Sunday, December 9, 2018

Be a Legally Competent School Counselor

Sunday, December 9, 2018

While I am busily working in my office, I receive a call on my personal cell from an outside agency inquiring about a former student (red flag #1).  The caller was inquiring about a student that I knew many years ago and was asking if I had time to speak about the student in a legal matter (red flag #2).  Because I was busy, I told the caller I would have to speak to him/her at a later time.  Several hours passed and I remembered the call.  Then, it hit me out of the blue..."WAIT, I should not even be speaking to this person without consulting with my administrator!"  Although I had many calls in the past about my former students, those calls were generally from colleges, potential employers, or institutions asking for personal recommendations.  However, this call did not fit into one of these categories and I did not have a good feeling about calling the person back.  So, long story short...I  did not call the person back.  After consulting with my administrator, he informed me that he wanted to call our district's attorney for some additional guidance about how to handle the call.  A couple of days later, I received a call from the attorney informing me that he did not want me to return the call as the information the agency was requesting may be part of the educational record covered by FERPA.  Now, here is the scary part.  What happened if I had been a novice counselor unaware of  the requirements of FERPA and failed to consult with my administrator???  Henceforth, the purpose of this post is to give a brief overview of FERPA, the confidentiality requirements of FERPA, steps to protect yourself a school counselor, and I will leave you with a questionnaire measuring your legal knowledge.

What is FERPA?

FERPA was initially passed in 1974 to protect student information considered personal and confidential.  FERPA applies to any public or private institution that receives federal funds. The law gives parents, legal guardians, and students (18 years or older), access to and confidentiality concerning educational records. Educational records include: files, documents, and other materials which contain information directly related to a student and maintained by a school district.  Parents, legal documents, and students over the age of 18 have the right to...

  • inspect and review records;
  • challenge and seek to amend records;
  • require consent to prior to disclose personally identifiable information.

The School Counselor and FERPA

As a school counselor, you may or may not be knowledgeable about records covered by FERPA or what information can and cannot be shared. Although the student is our client, we must be aware of exceptions to confidentiality and the appropriate times to divulge student information.  The key is awareness and to put measures in place to protect yourself! So, how does one protect him/herself in our highly litigious society?  Here are some suggestions offered by Susan Hansen (2009):

– Ask your administration to include a statement in the student handbook about school counseling services and confidentiality.  If possible, include a form that students and parents must sign and return at the beginning of the school year (or when they register) that says they have read and understood the handbook and all information contained in it.

Confidentiality Guidelines Under FERPA - includes recommendations, parent/student letter, and poster.

– Post flyers in the counseling office and in your individual office about confidentiality and the exceptions.


– Ask your IT Department to post the confidentiality guidelines and limitations on the school website, and on the guidance page or your own personal page of the site.


– Very important!! When you first meet a student for anything other than scheduling issues, explain confidentiality guidelines and exceptions and have the student sign and date a form indicating that he/she has been informed and understands the limits of confidentiality. Keep the signed form in the student’s file, or in a separate file just for these forms.

Unfortunately, this post will only touch the surface to answer questions regarding limits of confidentiality and FERPA; therefore, you should follow these seven suggested guidelines by Glosoff and Pate (2002).

1. Know your ethical codes.
2. Know the applicable law in your jurisdiction.
3. Know the school system and building policies and procedures.
4. Refresh knowledge through professional reading and workshops (this is imperative when it comes to FERPA).
5. Practice prevention through education and involvement of stakeholders.
6. Work diligently and specifically to make parents partners in the counseling process.
7. Remember the Three Cs: CONSULT--CONSULT--CONSULT.

In addition, I am attaching some resources that may be helpful to protect you when working with students and parents.


ASCA Position Statement: The School Counselor and Confidentiality

FERPA: The Ever-Changing Federal Statute

Steps To Protect Yourself When You are Just, Well for a Better Word, Unsure 


If you find yourself in a situation in which you are not sure what to do, don't guess.  Here are some practical suggestions that may be helpful.


If you are unsure, try this...



1. Consult with your colleagues about your experience  Often a seasoned colleague may have gone through a similar situation. 

2. If your colleagues are not clear about what you should do, it is helpful to go to your administrator and get his or her insight. Administrators are often well versed in school law and may even reach out to your school attorney for clarity.

3.  Consider consulting with your Student Services Director who may have more experience with FERPA and your role as a counselor. It may be helpful to suggest that your director coordinate training for counselors in the district in this area.

4. Educate yourself!! Consider taking the Are You a Legally Literate School Counselor, a 16 item questionnaire that surveys school counselors'  legal knowledge. Also, view this presentation, What Counselors Need to Know About FERPA, a  legal presentation by attorney, Julie Weatherly.  Weatherly has a lot of knowledge that may be useful to school counselors. Want to know more about FERPA?  Then click out these additional resources for additional information.

School Records and Case Notes

Wrightslaw: Privacy, Confidentiality, & Educational Records


Student Mental Health and the Law


Legal and Ethical Issues


Ethical Dilemmas in School Counseling


Case Studies

Also, check out more from For High School Counselors Blog regarding FERPA.




Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Peer Intervention: A Tier 1 Strategy ASCA Webinar

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

I am so excited to announce that my colleague and I will be hosting our first ASCA webinar in January!  In this post, I would like to share the contents of our webinar and ask that you consider attending if you are interested in starting a peer program. This webinar is based on our presentation at the American School Counselor Association Conference in Los Angeles. 

Check out our ASCA presentation here.   



Webinar Description:

Peer helping has been well-researched as an effective method for helping at-­risk students as a Tier 1 support strategy. Researchers discovered that establishing a peer program promotes developmental assets in youth, shows effectiveness in reducing at-risk behavior in youth, leads to reductions in alcohol use and tobacco use more than teacher-­led programs, shows a decline in fighting, fosters desirable learning and behavioral change and shows effectiveness in developing a thriving community.
 
Learning objectives:


After viewing this webinar, you should be able to:

  1. Examine how peer programs can be established whether using advisory program, peer program standards and/or a well-researched curriculum.
  2. Design a peer-helping program plan that follows the National Association of Peer Program Professionals programmatic standards and ASCA student standards.
  3. Discuss the school counselor’s role in implementing a peer-support program designed as a Tier 1 intervention.
  4. Learn about sample activities to engage the school community in social/emotional awareness. Participants will hear from a student in a peer leadership program who will share experiences, involvement and why peer leaders are an asset to the school environment.
Presenters:
  • Monica Seeley, Graduation Specialist and Peer Leader Coordinator, Heritage High School, Conyers, Ga.
  • Cynthia Morton, Learning Support Specialist and District Peer Facilitation Director, Rockdale Virtual Campus, Conyers, Ga.

Jan. 17, 2019, 11 a.m. Eastern

To Register for ASCA Webinars:  
  1. Login to your ASCA account and click on "My ASCA" in the top right corner. 
  2. From your dashboard, click on "Register for Upcoming Events." 
  3. Find the webinar and click "Register to Attend" and complete the registration process. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Preparing for the "Difficult" End of the Year Parent Conference

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Me this week!!
I love the holidays!  Spending time with my family, shopping, and getting to lounge on the couch are some of my favorite things to do during Thanksgiving Break.  However, along with the joy of the holiday season, comes the influx of end of the semester parent conferences.  While the majority of parent conferences go well, there are those that completely derail me as a human being.  Over the years, I have conducted hundreds of parent conferences and each one is completely different (some go great and others...well you get it).  I realized early that preparation for a conference is essential and you must always anticipate the unexpected. 

The purpose of this post is to give you an overview of the types of parents I have encountered in parent conferences; an overview of difficult parents who make conferences unbearable; a glimpse of some of the lessons that I have learned from working with these types of parents; and finally, some conference resources.


I hope you find something helpful from my experiences!


Types of Difficult Parents You May Experience in Parent Conferences


Let's talk about four parent types that you may encounter in a parent conference along with some practical strategies. 




The Enabling Parent or "Excuse My Child Because" Parent


These are the parents who come into your office full of excuses for their student's behavior.  They are notorious for using your sympathy for their child as a weapon. 

Rachel was in her senior when she began to chronically miss her classes.  My goal was to call her in and find out what was causing her to miss school.  When I finally caught up with her, she was non-responsive to my efforts to communicate with her about her lack of attendance.  Finally, I got frustrated with her lack of communication and I decided to call in her mom.  When Rachel's mother came into my office, she looked very disheveled  and like she hadn't slept in days.  When I asked her about Rachel's attendance, the focus always came back to the mom's difficulties and how their family situation was responsible for Rachel not being engaged in school. After about a hour of talking about the family dilemma, I tried to bring the focus back to Rachel and the importance of school attendance.  Unfortunately, mom could not hear beyond her situation and started to cry.  "You don't understand how I need Rachel right now to be with me..."  At this point, I understood that Rachel's mom was using her daughter as her own support system and that mom was using the situation to excuse Rachel's behavior. 

What did I do?

First,  I empathized with Rachel's mom and showed her I cared about what was going on in her life.  Next, I tried to show her how using Rachel daily as her support system would be detrimental for Rachel in the long run.  The mom and I discussed different scenarios that included Rachel coming to school daily to not coming at all.  Mom finally realized that Rachel may not graduate on time and that she would be partially responsible for Rachel's failure in school.



In Denial Parent or "Not My Child" Parent

Deniers are not receptive to any notion that their child would do ANYTHING wrong.  They want to prove that their student is a "good" child even by providing character references from former teachers.

John was taking an online course in the computer lab at his home high school.  The lab monitor called me one afternoon and complained that he was off task and not showing up after lunch.  The next day, I went to the lab to speak to him about his course and off task behavior.  He agreed that he had not been doing what he should and told me that "hated" his online course.  I told him that I understood that he did not want to be in the course, but that he had three months to go to complete his course successfully.  His expectations included: returning back to class from lunch, showing respect to the lab monitor,  and communicating with his online teacher.  He told me he understood.  The next week, I received a call from John's mother, a school employee. At first, John's mom was able to appropriately communicate about John's class, but something changed in her voice. "What you are telling me is not characteristic of my son! You can ask any teacher who knows him that he is a good student and respectful." 

What did I do?

Although taken aback by her change in demeanor, I acknowledged John's strengths and past accomplishments.  Once, I acknowledged his potential for success, I pointed out that those same behaviors would be beneficial for him to be successful in this course and that there was a reason that he was not showing those same characteristics in the lab.  After pushing back and standing my ground, mom and I made a plan for him to move forward.



The Angry Parent or "I Will Argue With a Wall" Parent

This parent can be the most difficult to work with as a school counselor.  The angry parent is verbally combative or will have a defensive posture.  They will typically ask questions like, "What did the teacher do for my child to act this way?" These parents lack the skills to fight fairly for their child.

I always dreaded when Norman's mom and dad requested a parent conference.  Norman's mom would often be combative while his dad would come into my office with his shades and arms crossed.  Norman was a senior who was failing his math class and was more interested in gaming than doing his math homework.  The teacher, a no nonsense guy, was at his wit's end with Norman who constantly wanted to talk about the latest game instead of polynomials. As usual, mom started her verbal assault of the teacher's character and the dad sat in the corner with arms crossed and donning his Versace shades.

What did I do?

When mom and dad came in, I politely greeted them and then escorted to the round table in my office and sat with them (moving from my desk was a sign that I was open to hear them). Next, I outlined how the conference would be structured so that they would be heard, but then we would invite the student and teacher in for a conversation.  Having the parents come in first to "vent" allowed them to be more open to listen and move to problem solving.



The Too Blind To See Parent or "The Perfect Storm" Parent

This is the parent that is beyond the point of reasoning and will not listen, cooperate, or communicate no matter what you do.  This is the one that I dread the most!!

Michele was often disruptive and constantly getting into trouble with staff and teachers.  When confronted by her behavior, she was unapologetic and would often say, "Wait till my mama comes up here...she will straighten you out!"  In fact, everyone dreaded Michele's mom as she was known for terrorizing the school district for years.  When I learned she was moved to my caseload (mom requested a counselor move from her original counselor), my heart sank.  Then the day came where Michele, her mom, and I met to talk about her graduation plan.  As predicted, she they came in like a storm blaming the school, the teachers, and anyone else who may have caused Michele consternation. 

What did I do?

I realize that these parents will try your professionalism and I want to keep my job.  As Michele's mom began her verbal tirade, I had to consciously avoid being pulled into a debate. My job, as I explained, was to look at the facts, keep the conversation moving, and focus on Michele's success.  Although mom's behavior did not change, I felt good about not enabling Michele's mom behavior.


Preparing for a Conference With Difficult Parent Types


Ultimately, you may come into contact with one of the four types of parents so it is imperative to have a strategy in place for meeting with them. 

The Plan


Step 1: Prepare for the conference by taking these pre-conference steps

  • Find out as much information about the parent's concerns before the meeting.  Do your homework.
  • Create a potential plan for success for student and parents.
  • Greet parents outside of office whenever possible.
  • Remove your desk as a barrier-consider using a circular table.
  • Ask for the student to be present.
  • Be aware of your non-verbal behaviors (tone of voice or body language) as a barrier to communication.

Step 2: Conducting the conference

  • Ask the student to sit in the center of the circle.
  • Set parameters of the conference for those in attendance.
  • Introduce yourself and your role in the conference.
  • Observe non-verbals of participants and address any issues early.
  • Bring data!! The cumulative folder is your best weapon for students you do not know.
  • Point out to a parent that the lack of a discipline history can tell a story about a significant change in the student.
  • Ask student to speak on his or her behalf.
  • Don't be afraid to address the "elephant" in the room.
  • Document, document, document!!
  • Focus on the future...look to help the student and parent create academic and personal goals.
  • Always end on a positive note-find a way to inspire the student!
  • Let parent/student know you will be following up (set a date before leaving).

Step 3: Follow Up

  • Plan for a follow conversation.
  • Measure progress of each goal from the conference.
  • Discuss what is going well and what needs to be improved.
  • Set up an additional time together.

Resources:

Do you need some forms for preparing for parent/student conference?  Here are some forms that may be helpful for future conferences.


Audit Form-form to use to show parent and student their progress toward graduation.

Conference Forms-editable conference form for notes.

Rising Senior Action Plan-great form for showing parent/student where student stands in term of meeting goals.

Senior Meeting Google Doc-editable Google doc for documentation.


Also, check out my post if you need and love forms!

Ultimate List of School Counseling Forms-over 1000 forms!!




Thursday, November 15, 2018

On the Road Again: Riverside County Counselor Leadership Summit Presentation

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Last month my colleague and I had the honor of presenting at the Riverside County Counselor's Leadership Summit in Riverside, California. Following our presentation, we attended an awesome luncheon where we heard many speakers who shared their passion for students.  I was blown away by the impassioned speech made by the superintendent, Dr. Judy White.  Dr. White shared the importance of having counselors in schools and how her own school counselor helped her to develop skills which allowed her to overcome a traumatic childhood. But the real highlight of the day was the key note speaker, Antwone Fisher. Mr. Fisher shared  his personal journey from abused foster child to famous screenwriter.  He also spoke about the importance of relationships and how one educator made a difference in his own life.  If you want to know more Antwone Fisher, check out his biography and movie.

Finally, I have to commend the Riverside County Counseling District staff for their commitment, passion, and effort in putting together such an amazing conference.  If you live in California, please check out this amazing conference that is held each October and January.  



January 22, 2019




So, I mentioned that I had the privilege of presenting at this conference.  After presenting at the ASCA Conference in Los Angeles, I received an invitation to talk about one of my passions, establishing and evaluating peer leadership programs.  As always, I am determined to "preach" the word about the power of peer leadership!  To get this message out to as many as possible,  I wanted to share our presentation with other school counselors who may be interested in starting their own program.  Feel free to contact me if you want to know more about peer leadership!!







Also if you missed my blog post in July, please check out our presentation at ASCA!





Saturday, November 10, 2018

100 Free Resources for School Counselors

Saturday, November 10, 2018
About a week ago, I got the dreaded news that every counselor hates to hear...my computer would need to be re-imaged.  How I hate re-imaging time!!!  Okay, this potentially means that you can lose years of research in the form of
files, forms, links, contacts, documents, and photos if you are not prepared.  Fortunately, my administrator is a "computer guru" and he just so happened to possess an external hard drive (if you don't have one it is a must!).  This amazing invention allowed me to save all my important stuff.  As I am saving my precious babies (aka files), I was pleasantly surprised to rediscover information that I had forgotten about!!!    So, since I have been AWOL for a minute, I thought it would be a great idea to share some of my hidden gems with other school counselors.  As always,  please feel free to share this information with your colleagues.  Below you will find 100 resources to download...have fun!!

504 ACCOMMODATIONS

504 Information

504 Legal Training

ACT/SAT

ACT or SAT: Which is the Better Test for You?

ADVANCED PLACEMENT

AP Presentation

ADVISEMENT

Advisement Curriculum

Advisement Checklist

AUDIT

Audit Spreadsheet

Audit Worksheet

ATTENDANCE

Restorative Practices and Tardies

School Attendance Handbook

AWARDS NIGHT

Preparing for Your Award's Night

BULLYING

Bullying Assessment

Combating Prejudices

"I Did Not Mean It Like That!"

Personal Self Assessment of Anti-Bias Behavior

Relational Aggression

Ways to Address Bias and Bullying

COLLEGE



Campus Visit Checklist

College Application Tracker

College Kick Off Template

College Signing Day Kit

Preparing for College: Tips for Parents

COMMUNITY SERVICE

Do Your Own Thing Guide

High School and Community Activity Tracker

COLLEGE RECOMMENDATIONS


7 Tips for Writing a College Recommendation Letter

Obtaining a College Recommendation

Recommendation Packet

Senior Information Form

CONFLICT RESOLUTION


Building Your Schools Conflict Resolution Program from the Ground Up

Celebrating Conflict Resolution Day

COUNSELING CALENDAR


Sample Calendar

COUNSELING NOTES

Conference Meeting Notes

Counseling Meeting Notes

Counselor Notes

Counseling Note-taking & Record Keeping

DECISION DAY MANUAL

Florida Decision Day Guide

DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP

Tips for Emailing Your Teacher

Digital Citizenship Starting Guide

EATING DISORDERS

Body Image

Educator Toolkit

ETHICS

Counseling Minors

FINANCIAL AID


FAFSA Cheat sheet

FAFSA Checklist

FAFSA Memes

FAFSA Presentation

FAFSA Student Quick Guide

FRESHMEN

Getting the Most Out of High School

Help Freshmen Succeed

GPA

Calculating Your High School GPA

GPA Calculator for Excel


GPA Game


HOMELESS


Helping Homeless Students Attend College

JUNIORS

Junior Class Presentation

Rising Senior Presentation

LEARNING STYLES

Learning Styles Assessment

Learning Styles Inventory

LBGTQIA

Accommodating Transgender Students in School

MENTAL HEALTH

Addressing Mental Health in School Crisis

Self Soothing

Teen Wellness Assessment

Unhealthful Thinking Styles

MENTORING

Meaningful Mentoring Matters

MOTIVATIONAL INTERVIEWING

MI ASCA Presentation

RELATIONAL AGGRESSION

RA Resources

RESILIENCE

Building Resilience

RESTORATIVE PRACTICES


Classroom Meetings

SCHOOL CLIMATE

Alternative to Suspension


School Commitment Form


School to Prison Pipeline

Student-Led Conferences

Teen Action Toolkit

School Shootings: What To Do?

SELF HARM


Self Harm Workbook

SENIOR INFORMATION

Admission Planning Sheet

Gap Year

Monthly Activities for Seniors

Rising Senior Parent Meeting Form

Senior Action Plan

Senior Application Checklist


Senior Checklist


Senior Letter and Plan

Senior Packet

Senior Timeline

Senior Websites

Senioritis

SEX TRAFFICKING

Educator Assessment Toolkit

SOPHOMORE

Sophomore Parent Night Presentation

SUICIDE

Gay and Suicidal

TECHNOLOGY


Technology Suggestions for School Counselors

Going Gaga for Google!

TIME TRACKER


Counselor Time Analysis

TRANSITION


9TH Grade Transition

Building Laundry Skills

Freshmen Transition Camp

Preparing Seniors for College

Skills to Pay the Bills

Transition Resource Guide

When You Turn 18!



Sunday, October 7, 2018

Transcript Reflection: Help Your Students Decipher the Numbers!

Sunday, October 7, 2018


After presenting at several conferences this week, I am finally sitting in the Orlando Airport waiting on my plane to go back home.  As I am sitting here, I wanted to take some time to write about a great idea that was shared by one of my counseling colleagues a few weeks ago.

First, some backstory...

Since I work with the virtual school in our district, I frequently meet with students who are taking online classes at their home school.  After finishing up my student visit, I decided to make a quick trip into the counseling office to check in with my colleagues before I left the building.  Making the last round, I stopped in to say hello to the counselor that I work out with each week just to let her know that I would see her later in the week (by the way, this woman is a beast!). Conversing about our workout, I looked up and noticed a large whiteboard with information that resembled a student's transcript.  Curious, I shifted the conversation to the whiteboard and asked her to tell me more about it.  Oh, this activity is for my students who think they are in better shape than they really are…I had to know more!!  She continued to tell me that the activity allowed the counselor and student  to have a conversation about the "numbers", and what those numbers really mean. She went on to explain that she would give each student a print out of his or her transcript along with a dry erase marker to write out the courses and grades on the board. From the information on the whiteboard, the students would identify classes they needed to retake, learn how to calculate their overall GPA, and identify missing credits needed for graduation.  From the visual, students discuss if they believe the transcript reflects their true potential; if the current GPA meets the criteria for the college they wish to attend; and if they ultimately will meet NCAA eligibility (for athletes).  My colleague expressed that this activity has been a real eye-opener for her students and that many have responded positively to the activity.  She believes this is the first time that the reality has set in for most of them...especially students whose college goals do not necessarily relate to their high school resume.


After her thorough description, I asked her if I could share this activity with other school counselors and she said YES!! So, here is how you could incorporate this idea with your students.

 Transcript Reflection Activity

Step 1:  Consider purchasing or locating a whiteboard and a pack of colored dry erase markers.  Make sure the whiteboard is large enough to accommodate a student’s transcript information.  My suggestion is to get a white board that is about 4 ft. in length and 2 1/2 in width.

Step 2: Hang the board in an area of your office where the student can comfortably sit and transcribe the transcript.
Step 3: Give your students instructions of how to input the information on the board.  For instance, courses that they earned credit can be black, failed courses can be red, etc.

Step 4: Give them time…don’t rush as students often process while they are writing.


Step 5:  If the student wishes to pursue college, give him or her a list of colleges with admission requirements (make sure the list includes GPA requirements). You can do the same with NCAA requirements as well.

Step 6: Create discussion questions that you would like the student to answer about his or her transcript.  This is a great reflection activity…




Here are some potential questions:
Looking at your transcript, do you feel that your coursework will get you into your target school. If not, which schools are you eligible for acceptance currently?

To reach your target school, what grades will you need to earn to reach that goal?  (This is where you will need to teach students how to calculate future grade calculations).

How does your high school transcript look to a college or athletic recruiter? Are you satisfied with your progress?  If not, what can you do differently starting today?

What support will you need to reach this goal?


Step 7: Have the student create goals of how he/she would like to improve his/her GPA.

This activity really can be helpful for students who are struggling or seem to need help understanding the meaning of a high school transcript. I would like to thank my colleague for her willingness to share her idea!  Also, feel free to share any ideas you may have when working with students!!




Sunday, September 23, 2018

Guest Post: Are You the Chosen One: A Resource for Students

Sunday, September 23, 2018
As school counselors, it is important that we empower students to assist their peers when they are facing a potential crisis situation.  Unfortunately, we cannot be everywhere so teaching our students what to do when a friend is in trouble can potentially save a life. Recently, an educator from New Zealand reached out to me with some free resources she wanted to share with other educators.  She has written about the reasons for creating these resources and has graciously provided links to her resources for readers. Please feel free to share with your colleagues!

Are You the Chosen One?

 We have all had times in our lives where we have been in crisis. At some point we have chosen someone to talk to about it. Some of us will have had a really supportive and positive response in that moment and others…not so much. “Are You The Chosen One” has been created for that moment. We all know how important that “first response” can be. In my own life, my “first responses” haven’t always been supportive and positive and it has determined the way I have handled and coped with the crisis and also how I handled the next one.
A few years ago I found myself in a situation that took a huge toll on me personally. Once on the other side and reflecting on it all I just couldn’t believe how badly it had affected me. I had completely withdrawn from life and had lost “me”. During my healing process, I wrote the Finding My Voice poem. I then started to create a teaching resource based around that poem with the focus of encouraging students to find their voice and speak up. During that time, I got to the part of ‘what can you do to help a friend in crisis’ and found that I couldn’t stop writing. This was the turning point for me.
I sat on the idea for a while – life and helping siblings through their own crisis took over. I finally talked to a friend early this year about the idea the resource was now taking. The focus had changed from encouraging students to speak up, to, when they do speak up, making sure they are heard.
During this time, my own 14 year daughter found herself ‘the chosen one’. Her friend messaged her one night and things got serious! After helping our daughter help her friend through the situation we debriefed! She said “mum, you need to get this finished. We just don’t know what to say or do.” Being 14 years old at an all-girls school of 1300 is pretty full on!
My first meeting was with the counsellor at Whangarei Girls High School. I talked with her about the idea of trying to provide first responses for students. A resource that was - for them, at their level, in their ‘speak’. Short, sweet, eye catching but informative. Easy to read, easy to remember. I came away from her office in tears – mostly because of what some of our kids are dealing with but also because she had given me the courage to go for it and confirmed how badly it was needed.
 A couple weeks later I had the first draft of the posters. A dear friend then also got involved. She is a chaplain but also teaches on suicide awareness and takes seminars for community leaders. We tweaked and re-tweaked, checked and double checked and had cups of tea! And I kept crying! She said this wasn’t just for students and in her opinion adults needed to know this as well! I was also lucky enough that my DP/year 7&8 teacher/ICT extraordinaire husband was on sabbatical. He had finished his research paper for the sabbatical so started on the website side of it all.
 Final checks done, everybody happy and “Are You The Chosen One” was launched. The title came to me about 10:30 one night after weeks of brainstorming what the resource could be called! No surprises - I cried again! I was so excited with that wording! It creates curiosity!
My heart behind the resource is to provide suggestions for what the ‘first response’ can be. It hopefully will give confidence to know how to handle a situation if a friend comes and shares something that they are going through, mainly so that person feels heard, supported and comfortable. But just as important is the info on the website which is focused on the ‘next steps’. The next steps are there to help provide ideas and suggestions for how to continue to support the friend in crisis but make sure that they – the chosen one, don’t end up in crisis themselves! The poem that started it all is also on the site.
I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share “Are You The Chosen One”. The 6 ‘what can I say’ posters on the site are free to download, print and display.
Kindest regards
Becky Overeem