Presenting at MeSCA: Blog and let blog

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Yesterday, I had the privilege of presenting a breakout session for the Maine School Counselor Association Conference. When I was first asked to present, I had initial self-doubt that told me to say NO! Then, my more rational brain told me that this is one of those experiences that can help you grow as a professional, and so, I said yes!

I have never felt so fancy, standing in front of about 30 people, with a little mic hooked onto my blazer that had shoulder pads (SHOULDER PADS!). I had a gigantic screen behind me showing my slides, and I was ready with SO many words to say about blogging. I can only hope that my presentation inspired a few other school counselors to join the blogging world!

MESCA

Anyway, I wanted to share my presentation with you all so you can see what I covered!

And here’s a link to the resource sheet I shared with information about how to start a blog, tips on starting a blog, and links to school counseling blogs to check out:

Blogging Resource Sheet

If you ever get the opportunity to present at a state or national conference, say YES! 🙂

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What an honor: Named a Top Counseling Blog of 2017

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Kayla Marston

Top Counseling Blog Author, School Counselor, Author of The School Counselor Kind

Interview with The School Counselor Kind and Author Kayla Marston

About Kayla: Kayla Marston is an Elementary School Counselor in Maine. She graduated with her Masters in Counseling Education in 2010 and has been growing as a counseling professional ever since. Kayla’s professional experience includes building safe and connected school communities by implementing Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Restorative School Practices. She was married on Halloween (her favorite holiday!) and together, she and her partner take care of their two dogs and one amazing 10 month old baby girl. She loves writing, sunshine, autumn leaves, staying organized, yoga, and animals.


[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] When and why did you originally start a blog about school counseling?

[Kayla Marston] I began my blog, The School Counselor Kind, in July of 2013, almost four years ago, because I love to write and because I wanted to contribute to the profession. After reading several other school counseling blogs, I felt I had a strong voice to add to the mix.

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining The School Counselor Kind?

[Kayla Marston] Throughout the almost four years that my tiny blog has been going, I have been inspired by, humbled by, and connected to more school counselors and educators than I ever thought possible. I love that by sharing my voice and honest feelings about the challenging work that school counselors do, I am offering ideas, respite, and validation for others in this field.

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] The post we highlighted, “Responding to 13 Reasons Why,” has sparked many impassioned and varied responses on your blog. What do you think is a teaching moment for your students that resulted from this series?

[Kayla Marston] I work with elementary aged students, so most of my conversations about this series have been with colleagues and parents/guardians who needed support in how to approach the sensitive topics with their students and children. The most important teaching moment for adults and children alike has been about open communication. We need our children to know that they can come to us about anything, and that we will listen.

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] How do you come up with new ideas to blog about?

[Kayla Marston] When I first began my blog, I started a list of topics that I wanted to blog about. I still have that list. It includes everything from classroom lessons I have done to my unfiltered thoughts about the somewhat tricky parts of our daily tasks. I like to add my voice to existing topics already blogged about (like advocacy for our profession) and I like to write about things that others aren’t (like things you should never, ever say to a school counselor).

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] You mention that you’re currently working at two elementary schools. How do you guard against burnout in juggling the many different needs of these distinct student populations?

[Kayla Marston] Burnout is a serious concern for me. I currently have a student-to-counselor ratio that is much higher than the ASCA recommended amount. I also spend exactly half of each week in each of my schools, which means I miss exactly half of each week in each of my schools. Basically, I am always late to the party, and I hate being late. To guard against burnout, I try really hard to focus on the school I am in at the time, and nothing else. I stay organized, and I reserve small amounts of energy for advocating for more school counseling services, which gives me the hope I need to keep going.

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Have you found any useful ways to spread awareness about the school counselor’s role through your blog?

[Kayla Marston] Yes! By sharing documents that I create for my own school(s), I hear from other school counselors who are able to tweak the documents for their own use, which means awareness of our role is spreading. I also share the newsletters I create every year, which I hear from readers they love to look at to help spark their own ideas. The more I can inspire other school counselors to advocate for the important work we do, the better! I have also heard from administrators, teachers, and parents who have visited my blog, so I know the content is being absorbed from multiple sources, which can only help our cause.

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What do you mean when you say, “We are one of few” as your blog’s slogan?

[Kayla Marston] I chose the name “The School Counselor Kind” with the line “We are one of few” because I truly believe we are. As school counselors, we are irreplaceable links that connect the students, staff, and communities we serve. It takes a very special kind of person to do the job that we do!


Thank you, Kayla! Learn more about The School Counselor Kind on our Top Counseling Blogs list.

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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.

Bring on the readers: Increase readership to your blog

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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! 🙂

I got a Liebster!

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Liebster award

My blog has been nominated for an award! Wahoo! The Liebster is meant to recognize new or up-and-coming bloggers and to connect all of us in the blogging community! I was nominated by Positively Elementary School Counseling (thanks a bunch!), and these are the rules I was asked to follow:

1. Link back to the blog that nominated you.

2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers.

3. Answer the questions posted for you by your nominator.

4. Create 11 questions for your nominees.

5. Contact your nominees and let them know you nominated them.

These are the questions I was asked to answer:

1. Why did you decide to take up blogging? 

I sat down with my laptop one summer day, to look at other blogs, and I discovered one which had just been created by a School Counselor with just one year experience in the field. Prior to this, I always thought I didn’t have enough experience yet to have anything to blog about. Boy was I wrong! So, that very day, I started researching how to start a blog, and the next thing I knew, 4 hours had passed and I had created The School Counselor Kind. Ever since, I’ve been hooked!

2. How long have you been blogging? 

I am VERY new to blogging. I began my blog just over a month ago!

3. What is one of your favorite memories of working with students? 

My first year as a School Counselor, a fourth grader stopped by my room because she had to report “something important.” She told me that at recess, another student had said the 4-letter “C-word.” In my head, I could only think of one 4-letter C-word that would be considered bad, and I couldn’t believe elementary students were using it!! However, I asked her for clarification, and she spelled it for me. I was relieved when the letters C-R-A-P came out of her mouth instead of the others! It was a good lesson for me early on about the innocence of elementary students and not making assumptions! This is a memory that always makes me laugh when I think back on it.

4. What are 3 of the items in your “bag” that you could not do without? 

-My sand tray

-The Talking, Feeling, Doing Game

-Thoughts & Feelings Cards

Check out my post about my favorite counseling tools: Sand and games and putty, oh my!

5. Would you recommend blogging to others? 

Absolutely!!! I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this summer. My bucket is overflowing (you bucket-filling folks know what I’m talking about!) at the warm welcome I’ve received from other bloggers. I’m amazed at how far and how quickly my voice can be heard through my blog. There is an entire blogging community that is just waiting to welcome you and connect with you! If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog but needed a little push, consider this it!

6. What was the best professional development you ever went to? 

My first year as a School Counselor, I attended a Restorative School Practices workshop and it was hands down the best workshop I’ve ever been to. The focus on building relationships and connections with students and among students in my school made so much sense to me and fit in so well with what I already believed. I remember leaving this workshop feeling refreshed, determined, and lighter – that was an awesome combination to bring back with me to school!

7. What do you do to take care of yourself outside of work? 

I do a lot of my planning for school at home, but when I make myself take a break, I do any of the following: cuddle my fur babies, cuddle my husband, drink Mountain Dew, sit on my porch, walk my puppies down my road and back, listen to Pandora and dance around my house, watch mindless nonsense on Netflix, go to the movies, go out to dinner, clean and organize something, color, sleep in with no alarm, laugh, listen to my husband laugh, write, read, stretch. What a list, huh?

8. What are some of your favorite blogs to follow? 

I like Scrapbook of a School Counselor, School Counselor Blog, Entirely Elementary School Counseling, and Blossoming School Counselor. I go to these for more than just resources – I go for connection, humor, and to feel like I’m not crazy! 😉

9. What is one of your favorite lessons that you teach? 

One of my favorites is my lesson about friendships and judgments. I read “The Rainbow Fish and the Big, Blue Whale” and then I present students two gift bags. I tell the students that there is a gift inside each, and they have to decide in pairs which bag they think has the best gift. One bag is a crumpled brown paper bag and the other is a pretty blue bag with colorful balloons and white tissue paper sticking out the top. I listen to their responses, which vary from picking the blue bag because it looks better to picking the brown paper bag because they think I’m trying to “trick” them (seriously, they say this!). Then, the big reveal –the paper bag holds a sparkly green ball and the blue bag holds an old sock with holes in it. This activity leads to great discussion about appearances, judgments, first impressions, and how we might miss out on a really great friendship if we don’t give someone a chance. This is a favorite of mine because it’s so fun and the students are engaged in the lesson from start to finish!

10. Why did you want to be a School Counselor? 

That’s simple. I wanted to help kids like school early on because I liked school. And I felt the best way to do this was to become “the feelings-teaching, fun-having, listening, hug-giver” known as an Elementary School Counselor.

11. Who has been your biggest inspiration in your life? 

This is simple too. My biggest inspiration is my partner in life, my husband. His kindness, generosity, and resiliency (not to mention his adorable dimple) rocks my socks and explodes my heart. I have never known support like the kind he offers me every day, and he gives me the strength I need to take on life. He pushes me to grow and try really hard things and fail and then try again. Are you feeling all mushy yet? Okay, I’m done.

And my nominees are…

The Creative Counselor

Counseling with Confidence

My Journey as a High School Counselor

Our School Counselor

School Counselor Companion

Questions for my nominees are…

  1. What has surprised you most about blogging?
  2. Which part of your job challenges you the most?
  3. What feelings do you experience as you pull into your school each morning?
  4. What is one of your favorite memories of working with students?
  5. If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change about your job?
  6. What is one of your favorite lessons that you teach?
  7. How do you prepare for school each day, not only physically, but mentally?
  8. How do you unwind or recover from a difficult day at school?
  9. What is the craziest “school dream” you’ve ever had?
  10. How many “hats” would you say you wear at your school?
  11. If you knew this was going to be your last year as a School Counselor, what would you want to do before you left the profession?

Enjoy!

Explain the name

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Welcome, welcome, welcome! I am so excited (and a little nervous) to be starting my own blog. It’s something I’ve been considering for a while, and finally decided to just do it! This is my very first post, so please be kind. Speaking of kind, I want to explain the name I chose for my blog. After flip flopping between a couple, I chose “The School Counselor Kind” with the line “We are one of few” because I truly believe we are. As school counselors, we are irreplaceable links that connect the students, staff, and communities we serve. It takes a very special kind of person to do the job we do!

Since I’m new at blogging, it will probably take me a while to figure things out. But I’ll be posting more soon!

(Look for more about me, resources, ideas, thoughts, and feelings about the hard work we do. I want to share my experiences and hear yours!)