Sunday, March 30, 2014

It's Not About The Nail

I LOVE this video and find it very pertinent to counseling.  Sometimes the people we work with are not ready to work on their problems...they need time to think, talk it out, and process.  :)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Daily Lessons...Integrity

This beautiful piece of carrot cake was part of a recent facebook post written by a friend of mine.  She had gone to a country ma and pa restaurant and ordered this delicious cake for dessert.  The owner told her that it was his mamma's recipe.

Well, based on the replies by other fb friends (one who worked at said restaurant for several years), this cake came on a frozen delivery truck.


As amazing as that cake looks, having a waiter share a false personal story, makes me want to send the cake back to the truck from which it came!  :)

Seriously, WHY tell such a personal, moving story like that IF IT IS NOT TRUE?!!!

It is interesting how quickly integrity (or lack thereof) can cause one to make a judgement.

This is an especially important lesson for our middle school students.  They are in a developmental BOOM where often their bodies are mature before their brains are.  They are learning to take on more and more responsibility as we hold them more accountable as they get older.

I notice that this age group is quick to deny responsibility for wrong choices or mistakes.  "What?  Why are you looking at me?  I didn't do anything!" are common responses I hear.  Yes...this is part of growing up, but at a time when they LOOK older than they are, integrity holds even more weight.  Adults often judge students by how they SHOULD act, not how they DO act.  Like the carrot cake example above, once a judgement is made, it is very hard to reverse the damage.

So, how do we, as school counselors, educate our students on the importance of integrity?

Here is where I am so thankful for the our k-12 comprehensive guidance and counseling program!  I am grateful for the school counselors, parents, teachers, and other staff members who have been teaching integrity all along.  Students should already have a firm foundation, right?

So, how do you incorporate the lesson of integrity in the middle school?  Advisory lessons?  Teachable moments?  Classroom lessons?  Small groups?  All of the above?

Here is where I see the value in a SYSTEM.  When I walk by a classroom and hear a teacher using current events to reinforce integrity or I listen to my daughter tell how astounded she was that a girl just copied a paragraph directly out of a book and turned it in as her own work, I have faith in our system.

At my school, we have two school counselors, but we are definitely not enough to conquer all these important lessons alone!  We rely on teachers, administrators, custodians, cooks, and even students to help us reinforce the lessons that hopefully started at home.  And...if they didn't start at home...we have system support to teach them along the way.

Thoughts?  I would LOVE to hear from you!!!  :)  Leave a comment or write on my Facebook Page:  MS Counseling (  I cannot wait to hear from you!!!!  :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

504 Plans

Are you in charge of the 504 plans in your building?

I think every building is different.  In my district, at least at the middle school level, counselors are in charge of 504 plans.  

Many believe 504 plans take away from a fully implemented comprehensive guidance and counseling program.  Some counselors never have to mess with them, while other counselors may be the case manager for all the 504 plans in the building.  There definitely is a lot of variance.

In my school, the other school counselor and I split the alphabet.  I have last names A-K, and she takes care of L-Z.  We split 504 plans in the same manner.  

While I do think that 504 plans can be time consuming, I certainly find them to be more of a counseling responsibility than I can cafeteria duty.  As much as I would rather have a dedicated individual handle all the plans & paperwork, I do believe managing the 504 plans is a way of advocating for students (the reason for our program!) and it is proactive as it sets up a system of support for our struggling students.

This week I have three 504 meetings planned.  Two are complete and one more happens this Thursday.  It is a busy time for 504 plans.  :)

Today I met with a parent who struggles to keep her student on the straight and narrow.  The student has some behavior problems, and I can tell that this momma is tired, but NOT defeated.  She is still going to stand up for her son and push him to do his absolute best.

So, the 504 meeting went just fine today.  It was a beautiful day and we joked about making sure to get mom in and out quickly so she could enjoy the sunshine.  

As we were walking out of the conference room, this mom said, "I feel really good about this meeting today.  We are going to get him straightened out."  I agreed.  I thanked mom for her time and told her how nice it was to meet her.  I shook her hand.

She shook my hand and then she said, "I want to give you a hug."  Little does that mom know how much that small gesture impacted me!  In a simple gesture, she showed me how much she loves and cares for her children.  With that hug, she expressed to me her gratitude for advocating and supporting both her and her son.  She also told me that I was doing my job.

That hug was such a beautiful compliment to me.  This woman who looks very much different than I do shares high expectations, joy, and pain with me.  She works so hard in an uphill battle.  Her children are so very important to her.  She would do anything to support them, but she is not going to do their work for them.  They have to work hard in life.  She sets that example for them and then holds them to it.  She is a momma bear who will stand up for her cubs and protect them.  I am so grateful her children have such a solid role model in their home.  She is not perfect, and never pretends to be.  She is real.  Genuine.  100% authentic.  She made my day!

It is experiences like this that make all the hard work and effort of 504 plans do-able.  I am advocating for my students by offering them supports and leveling the playing field.  And I hope that what I do makes a difference! 

Friday, March 7, 2014


One of the main personal goals I have as a school counselor is to make a positive difference in a life.  Some days I feel like all I am doing is scheduling meetings and dealing with paperwork.  And making phone calls.
Let me just say that I have a phone phobia.  I hate making phone calls!  Since I am a procrastinator I tend to put my phone calls off until I absolutely need to make that call.  And then I get nervous and worry that I will say the wrong thing or worse yet...sound unintelligent.  Yes...HATE those phone calls.

The truth?  School counselors make A LOT of phone calls!  I am getting a little better at that...but still hate picking up that phone.


I suddenly found myself with 3 504 plans coming due and made myself pick up that phone and schedule the meetings.  Such a process!  Sometimes I think it is harder to pick the right date and time than fill out the actual paperwork!

Enter DOODLE!  The new technology tool that helps schedule meetings.  I have not tried this out yet, but other counselors were singing its praise at our regional meeting yesterday.  I am definitely going to try it out.  

How Doodle works (or at least how it was explained to me):  You enter possible dates and times and all stakeholders are invited to see the possibilities and choose the ones that work.  The person scheduling the meeting can then determine the best time to have the meeting.  :)

So today I found myself in two parent-student-teacher meetings.

The first meeting was a long one (over an hour long), but resulted in the student telling us, "I feel more confident in what to do to improve in this class and now I have strategies to use when I get overwhelmed and my anger comes out."  WOW!  

After that meeting the teacher involved thanked me for taking so much time out of my schedule to help her work through these issues.

Yeah!!!!  Let me just say I watched the student totally change demeanor from the beginning of the meeeting to the end.  When we started out, there was a lot of friction in the air between the mom and the teacher.  I had such a positive feeling at the end of the meeting as the teacher and mom thanked each other again and the student smiled.  :)

Next up on my agenda today was a 504 meeting after school.  This was my 3rd 504 meeting this year and the most attended one!  Teacher, parent, and student feedback was so positive!  This student is really maturing and finding academic and athletic success.  This has not always been the case with him.  He has some tough diagnoses that make school challenging for him.  Today, I saw how his 504 plan has really offered him a security net so that he can find success.  I really had no part in his success, but let me just say it was a pleasure to hear the reports and see the grades!  As much as people complain about the extra work 504s bring, they REALLY do support our students when they are put into place and followed!

I feel so blessed to be in a profession where I can witness positive change and its effect!!!  What an AWESOME job I have!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Professional Membership

Do you belong to any professonal organizations?
The top two national organizations that come to my mind are ASCA (American School Counselor's Association) and ACA (American Counseling Association).  Aside from offering insurance benefits these organizations support school counselors with publications and a wealth of online support.  Because ASCA is specific to school counseling, I get just a little more excited about it than ACA, but they are both wonderful organizations that offer much needed support.  Every time I get the ASCA School Counselor magazine in the mail, I get excited and delve into every part of the publication.  Another great perk to membership is the support of the online community.  Through the ASCA website is a section called ASCA Scene which is a great professional discussion board.  

One thing I learned as a new counselor is that ASCA is actually a more specific section of ACA.  I have membership in both and plan to continue that.

Even more close to me is the MSCA or Missouri School Counselor Association.  Did you know that the Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Program originated in Missouri?  That is something I learned in grad school and a fact I am proud to share!  :)  Norm Gysbers, a professor at the University of Missouri was instrumental in getting the ball rolling with the Missouri Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Program.  He and Bragg Stanley, one of my professors from grad school, are huge advocates for school counseling.  Possibly because of these connections, the MSCA annual conference is always a BIG event!  I have never been to ASCA, but some say that our conference is not that much smaller.  (I will have to go to ASCA soon to see if this is the case).

2012 marks the first year I attended MSCA and it was all that I hoped for and more!  It was definitely a place for professional development in all aspects of the CGCP (Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Program), but it was also a fun event that included dances, socials, Zumba, 5k run/walk, and plenty of time for collaboration and sharing.  
One thing I have learned about myself over the years is that I have a strong need to feel like I belong.  I find that for me, being a member is great, but I need more.  I really enjoy being "in the know".  It is for this reason, I also joined the Mid Missouri School Counselor Association.  MMSCA falls under the umbrella of MSCA, but at a more local level.  Our MMSCA includes Norm Gysbers and Bragg Stanley as members.  How awesome is that?!!!!!!

So, how is the smaller MMSCA in comparison to MSCA?  What does it offer me?  Regional workshops (Guidance System of Support), meetings, and opportunities to become involved in the board of directors.  It is my membership in MMSCA that has really helped support me as a counslor.  My former practicum instructor is the chair of the recognition committee and asked me to help her out with that this year.  This was a great place for a new counselor to start.  The time committment was very low, but it afforded me the opportunity to meet other counselors in the area and collaborate with them.  By becoming involved in MMSCA, I have felt like a part of the group from the first meeting!  I have met many other school counselors and this just makes me feel more comfortable at the MSCA conference.  I also have now developed a system of support that I can go to when I need help.  I love this!!

Being involved in professional organizations is so much more than something to put on my resume.  I know being a counselor is a very demanding job, but in my opinion, the time that I take to network with other professionals is time well spent!  What do you think?