Saturday, August 27, 2016

Welcoming New Students

Back to school is an exciting time for most students.  I say most students because new students may find starting a new school difficult. It can be stressful going from knowing everyone and everything to knowing none of the other students, the teachers, school expectations, or the  location of the bathroom.

One of the things I love to do each school year is welcome our new students.  I start this at the beginning of  the 3rd week of classes.  Weeks one and two I am conducting my Meet the Counselor lessons during which my returning students introduce me to their new classmates. The new boys and girls now know my face, my name, my job and the location of my room. On Monday of week 3 I start my new student lunches in small groups of 4-6. I hand deliver invitations on the day of our lunch to students in their classrooms. I  think the hand delivered invitation makes students feel more special than if I just left it in the teacher's mailbox. My invitations are in black and white to save on ink, but I print them on colored card stock to make them look special. See invitation here.

Students go to the cafeteria with their class, but at the head of the line so we have as much time as possible for our group. After getting their lunches students join me in my room.  Our lunch together is a lot of fun.  We talk about any questions they have about their new school, what they like best so far, the friends they've made, what they like least, and what they miss about their old school.  I have a simple activity sheet (click here for activity) I have them complete with a list of favorite things and a self-portrait.  I count out a dozen M&Ms (or gold fish crackers) and have students take turns telling me their list of favorites. For each thing they tell me they can eat a piece of candy or cracker.  At the end of the group, I keep their self portrait, take a photo of each student with my special welcome photo frame, and give them a "new student treat bag."  It is a small, decorative cellophane bag from the Dollar Tree with items like stickers, a pencil, erasers, pencil gripper, silicone bracelet, and Smarties. It's not much, but the students really seem to like it.  Photos and self-portraits are then posted on the white board by my group table.


Clowning around with my awesome intern Christina!
Once I've met all the new students from the start of  the school year, I keep tabs on who is entering through my wonderful registrar who sends me a list each week.  As new students enter throughout the year, I offer the same new student lunch to them.  Meeting and greeting new students is an important role of the School Counselor. This brief time together helps new students more easily transition to a new school.  It gives them a feeling of comfort to know there is a safe and friendly adult they can turn to if they need help as they settle into their new school.



I hope you are enjoying this blog hop and are collecting some great ideas and resources for welcoming new students to your school.  For more blog posts on new students, please click HERE.



Saturday, June 18, 2016

Grown-up Bullies

Three years ago my parents decided to move into an assisted living facility (ALF) while they were still able to make their own decisions, get around, and make new friends.  My dad was the gregarious, outgoing one, he never forgot a name or a face.  That man could talk to a post.  My mom is the meek, quiet one who depended on Dad to meet people and provide the friendships in their couple relationship. Unfortunately, just one short year after moving into the ALF my dad passed away leaving my mom to figure out the friendship thing on her own. Mom is trying. She puts herself out there each day in the dining room, at the Bingo table, and on the facility bus trips around town. It is her experiences in each of these situations that  have brought to the front of my consciousness the fact there are grown-up bullies. Whether it is the nasty comments by a child hating table mate when my Mom had her great grandson of 8 have dinner with her, or the saving of seats at Bingo and telling my Mom you can't sit here, this seat is for "Velma" (who never comes), or the rude comments, to her face, because Mom took the full 90 minutes scheduled for the Wal-Mart bus run when the other residents were ready to go in 60. I help kids with this sort of thing everyday, but I was unprepared to help my Mom deal with her bullies.

Now you are probably thinking, I knew there were adult bullies I work with several or listened to one rant on the phone last week.   Of course, you can  just turn on the TV or listen to talk radio and find bullies too.  I guess I always thought of those things as adults with opposite views loudly expressing their opinions.  Although I know bullies are not just children making fun of or excluding one another, it was my mother's predicament that got me thinking about the bullies at every age and the grown-up bullies I realized I have dealt with this past school year.

As I considered my Mom's experiences, and my own, I came up with 4 types of adult bullies I have dealt with this year. Your experiences, however, may have taught you there are more.

The Boss:   This person thinks they are the boss of you, the teachers, the school. and well, the world actually.  They "know" what is right for you and everyone else and are not afraid to tell you to your face.  They point out everything that is wrong with a situation, but fail to take any responsibility for their part in it. They are part of the problem, never part of the solution.   I think of a recent phone call with a mom regarding the "bullying" of her daughter.  This parent DEMANDS I set up a meeting with the offending child and her mother so they can all meet and deal with this. She tells me there is no law that prevents me from doing that. And I will do it. Now you and I both know THAT is a recipe for disaster!  This mom was quite insistent until I quoted district and state statute about the process for handling complaints of bullying.  Then she backed down.  Strategy:  Remain calm and know your state and district policies.  Always do what's best for all kids no matter what the adults want. 

The Condescender: This is the most closed-minded of bullies.  They are visibly angry most of the time and their tone of voice is frightening. Everyone who is different than them is a target.  Whatever your gender, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status, it doesn't matter.  If you are different than the Condescender you are a target for verbal abuse and ridicule. My poor intern and I had to meet with a family where the dad was a Condescender.  She was quite sure he would pull out a gun and shoot us, he was really that hostile.  Very little was addressed about the problem with his child, but we heard plenty about all the other "losers" in our school and in the world. Now personally, I love this kind of conference.  I take it as a personal challenge to turn the situation around.  Did I change this Condescender? No, but we were able to reach an understanding.  Strategy:  Show no fear, be the best listener you can be, and find some common ground you can agree on. It is not important to be right.

The Thug:  This bully is not necessarily a thug like you might think of in a stereo-typical-criminal sort of way.  I use the term to denote power, might, and intimidation. Like an enforcer.  This person may be physically large or hold an important position in the school or community, or think they do.  When meeting with you they refuse to sit, but rather stand over you looking down, making references about who they know, who will hear about this meeting, what their attorney has said, and which TV station they are going to call.  Stategies: Always match their posture whether sitting or standing, listen more than you talk, remain calm, take notes, and only say things you can back up. Remember, in most cases, it's all just a lot of  talk.

The Sneak:  This bully is a very dangerous grown-up bully.  The trouble with the Sneak is you don't know about them until it is too late. This person is nice to your face, always polite and respectful. You may not see this person as a friend, maybe more like a friendly acquaintance, but you certainly don't see them for the toxic "pot stirrer" that they are.  However, what is said behind your back, in emails, texts, Facebook, and in private conversations to other faculty or parents is shocking.  You wonder what did I do to them?  Maybe they didn't get their way, they don't like the way you responded to a situation, or who knows?  Maybe they have issues of their own or just like the attention.  After all, why does anyone bully?  Strategies: Stay out of the fray.  Maintain your dignity, rise above their petty gossip, and trust that your honest and trustworthy actions speak for themselves. 

Have you encountered grown-up bullies?  At home, at work, in life?  Maybe you just thought of them as difficult colleagues or parents. How would you describe those you have met in your role as a School Counselor or even as member of the grown-up world?   It's easy to get discouraged and feel threatened in our jobs and personal lives by these bullies.  I know that's how my Mom feels. Now she just wants to hide in her apartment and not come out. So what did I tell my Mom?  What any good School Counselor  and daughter would say. Stand up for yourself, use your words, and stay strong! I'm here if you need me!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Reflect, Review, Research, Revise, and Relax!

In 2 more days students will be out for the summer!  And two days after that, I will be out for the summer!  I am already daydreaming about what those long unstructured days will look like. Travelling, reading, creating, and relaxing are high on my to do list, along with sleeping late, getting more exercise, and hanging-out with friends.  Whether you are out already or still hanging on for a couple of more weeks, there are some things you will want to do to start preparing your program for your best school year yet!

Part of the reading and creating I will be doing has to do with my school counseling program. Summer gives me the opportunity to think more clearly and deeply about what I want to accomplish in the next school year.  Flying by the seat of my pants has served me well as a Mom and many times over my years of being a School Counselor.  However planning as you go, while it can be stimulating and may produce some amazing lessons, can also be frustrating and leave your school colleagues questioning what it is you really do.  Having a well organized and data informed program does much to improve administrative support and increase the understanding of both teachers and administrators of how students are different because of what School Counselors do.

Reflect.  Take a moment and make a list of all you accomplished this year.  Feels a little surreal looking back on it now doesn't it?  Celebrate it!  Congratulate yourself on a job well done!  Look at all the things you did that weren’t even part of your plan, the teacher and administrative requests, ideas you saw on-line or heard about from another School Counselor. These were not things you planned on doing, but you rose to the occasion and handled them all!  There were a number of things I didn't do this year, but a lot more things I did.  Take the time to reflect on it all, feel pride in what you accomplished and make plans for improvements in the coming school year.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
Did I use data to inform my program?
Did I do all I set out to do?  
What did I miss and why? 
What can I do to correct this situation?
What are the things I did that were not part of my original plan for the school year? Were they worthwhile?  
Am I pleased with the impact of my program this year?
Was it the best it could be?
How did my faculty and administration respond to my school counseling program/services?
What can I do to improve on my program for next school year?
What did I do to grow both personally and professionally?

Review.  Start with data. What does your data for the 2015-2016 school year indicate are your school's greatest needs? Not sure what data to review?  Gather year end data in the following areas:
discipline referrals, attendance, students with D's and F's, students with unsatisfactory conduct grades, climate, student, and teacher surveys.

Take some time and look for patterns.  Disaggregate your data to pinpoint specific areas that need your attention.  Share the identified needs with your administration. Discuss your plans to meet those needs on a school wide basis with classroom lessons at Tier 1 and more specific help for students who need small groups at Tier 2. 

Research.   Take some time to research materials that will best meet the needs you have identified for your school population.  There is so much terrific stuff on-line for teaching classes and groups.  A lot of it is free or very inexpensive.  Of course there are great evidenced-based materials out there as well, costing hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. Choosing what you would like to use or will use, will depend on your budget and your administration.  Do your research and be prepared to make requests or offer informed suggestions for materials to meet the identified needs of your school. If you have demonstrated a school need with data, you may find yourself in a position to make recommendations to your administration for the resources to meet that need.  Be prepared!

Revise.  Look at your School Wide Counseling Curriculum Plan and begin making changes that reflect the needs you saw in the research you did with your school's data. If you don't have a School Wide Counseling Curriculum Plan, it is a great tool for laying out your school counseling program. It is like a calendar of your program for the year.  It gives an overview of all you have planned from groups to classes to parent meetings, professional development, special events, school wide programming, assemblies, committee meetings and more.  It is a great tool for planning with your administration, to lock in dates and venues you will need when implementing your school counseling program. If you are unfamiliar with the School Wide Counseling Curriculum Plan, take a look at the one I created for my school this past year HERE.  I have included a blank template HERE so you can begin your own planning.

Relax.  And now it is time for family, friends, and fun!  School Counselors work hard at taking care of others, but not so much when it comes to taking care of ourselves.  We need this time to rejuvenate our body, mind, and spirit.  It will be much easier to do if you've reflected on your year, reviewed data, researched materials, and revised your School Wide Counseling Curriculum plan.  So whether you are out for the summer or still have days or weeks remaining, take some time to reflect, review, research, and revise in order to have the most relaxing summer possible. You will return to school recharged and ready to launch your best school year yet!


Happy Summer!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Surveying Your School Counseling Program



There are many tasks School Counselors attempt to accomplish before the end of the school year. One of the most important of these is getting feedback from your classroom teachers.  Yes, a survey can be a scary and risky thing, however it is an excellent tool for gauging the perceptions and opinions of your faculty.  Are there surprises?  Yes.  Are there unkind comments? Sometimes. Are there totally unreasonable suggestions? A few.  But,  even this information is valuable data and allows you to address the misconceptions and misinformation that may be present among your faculty.  A survey informs you of where you need to focus your energy and in what ways you need to educate and better serve the needs of your school population.  It helps with building relationships and community and many times provides insight into some of the more perplexing responses you  may have encountered during the school year.  People appreciate an opportunity to share their thoughts in a nonthreatening format. And although there are inevitably some negative comments on every survey, the majority are supportive.

This will be the 3rd year I have used Google forms to survey my faculty about my School Counseling program.  Each year, there is some remark or score that gives me cause to stop and reflect on my current practice. And really, that is what it is all about, reflection and continually improving our program and ourselves.  Yes, surveying your faculty requires a strong sense of self and at times, a thick skin.  The programming you thought was so terrific, may not have been as well received by your faculty as you thought.  The classroom lessons you did may not have been as effective and  your response time to a teacher request may not have been as prompt as you thought.

I learned last year, teacher perceptions of district mandated procedures for handling bullying were thought to be my procedures and there was a lot of resentment about how was bullying was handled. I would have never known this without giving my teachers the survey.  I also learned I made erroneous assumptions about my faculty understanding of the role of the School Counselor.  With about 10 faculty new to our school, it turned out there was quite a bit of confusion about the role of the School Counselor on our campus.  This was reflected in the ratings by my faculty across the survey.  All good information for how I needed to educate my faculty.

Surveying your faculty is easy and non-threatening when using Google forms.  You simply copy and paste the survey link in an email to your faculty, allowing them to anonymously provide you with feedback on your program.   I know it is a scary thing to do, but the data you will receive is important for your personal and professional growth and the growth of your School Counseling program.

Copying the  Google Form
Click here to view my Teacher Survey of the School Counseling Program .  The questions are a compilation of questions from a variety of forms I found on-line and in an old paper file I had of teacher surveys.  Please remember, this is a live Google form, so you must make a copy before using this form or making any changes.   To make a copy, first you must have a gmail account.  Next, you click on  the 3 vertical dots in the  top corner to the right of the send button. There you will see "Make a copy,"  click on that.  Next you will be asked to  name your copy and click ok.  Your copy of my form will now be on your Google drive under whatever you  have named it.  After making your own copy, the form is yours  o edit  to fit the needs of your school.

Emailing the Google Form
To copy the link to an email, click the "send" button in the upper right hand corner of the form. You will see 3 icons, choose the middle icon that looks like 2 ovals linked together. That will provide you with the link to copy and include in your email.  When your faculty clicks on the link it will take them directly to your survey.  You will be able to view your results in your Google drive by clicking on the response sheet created automatically and named the same as your survey.


Good luck!  Surveying my teachers is one of the best things I have done to improve my services to my students and faculty.  I hope you will find this to be true for you as well.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Emergencies, Crisis, Disasters: Do You Have a Plan?

You get a call at home or a request to come to the Principal's office.  The conversation starts with words like, "There's no easy way to say this," or "I have bad news," or "There's been an accident."  A lump forms in your throat and you catch your breath. You prepare yourself to hear about a tragedy that will impact the life or lives of your faculty, students, and their families.  You listen, you process, you plan, you put your emotions on hold, and then you take action, because that's what School Counselors do.  But sometimes, even we need help.

School Counselors are no strangers to tragedy.  We deal daily with the individual and personal tragedies of our students and colleagues.  Usually those daily tragedies are minor on the scale of a national disaster, but they are monumental in the lives of our students and our school. They require our caring, compassion, skill,  and training. The accident on the playground or at PE, the unexpectedly severe allergic reaction to an insect bite, the family custody battle, a parent going to jail, the death of a pet, the major student meltdown, the abuse report, the irate parent, the cutting, or threat of suicide all are handled in the course of a fairly typical week.

Occasionally we are called to offer our services in response to the death in a student's family, a house fire, a car accident, or the diagnosis of a terminal illness.  Rarely, although it happens, we are called to respond to the death of a student or staff member, a natural disaster, a fire in our building, a violent crime, a hostage situation, or terrorism.  While our emergencies or crisis may vary depending on the size, geographical location, and the age of our school population and facilities, the need for a prepared response to crisis and intervention is important.

Does your school or district have a Crisis Plan? A Crisis Team?  If so, do you know what your part is in that plan?  Have you been briefed on your role on the Crisis Team? If you don't know the answers, these are important questions to ask.  A school based crisis plan and a team prepared to implement it can mean the difference in stability and chaos in an emergency.  Below are some great resources School Counselors can share with administration to help their school get started in creating a crisis plan.

School Counselors will also find the websites, articles, and apps below full of valuable information from helping a student handle the death of a family member to helping the school cope with the death and loss resulting from a natural disaster. These resources represent a small sample of the detailed, professionally prepared websites and information for dealing with crisis that can be found on the internet.  Please know they are there if you need them.  It is my hope and prayer you never will.

School Crisis Guide, published by the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEAHIN) This 52 page guide is my personal favorite and an excellent resource of things to do before, during, and after a crisis.  It describes the roles of the entire school, but School Counselors can easily discern the roles for which they would most likely be responsible. This is a great publication even if you have a crisis plan.
Practical Information on Crisis Planning  A US government publication that can be printed from this link (132 pages) or ordered  for free at ED PUBS .  It takes about 10 days for delivery.
ASCA Resource Center has a lengthy list of resources and websites for all types of disasters and crisis, however you must be a member to access this resource.
Supporting your Student After the Death of a Family Member or Friend. Another resource from the NEAHIN for helping students who have experienced a death and some suggestions to share with caregivers about how to approach the funeral or memorial service with children.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has an amazing website that has more resources than can possibly be listed here. Make a visit and look under the Trauma tab at Natural Disasters and School Violence.  Also check out the Resources tab under Resources for School Personnel. The layers of information here are deep and there are links to additional websites and resources.
The National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at the University of Southern California is a excellent website with training modules for staff, sample letters for notifying students, parents, staff of a death and guidelines for responding to the death of a staff member or student.  There are also links to Psychological First Aid and supporting survivors of police line-of-duty deaths.
Guidelines for Responding to the Death of a Student or Staff Guidelines for School Counselors and Crisis Teams. A great resource.
When Families Grieve  from PBS and Sesame Street, tips for parents, printable tools and links to online resources.
Disaster Master computer game kids learn to handle disasters from house fires to earthquakes in a game format from FEMA.
Youth Emergency Preparedness Curriculum grades 1-12  These materials teach kids what to do before during and after an emergency.  They foster skills such as problem solving, teamwork, creativity, leadership and communication.
Talking With Kids About the News from our friends at PBS (Public Broadcasting). Tips for talking to children of all ages about the news.
Threat Assessment at School  brief facts and tips from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).
Resources from the NASP more information on safety, crisis,and mental health.
Going Back to School After a Tragedy   an article from the Child Mind Institute website.


                

Help Kids Cope  is an app available from iTunes store or Google play. It helps parents know how to prepare kids for 10 different types of disasters and what to say to help support kids throughout.
PFA Mobile  app materials are adapted from the Psychological First Aid Field Operations Guide. It helps responders self assess their readiness to conduct PFA and assess and track survivors' needs.
SAMSHA Disaster App allows responders to focus on the needs of people.  Provides access to resources for any type of traumatic event.  Has tip sheets and guides for responders, teachers and parents, and a directory of behavioral health services in the affected area.




Friday, March 25, 2016

Keeping Up with Your Tech Savvy Kids

I recently presented a "Cyber Safety Night" at my school in an evening session for parents.  We offered babysitting, snacks and provided an hour of information for parents.  About 6 weeks later, I was invited to share my cyber safety presentation at the school of one of my School Counselor colleagues for her "Parent University" in two 25 minute sessions.  Although the numbers were lower than I would have liked, the parents who attended were appreciative and reported they learned a lot.

Why a Cyber safety night?
The number of devices children own or have access to has risen dramatically.  When I surveyed parents, there were about 9-10 internet accessible devices in each home (in families with 1-2 children). Gone are the days when there was one computer in the family room where you could see where your child was going and what they were doing.  Now they have smart phones, tablets and handheld games which can access the internet anytime, anywhere there is WiFi.  Gone are days when looking at pornography was done in the woods with a "dirty" magazine provided by some older kid with a bad reputation. Kids with smart phones can view anything, including pornography, in the backseat while parents are driving in the front. They can even view it innocently by mistyping a search or purposefully by typing specific words in Google images, "porn" on Twitter, or any number of seemingly innocent hashtags on Instagram.

I think the best analogy I heard about children and the internet was about 10 years ago at an internet safety program I attended.  The idea was we don't let our children drive without instruction, lots of practice, and a license, yet we allow them to go free wheelin' on the internet, the information superhighway.  I tell parents their kids may be more tech savvy, but we are more experience savvy.  The internet is a wonderful place.  I love being able to connect with friends, plan vacations, look up a " how to" on YouTube or research a new topic or idea.  And kids love to be on the internet too.  But I know NOT to overshare, accept friend requests from strangers, click on pop-ups, and share personal information.  I know to keep my settings on social media private, what to do if I receive creepy or inappropriate posts, not to post anything written, a photo or video I wouldn't want to see on the front page of the newspaper, not to respond to phishing  emails, and more.  But kids are not aware of all the dangers on-line.  They go to a site because their friends said go or they click on a link that offers something for free.  They accept friend requests because it is a friend of a friend or they are trying to raise their "friend" count. They share passwords, their location, and other information that should remain private. They post provocative photos, sext, and are exploring apps that are inappropriate for their age. Our students are placing themselves at risk for damage to their reputation, identify theft, and being approached by a predator.

The Counselor's Response
For the last 9 years, I have been collecting data from my 3rd-5th grade students. I use an anonymous Survey Monkey survey to learn  about their internet usage and bully/cyberbully experiences. The data was surprising and occasionally alarming. The survey results led me to create an annual presentation for parents. My goal was to increase parent awareness of how their students are using the internet and the risks students face on-line.  This presentation takes place at an independent cyber safety night, as part of our Bulldog Bonanza, or at a PTA or SAC meeting. I also use the student survey data to support and guide my classroom lesson plans on internet safety and bullying.

Cyber safety Presentations
Below are links to my 2 cyber safety presentations, both have the same basic information. The longer version  has video clips and contains information on predators and cyber bullying.   Prior to presenting to the parents at your school, I would encourage you to take a quick survey of your own students using Google forms to see where they go and how much time they spend on-line.  The survey below is very basic.  However, it will help you when you present to be able to share relevant information with parents about the students at your school.

Keeping up with your Tech Savvy Kids  (35 minute PowerPoint)
Internet Education for Parents of Tech Savvy Kids (about an 1 hour PowerPoint, maybe more depending on audience)
Google Form for basic data collection about internet usage
CAUTION: This is a live form. After opening this form make a copy.  Go to File on the left side of the form and click. You will see a menu that says make a copy.  Click and rename your copy so it is saved to your personal drive account and all responses will be confidential and relevant to your school.

 


If you download these presentations, and especially if you do a Parent Cyber Safety night, please leave me feedback here or on my Exploring School Counseling Facebook page.  I am always interested in your and your parents response to my programs. I am interested too in learning ways you think I can make these presentations better.

Have you done a Cyber Safety Night?  I would love to hear about your ideas and programming!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Use of Data in School Counseling : The Book, the Woman, the Workshop!


I first heard Trish Hatch speak about 18 months ago.  That day she rocked my School Counseling world and like a new convert, I have been trying to spread the word ever since.  I saw her keynote at the  FSCA conference, attended her  break-out session, bought her book and have never looked back!  That 45 minutes in the ballroom of an Orlando hotel forever changed my view of school counseling.

Even after the "high" of attending the conference and going back to the daily routine of my school day I was eager to make the miracle happen.  I read Trish's book the Use of Data in School Counseling, joined a weekly on-line book club that was studying her book, started experimenting with Google forms for data collection and passionately spoke to my PLC.  My  PLC is full of great counselors I am proud to call colleagues and friends, and they listened to me.  However, I'm not sure they "got it,"  but I would guess  that is because they had not had "the Trish experience!" In March 2015, I had the good fortune to see Trish again in Kentucky at the Evidenced Based School Counseling Conference. After another riveting keynote, I was inspired to create the 21 Day Daily Data Challenge. The idea began to form as I listened to Trish talk about measuring just one thing. I felt empowered as I returned to school and began collecting my own data and challenged myself to do just one thing.

School Counselor Workshop Heaven
In January, the Florida School Counselor Association (FSCA) and Universal Technological Institute (UTI) sent an email announcing they had teamed up to bring Dr. Trish Hatch to Orlando for a one day workshop on her book The Use of Data in School Counseling.  I guess my PLC had heard enough from me about how this book, this woman, this workshop would forever change the way they did school counseling that they were interested enough to see her for themselves.
So this past Monday, 10 members of our Westside PLC  and a high school counselor from our district were granted leave and funded by our administrators to attend this powerful workshop.  From 8:30 to 3:30 we were engaged in truly relevant and exciting School Counselor professional development. Now how often does that happen?

Trish  took us on a rapid fire journey through her book with lots of opportunities for questions and sharing. We covered data, SMART goals, the comprehensive school counseling plan, master calendars, disaggregated data, and discussed the use of a School Counselors time.  In addition to the awesome instruction we received from Trish herself,  we were served a delicious breakfast and lunch by our host UTI, had an informative and fascinating tour of their campus and walked away with an autographed copy of Trish's book.  It was an amazing day!
Volusia County School Counselors represent with Dr. Trish Hatch

The Feedback
As we took our first break, that morning I was eager to learn if my colleagues were as excited about what they were hearing from Trish as I was. You know, sometimes, when someone builds something up for you like a book or a movie then you see it for yourself you go, "Meh, not such a big deal."  I didn't know if my fan girl feelings would have distorted their view of Trish and her message.  But no! During our first break I checked in with each of my colleagues and ALL were really glad they came!
They thought Trish was personable and appreciated her interaction with the audience, her humor, insights, and her understanding of the job we do each day.  Her energy drove the day and our group left feeling inspired and empowered.

Debriefing
On the drive home our heads were literally swimming with possibilities about ways we could begin implementing Trish's practices at our individual schools.  Our car of 4 was brainstorming what we were doing now  that we could begin collecting data on. One of our group who drove separately described herself as "giddy" as she drove home.  It was exciting to see my colleagues catch the vision and passion I had been talking about for the last 18 months!

Our PLC met a few days later and spent some time discussing the things we had learned.  I heard comments like: "She (Trish) gets it!  She gets us!"
 "I never thought of including my data goals in the School Improvement Plan. If I did that I would have to be allowed to do what I need to."
"You all know I'm a dinosaur when it comes to all this technology stuff, but I really think I can do this."
"She (Trish) was speaking my language.  None of this ever made sense before, but now I get it."
"I love how she (Trish)  checked to be sure we were understanding things, and went back and explained things again if we didn't."
"It all seems so doable now."
"I couldn't believe the things we saw when we started disaggregating data!"  Makes me wonder about all the data we are shown each day."

It's a marathon, not a race.
The excitement and the eagerness to make it all happen right now is real.  But, we have to remember it doesn't happen all at once especially for those of our group who are testing coordinators, acting as pseudo-administrators, or work in a school that does not value the role of the School Counselor. Trish told us it is a marathon, not a race. She encouraged us to look at implementing data as a  process over a 3 year period. Measure one thing, show the results and repeat. All the evidence you need is in the data.

So where do we go from here?  Each member of our PLC is excited to dig deeper.  Our next PLC meeting is in 4 weeks and we plan to bring in our 3rd quarter data to practice disaggregating it  and writing sample goals and action plans together.  There was discussion of an online book club to encourage one another to read and dig deeper into Trish's book. We also discussed a retreat of sorts for the day after school is out with each of us bringing our end-of- the year data to disaggregate, set SMART goals, make action plans, and create a master calendar for the 2016-2017 school year.

I see our PLC  at the starting line of the marathon now.  We are still getting warmed up but are ready to go!  We  feel empowered  to go the distance with our new knowledge and tools and to make a positive impact in our schools. With a common vision and the encouragement of one another, I have confidence our PLC is going to be leading the way with some exciting changes in the future of our schools and our district.

If Trish Hatch comes anywhere within driving distance of where you live, I strongly encourage you to attend one of her "Hatching Results" workshops! It is real professional development that will re-shape the way you think about School Counseling and empower you to use data to show everyone how students are different because of what YOU do.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Say it Like you Mean It! A Better Way to Say Sorry."

 I recent repetitive swirl of girl drama got me thinking about apologies.  These girls are superstars at hurting one another and amateurs at apologizing.  Picture this,  Girl A  takes a big huffy breath and with an eye roll  says in an exasperated tone, "Sorry." To which Girl B replies without making eye contact in a barely audible voice,  "That's okay."  Well, it's not okay.  Not for me and definitely not for them. They will be back.  You know it and I know it.  It's just that I have several problems with this exchange.  For one, the offender is taking no responsibility for what she did.  Secondly, the whole voice, facial expression, and body language of both parties tells me this is NOT over.  Third, the receiver of this less than academy award winning performance responded with "That's okay."  Actually it's not okay, you were hurt by another human being.  By saying "That's okay," it's like one person is telling the other it's okay that you treated me badly.

 Of course there are other deeper issues here dealing with friendship and self-esteem, but the quick flippant "Sorry," seemed like a good place for me to start. If  students can learn  to have empathy and confidence in  their ability to do something as basic as apologizing,  then maybe this is a foundation I can continue to build on.  Their dramatically negative sorry was not working.  Not for me or for them.  I knew their "apology" was just a band-aid and so the whole exchange really bothered me. A lot. After giving it some thought, I decided learning how to give a sincere apology was such a valuable social skill I would teach it to all my students in grades 3-5, not just my drama girls. Below is the article on which I based my lessons.

Over the summer I read an article called A Better Way to Say Sorry. It is amazing and you will definitely want to take the time to read it. In it blogger Joellen, at Cuppa Cocoa, talks about teaching her class how to apologize after attending a workshop.  I was astounded at the simplicity and impact such a small thing had on her class.  So I thought I would give it a try by creating two classroom lessons around the steps to apologizing from Joellen's blog and the book Sorry, by Trudy Ludwig.


Lesson 1 Involves some partner talk, reading Trudy Ludwig's book Sorry, discussion about the book and a PowerPoint presenting the physical and verbal elements to saying sorry and what that would look and sound like.

Lesson 2 Involves teaching the steps to "A Better way to say Sorry," and some class role playing with their shoulder partners and for the class.

Lesson Plans for How to Say Sorry
How to Say Sorry PowerPoint
How to Say You're Sorry Lesson Plan 1
How to Say You're Sorry Lesson Plan 2
Apology Role plays
 Steps for How to Say You're Sorry poster for school and home

My students seem to "get" this lesson.  They have all either given or received an insincere apology and they understand how powerful it can be to receive a sincere apology from someone who has wronged you. They have also done a masterful job at role playing, especially with the part in the apology where they must take responsibility for their actions.  My next step is to send home the "How to  Say You're Sorry" steps and to share the steps with classroom teachers.

These lessons teach a valuable social emotional skill students are too often missing.  I hope your classes enjoy these lessons as much as we have.

Many thanks to Joellen at Cuppa Cocoa for her permission to share her article and method of teaching children to say sorry.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Is it Rude, is it Mean or is it Bullying?

I don't know about you but I grow weary of the constant reports of students being "bullied."  Now I know there are children who are truly being bullied, who are afraid to come to school, find it difficult to concentrate on their work, have no friends, and are withdrawn and depressed because of the constant abuse of a school bully.  When real bullying occurs, I am the first to advocate for any student in that situation.  I investigate each claim and I do everything I can as a School Counselor to empower and support the student targeted, involve parents and administration who address the situation from a  legal and disciplinary angle, and get help for the bully.

But, that is not what I am talking about here.  The word bullied has become a real hot button.  I know, you know what I mean.  I am talking about those students and parents who call every unpleasant exchange between students bullying.  No matter how few times or infrequently a student experiences an unkind remark, teasing, or physical interaction it is called bullying.  It is a word that is increasingly used to describe any situation where a student has gotten their feelings hurt whether intentionally or unintentionally.  Parents and students utter this word and we spring into action to investigate their report of bullying.  And because of our response, I have come to realize it is a word our students will often utilize when the attention is on them for some wrongdoing. Our students have learned they can instantly control any situation and shift the focus of teachers, and especially their parents, from their troubles if they claim they are being bullied.  What I needed was a way to educate students and their parents about the difference between conflict and bullying.

Last year I came across a wonderful article written in 2012 by Signe Whitson, Licensed Social Worker, School Counselor, author, keynote speaker and Chief Operating Officer of Life Space Crisis Intervention Institute. Many of you may be familiar with her article titled, Is it Rude, Is it Mean or Is it Bullying?  In it she explains  how everything isn't bullying and how many people have difficulty discerning what is and is not bullying.  Signe  also mentions how she first heard best selling children's author Trudy Ludwig  "talk of these distinguishing terms" and  then went on to use them in her own work.  As I read her article I thought, this is what I want my students and parents to know, so I began work on creating a set of classroom lessons.

 Along the way I ran into a bit of trouble with my students failure to comprehend the differences in these terms. So I went straight to the source and contacted Signe myself.  She responded to my email and then gave me her number and invited me to call her.  What an honor to share my experiences and ideas with her.  Signe listened to my concerns regarding my students and their struggles with her vocabulary. She directed me to her website resource page and recommended I use her forced choice activity to help my students think more critically about the definitions of rude, mean, and bullying they were learning.  I did, and they loved it!  I could see them making the connections as they moved from corner to corner in response to Signe's scenarios. They were thinking and questioning and arguing convincingly about how some situations might be mean rather than rude and it would depend on how it was said to a person.  I could see their point.  They were  internalizing the concepts and questioning the dynamics of the scenarios.  It was truly exciting!

My students and have have enjoyed these lessons on "Is it Rude, Is it Mean or Is it Bullying?" Below you will find a brief outline of the 5 lessons I have created, my activity forms and PowerPoint too. I based these lessons on the work of Signe Whitson. I publish them here to share with you with her permission. Please visit Signe Whitson's website for more information about her work on bullying and aggression.

LESSON PLAN FORMS and OVERVIEW  
Click here for  Rude, Mean, Bully lesson plans 
Pre/post test (non-tech option)
Kahoot! link 
Rude vs. Mean vs. Bully PowerPoint
Inappropriate Behaviors Brainstorming sheet
Signe  Whitson's Forced Choice Activity
Rude, Mean, Bully Behavior Statements

Lessons 1:  The pre-test.  For those with technology resources I have created a Kahoot!
(website for game-based learning) for gathering pre/post test data.  I have also include a "non-tech" option (paper and pencil) for those who do not have access to technology.

Lesson 2: A PowerPoint introduction to the rude, mean and bullying vocabulary and a brainstorming activity on thinking of examples of things that are rude, mean, and bullying.


Lesson 3:  Forced Choice Scenarios from Signe Whitson's website resource page.

Lesson 4:  Divide students into groups, print one copy of the "Rude, Mean, Bullying Behavior" statement sheets, cut them up and divide them into stacks. Each group will sort and glue their stack to index cards according to which are rude, mean and bullying. Cards are shared with the class for approval and glued to chart paper to make a tree map poster for the students to take back to class.

Lesson 5:  Post-test using Kahoot! or non-tech option.

I have used these lessons with all my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders (15 classes total) and while their comprehension of the terminology is only at about 70%, there is a vast improvement over the previous number of reports we had regarding bullying. Even though my students aren't there yet, in fully understanding the definition of rude, mean and bullying, they are conscious of the differences. Now when complaints of bullying arise,  I am able to reference these lessons and help my students make a more accurate assessment of their own situation.

I hope you and your students find these lessons helpful. Keep in touch and let me know how your students respond to learning the difference in rude, mean, and bullying.
.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Starting a School Counseling Advisory Council

For years, long before there was such a thing as RAMP, I reluctantly listened to my district supervisor talk about having a School Counseling Advisory Council. God love that woman, she was decades ahead of her time. Now I have to admit, all those years ago when she was talking about it, I was not really very receptive.   I was one that said, "Humph, why would I want to do that?  I know my job better than they do. I don't want a bunch of people who know nothing about my job telling me what to do." And so I didn't do one, until a few weeks ago.

Fast forward 25 years later. I have found most people still don't know what School Counselors do, including some School Counselors.  And recently, I discovered even other types of Counselors are confused about our job. So why would we think parents and teachers have any better idea? It was time for me to take a serious step forward to educate and advocate the stakeholders at my school about School Counseling.  Armed with my year long curriculum plan, the data that has informed my program, information about my qualifications, the ASCA model, and the the reason we are no longer called "Guidance  Counselors," I decided to hold my first meeting.  Many thanks to my new friend and colleague, Dr.Lauren Wynne for her support and encouragement to start my School Counseling Advisory Council. I could not have done it without her help.

The Beginning
I started off the school year making personal, face to face, contacts with parents at Meet the Teacher, Open House, and PTA functions, asking if they would be on my advisory council.  I told them we would meet twice a year for one hour each time and I would be looking for their feedback, suggestions and ideas about my School Counseling program. As I considered which parents to invite, I thought about parents who represented the racial make-up of my school and were not the same ones who already serve on every committee.  I actually asked 2 parents I have had uncomfortable dealings with in the past.  Both are strong personalities and very vocal, but I always know what they are thinking and I value that.  I don't want a rubber stamp, "yes m'am" type of committee, but one that will both encourage and challenge me.  It is important for each School Counselor to think about the parent personalities you invite to join your Advisory Council. Next, I sent out an email to my faculty asking for interested individuals to contact me. I had two responses.  My goal was to meet in late September, however circumstances at the start of the year conspired to keep me from doing so. Finally in mid-January we were ready to meet.  I had  recruited eleven members.

The Meeting
It was a simple meeting really. I was pleased that 7 of the 11 people I invited actually attended.   I had cold drinks, a sign- in sheet, agendas, hand-outs of my Annual Curriculum Plan, data from the first quarter, and the ASCA Model. We used the Media Center where I had access to the internet and the LCD projector for my Advisory Council PowerPoint.  I started with introductions and the icebreaker, "Two Truths and a Lie."  It is interesting the things people share and what you can learn about others in a fun non-threatening way. I shared about my role as a School Counselor and how and why the name changed from Guidance Counselor to School Counselor. We saw one of my favorite short video clips that describes the role of the School Counselor created by Dr. Richard Cleveland titled Comprehensive School Counseling.

I explained the who and what about ASCA and the 4 components of a Comprehensive School Counseling program.  Then I did a short activity where I had 2 parents come up and put on empty backpacks.  As I described student #1's day and each of the challenges and barriers she faced I placed a heavy book in her backpack.  For student #2,  I placed a small magazine in her backpack as I described each of the inconveniences in her life while surrounded by a supportive family.  My point was all students do not come to school ready to learn.  Not everyone has help with homework, a hot meal, clean or appropriate shoes and clothing, a safe living situation, and a hug and encouragement to start their day. Some students need the support of the School Counselor more than others.

Then we reviewed  the data from the end of the previous school year and our current data for the first quarter.  Last, I shared my Annual Curriculum Plan and small group goals based on the current data. We discussed how classroom lessons were progressing and parents had questions about the curriculum and how it was selected and what was required by the state.  In closing, I asked for feedback and suggestions and had parents share several ideas of things they would like to see in the future. Interestingly enough, these were ideas I had been thinking about myself.

Reflection
As I think about my first School Counseling Advisory Council meeting I have to say I am feeling pleased.  I admit I was a little scared of what they would think or say, but the response was positive and I felt a certain affirmation for the program I have developed. However, there are things I will do differently next meeting.  For example, I sent a reminder email the week before. Next time I will send an additional email 2 days before and do some follow-up phone calls to those who do not respond to my email.  I also need a couple of community members.  I need to contact our business partners and see if I can recruit them to be a part of the Advisory Council.  Also, f I had waited another week to do my first meeting, I would have had second quarter data to share as well.  I should also have included some photos of my School Counseling program, like activities with my Leadership Club, Vehicle Day, RRW, Soctober, classroom lessons and my conference presentations.  These are lessons learned and improvements  I can make for our next meeting in May.

The Challenge
Are you ready to have stakeholders take a look at your School Counseling program?  Whether it is all you want it to be or not, I challenge you to get a School Counseling Advisory Council started. It is the single best way to educate and advocate for the program you have or the program you wish to have. Educating parents, teachers, administrators, and community members about your training, skills and the services you can offer is the first step towards advocating for a Comprehensive School Counseling program.  If you've you got the program you want, flaunt it, celebrate it, and share it!  If your program is not what you want it to be and you are more clerical or administrative than School Counselor, what a great way to show the contrast between what you are doing and what you could be doing.  Educate your stakeholders about the unique and valuable contributions to school climate and student learning School Counselors can make when given the freedom to do the job they were trained to do!


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Believe you make a difference

As many of us begin to celebrate the Great Kindness Challenge this week, and then National School Counseling Week after that, I wanted to share these words of encouragement with my School Counselor colleagues. The job we do is difficult and heartbreaking at times. There are so many things we do that NO ONE will ever know because of the confidentiality we must keep.  At times it may seem our impact is insignificant and our energy is wasted, but I want to encourage you all. We do make a difference.  I've seen it, you've seen it.  It may not be the sort of difference that changes the world, but the time and caring you give can make the difference in a life.  Never underestimate the value of what you give each day. You may be the only one who listens to their story, gives a hug or believes there is a better person waiting to be revealed. So give it all you've got, inspire others, and believe you make a difference, because you are a School Counselor.  (Click here for poem.) 


Monday, January 18, 2016

Celebrate the Profession, Celebrate National School Counseling Week!

 In 2 weeks it will be National School Counseling Week.  Now I know, there are a lot of School Counselors who are going to get their feelings hurt because their administrators or faculty don't do anything special for them. BUT, let's remember, it's not about celebrating us individually as School Counselors, but about educating and advocating for the profession of School Counseling. Here's how I plan to celebrate.



All Week long:  NSCW signs will be posted around the school. I had these laminated last year at Office Depot  to re-use and they are ready to go!  I am also adding the new ASCA sign (see below) to help those folks who still can't remember we've made the name change to School Counselor. We are no longer Guidance Counselors!  I will also be reading the ASCA sample announcements each day on our morning news show. Check out these links to free ASCA posters.

Happy National School Counseling Week
I (heart) School Counseling because
School (Guidance) Counselor
Reach Higher  







Monday: I will wear my  new ASCA School Counselor t-shirt. Get your t-shirt order form here.  These can't be ordered on line.  They have to come through snail mail, so do this quickly!  This will also be the kick off for the Counselor's Challenge. NSCW is the week after the Great Kindness Challenge and I just can't do it all.  So I am incorporating the two again this year. Students will have a sheet for home and one for school.  The idea is to fill up their card by engaging in purposeful acts of kindness throughout the week. When a card is filled students can turn it into the Counselor's Challenge box and fill out another if they want. Students in grades K and 1 will get a larger Challenge sheet so those classes can participate in the Counselor's Challenge as a class.  I will be reminding students to fill out their Counselor Challenge sheets throughout the week and return them on Friday for the prize drawings on Monday.
Counselor's Challenge School
Counselor's Challenge Home (English)  
Counselor's Challenge (Spanish)

*Note:Lots of these files are opening a little funky in Google Docs, but when you download them they should be fine

Tuesday:  Today I will be sending home my School Counseling brochure telling about my program and website.  I will also be sending this great flyer created by my on-line friend, who is now a real-life friend, from ASCA 15, ESCE, and Twitter.  Many  thanks  to fellow School Counselor Jan Desmarais-Morse for permission to share her creation.  I love how she put together this piece, "What's in a Name," to explain the difference in what Guidance Counselors used to be and what School Counselors are today.  Thanks Jan!


Wednesday:  I saw this little funny "Lost Your Marbles" earlier this year on the Elementary School Counselor Exchange posted by one of my conference buddies, Sabrina Snyder.
I don't know where she got it, but I love it and thought it was perfect for this week.  I just added the date for NSCW and once again, I am promoting the idea that your School Counselor is there to help. Marbles and snack bags from the Dollar Tree.  Fifty marbles in a bag, 22 snack baggies in a box and I had the card stock. Super cheap!

Thursday: A silly little treat with Tootsie Pops to remind teachers when a problem "pops" up, they can always turn to their School Counselor for help and support.  I got bags of Tootsie Pops at the Dollar Tree, 11 in a bag for $1 and I had the card stock.  Very inexpensive!




Friday: I will be providing donuts and coffee in the teacher's lounge before school.  The sign will read, "Donut" let challenges with students and parents stress you out. Remember, your School Counselor help!  Friday all the Counselor's Challenge sheets will be collected for Monday morning's drawing.  I will draw 20 names on the morning news show.  I have silicone bracelets, pencils, candy, and some dollar store items to give away.
                                    
Well, there you have it.  Another NSCW, another opportunity to assertively advocate about the value of  having School Counselors in our schools.  If you are one of those School Counselors who is performing too many tasks unrelated to School Counseling, take heart.  Use this week to educate those around you about what School Counselors should be doing.  Share the ASCA Executive Summary with your administrators and put the ASCA posters up around your school.  Then do like Trish Hatch said she did when she was an elementary School Counselor in California.  She chose the grade level that was giving the principal the most grief and started there with a few classroom lessons and groups. When discipline improved, the principal took notice and the classroom teachers in other grade levels started asking her why aren't you doing that with our grade?  Satisfied teachers are your best advertisement. Just find one or two willing colleagues who will let you do what you were trained to do and see what happens. Start small, but start!

So whether you are in the ideal School Counselor position or one where you feel like a clerk or pseudo-administrator, celebrate the profession! Even if you are just barely hanging on by your fingernails, National School Counseling Week is the time to make some noise and educate and advocate for all ways School Counseling can a difference to students in your school!

I hope you find some things here you can use for your School Counseling Week Celebration.  You can also check out some other ideas in my blog post from 2015 A Second Look At National School Counseling Week. Make it a GREAT one!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

5 Lies I've Told Myself

My lie detector got activated on Monday morning, as I returned to school.  I was walking towards the office with my packed to the brim, busting out one side (literally) rollie cart when I passed my principal on the sidewalk. We stopped for a moment to exchange New Year’s greetings and a few quick pleasantries about family and the holidays. She then asks me in a rather perplexed and concerned tone, “You didn’t take all that home with you to work on over the break, did you?”  I had to confess, somewhat sheepishly, “Yeah I did.  But, I guess that’s a lie I told myself.”

The truth is when I got home the Friday before Christmas, I parked my rollie cart in the corner of the spare bedroom and did not touch it again until the morning I returned to school. I pondered my response to my principal throughout the day and began to realize that's not the only lie I have been telling myself. Maybe it was time to stop lying and be honest.  With me.

Lie #1   “I’m taking all these things home so I can work on them (a) over night (b) over the weekend (c) over break.”  The truth is, when I finally get home, the last thing I want to do is more school work.  Let’s face it, if you’re anything like me, you get home from school (late) and there are family responsibilities like homework, baths, laundry, dinner, cleanup, sports activities, or maybe an ill or aging parent.  And when it’s all done you are just plain ol' tired. The last thing you want to do is dig down in that school bag or box or rollie cart and do anything. You just want to unwind.  So there it sits. Untouched.

Lie #2   “I’m just going to spend a few minutes on-line.” HA! Another lie!  A few minutes has a way of turning into 30, which turns into an hour, which turns into several hours, and then its, “Where did the evening go and why aren’t I in bed?”  I have CADS.  Computer Attention Deficit Syndrome.  I get on line and can’t stay focused on any one thing. There’s just so much to see and do and read.  I tell myself, I‘m just going to check my email real quick.  Big mistake.  This email mentions a Groupon sale, or a link to a video, or an article I might want to use for school. Click, click, click. And then I’m off. I’m bouncing from site to site, shopping on-line, looking at Pinterest, Facebook, LiveBinders, and YouTube.  Oh please, and now I am looking at cute kittens and inspirational videos and realize I was going to bed 2 hours ago!

Lie # 3 “I really don’t need that much sleep,” or “I can get by on 4-5 hours a night.”  Of course, I realize all of our physical needs are different and there are great people, genius people actually, who get by on minimal sleep.  However, I personally need at least 7 hours a night to function at my best.  I try to fudge that a bit and go with 5 or 6 hours pretty regularly, but eventually it shows.  I am drowsy when driving, falling asleep at my computer, straining to stay awake while listening to a student, or my personal favorite, falling asleep in the waiting area at the doctor’s or dentist’s office and snoring.  Someone please wake me before I start to drool.

Lie # 4   “I had too much work I HAD to finish at school and now it’s too late to go to the gym. I’ll just skip for today.”  I tell myself, I had to stay late because there just so much I am expected to do. There are too many people counting on me.  If I don't do it, it won't get done.  It's for the kids.  And now the parking lot is empty except for me and the evening custodian.  I’m tired and hungry and soon it will be dark.  Besides, I don't really need to go to the gym,  I just got a work out picking up my rollie cart and putting it in the car.  And what about all that walking I did around campus today, that counts for something right?  Another lie. The thing is, for me anyway, once I miss it’s just too easy to miss again.  And again.  Then before I know it I am totally out of the habit of going to the gym. I have now reached that place where the thought of going to the gym doesn’t even cross my consciousness. At. All.

Lie #5    “Someone turned the dryer up on high an shrank all of my clothes!”  It couldn’t possibly be the soda and fries from the local fast food place I frequent each afternoon as I drive the opposite direction of the gym. The goodies in the lounge, snacks and candy in my office, and the fast food snacks and dinners are convenient. They keep this super tired, stressed out School Counselor going but are not a positive influence on my waistline or overall health.  The consequences include high blood pressure, the inability to paint my own toenails, and the need to shop for different sizes.  Unfortunately, the shopping in my future is not for cute new clothes I am excited about wearing.  *BIG SIGH*  If only we could just wear sweat pants, PJ bottoms and over-sized T-shirts to school. 

The Truth about Lying
So now I've confessed.  I have not been doing a very good job with self-care. Okay, I've been doing a horrible job!  What’s worse is how I have been lying to myself about the things I do that contribute to my stress levels.  I had convinced myself taking all the work home was as good as doing it and staying at school was more important than going to the gym.  I let my sleep suffer by spending countless hours on-line telling myself it was to help me relax or find things for school.  I justified my poor food choices because it was such a tough and busy day and I didn't get lunch so I deserve a treat, or I just need to grab something to hold me over until dinner.

Yes, we have a tough job, a stressful job, and at times a heart-breaking job.  But I’ve come to the realization it's not the job that has me stressed.  It is how I have chosen to react to the job.  Taking work to the extreme, sleeping less, avoiding the gym, eating too much of the wrong things and spending empty hours on-line are ineffective coping mechanisms. These lies I have told myself have contributed to my poor physical stamina and mental fatigue.

Now what?
Isn’t it ironic how we find it so easy to tell others how to take care of themselves, but then don’t take our own suggestions? And then, we wonder how we got in this dilemma?  Stress, mental exhaustion, and more work than can ever be done in a day will always be part of my professional life,  I guess you could say it is the nature of the job.  However, I can minimize the stress and exhaustion by taking some time to take care of me.  So what will I be doing?  I am ditching my busted rollie cart and making sure I leave school with only ONE thing I might do in the evening.  I am packing my gym back and taking it to school with me every day. I am leaving campus before I am the last car in the parking lot and when I do leave,  I am making the turn towards the gym.  Even if I only go on the treadmill for 15 minutes, I am reinforcing a positive habit.  I am planning my evening so I can be in bed in time to get my 7 hours of sleep a night.  I am drinking more water, no more soda, keeping healthy snacks at school, avoiding the convenience of fast food, and preparing simple healthy meals at home. And I went shopping at Goodwill. I bought some clothes to hold me over until I get my old clothes “un-shrunk.”  

It’s only been 6 days and so far I have challenged every one of my lies except for getting rid of the busted rollie cart. But I am actively working on that.  Change takes time and sometimes you backslide, but that just means you were moving forward to begin with right?  Take a moment and check your lie detector. What lies are you telling yourself?  What can you do to provide the self-care you need to be your healthiest, most productive self in 2016?