Each day as a School Counsellor you have an opportunity to impact a child’s life in a way unlike others are able to do. Never ever lose sight of that. It might be a small action that touches a child’s heart and makes a difference for a lifetime. You have the time to truly listen and understand what it is a child needs and how to help them in a way that can change their perceptions of themselves and the world around them. It is a gift you have been given to give away , so treasure the moments that are right there in front of you each day as you enter your school. You are there for a purpose.
“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.
“You are not here to fill space or be a background character to someone else’s movie. Consider this: nothing would be the same if you did not exist. Every place you have ever been and everyone you have ever spoken to would be different without you. We are all connected, and we are all affected by the decisions and even the existence of those around us. ” David Niven
I believe we all have a purpose in life. Each child that comes our way is precious and we were brought to them to make a difference. It is up to us to leave them feeling or thinking or doing something differently than when they walk into our office. It is up to us to help . That is the reason we do what we do. So keep doing it! The world would be a different place without YOU in it!
You have them , I have had them. You know that student that you had no idea you had such an impact on, but they let you know years later. Sometimes 36 years later as I did two years ago. A young man came into the office at the High School I was working in at the time. He wanted to see me to tell me how I had influenced his life. He had googled me and tracked me down because he wanted to tell me his story . I am grateful he did as I would have never known that I had affected his life in the way he let me know I had.
I have been blessed with letters and notes from students who have told me they believed I had saved their life. It is an honour and privilege that they believe something I said or did had impacted them in such a positive way. More often than not we don’t get these notes, calls or letters and we may not know the impact we have had on students. Not because we did not , but because the person may not have put their thoughts to words for whatever reason.
A couple of days ago one of my best friends who is also a retired School Counsellor , got one of those notes from a student whom she had known 18 years ago. The note was from a young woman reporting she was now happily married with two children , She told my friend that she was the reason she was alive, happy and successful today. She let her know it was World Suicide Prevention Day and that maybe my friend would like to know the impact she had on her life when she was in High School.
The woman had tracked my friend down on Facebook and felt compelled to write her the beautiful moving, heartfelt note (I’m purposefully leaving out the details, but trust me we both cried a lot reading it) . Of course she had no idea that particular student felt that way. So what a gift it was to receive a note like this. It is truly why we do what we do choosing to be in education.
If one young person is impacted in this way by what we have said or done, then our years of dedication to a career we have loved is all worth while. We both agreed that we were so fortunate to work in schools with amazing young people and feel truly blessed to have had a career we both were passionate about.
So many still do not fully understand what a School Counsellor does behind closed doors, but know and trust that you need to keep doing what you are doing as a School Counselor wherever you are in the world. You can never know the impact you can have. Small gestures and words can matter.
The effect you have as a School Counsellor is not always measurable , but that does not matter. What you say and do everyday does.
Handling a crisis can impact the school and the School Counsellor in ways that are unforseen. The School Counsellor often takes the lead along with administration in our schools, but may be missed in recognizing the support they need because of their uniques role in offering social emotional supports to so many.
This podcast below will help all School Counsellors in a preventative way . Thanks to Trish Hatch @hatchingresults for the excellent podcast on Putting Out The Fire: A School Counsellors Role in Times of Crisis.
Your comment, “what’s unique about the School Counsellor is that they are involved in the crisis as well, what often happens is the School Counsellor puts their own needs aside as they take care of others.” This concept is so important for all to recognize. We are helpers and how we model handling a crisis is vital. If we remain calm, then students and staff will see that . As a School Counsellor I know I often handled crisis with calm , but on the inside I knew I would need support after the crisis was over. That’s why debriefing and supports are essential.
If we are the leaders in our Student Services teams, we need to monitor how our team is doing and if they have been triggered by the crisis for whatever reason. We need to step in and step up to support them. Even if that means letting them know it is ok to step back and let others handle the crisis. The School Counsellor may have worked with the student or students related to the crisis , so they may need time for themselves to process and take care of their own needs. We too as the leader may be impacted so we need to be self-aware and know when we ourselves need to step back. This is one of the many great reasons to have districts who have a district crisis team that can come into the school and assist.
We are most certainly in the uniques role of helping others , so having a supportive admin. team is essential. Fortunately for me I have had wonderful leaders who know, support and understand the role of School Counsellors.
I hope you will use this podcast as a reflective tool and a great segue to important discussions with your counselling teams.
For easy access to this podcast, click here and listen to the end. It is perfect PD all online for School Counsellors.
At 20:00 check out Vanessa Gomez Lee where she discusses ( a crate, a file box) I’ll call it a CR Kit for SC that every School Counsellor should have .
All districts have an emergency response plan and lock down kits each unique to their district. The CR School Counsellor Kit will be different . What should be in the kit that is different from your lock down kits?
Crisis Response Materials
- Brochures or other materials on natural responses to grief. So many other great resources here .
- Crisis Plan
- Important Phone numbers
- Community Resources
- Markers and Paper for Students to write or draw their feelings
What else do you think should be in this kit?
- Stress balls ????????
I would love to hear your ideas. Again thanks to all the great School Counsellors who not only take the lead in their schools , but are always willing to share and help others . Thanks #scchat!
According to the Sheldon Kennedy Youth Advocacy Centre, in 2008, there were 14,403 substantiated cases of child abuse in Alberta.*
- 6665 Infants, Youth and Children assessed at the Sheldon Kennedy CAC to date
- 124 New cases assessed per month at the Sheldon Kennedy CAC
- 11690 Visits from children to our Child Space since July 2013
For updated stats go to the SKYouth Advocacy Centre.
I am fortunate to volunteer for the Sheldon Kennedy Youth Advocacy Centre with #youthchampionsyyc. The Youth Champion Initiative in collaboration with Youth Smart empowers junior high and high-school students to develop their leadership capacity by taking responsibility in their school communities to promote a climate of well-being, healthy relationships and resiliency.
We know that adverse childhood experiences ACES have a long-lasting impact and there is much to do when it comes to trauma in youth.
CBC did an amazing three-part series on childhood trauma. Thanks to @HeatherTuba for sharing.
You can listen here:
PART 1 : “Our bodies psychological armour … How do some children remember abuse ? The link between obesity and trauma. Have a listen CBC ALL in The Family Part 1
PART 2: Childhood trauma is increasingly being seen as a major factor in academic under-achievement. Have a listen CBC All in The Family Part 2.
PART 3: Understanding and healing childhood trauma is essential. Have a listen to part 3 in this series CBC All in The Family Part 3.
There is much to learn when it comes to childhood trauma. My hope is that these resources will help you start a dialogue with educators and others re childhood trauma and the effects.
There is help and support in your community and School Counsellors are one of the many people who can help students with childhood trauma. It does take a village , but the relationship with a School Counsellor may be a start to changing a child’s life. What is your ACES score? What is the ACES score of some of the students you serve? You may be the person who will make a difference in their life. Won’t you join in and help?
All emotions matter! What we do with those emotions matters as well. We need to help students understand that feelings are neither right nor wrong it is what we do with those feelings that truly matter.
If we want to teach students how to regulate their emotions then we too need to be able to regulate our own emotions. Modelling how we feel is important for students. If we are not afraid to admit when we are angry, frustrated or sad and we handle those emotions in an appropriate way , the students will learn how to do that as well. Being open and honest about how we feel in a respectful manner is great modelling for students and other educators.
Marc Brackett , director of Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence and expert in social emotional learning has developed an acronym RULER for emotional skills that is helpful for educators:
R– recognizing emotions in yourself and others
U- understanding the causes of your emotions
L- labelling your emotions
E- expressing emotions
R- regulating emotions
Educators and School Counsellors can and do make a difference in promoting the wellbeing and emotional intelligence of students. When we put ourselves in a childs shoes we may be more compassionate to how they are feeling. What is it like to be them? Could they be experiencing a roller coaster of emotions and how does this impact them , their feelings and their learning?
Sesame Street has some great videos that explain feelings and teaches students about emotional regulation. Here is a good example:
Emotional Regulation Resources for educators :
The Mood Meter App cost of 1.39 cents
Helping students with mixed emotions:
Teaching students to have meta moments.
One of the best strategies we used when my daughter was a teenager was for her and I to agree that when we were angry with each other or when our emotions were running high we would agree to back off and give each other space and discuss things the next day. Each of us would signal the other that it was ok to discuss when we were both more level-headed. I would call these mega moments. This strategy saved our relationship in those emotional years.
Yes , it does begin with me. Being a lifelong learner I hope to be able to fully understand emotional regulation by reading the newest research so that I can best help myself, my students and my family.
What are some of the best strategies you use as educators, parents and School Counsellors?