Being MEAN can leave lasting scars

4 Comments

My third grade classes this year have challenged me to try new interventions – whole class, small group, and individually. They are spirited to say the least, chatty, opinionated, and many of them have difficulty taking direction. As fun as they can be, they also cause their fair share of conflicts. Many of them will cry and tell when someone is mean to them, but won’t own up when they do the same mean thing to someone else.

I want to share one whole class intervention I tried with them a few weeks ago. This is my “keep in my back pocket” lesson that I pull out when nothing else seems to work.

To start, I asked them to raise their hands if they have seen each of the following things happen to them or their classmates:

-Someone give a mean look.

-Someone whisper about you.

-Someone tell a secret about you.

-Someone share a secret of yours and break your trust.

-Someone tell you that you can’t play.

-Someone tell you that you can’t sit next to them.

-Someone call you a mean name.

-Someone make fun of you.

-Someone laugh along when someone is making fun of you.

For each mean thing I read off, there were multiple hands in the air. I heard comments such as, “That happens to me a lot” and “I see others doing that.” After I read all of them, I told my third graders that all of these mean things are things that I see and hear happening in our community and it’s not okay.

Then, I introduced my friend. I hung up a life-size cutout of a person. I told them I was going to show them how hurtful their mean behaviors can be to someone. As I read each mean thing again, starting with “Every time YOU….” I cut off a part of the person and let it fall to the floor.

The first time I cut a piece off, you should have heard their gasps. A few of the boys got very silly about it (their usual), so I gave them my stern “take this seriously or else” speech, and we were good to go for the rest.

Green guy

Once we had only a head and shoulders left, I told them we needed to rebuild my friend with kindness. I asked for ideas of how we could help my friend feel better. For each kind idea they shared, I taped a piece of the person back on. Then, we talked about how the kind acts helped a lot, but the person doesn’t quite look the same as before.

There are scars. Scars from mean words and mean actions. My third graders told me that when someone is mean to you, you remember it, even after they’ve apologized. My friend with scars all over his body showed us how we can feel on the inside when someone is mean to us.

While the meanness hasn’t ceased completely, the visual left its mark on my students.

I hung up my scarred friend in my room for reminders to be nice, because no one likes to feel all cut up.

Perceptions

4 Comments

Perceptions. They’re a tricky thing. Recently, I had the opportunity to learn just how powerful perceptions can be, regardless of intention.

Let’s start here… Not so long ago, I took inventory of the challenges that many School Counselors face in their daily work, and I put them all together in a video. A satirical, totally non-serious video. A video that blew up faster than I realized it would. A video that far outreached the intended audience of fellow School Counselors who could appreciate and understand the humor in it. A video that, not on purpose, caused some harm and friction.

I work with students all the time on repairing the harm they have caused. I need to do the same.

To those I harmed,

I am sorry. The things I said were not true to my feelings about my work. My words were not meant as an attack on anyone. My intention was to create a silly video for people who do the same job that I do, and that’s all. I realize, though, that my intentions do not matter when the perception is that of offense, hurt, and distrust.

Please know, that I know how lucky I am to be a School Counselor and to work with kids. This is a job that I love and do not take lightly, at all. Please know that I care very much about what I do and who I try my best to help everyday.

I realize that trust takes a long time to build and very little to destroy. Please know that I will do my best to rebuild any trust that has been lost. I will continue to show up everyday and do the job that I love with heart. And I will contribute to building an educational culture of respect, understanding, and love of learning.

I hope you’ll join me.

Respectfully,

Kayla

National School Counseling Week 2015

6 Comments

It’s here! Our week is here! It’s National School Counseling Week! The week in which we do a little extra to advertise and highlight all that we do in our schools.

Of course, I understand the irony that as School Counselors, we are tasked to celebrate our own week, instead of others celebrating us. But I think we’ll get there. The more we advocate and speak up about our roles. Eventually, people will celebrate us!

Until then, many of us are grasping at straws to figure out what the heck to do. Do we do morning announcements about our program? Do we make cute treats and cards for each individual staff member actually thanking them for our week? Do we hang up a sign and call it good?

Well, most years, I’ve done nothing. This year, I’ve decided to use the week to advertise and educate about School Counselors and what we do.

First, I’m going to hang this sign from ASCA:

 NSCWsign

Second, I’m going to fill out this sign from ASCA:

Ilovebeingaschoolcounselorsign

Third, and probably most important, I created this flyer to give to all staff at my school. Click on the flyer to see the pdf version.

NSCW_Flyer_2015

My flyer is a compilation of information and inspiration from ASCA and many School Counselors around the nation. One in particular I should credit is Blair Shelley, who created a beautiful flyer for her own school.

I’m keeping NSCW simple. Some advertising without a lot of extra work for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do some celebrating too. We deserve it!

Happy National School Counseling Week, my friends! :)

A girl drama disaster

18 Comments

If you say the words “girl drama” or “girl problems” right now, I will run away and hide. Forever.

You probably know exactly how I feel. Especially if you’re a School Counselor who is sent the teary-eyed little girls who can’t seem to break the mean streak.

I’m deep in the trenches of 3rd grade girls who request to see me and want to tell me everything that they’re so-called friend(s) did and said. The faces. The eyes. The talking behind the back. The taking friends away. The running away. The “spying.” The mean and the not-so-mean words.

Well, I had heard enough. I decided to host an intervention.

I invited (actually, I made them come, but whatever) all girls involved in the ongoing problems in any sort of way. I set up in a classroom and they brought their lunches.

This is what I brought with me:

My Secret BullyI read My Secret Bully while they ate and told them the behaviors happening in the book are what they are doing to each other, even to people they call “friends.”

Then, I gave them each a “Think before you speak” card to help remind them of the words they use.

I was really prepared and I was really hopeful. The thing about interventions is that they don’t always work. Sometimes the people you’re doing the intervention for don’t want to change or don’t see the problem.

Well, my intervention was a big, fat failure.

The nine little girls sitting before me during the intervention stared complacently and contributed nothing. They gave me looks that said, “I know this lady ain’t talkin’ to me!”

And, I really knew the intervention had failed when the very next day, three girls filled out separate slips to see the counselor, and when I pulled them all together to talk, they told me the problem was they thought one of the girls had called another one of the girls a “turd” at recess.

No, I’m not even kidding. I had pulled them from class so they could tell me someone might have said the word “turd.” I almost told them to get out of my room.

Instead, I created this. From now on, when they feel the need to run to me and complain about things they aren’t willing to change, they will fill out a Problem Solving Report on their own time – recess. No more class time. When they fill one out, they will turn it into me and when I have time to read them over, I will decide if it needs to be processed further or not.

The report takes pieces from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to help them develop the skills they need to handle their own problems AND see their own part in it.

So far, no reports have been filled out. I guess the girls have decided that none of the problems are “big” enough to report anymore!

Oh, peaceful waters, please wash over me! :)

Bring on the readers: Increase readership to your blog

2 Comments

When you’re a blogger, either beginner or veteran, readership matters. I would say I fall somewhere in between – I’m not exactly brand new to blogging, but I’m still learning. While bloggers often write as much for themselves as for others, we want to know that people are actually reading what we put out there.

From my own experience, it’s exhilarating to see your numbers climb with each post you publish! Still, I’m always thinking about what I can write about that will bring readers in, and I’ve been pretty successful so far. In a year and a half, I’ve reached just under 100,000 hits on my blog and just over 1,000 followers. Not too shabby.

Increase readership

Whether you’re a new or veteran blogger, or thinking about beginning your first blog, here are some tips from me to increase your readership:

1. Keep your posts simple. If you try to cover too much material or too many ideas in one post, you’re going to lose readers. You’re better off writing the post in several parts.

2. Title your posts like you mean it. The title of your post is crucial. It’s what shows up when people do a search and it’s in the URL that people click on to take them to your blog. I like to be creative when naming my posts, but I also make sure it has something to do with the topic I’m writing about.

3. Keep your paragraphs short. Nobody likes to read run-on sentences or paragraphs that are a page long. Also, keep in mind that many people are reading your blog posts from their smart phones, which will make your paragraphs look even longer on their screen.

4. Edit, edit, edit. Please, for everyone’s sake, look over your post before clicking publish. Most readers will forgive a few spelling or grammar mistakes, but too many, and they’ll be on to the next blog. Simply put, if it’s not readable, it won’t be read.

5. Make your idea clear and make it yours. If I’m reading your blog post, it’s because I want to hear what you have to say about the topic. I don’t want to have to guess what you’re trying to say. I also don’t want to read what someone else has already said. If you’re writing it, make it yours.

6. State your opinion firmly. We all have opinions. It’s okay. Even as School Counselors, we are allowed to have opinions about our profession, education, curriculum, lessons, materials, etc. Don’t hold back from telling us yours. Might you ruffle some feathers or invite a few disagreeable comments? Perhaps. Do it anyway. This is your blog and we want to hear your opinions.

7. Use every ounce of social media. Consider creating a Facebook page for your blog, a Twitter account, and don’t forget to share your posts on Pinterest. The more places you are sharing your wonderful stuff, the more readers will come across your blog. And they will share it, too.

8. Read other blogs. There are so many blogs out there! Use them to inspire ideas, creativity, and future posts. Each blogger has his/her own style and it’s beautiful, so don’t think you don’t have anything to add to the blogging world. You do!

9. Write about more than lessons and strategies. Specifically for School Counselor bloggers, this rings true. We do use our blogs to share classroom lessons, small group ideas, and individual counseling strategies. And it’s great. However, writing about other things relating to our field is needed and wanted by our readers. My hottest post, topping over 22,000 views and over 90 comments, doesn’t have anything to do with lessons or strategies. When you do write about things affecting School Counselors, remember tip #5 and 6.

10. Have fun with it. Your blog is yours. You can do with it anything you want. Don’t worry if your blog doesn’t look like someone else’s. Don’t worry if you don’t have cute activity packs to give away or top notch lesson plans linked to the ASCA standards. Write about what matters to you and share it! The people who want to read what you write will find you and will keep coming back for more.

Happy blogging! :)

RAK, bingo, and secret missions

7 Comments

The week before Christmas vacation, I decided my school needed some help in being a little more kind. And I decided to find a fun way to incorporate random acts of kindness into my guidance lessons that week.

The result was outstanding!

RAK board

I came across a RAK Bingo Board featured on Confessions of a School Counselor. I loved it and decided to make my own. Using a similar format, I created a 4×4 Bingo Board with very simple acts of kindness that students would be able to do over and over again in their classrooms.

Click here for the RAK Bingo Board I made. I made four versions of my bingo board to allow for some variety while playing Bingo in classrooms.

To begin the lesson with my 2nd-5th graders, we had a discussion about what random acts of kindness are, allowed for some examples, and talked about why they matter. Specifically, we talked about RAK’s being anonymous; meaning, being kind isn’t about recognition, it’s about giving to someone else.

Then, we played Bingo. This was an immediate hit because kids love Bingo! As I read each act of kindness, the students were able to hear ideas that they could try themselves. We played until everyone had Bingo at least once on their board. Because the boards are small, this didn’t take long. In some classes, we played until everyone had blackout (their whole board was filled).

brown paper bag

Next came the REALLY fun part! I presented the class with a brown paper bag and asked a student to read the words I had written on it with marker: “Secret Mission Shhh!” We discussed that a secret mission is something you do and don’t tell anybody about it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One by one, each student came to pick their secret mission from the bag. The secret missions were little folded cards that had the acts of kindness from the Bingo boards. All I did was cut up some of my Bingo boards, fold the squares, and pop them into the bag!

Once each student had their secret mission, I told them their challenge was to complete their secret mission before the week was over. To combat a few of the grumblers, I reminded them they would have a lot more fun if they kept a positive attitude! Plus, their secret missions were really easy and didn’t take a lot of time.

This lesson was not only fun, but it created a ripple effect of kindness throughout many classrooms and into the hallways of our school. My favorite part was having several students come up to me after the lesson and say, “I already did my secret mission. Can I have another one?” :)

Finally, I know the lesson made an impact because I received an anonymous card thanking me for the lesson. (One of the secret mission RAK’s was to make a card for your favorite teacher.)

The card said “To: A special someone, Merry Christmas. As you can see I hope you have a good Christmas and a happy new year. I really like you and I’m excited for today. I was happy that the class got to see you and I really liked the game and getting to pick the cards. All my love.

How kind is that? :)

We are the keepers

18 Comments

After joining in a discussion thread about feeling misunderstood by classroom teachers and other staff, some of whom can be quite unsupportive and downright rude, I became inspired to write about it. Writing is my thing, so I hope this helps others like it will me.

Since that discussion thread was born, and dozens of counselors wrote in agreeing and venting, I got to thinking about why our profession seems to be so misunderstood. Yes it’s relatively new compared to the teaching profession, but the problem goes much deeper than that. And then it hit me…..

A while ago, I saw the book-made-into-a-movie called “The Giver.” Interesting concept, but the character that intrigued me most was the Giver himself, played by Jeff Bridges. If you haven’t seen the movie, Bridges plays the one person who holds all the memories and information for his entire community.

keepersNow I know why I identified with his character so much! As School Counselors, we are essentially the “keepers” of all information for our school community. Just like Bridges’ character, we hold onto important details and histories that we cannot share with anyone! While we can share some things with our supervisors, classroom teachers, and parents, there is so much we cannot ever share.

School Counselors are basically the “dumping ground” for the information that other people know but don’t know what to do with.

Have concerns about a child’s home life? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Have suspicions of child abuse or neglect? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Worried about a child’s mental health, depression, anxiety, anger, defiance? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Perplexed that a child won’t stop touching himself/herself right in the middle of class? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Need a break from a child’s difficult behavior in class? Where do you send him/her? The School Counselor.

Don’t know how to help a child who doesn’t have a winter coat or boots? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Frustrated that a child is still not completing classwork or homework even after interventions? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Noticing that a child is often alone and has no one to play with? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Two students in your class causing a ruckus because they just can’t seem to get along? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Fed up with the group of girls wasting class time being upset because “she gave me a mean face” for the 73rd time today? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Concerned that one of your student’s parents is drinking too much or using drugs? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Confused about which parent your student is allowed to visit with this month due to DHHS/CPS involvement? Who do you ask? The School Counselor.

Trying to figure out what makes the students entering your classroom this year tick? Who do you ask? The School Counselor.

At a loss of how to help a student who calls herself “stupid” every time she makes a small mistake? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Feeling helpless when a student screams he’s going to kill himself in the middle of your math class? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Holding concerns that another staff member isn’t doing right by a needy student? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

Issues with social skills, study skills, organizational skills, personal space, friendship, attendance, self-esteem, bullying, conflict, behavior, testing, food insecurity, homelessness, crises of any kind, or students using words like sex, fag, or gay? Who do you tell? The School Counselor.

So, teachers and staff, we are the keepers of all of this difficult and sensitive information. And teachers, we cannot tell you about it. There are a million things we do in a day that you will never hear about. We do not advertise our successes because they are the confidential and private successes of our students. We cannot share all that we may know about a certain family’s dynamics because we were asked not to and we need to be a safe person for the child/family to tell future information to.

So, teachers and staff, there may be things you think you deserve to know or have the right to know, but that doesn’t change what we can tell you. Confidentiality is the building block of our relationships with students and parents. They need someone who will not only listen, but keep what is told to themselves.

So, teachers and staff, please know that we want to be where we are scheduled to be every second, but sometimes, our jobs prevent that from happening. We are sorry that we have to cancel classroom guidance with your students, AGAIN, but we cannot plan when crises occur. Please understand, teachers, that after we’ve had to cancel on you or decline to come and talk with your upset student, that we cannot offer an explanation any further than “sorry, something came up.”

So, teachers and staff, we may not do reading and math assessments, spend hours filling out report cards, or be in a classroom of 20+ students all day everyday, but we hold knowledge and skills to serve 100% of our students that you do not. We are the positive cheerleaders while being the holders of the negativity, and we do it all with a smile on our face. If we are doing our jobs well, you may never even know it.

We are the keepers.

We are School Counselors.