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?