Monday, March 13, 2017

Guest Blog: How to Become a Pirate Hunter (A Novel)

Monday, March 13, 2017

From time to time, I like to feature a guest post on my blog.  What is different about this particular post is that I have decided to feature a book.  Now, here is my disclaimer...I typically do not promote or advertise products; however,  I think it is important to support other educators who are passionate about helping students.

How to Become a Pirate Hunter is a fictional novel written by Writing teacher, Marty Reeder. Reeder's goal is to help students imagine their future careers by using creative techniques like essay writing.  In my own career, I have found it important to partner with other educators so we can encourage students to think beyond their present situation and imagine possibilities for their future. What is most refreshing about Reeder's novel is that he emphasizes the importance of the school counselor in helping students in this exploration process!  For this reason, I would like to share Mr. Reeder's work with you in this post.

Please feel free to share your feedback with me and/or Mr. Reeder.

Who is Marty?

Marty Reeder lives in Smithfield, Utah with his wife and five children. He teaches creative writing and Spanish at Sky View High School. He received his both his undergraduate degrees (major in history and minors in English and Spanish) and master's degree (American Studies) at Utah State University. How to Become a Pirate Hunter is his second published novel and releases on March 14th. 

For more information about the book, you can visit his website:

As a high school English teacher, I’ve noticed more than my share of students who would  respond to that question as if they’ve just been asked to recite the geological features of the dark side of the moon. Those students are not lacking in capacity (though that may be unrefined), but many lack some imagination.

Often, as I’ve assigned essays to students, I found they retread the same political topics, narrative experiences, or social issues that they’ve written throughout their school writing history. They lacked imagination, and I lacked the insight to provide imaginative possibilities. So I tried something different and encouraged students to write according to their passions and personal interests, yet still within the bounds of the essay methods and styles we were learning in class. This led to far more interesting, far more imaginative writing on their part.

All of the sudden, instead of English being just one more class to check off on the road to graduation, I had a student--a wakeboarding fanatic--who came to report to me that the essay he wrote for my class had been published by a wakeboarding magazine and that he had received a check for the essay plus hundreds of dollars worth of free equipment. If you’ll forgive some poetic hyperbole: his eyes were lit up by the results of the application of his imagination to his situation, and the possibilities of the pairing of  his passion and the practical became his purpose.

Eric, the protagonist of How to Become a Pirate Hunter, is limited by his lack of confidence in himself and his imagination for his future. His answers to that age-old adolescent query come out as the same cookie-cutter jobs voiced by elementary school kids down the ages. For Eric, it takes the adventure of a lifetime and a good friend to open his mind to the possibilities of rising above mediocrity and realizing his full potential.

Not every student is going to be fortunate enough to have an eye-opening adventure to another world and a friend with special powers to provide it. In fact, I’m guessing this is rather rare. Luckily, most students are fortunate enough to have a caring high school counselor who can accomplish that same goal of expanding their practical imagination when it comes to future goals.

Perhaps one of the more fictional elements of my story is that Eric’s problems are not resolved through the careful guidance of an aware counselor after that opening line … but in my defense, a two-page story in an office is not as exciting as a novel with a bunch of pirate adventures!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

National Peer Helping Week Ideas

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Each year the National Association of Peer Program Professionals urges peer helping coordinators to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate their peer helpers during the month of March. During this special month,  I take the opportunity to recruit my peer helpers for the next school year, appreciate my current peer helpers, and promote peer helping in my school community.  

Here is an overview of my plan for this year's National Peer Helper Week (March 20-24, 2017).  

The Plan

First, I will have my current peer helpers put up posters about peer helping around the school.  Here is a sample poster I made featuring Disney characters.

Second, we are going to make announcements about National Peer Helper Week to students and staff member.

Some sample announcements will include:
  • Facts about peer helping
  • Roles of peer helpers
  • Accomplishments of your schools’ peer helping program

Third, we will share information about National Peer Helper Week 

to get the excitement going on social media using the hashtag 


Sample Tweets:
Use #NationalPeerHelpersWeek
Because of YOU National Peer Helpers Appreciation Day is a 
national day to raise awareness about the peer power as a way to 
help others and save lives.  #NationalPeerHelpersWeek
March 23 is National Peer Helpers Appreciation Day and our 
school is celebrating by [fill in the blank].

Celebrate Peer Helpers helping for others during the week of 
March 20-24.
Peer Helpers help others by being their friend, tutoring, 
Join Peer Helpers around the country on March 23 and 
celebrate peer power and making a positive difference in 
other's lives.
Celebrate with us!  Peer Helpers honors past peer helpers who
have made a difference in others' lives.  


Sample Chapter Facebook posts:
March 23 is National Peer Helpers Recognition Day.  We are
celebrating past Peer Helpers and all they did to help others, 
current Peer Helpers and future Peer Helpers.
Upload pictures on Facebook; be sure to add Congratulations
Peer Helpers!

Remember to upload a photo of your Peer Helper Group. 

Fourth, create information to give out to possible new recruits.
Information can include:  a video, brochure, flyers, classroom 

Fifth, have your peer helpers recruit at least one person.  A 
personal invitation is a great way to recruit for your program. 

Sixth, include your principal in your appreciation.  Why?  Frankly, 
it is our principals who allow us to run a program and it is 
important to include them in your celebration.

Here are some ideas that are low cost...

  • Photo made of crayons signed by your peer helpers.
  • Create a bulletin board.
  • Create a candy gram.
  • Create a word art photo.
  • Create a photo with the thumbprints of students in a heart and a special quote.
Seventh, consider holding a peer helper ceremony.  At the ceremony, present a proclamation to your principal signed by your superintendent and give out certificates to your peer helpers.  Invite parents, board members, community members, and other special staff members.

Need additional information to get started?  Download the National
Peer Helper Week kit at the National Peer Program Professional 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Wanted: Jobs for School Counselors

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tis' the time of year for graduates and school counselors to test the waters for school counseling job opportunities.  Starting in January, I am always asked by interns and other school counselors if I know about any job opportunities (this year I do!).  So, I thought it would be helpful to provide some tips for landing that future school counseling job and to make a suggestion about applying for a counseling job outside of a public or private school.   

First, let's get you ready for that job.  To prepare adequately, consider these helpful tips from some school counseling
Practice your skills!!

10 Tips for Landing a School Counselor Job (The Helpful Counselor)

Finding a School Counseling Job (School Counseling By Heart)

How to Make School Counselor Interviews Not So Scary (The Counseling Geek)

Insight from Awesome School Counselors - Interview & Applicant Essentials (The Counseling Geek)

Job Hunting Tips & Resources (American Counseling Association)

Job Search Skills for Professional School Counselors (Ohio School Counselor Association)
This includes sample templates of cover letters, resumes, curriculum vita, etc.

Job Tips for the High School Counselor (For High School Counselors)

School Counselor Interview Tips (School Counselor Blog)

Second, consider working on a professional portfolio now. Here are some great examples of portfolios you can view from school counselors to create your own.

Elizabeth Cranford
Tracy L. Jackson, Ph.D 
Stephanie Long 
Richard D. Pavia
Jeffrey Ream

Now, here is the job tip I have for my readers.  Consider an out of the box idea about a job opportunity as a school counselor - the Department of Defense.  I had never really ever considered a Department of Defense school until I recently visited one, but I liked what I saw and heard.

So, why consider a DODEA job?  Well, here are some advantages of working for the Department of Defense:

1.  There are many opportunities to get a job.  In fact, there are 172 schools in 14 districts located in 11 foreign countries including Guam and Puerto Rico (source: DODEA). 

2.  According to one DODEA employee, relocation assistance is available for moving.

3.  Comparable salary and benefits.  See the job salary schedule here

4.  Additional benefits:

Health Insurance
Life Insurance
Living Quarter Allowance
Medical/Dental Facilities
Shipment of automobile, household goods, and pets!

5.  Short tours of duty which can include one to two years depending on the location.  

Interested?  Want more information?  Go to the Department of Defense for more information.  Also, go to USA Jobs and select positions for school counselors.

I hope this post has provided some additional ideas of how to snag a school counseling job and opens up other opportunities that you may have not thought about in the past.

Happy job hunting!!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

News Flash, Not All Counselors Celebrate National School Counselor's Week!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A small confession...I had talked myself out of writing a post about National School Counselor Week this year.  With the recognition of school counselors by the White House, the amazing advocacy of ASCA, and great state leadership I felt confident in our new notoriety. Yes, I too thought we were making great strides in promoting NSCW among school counselor; however, I got schooled rather quickly.  Case in point...

Case #1

Several weeks ago, I was in a meeting with a group of  high school counselors in my district.  The meeting was jammed full of reviewing new regulations, district changes in curricula, advisement procedures, parent workshop planning...well, you get it.  After the meeting was over, I realized that no one had mentioned National School Counselor Week!  We were so busy discussing what we were doing for everyone else that we neglected to pay attention to ourselves (unfortunately, this is typical of many high school counselors).  

Case #2

This past week I had the pleasure of training some high school leaders and counselors on how to set up a peer mediation program in their school.  During a break, I asked one of the school counselors how their department will be celebrating National School Counseling Week.  The counselor looked at me as if I had two heads and stated, "we don't celebrate that at our school.

My conclusions...

So, from my experiences over the last couple of weeks, it is very evident we have many schools and school counselors who do not see the significance of celebrating National School Counselor Week.  Although I don't have the remedy, I think empowering our colleagues to give themselves a pat on the back once a year is a great start.  Although I think the we have made strides in celebrating our profession, we still have work to do!! 

In this post, I want to give some suggestions on how school counselors can celebrate themselves without a lot of effort.  So, here are eight small ways that school counselors can step out of their comfort zone and celebrate NSCW?

Don't Use the G Word!

As I was thinking about ways to make school counselors stand out during NSCW, I was reminded of a song called, "That's Not My Name" by the Ting Tings.  

Don't call me a guidance counselor cause THAT IS NOT MY NAME.  

When I hear the word "guidance", read it in an article, or see it on social media, I cringe.  The fact that school counselors still use the word guidance to refer to their department makes me want to cry (okay, I am being a little dramatic at this point).  So, how do we change this title that we have lived with since World War II?  One way is to educate others by promoting our profession during National School Counselor Week.  Anyone can provide guidance, but only we can truly impact students with our specialized skills.

Download the "I am not a Guidance Counselor" sign here.

Buy Yourself a School Counselor T-Shirt

Order and wear a t-shirt that makes a statement about who you truly are!  There are so many great t-shirts that you can order from other school counselors, but ASCA has a great one eliminates the word guidance.

For Once, Put Out a Sign About Yourself

ASCA has a free downloaded sign that you can put outside your office to show why you love being a school counselor!! 

Take a Counselor Buddy to Lunch

By recognizing a colleague who may not celebrate NSCW, you may start a new trend (this is what I did when I found out the school counselors at the school did not celebrate NSCW).  Okay, can't go out? Order out.  Can't order out?  Make a simple dish like chili (great for a cold February day).

Check out NSCW 2017 Activities?

This year's theme is School Counseling: Helping Students Realize Their Potential and will be celebrated during the week of February 6-10.  Not ready for this year...plan for 2018!!

NSCW Flyer
NSCW Poster

Need additional ideas to think about? Check out these links!!

California School Counselors

Wisconsin School Counselors
Network with School Counselors Online

Consider reaching out to other counselors across the US and Canada and get involved in online networking.

Some great sites include:


High School Counselor Connection

High School Counselor Network


National School Counselor Week Ideas





Promote Yourself

One simple way to promote your school counseling department is to create a brochure.  This is easy and very beneficial!

Check out the examples below.

Free Counseling Brochure
Although this is geared toward elementary school counselors, this template from The Helpful Counselor will assist you in creating your own counseling brochure to share with parents.

Here is an additional example of a high school brochure.

Share Resources 

Share information with others about who you are and your value!

Here is information to share with your administrator:

School Administer Guide to Supporting School Counselors
Edutopia article written in 2013 regarding seven ways administrators can support you as a school counselor. 

The Changing Role of the School Counselor 
Insightful article written by Nickey Pietila on the importance of the role of the school counselor and the use of data to support that role. 

Advocacy Infographic

Source: ACA

Here is information for school counselors:

Why You Should Celebrate NCSW?
A reminder why counselors should celebrate NSCW by Patrick O'Connor.

Past articles from your's truly...

I Will Not Be Ignored: School Counselors Doing It For Themselves!

A Recipe for a Great National School Counselor Week!

Make NSCW15 Memorable

The Counselor Bowl 2014

Oh, I love to hear what you are doing during NSCW!  Please share your ideas!!  Happy NSCW!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Guest Post: Students Helping Each Other Across the USA Webinar

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

This post was taken from the Online Peer Mediation Platform (OPMP), a project funded by the JAMS Foundation and managed by the National Association of Peer Program Professionals.  OPMP will offer the opportunity for schools, which lack peer mediation programs, to utilize peer mediation services for its students in conflict.  Feel free to share this information with schools that lack a peer mediation program and check out the webinar which I will be co-hosting!!! 

About the webinar...

Due to lack of resources, time and staff, many schools don’t have a peer mediation program, which allows students to help each other resolve school-related conflicts.

The Online Peer Mediation Platform (OPMP), a JAMS funded project, now offers an alternative solution. OPMP has trained a group of highly skilled peer mediators to assist other students across the country – online, in a safe and confidential environment.

During this FREE 30-min webinar two OPMP Team Members (Dr. Cynthia Morton and Prof. Karen Devoogd) and two Rockdale County students/online peer mediators will explain:
  • What online peer mediation means and how it works
  • How school administrators can request an online peer mediation for their students, by filling out an online form available on the OPMP website
  • Which cases are suitable for online peer mediation
  • How students can participate in an online peer mediation with their PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android tablet or smartphone
The Online Peer Mediation Platform is a project funded by the JAMS Foundation, currently managed by the National Association of Peer Program Professionals, and previously managed by the Association for Conflict Resolution.
WHEN - Jan 31, 2017 from 7:00pm to 7:30pm Eastern Time (US and Canada)

FREE ONLINE REGISTRATION - Fill out this Online Registration Form 
Upon registration you'll automatically receive information on how to join our webinar with your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android tablet or smartphone

Sunday, January 1, 2017

For High School Counselors: My Top 10 Blog Posts from 2016

Sunday, January 1, 2017

 Well 2016 has finally come to an end and I am looking forward to writing many new posts for 2017.  At the end of each year, I like to share my 10 top blog posts for the year.  Please enjoy!

Check out my blog post about some of the most unique Red Ribbon ideas that I could find.  This post discusses the connection between drugs and terrorism, how to truly educate your faculty and staff about teen drug use, and gives you lots of tips on how to create some of the most "out of the box" activities for your RRW celebration.

Although this post is almost four years old (yikes), it still has a lot of great tech tools to incorporate in your counseling practice. 

One of my latest blog post that shares how to create a comfort kit for students who self harm.  I got this information from the Georgia School Counselor Conference and had to share!

In this post, I share some tips on how to reduce end of the year stress during the craziest time of the year. Hint, exercise and music are part of answer!

Need tips to help students who have hygiene issues?  This blog gives some of the best tips I have discovered as a school counselor.

Need comforting and stress reducing tips for your students? Try coloring!  This blog post provides you with information to free and low cost options for your students. 

This blog post was written to help school counselors who feel they do not have the knowledge or experience to assist students who self harm.  I try to provide lots of information, resources, and training suggestions.  

I really enjoyed writing this blog post about some fun things you should consider doing for your seniors before they graduate.

 Do you need a counseling website or resource?  Well, this post has everything and it continues to grow!  If you have an additional resource to add, please let me know!!

And now....

Yes, this post really has over 1,000 forms that you can use, modify, and borrow.  It is a great resource for any school counselor.
Looking forward to giving you more information, resources, and ideas in 2017!!