Raise Up Your Voice Canada … It’s School Counselling Week

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As soon as I entered the field of School Counselling I knew I had to be an advocate. I thought as a teacher I knew what School Counsellors did. Was I wrong!!!

Since then my colleagues and I have advocated at a district level to bring more awareness to what we do.  Has it made a difference? YES! YES! YES! Our district is one of the best in the country when it comes to supporting , understanding and recognizing the work that School Counsellors do.

I have also advocated at a provincial level by being one of the voices and president of the then Alberta Guidance Council. Today my friend Erin Luong has taken up that advocacy role in the ATA Council Of School Counsellors and they are lucky to have her.

At a national level in 1999 , I was part of the first delegation of Counsellors to go to China along with my leader and friend Maria de Cicco as part of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association . My administrator and district supported me as a School Counsellor advocate on this journey. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will treasure and never forget.

Strong leaders are needed to be the voice along with School Counsellors . We need someone in Canada who has the same powerful, inspiring voice as Michelle Obama does here:

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Today although I am semi retired I still want to advocate. I believe School Counselling is one of the most important positions that every school still needs , maybe now more than ever.

So I say Canadian School Counsellors raise up your voices, if you want change , make it happen … be the change!!!!! We need your voice! Being silent won’t produce the changes needed across the country. You are valuable. You do matter . You are needed and you do make a difference.  YOUR VOICE MATTERS!

Want to know how to be a great advocate just follow the #SCCHAT feed on twitter to see how it’s done. Let’s join in Canadians with our world counterparts who are advocating and being the voice for School Counsellors worldwide.

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Emotional Intelligence : It Begins With Me.

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All emotions matter! What we do with those emotions matters as well. We need to help students understand that feelings are neither right nor wrong it is what we do with those feelings that truly matter.

If we want to teach students how to regulate their emotions then we too need to be able to regulate our own emotions. Modelling how we feel is important for students. If we are not afraid to admit when we are angry, frustrated or sad and we handle those emotions in an appropriate way , the students will learn how to do that as well. Being open and honest about how we feel in a respectful manner is great modelling for students and other educators.

Marc Brackett , director of Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence and expert in social emotional learning  has developed an acronym RULER for emotional skills that is helpful for educators:

R recognizing emotions in yourself and others

U- understanding the causes of your emotions

L- labelling your emotions

E- expressing emotions

R- regulating emotions

Educators and School Counsellors can and do make a difference in promoting the wellbeing and emotional intelligence of students. When we put ourselves in a childs shoes we may be more compassionate to how they are feeling. What is it like to be them? Could they be experiencing a roller coaster of emotions and how does this impact them , their feelings and their learning?

Sesame Street has some great videos that explain feelings and teaches students about emotional regulation. Here is a good example:

Emotional Regulation Resources for educators  :

APPS

The Mood Meter App  cost of 1.39 cents

Calm free

Headspace free

Moodmeter overview:

Helping students with mixed emotions:

Casel educating the heart educating the mind  is an excellent website for educators.

Teaching students to have meta moments.

One of the best strategies we used when my daughter was a teenager was for her and I to agree that when we were angry with each other or when our emotions were running high we would agree to back off and give each other space and discuss things the next day. Each of us would signal the other that it was ok to discuss when we were both more level-headed. I would call these mega moments. This strategy  saved our relationship in those emotional years.

Yes , it does begin with me. Being a lifelong learner I hope to be able to fully understand emotional regulation by reading the newest research so that I can best help myself, my students and my family.

What are some of the best strategies  you use as educators, parents and School Counsellors?

Focusing On What I Can Do … Instead Of What I Can’t

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This is my first blog post in a long time, I had eye surgery ( crosslinking  plus limited PRK I have keratoconus ) on November 23rd and I realized I have been focussing way too much on what I can’t do instead of what I can. So as 2018 begins, I am going to focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t!

I can ask for help when I need it ( this is so hard for a helper especially for me who is used to helping others).

I can learn to use the accessibility keys on my computer and phone.

I can write more , paint more, sing more dance more , be more ...

I can exercise more, eat healthier more, do more …

I can live more and spend more time focussing on what I can do!!!!!!!!

I can be kinder , more loving , more helpful!

I can elicit the help of others to do more of what I want to do and can do.

I need to stop that voice in my head that says I can’t drive ( for now) , I can’t see as well as I would like ( for now) , I can’t …  I can’t …

Oh yes I can, I just need to figure out how and do it. Just like how I figured out how to fix my computer at school and at home with bigger fonts. At work I asked for help, at home I googled how for my Mac system and did it! I asked for a bigger screen at work and can now easily use the scroll to increase font size to see my email. I am using the accessibility keys on my phone and computer to help me do lots of things. I can and do access online support through a keratoconus Facebook group. I am very grateful . This group and my friends and family have helped me a tremendous amount in my recovery process.

This is the first time in my life that I have lost my independence , but with help and support I can and will do lots of things … sometimes I just have to ask (even when it isn’t easy to do).

There are so many things I can do if I stay focussed on the I can! I can choose healthier options psychologically and physically. Not only can I … I will!

Anxiety: Plugged In Or Out? How Can We Help Mitigate The Effects Of Social Media On Our Kids?

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guest post by: S. Helen MacKinnon

The impact that social media has on kids is undeniable. A recent article in the New York Times highlights some of the more concerning issues.

I don’t think we need  much convincing that social media has had an impact on all our lives and it is not going away anytime soon. I am a neophyte when it comes to social media, but in my work with children and their families over the past 30 years has allowed me a first hand insight into the world of children and their families.

What can we do as parents, counsellors and educators to mitigate the impact that social media is having on our young people? As in any situation where we are trying to teach children, we ourselves need to be the role model. We need to examine the message we send our kids when we are engaged in use of our own devices. What parameters do we have for ourselves when it comes to use of devices?  Do we actually have discussions with our kids about amount of usage, times and places that are no go zones for adults and kids? Do we understand the  safety issues and if not do we educate ourselves about these issues and discuss them with our children?  Yes, with any privilege comes responsibility, both for us as the adult and for our children whom we must guide to be ethical digital citizens. Don’t let their media skills fool you! Although they appear to be very savvy in the area of technology, they do not have the life experience or a fully developed brain that allows them to project the outcome of what they may see as just having a little fun or wanting to fit in. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teen Mental Health Programs: What Works — and Why — in Schools?

Stan Kutcher is one of the leading experts when it comes to mental health. “Stress can be good and bad, Kutcher reminded us, and we need to be able to distinguish among the three types of stress responses identified by the Harvard Center for the Developing Child”:
1) positive (daily)
2) tolerable (regularly)
3) toxic (extremely rare)
“Instead of pathologizing “stress” as “anxiety,” what children and youth need most is “inoculation” to help build a more robust stress immune system.”
How do we inoculate stress ? It starts in early childhood and continues throughout adulthood. You may wish to check out one of my previous blog posts on coping skills.

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Seeing some 400 teachers and school service providers flooding into the Halifax West High School auditorium on July 20, 2017 was an eye-opening experience. In the middle of the summer, they committed time to a two-day conference focusing on child and teen mental health. Led by Dr. Stan Kutcher, the Mental Health Academy was filling a real need in the school system.

With the news full of stories warning of a “mental health crisis,” teachers in the K-12 system are feeling anxious and more conscious than ever of their role in the front lines of education.  What Dr. Kutcher’s Academy offered was something of a tranquilizer because he not only rejects the “crisis” narrative, but urges classroom practitioners to develop “mental health literacy” so they can “talk smart” with students and their parents.

The fifth edition of the Mental Health Academy, initiated in 2006 by Dr. Kutcher, studiously avoided…

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If We Know How to Do It … So Will They

With the new emphasis on digital leadership , I strongly believe we as parents and educators need to learn how to develop our own digital identity. How can we truly help guide students to learn concepts of digital citizenship , becoming a digital agent, a digital interactor, etc?

How can we help young people learn how to create change in their community or how to make the world a better place online if we don’t fully understand how to do so ourselves?

Joanna Sanders asks  great questions: What does this new emphasis on digital leadership look like in the classroom? How will this benefit our students?

Learning how to be digital leaders starts the day children are born and is a never-ending lesson. How do we celebrate all the good that our youth do while teaching them about privacy, collaboration and how to vet online sources? How do we become the models they need?

Let it begin with me I say … and yes it is never too late. I started learning how to become a good digital citizen almost five years ago after joining #etmooc. I am still learning today and take every opportunity I can to learn. I have made many mistakes along the way just as I did in my own parenting, teaching and counselling , but I really try to learn from those mistakes and model for others what I am learning daily.

I think we need to give educators the time during their days to learn along with their students. Being proactive means we need to learn alongside the students trying to master these skills we want them to have. They can teach us and we can teach them. If we want to drive change through technology we need to face the fear ourselves and take positive risks online. You may wish to join communities like #immooc, where you will find educators learning every day.

Digital citizenship is essential to what educators do. Join me as I learn along the way. You may find a few tips here .

Digital Citizenship Lessons are vital. Empowering proactive digital learners is a process. If we know how to do it , they will too . What do you think?

 

 

Anxiety: Threat or Gift?

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A guest post by : S.Helen MacKinnon

Often I am asked the question, ” Why do so many kids today suffer from anxiety ?” There is no easy answer to this question but there are many more questions that we need to ask. In particular, “What is it that appears to be causing such an increase in child and adolescent anxiety? Is it related to social media?  Are we over pathologizing what may be normal reactions to stressful situations in our environment. According to Dr Stan Kutcher, a leading psychiatrist from Dalhousie University, “anxiety is a gift we have inherited from our ancestors to protect us from threat and to kick-start ambition; to fight it we have to face it.” In order to “face it” we need to  first of all understand what is happening and then respond to it in a manner which will allow us to maximize the outcome.

In other words we can use the anxiety or stress, to benefit us in our day-to-day functioning.  If we see it as a gift, we respond from a totally different  repertoire or mindset than if we see it as a threat. A gift is something positive, something we welcome, something that may make things easier for us, or at times may challenge us and help us grow. How can we work with our kids to help them understand and see anxiety as a gift? What are some strategies that will help them develop a different mindset?  Additionally, what part does social media play and are we, as parents, educators, and counsellors, contributing to the mindset of threat or gift? In my next guest post I will explore these very questions and discuss ways to unpack the gift of anxiety.