All It Takes Is A Defining Moment

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For Desmond Tutu meeting Trevor Huddleston determined the path of his life. In my own life there are many defining moments that led me to who I am today. Teachers, coaches , community members and a School Counsellor had an impact.

In grade 12 (1976) my School Counsellor Mrs. Brown gave me $100.00 towards my post secondary education. My family could not afford to pay my way. I was the first in my family to go to University so it was certainly a big deal. I did not realize at the time just how much money that was or even how incredible it was that she did that. What a gift and an impact she had on the trajectory of my life. A lacrosse scholarship and a bursary ( both recommended by community members) paid for all four years of my Bachelor of Child Study degree. How fortunate was I ?

I never underestimate the power of a small (albeit grand) gesture in forming who we are and what we choose to do in our lives. I intentionally make sure each day I work with students I keep that in mind. I intentionally pay it forward on as many occasions as I can.

All it takes is a defining moment and you might be the one that makes that happen and if someone makes that happen for you tell them.

Books to Help High School Students Navigate Life

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I asked a few of my educator friends about a book they would recommend and here is the list. I’ll start with my favourite by Viktor Frankl. The rest are in no particular order.

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

2. Tuesdays With Morrie

3. Wherever You Go There You Are

4. The Alchemist

5. Make A Dash

6. The Hate You Give

7. Fountainhead

8. The Upside of Unrequited

9. The Total Money Makeover

10. A Child Called It

11. Make Your Bed

12. Everything I know I learned In Kindergarden

13. City of Joy

14. Don’t Throw Sand in The Sandbox

15. 1984

16. Grapes of Wrath

17. To Kill A Mockingbird

18. Do What You Are

19. Netsmart

20. Financial Peace University

What book would you recommend?

You Put The Heart In School Counselling

As you begin this year you may have a School Counsellor you wish to acknowledge. please feel free to edit and use as you like.

You put the heart in School Counselling

It’s the students who matter to you

Thanks for being at ___________ this year

And doing what you do

School Counselling for you is a joy not a job

A gift, not an obligation

A place where you can be brave, not cowardly

A place you have found, not somewhere you can get lost

An open space, not a closed door

Somewhere to stand tall, not sit and waste time

A place to create hope, while listening to despair

Where you focus on encouraging, not discouraging

A place to build up, not tear down

A space to be present to those in need

School Counselling for you is a home away from home

Thanks for having the courage to tackle the hard stuff

Thanks for having the strength to help those students and families in need

Thanks for your dedication and commitment to our students and school community

For being thoughtful, kind, patient and caring

For helping in so many ways

For cheering up a students most distressing days

Thank you for all you have shared

Thank you for all you have given

For all that you are and all that you will be

You put the heart in School Counselling

It’s the students who matter to you

You make a difference

So continue to keep doing what you do

Susan Spellman Cann

People Not Programs Change Children

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We all know that relationships matter, but sometimes we still need reminders. We keep searching for the perfect programs to help kids. In my opinion , time would be better spent being the person who makes a difference in a child’s life and helping increase the quality and number of people who can make a positive impact.

There are so many children who need our help for a multitude of reasons. Find ways to support, nurture, interact, listen to, respect, give hope to, and connect kids with people and resources that can help them.

Be that adult who attends to the emotional health of the children as well as your own. Model your humanity and compassion daily. Provide a safe haven where you and those you work with enjoy going to school each day, no matter the stresses of the world. Be present each day to the best of your ability and forgive yourself and others if things don’t go as planned. It’s more than OK to not feel at your best each day considering the circumstances, just do the best you can for the kids and reach out for support if and when you need it.

It is especially challenging being an educator right now like no other time I have experienced in my past forty years in education. I know what you do matters and I want to thank you for all that you do. Click here for a little gift. I hope in some small way this brightens your day.

People not programs change children. You have an abnormally large heart , I am sure that’s why you became an educator in the first place, so continue to be one of those people who makes a difference in the life of a child while taking good care of yourself.

School Counsellors Are There To Help

School Counsellors are trained professionals who understand child development, often with Masters degrees in Counselling or more, who partake in ongoing professional development and extensive mental health training . They know school culture and how the education system works, making them readily able to help youth in an effective manner.

Often the first place students present any concerns are in schools because that is where they spend so much time. The educators get to know students well building trusting relationships. School Counsellors have the whole child in mind with access to a comprehensive background regarding the students history in school, so are often able to make decisions collaboratively in the best interest of students.

If you are a new teacher and have never accessed your School Counsellor , please do so. They are there to help you help the student. When all work together to help our youth it is more likely to make a difference in the life of a child. Now more than ever we must do all we can together to help.

Empathy Chats

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School Counsellors -> Students -> Families ->Staff

We all need a little empathy at this moment in time. School Counsellors are a key player in providing these chats with students , families and the staff in their schools. Harvard offers some great tips on how to build empathy in your schools

Administrators->School Counsellors

I had a very wise administrator who once said to me that my job was to look after the students his job was to look after me. We all need support at this time. It is a give and take. All of us need a supportive person in our corner.

Let’s be intentional in supporting one another.

We can all :

Be positive in our interactions

Help others feel understood

Make people feel heard. You can use these creative approaches.

Teach empathy lessons

Utilize some empathy exercises with students

Validate their feelings

Work towards solutions

Together we will make this a better year for all by demonstrating empathy.

10 Affirmations for School Counsellors

1. I will face this school year with strength and demonstrate my leadership skills. I will lead from my heart with courage.

2. I will bring my best to school each day helping as many students as possible, wherever and whenever possible.

3. I will live just for today helping students and staff while taking care of myself.

4. I will radiate confidence, strength and hope in all I do.

5. I will be brave and model bravery for my students and staff.

6. I will practice being grateful each day as I enter the school building or my workplace wherever that may be.

7. I will look at all the possibilities and opportunities this time offers me.

8. I will open my heart to the staff and students I work with focusing on their strengths.

9. I will celebrate all that is right in my school and in the world.

10. In my words, actions and deeds, I will let go of fears and embrace love, joy and hope. I know that being a School Counsellor is what I am meant to do and be.

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.