Powerful School Counselling Voices Across the World

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I have been an educator since 1980 and a School Counsellor since 1999, but never have I been so passionate about School Counsellors across the world having a collective voice for the students we serve as well as being a support for each other. As I get ready for retirement I am no less passionate about what I do and what we do in this profession.

Advocate

I am so hoping during Canadian School Counselling Week and National School Counselling Week #NSCW17 that others across the world will step up and let us hear their voice. Be an advocate for this profession. A special thank you to my American colleagues who often step up to be heard and have made transformative changes in attitudes and practice for School Counselors.

There are so many ways to do this .

  • Speak up in your district
  • Take on leadership roles at the district, local , provincial, state, and national levels
  • Get someone like Michelle Obama to be an advocate for you “School Counselors You Are Heroes”
  • Post ideas on twitter, facebook, instagram
  • Blog, vlog, and/ or podcasts
  • Share your BIG ideas on advocacy
  • Share, share, share (we are better together)

Believe 

  • You can make a difference
  • You do make a difference
  • You can make change
  • You can stand up for students and your profession

Collaborate

I am a better person because I collaborate  with other School Counsellors. Collaborate with others in your own school, others on-line and others who are and are not educators who all want the same thing a better life for our students.

Let your voice be heard. There are so many counsellors who are focused, determined and willing to give hope to School Counsellors and their students. I would love to see more School Counsellors from across the world STAND UP,  SPEAK OUT, and  SHARE your wonderful knowledge to others across the world who care as much as you do.

You can if we collaborate with others and one of the best ways to do that is to join us each month as we chat on-line using the hashtag #SCCHAT

Celebrate:

Celebrate what you do  with students. Celebrate other School Counsellors and educators every chance you can.

Most importantly be grateful for all those who work together to make this a better profession. The unheard heroes who work tirelessly everyday to be the best School Counsellors they can be.

Those who:

  • help the most vulnerable of our populations
  • that go the extra mile in the caring department
  • assist students across the finish line of graduation
  • do small things that matter , but they never find out until years later
  • save lives, but are silent
  • spread HOPE daily

Remember you are that leader. Don’t wait to be asked , take action TODAY! Yes you,  no matter where you are a School Counsellor in the world ,YOU have a vimg_5570oice. Don’t just listen … be that voice so that together we can make not only the positive changes in our own communities that we want , but maybe we can make a change and a difference for some child somewhere in another part of the world that we never imagined we would.

TOP SCHOOL COUNSELLORS TO FOLLOW : here

Celebrate:

Worth saying again:

Celebrate what you do with students. Celebrate other School Counsellors and educators every chance you can.

Maritimers …stepping up to help

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One of the most stressful things School Counsellors ever have to do is assist a student who is contemplating suicide. We never want a child to feel so hopeless that they feel that there is no reason left  to live.

So I recognize how much courage it takes for a person that it is not in this profession to help when something so serious happens.  A gigantic thanks to two very courageous Maritimers who stepped up to help . Thanks Robbie for letting me share your story.

Robbie’s Story …
As most of you know, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time on March 1, 2012. That was the day I was able to help a young man from taking his own life.
It was just after 1 o’clock on a clear, but very cold day. I was pulling into my parking spot situated on the top level of the parkade. I noticed a young person sitting on the wrong side of the railing. To be honest, my first reaction was to grab my phone and take a picture of the young man who I would later know as (Stephen). I just thought he was a thrill seeker. He was texting on his phone,dressed in a warm coat with a hoodie underneath, and the hood pulled up over his head. I could not see his face as his back was towards me. As a matter of fact, I only got to see his face three times over the course of the next 25 minutes.
Just as I was about to take his picture (I’m still thinking he is young and cocky for sitting on the wrong side of the railing) he starts to turn his body slowly around. I start to panic and lower my phone so he wouldn’t see me taking his photo. His head moved very slowly back around, facing away from me. I never saw his face.
I was in a rush to get back to my office, so jumped out of my truck and headed to the stairs in the corner of the parkade. To this day I don’t know why I stopped short but things just weren’t adding up. I could tell he lived on the street. His clothes were very dirty and the speed his head was moving was very slow. It was freezing at -15, so I stopped and turned around.I walked slowly up to him and asked, “Are you ok?” No response. I asked him again. No response. I am about 15 feet away from him on his left side. I ask once more and he responds in a slurred voice, “Nobody cares”. My first thought when he said that was … oh my god, we’ve got a jumper! It went through my head just like the movie Old School.
Surprisingly I stayed very calm, plus he couldn’t see my face when I first realized he was going to take his own life. It wasn’t hard to tell drugs were at play as well. Not sure what to do after he responded, I moved closer to him. This is when my heart dropped. He shuffled across a four inch concrete ledge away from me. You or I couldn’t do what he did sober, let alone high on drugs. The positive thing was he stopped by a column and could put his hand on it to support himself if needed. He was shaking very bad and would act like he was going to jump two or three times.

I just kept asking him questions.
“What is your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“Do you miss home?”
“Do you miss water?”
Every question I asked him and he wouldn’t answer, I would answer myself.
“What is your name?”
“My name is Robbie.”
“Do you miss water?”
“I miss water, I’m from the east coast.”
For every 10 questions I asked, I would get about 1 answer in return, but we were starting to make a small connection. Finally he turned his head to see who was asking him all the questions and why. Then he turned away, but started answering a few of the question.
“What’s your name?’
“Stephen.”
“Where are you from?”
“The coast.” He slurred.
“What coast?”
“B.C.”
“Do you miss the water?” He turned slowly once more to look at me. This was the first time I saw his face. When all this was going on, I tried to get the attention of three cars that went by to call 911 for help, but no one stopped until Marty, a great guy from the Maritimes. He quickly realized what was going on and parked. I kept waiving at him to call 911, which he does. He walks slowly up and joins me and we both try to convince Stephen it’s not worth it. More time goes by and Marty and I are frozen, and so is Stephen. I was so scared he would fall, let alone jump. The parkade security showed up, but their radios were freaking Stephen out and he would start to shake as he was going to jump. We waved them to stay back a long distance.

The police also showed up and also stayed back with security. It was just the three of us. Marty and I took turns talking to Stephen and finally as I was telling him how cold it was, he just slowly reached his arm straight back as if to say, Ok, I’m done.
In a split second Marty and I had a hold of him and pulled him back over. Weird but at no time did I think we would drop him. I had the tightest grip ever on him, and so did Marty. From that moment, the police took over and got him downstairs and outside to the ambulance. I noticed when we pulled Stephen over, his phone fell on the ground. I grabbed it and looked at his last text. It was from his mother asking “are you ok?????” My heart broke,  but I got the police to call her right away. Turns out Stephen wouldn’t cooperate with the police unless I was there, so I sat with him until they got the information they needed. He left in an ambulance and I never saw him again.

I’m very grateful. for how this story ended  …  here is more of my story

For a better part of my life I have battled and struggled with anxiety and depression. Throw ADHD on that and you have a wound-up-top on a rollercoaster.Depression is something you hide easy. All you have to do it smile.

That day when Stephen and I were together, we made a connection. We both missed water, but I also made my own connection with him. The only difference between us was I was wearing a nice suit and he was wearing a dirty coat someone gave to him. I knew exactly what was going through his head.

  • Depression doesn’t know if you have a good job.
  • Depression doesn’t know where you live.
  • Depression doesn’t care if you are a good person or not.

I am very fortunate to have the best support people I could ever ask for. Two parents that are there for me for life and a wife that unconditionally loves and supports me. The one thing that’s harder to deal with than depression itself is to be married to someone that battles depression. So I am truly grateful for the support.
Don’t think that having depression slows me down. I have a saying “keep your feet moving” which I do very well. This doesn’t’ mean I don’t need help sometimes and it doesn’t mean I’m weak.
I think about many friends Mark and Colin, Felicity and family, Chad, Colette and family, Lori and her girls and their commonality is that they’ve all lost someone special. Someone that you never thought would take their own life. Someone that will never be replaced. Someone they loved very much.
They also gave me the courage to speak out and that it’s OK to talk about mental illness and depression. There probably will never be a cure for mental illness, but we always can be there for others. My father made a comment to me one time;
“Robbie, it doesn’t’ cost anything to care”.
Please understand that most people have some sort of struggle in life. Acknowledging and talking about it helps. Trust me, the best thing to do is to talk to someone who won’t judge you and who cares. They will never understand what you are truly going through, but can always offer love and support.

Robbie

Robbie thanks for being you and allowing me to share your story #bellletstalk  . I am sure someone reading this will understand that there are caring people like you and Marty who are willing to reach out to another human being when needed . I truly hope Stephen is alive and gets to read this some day knowing that two Maritimers who both live in Calgary were willing to step up to help.

ACCESS Mental Health
Provides mental health information and service options
Mon-Fri: 7:30am – 7:00p.m.
Telephone: 943-1500 (voicemail after hours)
Email: mental.health@albertahealthservices.ca

Health Link Alberta
Access to nurse advice and health information
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Telephone: 943-LINK (5465) Calgary or 1-866-408-5465 (Toll Free)
Website: http://www.healthlinkalberta.ca

Inform Alberta
General info about community, health, social, and government services across the province
Telephone: 2-1-1
Website: http://www.informalberta.ca

 

Adolescents and Trauma

 

Trauma has adverse affects that can have an long term consequences. We need to help youth recognize that:

  • Abuse is not their fault
  • They can be kind to others, but more importantly they need be kind to themselves
  • Connections count
  • Having a positive social network makes a difference
  • Mistakes are a part of a learning process
  • Positive self-talk can help
  • Learning how to make healthy relationship choices is an asset
  • Reaching out for help is a strength not a weakness

Bruce Perry a leading psychiatrist on child trauma has said that trauma is held in every cell of the body. It is no wonder children often have difficulties coping years later.

Thanks to Sheldon Kennedy for taking a stand when it comes to youth and trauma. His story will help millions. His courage will help young men and women to never feel like they are alone.

If you aren’t sure who Sheldon is then you must watch his movie and hopefully you will be inspired to help others understand they are not alone and that life can be very different once they receive the help they deserve.

 

 

 

What We Say and Do Matters

People have been asking me if I am really serious about retirement and yes I am , but that doesn’t mean I don’t really love my job anymore . I absolutely do. I plan on making this year great! Why? Because each and every day I work with students and what I say and do matters.

I am far from perfect, but I really try my best to help students and create a positive environment in the school I work in.  I love collaborating with educators and others that I know truly care.

I am often reminded that what I say and do matters and that is a scary and awesome responsibility. I never want to hurt a child or anyone for that matter, but I am human and I make mistakes . When I do I need to say sorry , make amends and do my best each and every day to be the best person I can be. I also recognize that I can be that one person who changes the trajectory of a students life , making a positive difference that they remember for a lifetime.

Does what you say and do matter?  … you bet. Students are watching us daily … so as I enter my retirement year I want my students to know that I love what I do and will continue to do so until the day I retire. I love being with them and helping them as much as I possibly can. I look forward to this year and will treasure the memories I make with each and every person that crosses my path.

What I Say and Do Matters  … and so does what you say and do.

Colour Your Way To A Healthy Mind High School Students Creating Change

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“Be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you.” … “Offer yourself to the world — your energies, your gifts, your visions, your heart — with open-hearted generosity.” – Parker Palmer

Our students are passionate when it comes to mental health and wellness. They continue to work diligently when it comes to mental health and anti.stigma spreading messages of hope. All year they have continuued to do things that make a difference. Finally due to the generosity of Gary Nissen and Empowering minds … Connex we were  able to produce this lovely colouring book for all to enjoy! Every year partial proceeds will go to a different chaity, but this year students chose the Children’s Hospital mental health unit.

Thanks so much to all those who collaborated with the wellness team to make this a very special project. Our photography , spectrum and who’s frank clubs. All know the importance of reducing stigma. raising awareness and improving overall wellness. We hope you have fun , relax and enjoy this students led project that is meant to touch your heart and make a difference. So let go, de-stress be as creative as you want . We hope you will be inspired to design your own colouring page while thinking about the messages that matter from our students.

There Is An Artist In All Of Us

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Five years ago I did not paint and now thanks to great friends and my experiences in ETMOOC  , I have more confidence and find it one of the most rewarding , therapeutic experiences that I can imagine. I take mini courses and I watch lots of youtube videos to get tips. It is so much fun.

I have keratoconus a progressive eye disease, ( I was diagnosed later in life ) so I think partly that diagnosis has driven me to create visually in case my vision ever gets really poor. Painting is therapeutic and healing for me. I have played sports all my life and I absolutely love to read,  both which can bring me flow , but nothing brings me the kind of flow that painting does.

Painting brings me flow the kind of flow that was discovered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  Fifteen hours can feel like five minutes for me. I love that it brings me joy and that I am completely absorbed in the process. It is fun and easy and yes I think anyone  can benefit from art and painting.  If I can you can too.

 

I plan on using the painting that I did above,  thanks to the online instructions from theArtSherpa ( see below) with our students. Art and Counselling definitely go together . Paintings tell stories often times with hidden messages.

Process for students:

Today we are going to embark on a journey of letting go of any negativity and go with the flow. For the next two hours you are not allowed to say to yourself I can’t . If you hear yourself speaking those words take your note pad and write I can … I will.

So let’s begin this process by being mindful and breathing. Lead students through a short mindfulness process to begin. Let them know that they are going to create a special painting today and that there are no mistakes. They can create their trees and painting anyway they like even if it is different from the paining they see. Like mine birch trees do not produce multi coloured leaves , but I did just because I wanted to visually and I  love the effect.  This seminar is about being yourself and letting go.

If they would like to follow the step by step instructions here they are:

  1. Write messages of hope and their dreams for their future in pencil on their canvas.
  2. Ask students if anyone would like to share their hopes and dreams with others.
  3. The size of canvas it up to the student. Have students bring the size of canvas they want to work on.
  4. Divide your canvas into six equal sections. They don’t have to be exact and you don’t have to measure them. Tell students they can estimate.  So begin by saying Today we are going to create . We are going to start by painting a rainbow with trees, you can use any method you like to paint your colors on your canvas. I used upwards stokes, but really any would work. Start with red, orange , yellow, greens,  blue and purple.
  5. Guide students through the process being as creative as you like in explaining what they can do next. Constantly remind them it is ok to make mistakes ( really there are no mistakes, but they may perceive them as such). Remind them that their perceived mistakes lead to more creativity and it is ok to be as creative as they wish going with the flow and what their heart wants to paint.
  6. Trees can be very symbolic and you can discuss this with students.Trees are strong and unique just like each of them. Birch trees can mean new beginnings. You can discuss with students what they believe their trees mean for them. I chose nine trees, but they can choose any number that means something to them. I also chose to add flowers and really birch trees have no colorful flowers, but I like the effect. The lovely thing when you create art just for the sake of it is that there is no right or wrong . There are no mistakes. It just is … creative , how wonderful and freeing.
  7. The rest of the directions are below in the video. You can watch and create your own instructions.
  8. Most importantly have fun and trust the process.

Check out the video below for detailed instructions:

If you decide to do this process with your students , please share your creative ideas with me @sspellmancann.

Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life

Pablo Paccasso

Celebrating What We Do

As School Counsellors we need to be leaders in celebrating what students do as well as what we do for students.

The past month has been a wonderfully busy month for us at school. It started off with our Who’s Frank #whosfrankyyc bake sale and the elephant in the room.

A big thanks to our Principal and fabulous leader @neilof12 who truly helped spread the anti. bullying message by being Frank.

Then came our Mental Health symposium again run by student leaders who I am always in awe of and so proud of the work they do.

A special thanks to @courosa for joining us virtually and to @brettrothery for sharing his courageous story.

We are also partners with Mount Royal University so I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on sexual violence. Such an important topic !

Next it was Career Speed dating where we had 37 guests share what they were passionate about and the process it took them to get there.

Thanks for coming Verena and bringing your husband. Community members who care!

So School Counsellors celebrate. Share what it is you do because together we are better and can make a difference.

I look forward to you seeing the book we have collaborated in creating Colour Your Way To A Healthy Mind High School Students Creating Change.  Coming soon to BCHS as well as our book made with grade 3’s Adventures of Frank at St. James. We can’t wait to share them with you.