Looking in the mirror

I’ve been asked to answer a really BIG question. The question is: What do you think is essential for success? Specifically, what skill is at the top of the list as a must have, indispensable, trait for people going into the workforce?

Webucator, an online learning company, asked me to write about an essential skill as part of their “Most Marketable Skill” Campaign in honor of the class of 2014. I love the idea! I’ve been thinking about what skill is the most important for a couple of weeks, and one thing kept coming to mind. Here’s a hint:




Can you guess what it is? It’s……………………



It’s so simple! Or is it? I believe self-reflection is an art, a life choice, and definitely essential for any career path you find yourself on. Self-reflection is the serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives (thank you Merriam-Webster). In my line of work, being able to stop and check in with my thoughts, feelings, and actions is key to helping my students make progress in school. If I blindly followed one curriculum, one counseling modality, or fed the same “you can do this” line to every student, I would be failing them.

When you work with people (SPOILER ALERT: most jobs/careers require that you interact with other human beings), things can get messy  faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100 meter dash. Human beings usually mean well, meaning their intentions are good, but it doesn’t always play out that way.

Have you ever worked with someone who seemed oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of his/her co-workers or customers? Have you ever felt like someone was doing the same thing over and over but expecting it to go differently, and wondering why? It all comes down to self-reflection. Being able to take a step back, observe, and thoughtfully consider what’s happening and why is the key.

Personally, I probably spend four hours too many reflecting on my work day and what I said/did/didn’t do and how I could have said/done things differently. Really, it can get out of control if you don’t develop an off switch (I’m still working on this).  My point is, reflecting on how you’re doing and why you’re doing it will help you gain more success than people who don’t. It makes you indispensable to whichever company or organization you choose to offer your employment to. And, it’s a skill that cannot be taken away from you, ever.

So how do you become a self-reflecting human being? I truly believe part of it is in our unique personalities. However, I’ve honed my self-reflection skills by doing this one simple thing – shutting my mouth. I’m not kidding. Far too often, people are in a rush to say the next thing without considering what they’re saying and it’s effect on other people. When you stop talking, you can start listening. And when you listen, you can observe, which is like collecting important data you can use later. Sure, being too quiet can give people the wrong idea about your abilities, but when you’ve observed and reflected enough, that’s when you have your moment to shine! You can WOW people with your great ideas, which will likely be different from what’s being tossed around already, and that’s what makes you successful.

Please don’t think you have to meditate while sitting cross-legged on a pillow in a quiet meadow to truly self-reflect (but if this works for you, rock on). You can do it anywhere. I’ve listened and watched in noisy hallways, staff meetings, and even emotionally charged conversations with supervisors. Sometimes I do have to step away, find a quiet place, and just think. Yes it takes time; it also makes me a better school counselor and a better human being, because when you truly reflect on yourself, you see the good, the bad, and the ugly, and then you get to create an even more awesome version of YOU!

I wish the class of 2014 happy adventures on your path to finding your place in this crazy world! Thanks for reading. 🙂



Before I go, I want to encourage you to check out Webucator and all they have to offer. This month, they are offering a FREE self-paced Microsoft Word training course  for anyone to take. Webucator believes in offering education and training in essential skills for success!


Career Unit K-5

I have a confession. Here it is: I don’t like doing career lessons. I know, I know, career lessons are important! Because I know this, I made it a goal of mine to expand and improve upon my lessons in this area. As it turns out, I actually had a lot of fun doing them this year!

This post is all about the lessons I did in each grade K-5. Some of the ideas are borrowed, others I made myself. Please feel free to borrow any ideas/materials you’d like to use for your own lessons!

Kindergarten & First Grade

For the young ones, I started the career unit with a borrowed lesson from the Elementary School Counseling blog. We discussed what a job and a career is, and then we looked at the Whose Vehicle Is This? posters. Students guessed which career the vehicle would be used for, and we talked about why each career is important in our community.

Here’s an example of one vehicle:


Next, each student was given a vehicle page and was instructed to draw a person who does that job on the back. We shared with the class when finished. This is a good time to discuss with students that jobs are not gender specific – we see this when we look at each student’s picture. Here are a few examples of student work:

A garbage person
A garbage collector
A farmer
A farmer
An ice cream truck driver
An ice cream truck driver

Second Grade

For second graders, I borrowed a “career toolbox” lesson from Lisa, a counselor who posted it in the Elementary School Counselor Exchange Facebook Group. I collected various items and put them all in a box with a cover. For the lesson, I called students up one at a time to reach their hand in and pull out an item. Once they saw what the item was, they guessed what career(s) the item might be used for. The rest of the class also shared their ideas.

Examples of items I put in the box: a ruler, pencil, flashlight, compass, map, dog leash, manicure set, book, screw driver, rubber glove, floss, cell phone, walkie talkie, etc.

The students had a lot of fun with this activity! It was engaging because they wanted to see what item would come out next! It also covered a lot of different careers quickly.

As a follow up, we read “When I Grow Up” by Al Yankovic (always a favorite for kids) and students shared various jobs they’re interested in having.

When I grow up book

Goal-Setting Lesson (K-2)

To expand on the career lessons, I presented a goal-setting lesson and discussed how setting goals for yourself is a part of having a job or career. I was pleasantly surprised that in all classrooms, students were able to understand that there are two kinds of goals – the kind you score on a sports field, and the kind you set for yourself because you want to get better at something. We discussed that part of goal-setting is making a plan to meet your goal and thinking about people who could help you get there.

I created goal-setting posters and laminated them. Some of the posters showed an example of a goal and asked what that person could do to meet his/her goal. Other posters asked students to identify a goal for themselves that related to school, home, friendships, recess, etc.

In K & 1st, I laid several posters on the floor and had each student pick one they wanted to talk about by giving it a good swat with their hand (this got out some energy!). In 2nd grade, the students did a ‘long jump’ and whichever poster they landed on was the one they talked about. The students liked this, although it was a bit slippery because the posters were laminated…so some simply stepped on the poster they wanted to choose.

I was impressed that the majority of students were able to come up with appropriate answers for how someone could meet their goal!

Here’s a link to the posters I created: Goal-Setting Scenarios.

Third Grade

I employed the use of my career dolls that I’ve used in years past.

Career dolls
Career dolls

The activity that third graders completed was in groups. I put students in small groups and had one person from each choose a career doll from a bag without looking. Once they had their career doll, I gave them a notecard that listed the career (to avoid any confusion), and a worksheet.

The worksheet had the following questions:

  • What are the strengths of a person in this career?
  • Why is this career important in our community?
  • Is anyone in your group interested in this career? Why or why not?

After the groups finished, we came back together to share about each career. In one class, a group had the teacher doll – they shared that no one in their group wanted to be a teacher because “it’s too much work” and “kids are too loud.” 😉

Fourth Grade

Fourth grade lessons were all about multiple intelligences! I truly believe that all kids are smart and so many of them don’t believe they are because they’re not smart in the traditional reading/writing/arithematic way. I wasn’t surprised that when I opened the lesson by asking how do you know how smart you are, many students answered with “scores on a test” or “how easy the work is for you to do.” When I said there are 8 different ways to be smart, I got some crazy looks!

I had each student complete this Learning Styles Survey:

Multiple Intelligences Quiz

On the back of each survey was a visual of the 8 intelligence areas:

Multiple Intelligences Cartoon strip

After completing the survey and tallying their scores, students were grouped based on their highest intelligence area. Many had a tie for highest, so I had them choose the one they felt was most like them or the one they were most interested in. I reminded them that this is just a short survey and does not tell them everything about how smart they are.

In groups, students were given a poster of their kind of smarts to help them answer questions. I used these wonderful You’re a Smart Kid posters for free!

You're a smart kid poster pic

Each group worked together to answer questions and then each group shared with the class. Here are few examples of their work:



Check out the first career this group listed :)
Check out the first career this group listed 🙂


Fifth Grade

I spent a lot of time searching for a paper and pencil survey or quiz that my fifth graders could take to open their eyes to possible career opportunities. I know there are many online surveys, but I didn’t want to rely on technology. 😉

Each student completed a four-page Interest Survey that, when scored, brought them to career clusters they may be interested in pursuing. I was impressed with my 5th graders because they took their time answering each section to really narrow down their interest areas. Because they took their time, we didn’t have enough left over to do the group work portion of the lesson, but that’s okay….you gotta be flexible, right?

After the students had self scored their surveys, I had as many as time would allow share their top career cluster and answer a few questions about it:

  • What kinds of careers fall under this cluster?
  • What are the strengths of a person in this career?
  • What will you have to do in order to have this career? (College? Special training? Improve a specific skill?)

After sharing, we briefly discussed that as they continue their education into middle school, knowing their interests is important because they can expand their knowledge and skills by taking certain classes or joining certain clubs/groups. My 5th graders, at this point in the year, are ready for this kind of conversation. I was pleased that so many of them already had a career they were interested in and it came through in their surveys! 🙂

And, finally…

Whenever I do a unit like this, especially for the first time, I like to share it! Hey, we have to promote all the good stuff we do, right? So, I pieced together the career unit into a one-page newsletter for parents. Here’s the link if you’d like to check it out: May Newsletter 2014

Phew….the career unit was a lot of work to create and plan for, but it was worth it! 🙂