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.
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.
I love finding icebreakers to use with students . This one is a lot of fun and can easily be used virtually. If you want to get to know me better I am adding a little video that I did a couple of years back from our year end production with Second Chants. I put the video in the virtual locker, but if you are like me it is so small (which might not be a bad thing) . I laugh at myself every time I watch it. If it brings a smile to your face that is good too.
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,
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.
Just for Today I will think about what makes me happy and snowball ( use paper snowball or a real one if there is any snow) any negative thoughts away. Barb Brown
Just for Today I will visit my old neighbourhood and call an old friend. Graham Kennedy
Just for Today I will acknowledge that I am worthy and loved . Louise Hamilton
Just for Today I will learn a new skill and tomorrow a new life skill. Kim Souillet
Just for Today when I brush my teeth I will pretend that I am a zookeeper brushing a hippos teeth. Carol Stevenson
Just for Today I will read my favourite book. Kate Kucharski
Just for Today I will smile and wave at every person who passes by my house. Susan Viveiros
Just for Today I will tell my teacher about the things I do well and help them understand what makes me feel happy and safe. Verena Roberts
Just for Today I will reflect on where I have been, where I have gone, and the road I have built upon, I will take a step forward into the unknown world with familiar faces … holding hands would be nice too Kristen Copes
Just for Today I will call, text or video chat a peer who needs encouragement. Cynthia Nunnally Morton
Yesterday we published 101 Ways to Kickstart Your Day In A Positive Way : A Guide for Educators Parents and Students. Erin and I love the response we are getting. Thanks George Couros for inspiring the post and for sharing our thoughts. We were hoping that educators would use them and they are already doing just that. Here is one from a school in Missouri …
We would love it if you would continue sharing and using. If you have a Just for Today thought please share it with us.
Just for Today we hope your day is filled with wonderful people who bring you love and joy.
I don’t often get very nervous, but last night as I co-moderated #scchat , I was very nervous because I wasn’t sure I could keep up with the pace of the chat. My role was posting the questions in a timely manner. I knew there was a team around me and leading the way and I felt happy about that. They were outstanding! Thanks to Erin Mason, Laura Ross, Alicia Oglesby, Cynthia Morton , Caroline Lopez- Perry, Shay Reynolds, Vernice Jones, Chloe Benjamin , Joanne Norris, Kelly Wright and as always Erin Luong helped to help people feel connected.
My dear friend Erin Mason @ecmmason led the way knowing that this chat could connect us and validate our collective concerns and I believe that happened. There is much for us all to learn going forward , but yesterday in #scchat for about an hour and a half I lost myself . It was as if I didn’t have a care in the world I left all my worries behind . I had to focus and that I did. Well if you call watching 1138 tweets fly by focusing I guess I did.
Loved seeing all the newcomers and the willingness to help each other.
Today I am grateful for all of the online connections and most of all friendships that I have made. School Counsellors are passionate people who really care about the next generation of youth. Their willingness to share gives me great HOPE.
None of us expected this (a global pandemic ) and even for those of us in the field of helping others, it does bring some anxious feelings so imagine what our youth are feeling.
Schools in Calgary are closed for an indefinite period, maybe even until September. So educators and School Counsellors will be looking for ways to support their students using technology ( so grateful to #etmooc for giving me the ideas, confidence and tools to help ) . As a retired School Counsellor there are ways I can help online and I plan to work with my fellow colleagues across the borders in #scchat to do so. As always thanks to Erin Mason @ecmmason for your leadership.
Please join us in this chat as we explore ways to help each other. that’s 6:30 pm MT
I have many resources that I am always willing to share from a school counselling perspective. I am thinking of all school counsellors across the world this week as you find ways to continue to champion and connect with your students. Find us in #scchat and we’d be happy to help.
RESOURCES: I am hoping some of these may assist you
Counselling Resources in Calgary can be found here
For Teachers and Students Personal Wellness binders can be found here
For mental health resources 18 plus look here or maybe you need a chill playlist for teens or just a fun little spinner for some positive thoughts or maybe you just need some motivational messages.
Exercise is one of the best ways to destress. I know I plan on getting outside and walking as much as possible in the next while. Maybe you will want to #walkalongwithme , virtually that is as I’ll be social distancing and thinking of ways to be helpful in this unprecedented time what about you?
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.