones ( loads of laughs and fun )

Saturday, April 19th ROME

FACTS: start 6:00 a.m.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Tour of St. Peters Basilica, Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel
  • Walking tour of Trevi Fountain, and Spanish Steps
  • Dinner at Papa Rex with opera singing and an accordion player and a nice meal
  • This by far was the most hectic day keeping track of all our students in such large crowds

Sunday, April 20th Easter Sunday in the Vatican Pope Francis 

FACTS: Early start so we could arrive in the square by 7:30 a.m.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Just being at the Vatican on Easter Sunday
  • Listening to the message in many languages
  • Having this fantastic experience with so many wonderful students and staff

There is absolutely no way to really tell you how appreciative I am to be able to have spent the ten days together with students and colleagues.  The organization was exemplary. The students were unbelievably well behaved and represented themselves and the school exceptionally well. My most favorite part was being able to connect with students on a different level and be exposed to their wonderful talents. Now when I see them in the hall we can smile and talk with each other. We have a shared experience and memories that will last a lifetime. I absolutely loved all the music as I believe music can heal the body,mind and spirit. I am extremely grateful for this experience as it helped me connect as a school counsellor with students in a way I would never have been able to previously. The trip was a mental health break which I will treasure forever.

 

 

Lesson #17 We Can Teach Students To Be Resilient … Bent But Not Broken

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“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

How many of the students you have worked with with would you describe as bent , but not broken? Even under the most horrific of circumstances they remain resilient.Why is that?

Haiku Deck Resilience

According to Steven M Southwick and Denis Charney in Resilience The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges there are 10 resilience factors that people use as coping strategies that make them more resilient.

People who are resilient :

  1. Are active problem solvers who look for meaning and opportunity in adversity
  2. Accept social support and seek it out
  3. Accept the things thay cannot change as well as confront their fears
  4. Attended to their health and well being
  5. Have an optimistic, but realistic outlook
  6. Imitate strong role models
  7. Rely on their own inner moral compass
  8. Use humour even in their darkness
  9. Take personal responsibilty for their own emotional well being
  10. Utilize religious or spiritual practices

People who are resilient will often look to their experiences as ways to find a platform for growth. I have seen this with students who have lived through physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as other traumas. Students will find a means and a way to ask for help, but do more than that by using their inner strengths to push forward and make a difference in themselves and their world. They show themselves and the world what they are made of.

One of my all time favorite authors Viktor Frankl ,  who wrote Mans Search for Meaning, describes in this rare seen footage how we can help students by promoting them to what they really can be. We need to see students as they should be and help them to see what they are capable of becoming. We can help them in becoming more resilient by being that role model for them.

Over the years, I have seen many examples of students who are amazingly resilient as well as those that need to be taught how to be. I know I want to model resiliency for the students I serve. What about you?

Resources:

Here is a great video on teen stress and how to cope:

Haiku Deck on Coping Skills

Livebinder on resiliency