Crisis Response: School Counsellors Are You Prepared?

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Handling a crisis can impact the school and the School Counsellor in ways that are unforseen. The School Counsellor often takes the lead along with administration in our schools, but may be missed in recognizing the support they need because of their uniques role in offering social emotional supports to so many.

This podcast below will help all School Counsellors in a preventative way . Thanks to Trish Hatch @hatchingresults for the excellent podcast on Putting Out The Fire: A School Counsellors Role in Times of Crisis.

Your comment,  “what’s unique about the School Counsellor is that they are involved in the crisis as well, what often happens is the School Counsellor puts their own needs aside as they take care of others.” This concept is so important for all to recognize. We are helpers and how we model handling a crisis is vital.  If we remain calm, then students and staff will see that . As a School Counsellor I know I often handled crisis with calm , but on the inside I knew I  would need support after the crisis was over. That’s why debriefing and supports are essential.

If we are the leaders in our Student Services teams, we need to monitor how our team is doing and if they have been triggered by the crisis for whatever reason. We need to step in and step up to support them. Even if that means letting them know it is ok to step back and let others handle the crisis. The School Counsellor may have worked with the student or students related to the crisis , so they may need time for themselves to process and take care of their own needs. We too as the leader may be impacted so we need to be self-aware and know when we ourselves need to step back. This is one of the many great reasons to have districts who have a district crisis team that can come into the school and assist.

We are most certainly in the uniques role of helping others , so having a supportive admin. team is essential. Fortunately for me I have had wonderful leaders who know, support and understand the role of School Counsellors.

I hope you will use this podcast as a reflective tool and a great segue to important discussions with your counselling teams.

For easy access to this podcast, click here and listen to the end. It is perfect PD all online  for School Counsellors.

At 20:00 check out Vanessa Gomez Lee where she discusses ( a crate, a file box) I’ll call it a CR Kit for SC that every School Counsellor should have .

All districts have an emergency response plan and lock down kits each unique to their district. The CR School Counsellor Kit will be different . What should be in the kit that is different from your lock down kits?

Crisis Response Materials

  • Brochures or other materials on natural responses to grief. So many other great resources here .
  • Crisis Plan
  • Important Phone numbers
  • Community Resources
  • Kleenex
  • Markers and Paper for Students to write or draw their feelings

What else do you think should be in this kit?

  • Water
  • Stress balls ????????

I would love to hear your ideas. Again thanks to all the great School Counsellors who not only take the lead in their schools , but are always willing to share and help others . Thanks #scchat!

 

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?

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?

 

 

What Do You Think School Is For?

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As I reflect on Seth Godin’s blog today I am thinking about all the educators and what they are doing each and every day as they start a new school year.

Seth reminds us

  1. that digital learning is a revolution that can transform people faster and with more impact
  2. to play as if it matters
  3. that dreams are difficult to build and easy to destroy

Check the rest of his talk out  here.

What do you think school is for and how will you make it better for students?

Ken Robinson always makes us think and I hope he does you too. Both Seth and Ken challenge us to move away from compliance and conforming to celebrating students learning. No learning … no education going on says Ken Robinson. So how do educators best go about helping students learn?

Ken reminds us

  1. that human beings are naturally different and diverse
  2. to light the spark of curiosity
  3. to awaken and empower a culture of creativity
  4. to individualize teaching and learning

Listen to the rest of his talk here:

What do you think school is for?

Digital Citizenship: School Counsellors Can Take The Lead

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“Nothing leaves a deeper impact on students than actually allowing students to see proper social media usage modeled daily by respected adults (parents, teachers, administrators) and by allowing students to use social media properly in the actual space” says Nikki D Robertson in her article Don’t Ban Social Media.

Digital Citizenship becomes even more important daily as students and adults figure out what matters online. As School Counsellors you can take the lead in this area. If you know how to navigate and model proper social media usage , then you will be able to assist the students you serve to do so too.

I know for me learning all the ins and outs was not easy ( and still isn’t ) , but the lessons were so important for me to learn as a seasoned School Counsellor. I am here to say we are never too old to learn and we should indeed continue to discover and educate ourselves. Every day I continue to master new ideas and believe we must start early to teach all students and all staff about digital citizenship.

Daily online, I see school administrators, counsellors , teachers and students who do not understand the basic concept of  EVERYTHING ONLINE IS PUBLIC. Even if you believe it is private … it is not. Many fall into the trap of the Illusion of Privacy.

If you’d like more articles on digital citizenship you can check out my online School Counsellor Talk weekly here.

I hope to see many more School Counsellors take the lead when it comes to this most important area in a comprehensive school counselling program plan. Won’t you join me on this learning journey?

13 Reasons I Personally Choose NOT to Watch 13 Reasons

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  1. Picking up the pieces. I work with so many vulnerable youth and one in particular convinced me to not watch.  This young person was incredibly triggered by watching the show and made me realize that I did not need to watch it in order to know the harm it could cause to those who are at risk.
  2. Was I curious?  Like most of you yes, and I do understand that it is compelling for both adults and youth to want to watch the series, but I also chose to not read the book years ago for some of the reasons I am about to discuss. For those who did watch … this is not a criticism, just a choice I want to make for my own reasons.
  3.  I think young people need to know that there are adults who while they may be very curious about the series will still choose to NOT watch . I know this show was NOT created to really help young people , otherwise they would have based the series on solid research around suicide,  how it is portrayed in media and the impact on youth.  I do realize the creators say they consulted with medical experts and had good intentions however, I do think they missed out on some valuable helpful information when it comes to suicide. Stan Kutcher , a Psychiatrist and mental health expert from Dalhousie University whom I respect believes the show could be dangerous to young people who choose to watch it.
  4. I do not need to see the show to be informed and personally I have NO desire to see a child die by suicide (even if it is television). Some things on TV are even too graphic for me.
  5. I choose not to be triggered by watching the show. I have worked with too many vulnerable youth. I know that I need to practice self-care . Watching this series is not going to make me a better parent , School Counsellor or Psychologist . Being able to discuss sensitive topics is essential and I believe I can do so without actually watching this series.
  6. I plan on reading as many articles as I can that give informed information that is helpful regarding the series .   The National Association of School Psychologists gives important information on how to do so responsibly.  Dialoguing and engaging youth in thoughtful conversations around sensitive topics is essential.  Yes, I certainly know a lot and I mean a lot have already chosen to watch and will watch this series , some will do so with their parents most I am guessing will watch on their own. Parents who watch can and will open a conversation that is useful and helpful with their child. I am just saying for me , I want students to know it is OK to not watch if they have not already done so.
  7. I want all people to know that suicide is complex. We are learning more and more about the brain . I am sure new research in the future will give us a better understanding of some of the complexities.
  8. I want students to know the protective factors, risk factors and warning signs of suicide. We have Canada Mental Health come in every year to speak to all our grade 10 High School Students.
  9. I want all students and adults to become more literate when it comes to mental health. All staff at our school are trained in the go to educator series. You might want to consider this for your school.
  10. I want students to know how to have better coping skills.
  11. This show is NOT hopeful . Students need HOPE in as many ways as possible.
  12. Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. THERE IS HELP!  If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult, like your School Counsellor or call Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868.
  13. School Counsellors across the world (#scchat) work very hard to let others know that they work diligently daily to help and serve students . They do save lives . They may possibly be the unsung hero in a child’s life , but that is not often the way they are depicted on tv or in movies and from what I have read definitely not in this series.   There are also lots of other people who do like parents, teachers, administrators, support staff, coaches, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, and friends. I want youth to reach out and keep asking for help until someone they trust makes that difference. WE DO CARE!!!!!

The opinions expressed in this article are mine alone. This is my choice and although I listed 13 reasons I could have listed many more. I do not regret my decision. I know it is best for me.

RESOURCES:

Canada Mental Health responding to Netflix series .

Personal Wellness livebinders : Several topics and resources can be found here .

For Educators Teen Mental Health teenmentalhealth.org

Connect Teen: 24 hour support 403.264 TEEN Link to website.

Kids Help Phone: A space for you. Link to  website

Police / Emergency : 911

Teen mental health Reasons To Live

I love this short video that our wellness team put together for our  Jack Summit .