Lessons for A New School Counsellor

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What do I believe are some important lessons for a new School Counsellor to be aware of ? These lessons will not be in order of importance, but are all lessons I feel are worthwhile for you .

Lesson #1: We can’t help everyone, but we can sure try to help the ones that come to us or are referred to us (and yes sometimes we need to go to them).

Students will often disclose very serious issues that you as School Counsellors need to address. Sometimes when you disclose to parents that their son or daughter is thinking of suicide or some other life threatening concern (the end result might be the student may never return to see you). Hopefully you have connected the student and their family to resources that can improve and indeed in some cases save their lives.

It is important for you the new school counsellor to not get discouraged if a student does not return to see you (don’t personalize it). You may have helped the students tremendously and yes indeed you may even save their life,  but they will be unaware of just how at this present time in their life. Know that students have stopped me in stores and other places years later to let me know what a difference I made. So hang in there knowing that you did what you needed to do. It would be great to help all students , but unfortunately even if you do everything correct sometimes we lose a student and this will be absoltely devastating. So make sure you always debrief and get help for yourself.

It is also important to be self-aware, so always run by big concerns with another counsellor and see if indeed there was something else you could have done or ask what if anything could you have done differently. Remind yourself that you are in a process of learning.

Consult… consult… consult… a lifelong lesson for ALL School Counsellors.

It is also OK to recognize that you are NOT a match for every student. Hopefully there are other counsellors in your school or outside agencies that you can refer your student to if this happens. I let students know that they have a choice when it comes to counsellors and they need to see the person they feel most comfortable and safe with. Hopefully, that will be you , but if that is not so that is OK too.

Lesson # 2: We need to base what we do on theoretical perspectives that are useful and helpful. Humanists like Carl Rogers and Victor Frankl have impacted me, but so too have others in the field of psychology like Albert Ellis, Irvin Yalom, Fritz Perls, Ed JacobsDavid Burns, Virginia Satir, Donald Meichenbaum, Claudia Black

and Mary Pipher to name a few. There is no one right approach. You need to discover what you believe and make sure the theories work for you and your students.

Each theorist has impacted the way I interact and help students. Along the way I have also worked with some amazing school counsellors , educators and supervisors who have also influenced me in a positive way. Thanks especially to Ed Jacobs, Diane Williams, Deana Helton , Erin Mason , and Helen MacKinnon.

Lesson #3: Find great mentors and learn from them. One of my all time favorites is Ed Jacobs. Ed is a genuinely helpful man as well as being a great therapist. I love how he interacts and works with young and old people alike and makes a positive difference in the lives of others. Check him out on YouTube here:

 

Lesson #4: There are so many people and resources you can learn from that can impact students in a positive way. I think Leo Buscaglia  has the best lessons that can be used in counselling students. I can honestly say I loved Leo . He was and still is an inspiration to me. Which brings me to an extremely important lesson … lesson #5

Lesson #5: Continually professionally develop yourself. Keep learning and learning and learning. One of my new favorite ways to do this is to connect with other school counsellors worldwide on twitter. See my past post on amazing school counsellors and what they are doing. My twitter handle is @sspellmancann. If you are not on twitter sign up TODAY! Join us in #scchat on the first Wed. of every month at 6:30 MT 8:30 ET. Post to #scchat anytime and there is always great resources there for you to access for free.

Lesson #6: Read great counselling books . A few I really like are : Impact Therapy by Ed. Jacobs, Creative Counselling Techniques by Ed. Jacobs, Group Counseling Strategies and Skills Jacobs, Masson, Harvill, Letters To A Young Therapist Mary Pipher, The Gift of Therapy  Irvin Yalom, and Mans Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.

As I think about the lessons I believe a new counsellor should be thinking about I realize that there are some practical considerations that a new counsellor might want to implement. Here are a few:

What are some basics that could be helpful to you as a new school counsellor? 

  • Write an introduction letter to parents letting them know who you are and what you do and post it on the school counselling and school website. (If  by chance your school does not have a website design a letter introducing yourself and put it in the school newsletter ( put it in the newsletter anyway.Tweet this out to students on the school twitter account and post it to the school Facebook account.
  • If you engage on social media please remember that NOTHING is PRIVATE ( even if you think it is ).  Digital citizenship is a lesson we all need to learn.
  • Introduce yourself to as many teachers as you possibly can. In a large school, this will take time.
  • Plan to meet with your administration team at THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR and least once a month. Celebrate what you do and how you are doing. Discuss what the expectations are of a Comprehensive School Counselling Plan and how you can work together to accomplish this.
  • Counsellors and admin should be joint leaders in any school.
  • Show initiative. Everyone in a school will benefit. If you have some great ideas don’t be afraid to share or try out your ideas.
  • Discuss limits of confidentiality with every student. You might want to put a poster of the limits on your office wall.
  • Visually make your office a space students want to be in.
  • Develop a monthly calendar of things to do and check off when you complete them.
  • Have a plan when meeting new students.  It is helpful to get a cell phone number so that you can follow-up.
  • It might be helpful to keep a notebook of all the things you need to know especially if you are in a new school or counselling a new age group.
  • You will want to find a simple and easy way to curate information. I use livebinders and pinterest. They can be extremely helpful tools for new counsellors as well as those that have been around for a while.
  • You need to be a positive PR person for the school counseling program , so find many ways to connect with students. Brainstorm with your colleagues ways to make connections with students so that they know who you are and what you do.
  • Connect with parents. Let them know through parent council or other means what you do.
  • Ask for help. You are not expected to know everything. Utilize the professionals inside and outside of your building for support.
  • Learn as you go about the many community resources that are available and put them in a binder or livebinder.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your innovative or creative ideas with your counselling team ( if you have one). They and you will benefit!
  • BALANCE we all benefit from taking care of ourselves. Don’t burn yourself out in the first year. Practice self-care.
  • You have a big learning curve. BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF.

I am adding one of my live binders called school counsellor resources. Please as in all my livebinders  take what you like and leave the rest.

For all of you who are new to school counselling have a wonderful experience and know that what you do absolutely matters.

My next Lessons for a new School Counsellor will be posted soon.

Welcome to the best profession in the world School Counselling.

Reality #IMMOOC

I love #IMMOOC and all the learning and connections in it, but keeping up isn’t easy in a MOOC and it is not supposed to be. The reality of everyday life kicks in. School gets busy, family responsibilities and life gets busy especially in the fall. We are all back to reality.

The nice thing about a MOOC is you can take what you like , do what you like , connect with people that you like ,when you like, how you like.

There are no failures!!!! Learning for the sake of learning is your option … without guilt.

I am grateful that I can particpate on voxer because it suits me to check in anytime from anywhere.

I also like that I can choose when to respond and where to respond and that I don’t have to do it all ( although I am tempted to want to ). So step into the reality and enjoy the learning along the way. If you learn 1 new thing or 100 new things it does not matter. Enjoy the process.

My goals:

  • Connect and share on voxer .
  • Read at least two blog posts and make comments.
  • Join in the live sessions as much as possible.
  • Blog once a week.
  • Put into practice somethings I have learned at work.
  • Follow the twitter and facebook feeds and learn from the posts.

Thanks to all for sharing . I especially love the live posting on twitter. Voxer peeps you rock , love all the learning. Amazing job Emily Clare @EClare_AHS for organizing and keeping the learning going.

Reality : No matter how much or how little you do in #IMMOOC  … YOU MATTER … YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE . You are taking the time out of your life as an educator and person to learn and help others knowing in the end that you will help students … How great is that?

For any of you who are School Counsellors , I know that this week you may have saved a students life that is your reality … so thanks just in case no one has noticed .

Enjoy your reality …

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

Lessons from Leo

One of my all time favourite educators and authors is Leo F Buscaglia. I started Hug Days in my school district because of Leo in the days when it was ok to hug students. I still believe it is ok to hug students , recognizing boundaries and always being respectful of students and their boundaries.

What did I learn from Leo that I still think applies to students and myself today? Here are some of the lessons i learned from the amazing Leo Buscaglia:

  • Be passionate
  • Love learning , love life, love yourself, love …

“Perhaps love is the process of leading you gently back to yourself” Saint -Exupery

  • Make yourself into the best person you can be, because you are all you have
  • Schools should be the most joyful places in the world
  • Be spontaneous
  • Live fully alive

“Oh God , to have reached the point of death,only to have found that you have never lived at all ” Don Quixote

  • Leo wanted us to live fully to enjoy every single moment of life

from another Leo more wisdom comes …

“I think the purpose of life is to be useful,
to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate.
It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for something,
to have made some difference that you lived at all.”

Leo Rosten

  • Accentuate what is right instead of focusing on what is wrong
  • Feel free to make mistakes and learn from them
  • Believe in change
  • Every time we learn something new we become something new
  • You control your destiny
  • Stop looking for or striving for perfection
  • Life isn’t always easy, but rise to the challenge to face life head on

“Everyone needs at least one person  to love them no matter what ” Leo Buscgalia

  • Be that someone for someone
  • You need a path with a heart
  • Be real , be you
  • There is so much more to know, to be, to do

A favorite question Leo liked to ask was … If you only had five days to live, how would you spend them? With whom? 

We need to always reflect on this and live … fully live.

  • Death teaches us what love is
  • Ask yourself “What are YOU giving to life?’

If you have never read Leo Buscaglia’s books do it now.The lessons are timeless. These lessons are from Living, Loving and Learning by Leo Buscaglia. Stay tuned for more lessons from Leo.

Hope : A Message We All Need to Hear


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The following post was written by Vince Fowler a Business Coach, Speaker and Veteran in Calgary . He allowed me to share it with you. I think it is one of the best posts I have read, thus I am sharing it with you. You can follow Vince on twitter @VinceFowler

It would appear that the lives of most people who actively post on Facebook  are somehow living the perfect life – a life filled with laughter, with joy, money, friends, love, appreciation, amazing holidays, best job ever, best opportunities ever, etc … etc.

At times, it just might seem to you that everyone around you is having more fun than you, that their life is somehow better, more fulfilling and more rewarding than yours.

That’s just not reality.

Everyone has challenges. Everyone has fears. Everyone has pain … and I truly believe that we all have our own demons & skeletons kept secretly in our closets … under the proverbial  lock and key.

“Help” is something that way too many people have a hard time asking for … and when issues go un-addressed, people begin to lose hope. And when all hope appears lost, the only available decision left in the room seems to be the exit-life door … and then they’re gone… just as Robin Williams is gone.

Sad. So very sad.

Please – do not feel that my life or anyone else’s – celebrities included – are better than yours. Everyone is a little messed up in their own way … I know I am.

Just because I post my joys, doesn’t mean I don’t experience sadness. Just because I post my excitement, doesn’t mean I don’t experience boredom. Just because I post my successes and aspirations, doesn’t mean I don’t experience pain and failure.

I wish Robin Williams were still alive. He was funny beyond belief. He shared his talents with so many for no other purpose than to make them laugh. Sure, he was rich and famous … not because he discovered a way to monetize his talents, but because people actually valued his art and his craft.

That said, Robin Williams clearly had issues – which means Robin was a human being … which means he was just like you and me. Sadly, he wasn’t able to deal with those issues. Because he was loved and appreciated by millions, millions are now mourning his loss.

I once heard many, many, years ago … a man can live 40 days without food. He can live 4 days without water, but he cannot live 4 seconds without hope.

I don’t judge Robin Williams … I will miss Robin Williams.

Thanks Vince for saying what so many of us feel. Teens are particularly vulnerable at this time and we want to make sure they are safe. Your message is a message for all!

If a person believes there is no hope in winning a game,you can visibly see their efforts drop

If a person believes there is no hope in a relationship improving, they sometimes immediately break up

I challenge you to look around and observe on your own

As long as there is HOPE , even a glimmer of HOPE, people keep trying

By Vince Fowler 2014

I want a future where we treat all human beings with dignity, respect with understanding and compassion. I want a world where we have better treatments for mental health disorders and a world where there will be no future losses due to these illnesses. I want a world where all people are not ashamed or afraid to reach out for help. It is more than OK to reach out for help there are many places and people where you can. There is hope and I have hope that we can help .

Susan Spellman Cann

Resource for teens in CalgaryHearing Youth Helping Youth 403-264-8336

Adults can also call the Distress Centre : 403-266-4357 403.266-HELP

Resources to assist with hope: 

Click here: Livebinder on depression

Click here: Mental Health resources for teens

Click here: Suicide prevention resources

Click here: Depression Resources : High School Counselling

Click here: Haiku Deck on hope

Lessons For A New School Counsellor … Lesson 11

Lesson 11:

Lessons 1-10 can be found  here.

Engaging the students and staff is critical when it comes to school counselling. There are many ways to engage the students whether it is one to one or in groups. At the end of every session I check in with the student to see how the session went. I will often ask something like how are you feeling about what we talked about and did in session today? What is the one thing you will use as a result of our time together? This allows me to gage if I have been helpful and if there is something I said that the student connected with.

It is also very important to develop relationships with your staff. If they 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.

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. Assisting 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.

What are your ideas for student and staff  engagement ? Please share below.

Canadian Coalition of Self-Directed Learning 2013

Click here for my @haikudeck   :   CCSDL Haiku Deck

Self- Directed Learning

“The basic assumption of SDL is that from birth to death, we live lives of learning: we first learn to function, then to live well, and finally to make a difference. Maurice Gibbons

What’s going on inside the building of Bishop Carroll is not only exciting, but innovative, educational and engaging. Not only are the halls of Bishop Carroll High School buzzing, but inside the offices of several educators learning is taking place.

Bishop Carroll High School , the oldest SDL school ( over forty years)  is a part of the Canadian Coalition of Self- Directed Learning.

Bishop Carroll works together with other members of the coalition to improve the self-directed experience of all the learners. These schools meet together on an ongoing basis as well as convene at a yearly conference to look at ways of improving the model for students.

As a staff member in a self-directed school I have never been in a school where so much focus and dialogue on instruction takes place on a regular basis. In fact, our staff has biweekly professional development meetings to ensure that we are able to collaborate on best practices and share new ideas. Teachers are continually focusing on how they can make things better for students in a self-directed learning environment.

This past week I attended the Canadian Coalition of Self- Directed Learning Conference in Edmonton. While I love learning about ways to improve what we do, I so love connecting with other educators face to face.

What are conferences about for me?

Celebrating: For me the best part of CCSDL conference is the students and what they gain from attending a SDL school. I loved the opening ceremony which celebrated students. It was very moving and reminded me of why I do what I do.


Here are some great videos from some SDL schools :

No Glory without effort:

Dancing Like A Model

Re Imagine High School

Check out the great video from Thomas Haney

Bishop Carroll Over 40 years of SDL

 

Connecting with our staff as well as others: Often times I am so busy with my day I get very little time to connect with other staff members. Conferences can be a time to do just that wind down and connect. I had so much fun with the thirteen people who attended the whole conference from my school. We laughed, had fun, shared and connected. I know this experience will assist us in being better at what we do in our school. We now have some great shared experiences that we would not have otherwise.

Twitter also allows me to connect with other great educators who work in SDL schools. A special thanks to @EricDemore for tracking me down . We had a great conversation and I look forward to staying connected. Also thanks to my new SDL twitter pals @CarmenGartner and @mrs_haddad

Collaborating: I was able to share ideas with staff from other schools as well as my own. I am sending this out on a google doc so that as many as want to can contribute at a later date.

Continually Learning: I have yet to attend a conference where I am not able to take back some ideas and use them. This conference was no exception. I loved some of the ideas that came from attending Garfield_Gini-Newman.



 

Collecting Resources: one of the absolute benefits of attending a conference is the resources you get and I love this resource from twitter:

 

A gigantic thanks to St. Joe’s for their books and treats and so much fun! I know how hard it is to organize a conference and you were all amazing. Kudos to you all for the hard work and allowing us to have such a great time.