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Tag Archives: counseling

Back on the Donor’s Choose Train

We are knee deep in prepping for our Writing Standard of Learning, and I am seeing all kinds of crazy and creative ways that teachers are trying to make this material less tired. I started to realize that there are a lot of things I use with students, and keep in my office, that could easily be part of an English lesson. It makes complete sense too, after all, Guidance is about understanding, perspective, and communication. As I wished that I could share all of my office toys with the teachers, I realized that there might be a way to get some for everyone!

If you haven’t checked out Donor’s Choose yet, you totally should. It’s so easy to use because it’s a simple template. Then they are really helpful in making your project professional and marketable. Check out ours here and share if you’d like!

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Newbies

First of all, SimpleMind is amazing and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. If you are a visual understander, you have to check it out. My learning styles are mixed, but let me tell you, the way I understand things I know and organize my brain is definitely visual. This app is so easy to use and it is giving me all the life right now.

Second, I have an intern who is awesome and has gotten me thinking all about how I started things up and got going with my program. I feel like I’m at a great spot because I’ve found a comfortable rhythm, but it hasn’t been very long since I started. So when she asks me questions like, “how do you come to do all this??” I really had to take a pause a think about it.

Since starting as a counselor six years ago, I have been so lucky to be in a couple of schools and learn crazy tricks and see amazing things from so many teachers, counselors, administrators, kids, and parents. To compartmentalize all of it and break things back down to consecutive details has actually been kind of therapeutic. To start, my first thought was, “fake it ’til you make it!” and I proud of it (look, I’m a middle child, what can I say?)! A first day is a first day no matter what your experience is; to shower and show up is enough confidence building you need!

The rest gets a little more muddled. Where did I start? What did I need? Who did I ask? What was allowed? How did I know? I knew what was important to education, and my profession, and myself because of the thorough degree I obtained (I am lovingly reminded of this every month when I get the bill). But all of the academia in the world can’t completely prepare you for actually hopping (and later skipping) into the trenches. City to city, school to school, department to department…our job is transformed everywhere we go.

But there are a few goals and actions we are required to take…or really, figure it how to implement despite diverse school cultures. I’m trying to map out some of the things I experienced to better illustrate the beginnings, and decided to start with lessons. I think I will go into greater detail with some parts, and make a few more for a couple other crazy parts of our job. Let me know if I missed anything, would you?

We have PRIDE with PBIS

Everyone knows education is a real big fan of acronyms. I’ve definitely found one I like with PBIS. Side note: our high school students particularly like SOL (our standardized state tests) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)…those clever little students like to quote them as something quite different than intended. Our school is piloting this new popular initiative and embracing (let’s be real, change is a struggle!) it’s techniques.

The rumor mill went around for a while that it meant no discipline, free reign, complete anarchy and chaos. But luckily our administration has been smart about how they roll it out and how they explain the different concepts. My favorite part about PBIS is that it truly models a mind frame and perspective shift from focusing on the negative to focusing on the possibility of fellowship and equitable productivity. It creates a much more harmonious atmosphere and encourages a stronger community. Especially in Middle School, when everyone wants to blend in and feeling safe from emotions and embarrassment is nearly impossible, it really makes a safe haven for students to exist and work in. Quite frankly, if I had my way, our whole American society would be on a PBIS track and learn to chill out a little (oy vey, social media).

I created a bulletin board to highlight one of our components, which recognizes students for every day opportunities they take to have a positive impact on their hallways. Student receive a PRIDE slip from their teacher when they exhibit one of our goal characteristics and bring it to their School Counselor. I’m then displaying them on the board, but I’m shooting for a visual of how our good deeds are not for the benefit of one, but rather that we make up a whole. And of course, I threw in some collegiate flair to keep our eye on the prize!

I know sometimes bulletin boards are a pain in the butt, especially when there are a million other things to do, but I think they can be really powerful. Middle School kids need visualization and engagement to catch their eye. It’s like a little subliminal every day when they pass by. They’re not the only clever ones around these parts, no sir.

Moving On

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I’ve been hearing lots of chatter lately about people wondering whether they are where they should be. In relationships, an activity, a possible addiction, with kids (mine’s 15…oy vey), at our school or post, in our industry.

‘I’m done. I’m over it. I can’t do this anymore. Why am I here?’

It doesn’t mater what profession you are in, there are always signs of weary souls wandering around.  But in the education profession, we walk a particular line with questions of moving on. We joke at work that it’s like an abusive relationship.  We start the year fresh, excited, we get worn down, we are asked of more that we can give, we go unseen, we say we’re done.  Then, right before we turn in our papers- TA DA! -we get a break (Spring, Summer, Winter? No difference at all).  And in that sweet, sweet freedom, we say…’it’s not so bad.’ Ha! And the cycle continues year after year until we turn around and can’t believe we are getting another five-year paper weight.

It’s like when you go to Target and fill your basket impulsively with a million ridiculous kitchen gadgets, DVDs you’ll never watch, 70 ridiculous lay tiny towels, and adorable stationary sets.  You feel so good…until you get to the line and realize you work for the public school system and can’t afford any of that Target magicalness and empty it all but the peanut butter and Cheerios.  But the feeling of pretending for a little bit is enough to hold you over.  For 2 hours (albeit wasted), you were all 5 (I think) of the Kardashian sisters.

So I started thinking about what factors could be considered when trying to decide if it’s time to move on.  I found three, mainly based on my BFF and main man, Viktor Frankl and his Existentialism. If you haven’t read Man’s Search for Meaning, throw your worthless electronic down and run -don’t walk- to a book store near you and get it.  Well, unless you are into digital reading, then don’t throw your electronic down, dummy. I’m sorry, that was mean.

Anywho, I think these three things are the most important to consider when trying to decide if it’s time to move on. OK, here goes:

1. Letting go of the past- Have you tried, to the best of your ability, to let go of the past?  This includes letting go of things you wish were true (even the age-old).  Hanging on to what should or could be only gets us stuck, and keeps us from being able to view our prospects with clarity.  You’ve got to let go of this and catalogue what is so that you know what the reality of the situation is.

2. Honest perspective- Have you really truly taken in other perspectives? Like, reeeallllllyyyyy tried.  This means understanding the bigger picture, our role in the larger system, and getting clarity on your situation in context of what other people are going through. I know, I know, this seems in contradiction to the first consideration, but I don’t mean stopping on what could be, but understanding our situation in a larger manner to ensure we have not simply lost focus of a world in which we are the center staple.

3. Effort toward contentment- Have you truly tried to find meaning in your situation? This one is a big nod to my Vik (we’re cool like that). A la #2, Frankl points out that Holocaust survivors, POWs, terminally ill, etc. report being able to find meaning in the moment.  They can still appreciate something, and feel a meaningful existence by something.  This is not to shame goal-seeky people though guys. I mean, a little fire goes a long way… and under the tush pushes us to do some amazing stuff.  But this is more like a gut check. Have you truly put effort into finding contentment and holding tight to it? The trick is that you should feel contentment and meaning that is not based on how you feel, but rather your contentment in being a bystander to great things and other people as well.

So here’s the deal.  I feel like these are really important to try, BUT they are not the end of the road.  Sometimes we do everything we can (these three things included) and still cannot find happiness.  It’s not that we’re not trying hard enough, maybe it’s that whatever situation you’re in has run its course. And it’s time to move on.  Like, these make up the timeless 90’s movie’s holy grail. If they don’t work, maybe you’ve really exhausted your time and effort, and/or you are STUCK (and probably bitter) and you’ll get your full mojo back after moving on. Of course, if someone keeps moving around and still feels pooty, there might be some other things to contend with- patterns are super revealing.

 

Confessions of a Social Anti-social

My husband has been known to drag me out of the house telling me to go to one social event or another and to stop being anti-social.  Anti-social?! How could he possibly call me that? I’m a counselor for goodness sakes.  I mean, I went through my whole Master’s Degree and have a whole profession surrounded by the fact that my gift, my talent, my -dare I say- genius status is based on my ability to be social (ok, genius might be a stretch, but it sounded cool).  And it finally hit me, I am an outgoing and social person who suffers from communication fatigue.

We learn a lot about compassion fatigue in school.  I know I am not there at this moment.  In fact, I am still at the point in my perfect job illusionment where a good emotional barrier (ok, and maybe a good story too) engages and intrigues me. But, it’s the other stuff, the in between, that drains my social brain.  It’s the “got a sec?” And the “can I talk to you?” And the “a parent is here to see you” ‘s that make me tired.

As counselors, we spend all day listening, calculating responses, and making sure that each and every sentence uttered out of every student, teacher, and parent is the most important and fascinating thing we have heard all day.  And when I get off? I’m not suddenly anti-social in nature, I’ve got communication fatigue!

Snow-Weekend Inspiration 

Ahhh…fresh off of Winter Break and my lucky tail gets an extended weekend for Snooooooowwwmagedddddooooonnnnn 2017!  I know, I know, we’ll have to make it up, but I am a big fan of enjoying it while it lasts and paying the piper later.  And enjoy I have.  Lucky ducky me, I got some books from Free Spirit Publishing, my favoritest place to get books for work and inspiration, right at the end of last week!  As part of the Advisory Board, Free Publishing periodically thanks us with book choices and I cannot get enough (their blog is also awesome with so much info and insight they will win you over with just that)!  Anywho, I received the books below and have not been able to put them down!


I recommend each and every book I get from Free Spirit, so I suppose this is overkill, but I recommend all three of these as necessities of a Middle School counselor’s box of tricks.  The Respect: A Girl’s Guide to Getting Respect and Dealing When Your Line is Crossed book is ridiculously amazing, and I would marry it if it were legal and I was not already married. For real.  It really speaks to young woman and is incredibly empowering in a super low-key classy way. 

I started to think about how I wanted all of my babies to be able to read this book.  In particular, how great it would be to have a girl’s group (girls’ group?) using the book as a guide to each session.  I have seen some really great girl’s groups that are centered around confidence and character building, but I find that they are often created for the girl who needs a confidence boost and place to exercise socialization and meeting friends.  Though there’s definately a place for that, sometimes it starts to feel marginalizing, as if all girls are broken and need to recognize how pretty, smart, and valuable they are.  But what about girls who are confident (quiet does not equal a lack of confidence), but don’t know how to use that confidence?  What about teaching strong young women how to use their stories and their amazing characters to walk around and own the place, and become power-house communicators and mountain-movers? This book seriously does just that.  Though there is some reflection on experiences past, it avoids revictimizing them, but instead uses those barriers to further empower themselves.  It tackles media, social perceptions, body image, relationships (WITHOUT the whole “mean girls” stereotype that my girls know they ARE NOT allowed to say in my office), and so much more in such a real way.  There is a short chapter on sex (I think it’s super tastefully done) which I think is a valuable message for girls, but borders on taking over where parents have the right to keep at their own pace.  But paper is made to be paper-clipped, so I don’t think it’s a problem with sharing the book. 

My initial thought was to buy 15 copies of the book to have at the school to run groups with.  Then I remembered I work for a middle school and this would blow our entire budget for the year that was already half-way spent.  Impossibility. And then I remembered the awesome websites one of my besties has had great success with: Donor’s Choose!  I decided to make a page and put it out there to see if I could get some books this way.  I was WWWAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY easier than I thought it would be, and I am bummed I haven’t used it sooner (as she points out all the time). So here it is, check it out after you’ve spent hours dreaming on the Free Spirit catalog! 

The Summer Has Passed

So…I was posting, and the state testing came, and then end of the year madness, and summer passed, and now…can I come back?