School Counselor’s Role with Students At-Risk for Substance Abuse

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Here’s some information that was created and shared with me to help increase our awareness of substance use among our students. It got me thinking, as school counselors, are we doing enough? What do you think?


School Counselor’s Role with Students At-Risk for Substance Abuse — Infographic

In 2013, a study showed that 7,800 individuals tried drugs for the first time. An additional 12,500 reported drinking alcohol for the first time. One of the most troubling findings of this study was that well over half of these new users were younger than 18.

School counselors spend most of their time directly helping and communicating with their students, through issues both academic and personal. With drug usage so prevalent among youth, substance abuse is an inevitable issue school counselors will face throughout their careers.

Warning signs like academic decline, absenteeism, changing peer groups, and changes in attentiveness and grooming habits are all potential indicators that drug usage is beginning to impact a student’s life.  School counselors are invaluable when identifying and intervening substance abuse among individual students, but direct counsel is only one of many ways counselors can help in preventing substance abuse.

Students today are more likely to self-report drug usage than a decade ago, but they’re less likely to fully understand the risks associated with drug use. As illustrated in the infographic below, students are less likely to understand the risks associated with smoking marijuana, using heroin, or using cocaine than students surveyed over a decade ago.

Revealingly, these students are also less likely to report having been exposed to drug prevention messaging in their schools. Although these statistics reflect a downward trend, they illustrate that school counselors and educators alike have a great opportunity in reducing substance abuse by reinforcing their school’s drug-prevention policies and promoting drug-prevention messaging.

For instance, in one school district located in Escabana, Michigan, a community was able to reduce the rate of alcohol abuse over a span of seven years from 17% to just 7% by incorporating substance abuse prevention policies into their curriculum, conducting student messaging campaigns, and involving parents and youth agencies.

School counselors are fundamental in orchestrating the community involvement and policy changes needed to educate students and positively impact the rate of substance abuse in their schools. In the infographic below, produced for Bradley University’s Online Counseling Program, you can learn more about substance abuse statistics among K-12 students and how school counselors are capable of making a difference.

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A perfect combination: Mindsets and standardized tests

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Ahh, testing. In education, you can usually count on at least one time of the year when the energy in your school shifts. As School Counselors, I think we are in a unique position to see and feel the shift in our students, staff, administrators, parents, etc.

In my experience, this energy shift usually occurs slightly before, during, and shortly after state testing. And it comes as no surprise. Almost everything changes when testing comes along – schedules, closed doors, seating arrangements, staff assignments, access to materials like laptops, and my personal favorite: voice level expectations – it seems like everyone goes around whispering, even when no longer near a testing environment.

This year, I had a few teachers reach out to me about doing a lesson to address their students’ concerns and anxieties regarding the state tests. I thought about doing simple test taking strategies or stress reduction techniques, but then my previous work with mindset seemed to make the most logical sense. After all, how we think about things greatly impacts our stress level and ability to perform on challenging tasks.

So, I put together a lesson for my 3rd-5th graders to talk about the upcoming testing and mindset. I let the students share their thoughts and feelings about the tests – many admitted to feeling stressed, pressured, nervous, and worried. We then shifted to talking about what they thought mindset is, and the difference between open and closed.

I wrote a couple of statements on the board to help them understand the difference. Under closed mindset, I wrote: “I can’t do this” and “This is too hard.” They told me someone who said those things to themselves wouldn’t learn or do very well on the tests. Under open mindset, I wrote: “This is hard, but I’m going to keep trying” and “I can’t do this…yet.” Comparing the two, students commented on how much better someone who said the last two statements would learn and perform on test.

Closed Mindset Statements

Next came the fun part. We formed a circle and I put a recycling bin in the middle. I gave one student at at time a slip of paper that had a closed mindset statement on it. After reading it out loud, I asked the class how we could change the words to make it open mindset. Once I was satisfied that we really changed the words to change the mindset, I instructed the student holding the slip of paper to crumple it up as tightly as they could and chuck it into the recycling bin. My students had a blast with this activity!

Crumpled Mindset Statements

To wrap up, we watched Rock This Test! The video is adorable and the tune (set to “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz) is super catchy! I asked students to be thinking about what kind of mindset the students in the video have, and I let them share their opinions and reasons why afterward.

I received great feedback from students and teachers alike about this lesson and how they could easily incorporate mindset for not only the state tests, but any challenge they ask of their students!

If you would like to access the mindset statements I used in this lesson, please click here.

I hope this gives you another tool to address testing anxieties in your own schools! And if your school has already completed state testing, I’m sending an online high-five your way!:)

 

I hate that I have to write this

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The blog title is so true. I hate what I’m about to say. I hate even more that I have to say this after not blogging in over 7 months. Life has been busy, both professionally and personally, and unfortunately my blog has had to take a back seat to everything else.

Well, I’m back tonight because I need to address an issue that has been festering for a while.

The issue is plagiarism. The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

First off, I need to say that I blog because I love what I do. I love to write about it and to share my ideas and thoughts from my own experiences. But that’s the thing – what I share are my ideas from my experiences. What works for me may not work for you. And that’s okay.

I also need to say that I choose to share for free on my blog. I do not have a TPT store and I do not intend to start one. I’ve been told I should sell some of my lessons or documents on there because people would actually pay to use them, but I do not. I choose to share for free.

With things like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, it should be no surprise to me that people are accessing my stuff and are using it in their own work. In fact, that’s the reason I share. I hope to help other School Counselors find what works for them. And I have, very successfully, for the almost 3 years my blog has been going.

The issue I need to address openly with you is when someone comes across something that originated on my blog – let’s say a document of some kind – and this person then “recreates” it and shares it as their own document. I’m not talking about people who like something I’ve done and find a way to use the idea in their own way in their own school (that’s why I share). I’m talking about the people who take my documents, change a few words or the overall outline so it looks a bit different, and then share it in groups such as the Elementary School Counselor Exchange (a place that currently has over 10,000 members) as their own brilliant work.

This has happened to me more than once. Imagine my surprise when I’m scrolling through the news feed and find a document that looks awfully familiar, only it’s been changed slightly and has been posted by someone saying they want to share it with others. Sometimes these posts have a disclaimer like, “This is a compilation of ideas that I’ve found online along with my own.” (By the way, this does NOT count as giving credit to the original creator.)

I get searching for ideas to use in your own school. I do that too. All the time. Thus the basis of starting my blog. But sharing someone else’s hard work as your own? And posting “your” idea in a group of 10,000 fellow School Counselors/Social Workers? And liking the comments as they roll in about how thankful they are that you shared your masterpiece? THAT I do not get.

And I’m not okay with it. It is hurtful and manipulative and unethical.

I’m not sure how I will change what I share so this stops. My work isn’t copyrighted and it’s not for sale. But it is my work.

So far, I’ll just start by writing about this issue publicly and openly, and hope that it starts a much needed conversation among bloggers and followers alike.

Please keep in mind how fortunate all of us are to have so many people willing to share their ideas for others to access and gain inspiration from. And please, please, don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

Beginning of year office photos & info

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In June I blogged about my struggle to find my ‘just right’ school. You must be wondering, did she find it? Well, I’m very happy to say that I did. In fact, I found two ‘just right’ schools! I feel so good about joining both of my schools that I haven’t even really been stressed about it, which I have to say is a welcome change.

In honor of finding my ‘just right’ schools, I’d like to share some photos of one of my offices since I put in a lot of work to make it welcoming and kid-friendly. My other office is still coming together.

Entrance

Entrance

Shout Out Wall

Shout out wall for students to write messages

Welcome

Welcome to my room!

Books and Desk

My bookshelf and my desk

Desk

My desk

Shelves

Shelves with games and toys

Walls

Counseling signs

Table Area

Table area, bean bag chairs, feelings posters

Calm Down Corner

Calm down corner

Breathe Relax

Positive message for students

Worry Stones

Worry stones

Worry Eaters

I love my new Worry Eaters from Child Therapy Toys!

I’d also like to share two documents that I created to help educate staff about my role. One of the unique things about my two schools is that they haven’t had a School Counselor in a very long time. Lucky for them, they’ve hired a School Counselor who loves to advocate!:)

On the left is an intro letter to staff and on the right is a document that explains what a School Counselor does. You can click on each picture to access the document.

Intro Letter to Staff pic       What Does a School Counselor do pic

I hope you enjoyed the tour and I wish you a successful school year!:)

The not so invisible boy

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When I came across Trudy Ludwig’s book The Invisible Boy, I couldn’t wait to use it with my students. In the overly social environment that is most schools, the quiet kids tend to be overlooked. I know this because I was one of those quiet kids, and now I’m that quiet adult.

brian

I absolutely love the way Brian, the “invisible” boy in the book, is shown through beautiful pictures existing among his classmates, but not really noticed by many. At the same time, the pages showcase Brian’s many talents and positive attitude, regardless of how he is treated. The use of black and white vs. color pictures draws the students in from beginning to end.

I ended up reading this book with grades 2nd-6th, as the messages inside are so varied that all ages enjoyed the story. Particularly, my students had great discussions about why Brian felt invisible and how he helped a new student feel welcome, even when he wasn’t feeling so welcome himself.

When we got to the page that posed the question, “Brian wondered which was worse, being laughed at or feeling invisible,” I polled the class for their thoughts. Their opinions were split pretty equally, in each class.

After we read the book, I prompted the students to use their creativity to write or draw three ways they could help a kid like Brian feel welcome in their classroom. Many of them had some pretty great ideas! These two are from a third grade class:

invisible boy pic1   invisible boy pic2I love it when the book I choose has enough depth that it takes up most of the lesson, while capturing students’ attention cover to cover. This book is one of those!! The topics it covers is vast – diversity in personality, appreciation of differences, celebrating talents, friendship, teasing/bullying, respect, kindness, and much more.

If you haven’t read The Invisible Boy, do yourself a favor and get a copy!

Another newsletter round-up

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newspaper-clip-art-weekly-news-clipartThe last two summers I have shared my School Counselor Newsletters that I put together for parents and teachers. Since I got a lot of great feedback from readers, I thought I’d do that again.

If you want to see the posts with previous years’ newsletters click here and here.

My newsletters from the school year 2014-2015 are below. Each one is listed by month and topic. Click on each link to see them:

September, 2014 – Back-to-school transition tips for parents

October, 2014 – Various ways to start the “how was your day at school?” conversation with children (encouraging communication within the family)

November, 2014 – Stress and anxiety relief in children

December, 2014 – (No newsletter. Sorry!)

January, 2015 – Information and tips about getting your child to school ON TIME (this was an issue for some, so I saw an opportunity to educate many)

February, 2015 – Building grit in your child (and avoiding being the “rescuer”)

March, 2015 – A goodbye newsletter to my families with tips for closure (probably one of the hardest newsletters I’ve ever written)😦

After March, I joined a new school and did not publish newsletters during my time there. It is my hope that I will get back to doing newsletters next school year! I still believe them to be a great communication and advocacy tool!

Information about my newsletters: I use Microsoft Word to make each newsletter. Using a lot of text boxes, I can manipulate the spacing and sizing of what I want to include. When I’m satisfied, I save it as a PDF document to share.

Hope this has been helpful!:)

Summer, please stay for a while

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It was exactly one year ago today that I posted my End of Year Report for 2014. It was also one year ago today that I shared that my fourth year as a Professional School Counselor was the hardest of my short career thus far. Well, I think my fifth year was in competition for that title. And, it may have won. The jury’s still out.

The added challenge for me this year was that I left a school I adored in April to join a vastly different one. I was expecting a challenge, but joining a new school mid-year is not for the faint of heart! I knew within the first week at my new school that it wasn’t a good fit, but I had to finish what I started.

And I did. I officially finished there today, and while I will miss certain things about it, I am so glad it’s over. Now I’m free to focus on finding my “just right” school again.

Before I walked away, though, I spent some time looking at my data from my short April-June stretch to complete a report for the year 2015. It’s a basic look at the raw numbers of what I did in the three months I was there. Click on the picture for a PDF version.

EOY_2015

 

I’ve come to really enjoy putting together an EOY Report. It keeps me accountable and allows me to feel good about what I accomplished.

Now, onto my summer.😎