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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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Lessons for a new School Counsellor Lessons 11 and 12

Lesson 11

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Engagement and Collaboration

Collaboration is key to being a 21st century school counselor and working with teachers is one of the greatest collaborative efforts school counselors can make on behalf of students.  Teachers and counselors have to work together to maximize their impact on student achievement and this can be done in a variety of ways.  Whether cross-walking standards for classroom lessons or talking about individual students, this partnership is essential to helping students to be successful.

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Engaging students and staff is critical when it comes to school counselling.

Student engagement is vital. How we do it can vary.   With so many students in a school you will most likely need to engage students online as well as in person. There are many ways to engage the students whether it is one to one or in groups. Learning to engage online was not easy for me , but it was super helpful. If you are a new School Counsellor #immooc  can help with this.

Here are some things I like to do and ask with students in person.

  • At the end of every session I check in with the student to see how the session went.
  • I will often ask how are you feeling about what we talked about in session today?
  • What is the one thing you will use as a result of our time together today? This allows me to gage if I have been helpful and if there is something I said that the student connected with.
  • Find ways to collaborate with students on student led initiatives on bullying etc.

Engaging Staff. Get to know your staff. Take time to have lunch with them. It is good for you to take a break and get out of your office. Helping students can be very draining at times especially if you are addressing more serious issues, so get out of your office and make time to recharge. Self-Care is important. If your staff feel you are helpful they will most likely refer a student to you.

We are all working together to enhance the success of all students so if students see us collaborating in their best interest while always maintaining confidentiality we will best be able to help them. For more information on teacher counsellor partnerships click here.

Lesson 12

Self Care… not just important Essential

School Counselling can be a very demanding career. I know it can be extremely exhausting as well as invigorating. School Counsellors often hear difficult stories and that can be energy draining. For many students Christmas can be a tough time. It is important for us to take time to heal as well.  Pay attention to how you think , feel and act.

The following article  discusses compassion fatigue and is such an important topic for any new school counsellor, but also for seasoned counsellors as well. Most importantly for all check out these self-care tips here.

Most importantly laugh and be with people who make you laugh and life as a School Counsellor will be so much more enjoyable.

Would love to hear your ideas.

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?