Thursday, July 25, 2013

It Can Wait: Texting and Driving Pledge-September 18-20, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013
Did you know that when a teen is driving at 55 mph and texting that he or she can take his or her eyes off the road for the length of a football field?  The National Safety Council reports that there are over 100,000 texting and driving crashes each year and that texting and driving is still a huge problem among teens.

Join the "It Can Wait" Campaign and download the kit to promote awareness of the dangers of texting and driving in your high school.

Some of the activities I am planning for my high school include:

  • Promote the Texting and Driving Pledge during lunch.
  • Provide opportunities for all students to complete the Online Texting and Driving Simulator during lunch.
  • Give out thumb rings or thumb socks for drivers with a valid driver's license.
  • Promote the Sprint Application for silencing emails and texts while driving.
  • Put up banners around the school reminding students and staff not to text and drive.
  • Put flyers on student/staff cars about the dangers of texting and driving.
    Thumb Bands
Thumb Socks

Distracted Driving Statistics-Great information for your website and parents.
It Can Wait- Start up campaign kit for schools.
Texting and Driving Online Simulator-Online simulator for students to simulate texting and driving.
Sprint App for silencing texts and emails while driving-Application to silence emails and texts while driving.
NOYS-National Organization for Youth Safety-lots of resources and grant information.
Best Pledge Practices-Cheat sheet for getting students to sign the pledge.
Do Something-Thumb Socks-Order form for thumb socks and directions for learning to make your own.
Do Something Thumb Guide for Teen Drivers-Another great start up kit for schools!
Teens In the Driver's Seat-Peer to Peer Safety program for schools.

Great to put on a teen drivers' car

Here are some examples additional posters, flyers, and stickers for students.

Feel free to share any ideas for promoting the It Can Wait Pledge!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Suicide Prevention Week-September 8-14, 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thinking about promoting a suicide awareness campaign?  Is so, here are some resource kits you can access for your school.

American Association of Suicidology-contains a timeline, press release, proclamation, and ideas for promoting suicide awareness., community activities, resources, and newsletter.

Suicide Prevention Kit-state resources and websites.

Suicide Prevention Resource Center-webinars, warning signs, statistics, and resources.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline- a free 24/7 lifeline for people who are in crisis.

International Association for Suicide Prevention-suicidal behavior in adolescents, contagion, postvention, and helplines.

National Institute of Mental Health-publications, resources, statistics, and prevention ideas.

Centers for Disease Control-fact sheets, featured resources, and featured programs.

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide-information about memorials, information for educators, suicide curriculum, and warning signs. myths, stigma and suicide, websites, warning signs, and resources.

Square-assessments and resources from Australia.

If you have participated in National Suicide Awareness Week in the past, I would love to hear your activities and ideas!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Public Conversation Toolkit

Thursday, July 18, 2013
Summer is quickly coming to a close for me and my school will be busy with the sounds of students who are eager to learn and excited to make new friends.  Unfortunately, after about two weeks, the excitement of coming back to school will begin to wear off and that peaceful scene will quickly fade away (sigh). 

In my opinion, the beginning of school is like getting a new roommate in college.  At first, you are so eager to get to know this person that you do everything together...go to the movies, go out to eat, go to parties, study together, watch get what I mean. Then, ever so slightly, things that were not so noticeable become an instant irritant.  When these little irritations are first noticed, you try to shrug them off or make excuses for them. Maybe she did not clean the hair out the drain because she was in a hurry to get to class or maybe she hasn't made her bed in a month because she is going to get back in it tonight. As time passes, you notice that those little irritations become bigger and bigger.
Eventually, the desire to be around each other erodes and you begin avoiding one another, going to hang out in other dorm rooms, or contemplating moving back home.When the honeymoon period is over,everyone's true self is revealed.

When the honeymoon period is over at school, a slow tide of irritants begin to emerge. Many of these disturbances simply come from our biases, perceptions, and past experiences that we bring with us to school.
Everyone sees things differently
Without proper skills to deal with situations that disturb us, conflicts often emerge. Sometimes these conflicts can lead to class disruptions, verbal disagreements, physical fights, and even bullying.  Because we all have different beliefs and perceptions, there is a lot of potential for disagreements in the classroom, the lunchroom, or the hallways. If educators and students lack the ability to carry on a meaningful conversation or dialogue, things can get out of hand quickly.  As a school counselor and conflict manager, I believe it is very important to train staff and students in communication or dialogue processes. Dialogue processes can be very useful for class discussions, student/parent conferences, meetings, misunderstandings, and conflicts. In my opinion, this is a skill that students need more than ever!!

What is Dialogue?

Trish Jones, Christi Tinari, and Catrina Cueves, from the Conflict Resolution Education and Teacher Education or CRETE project, define dialogue as a process where individuals or groups share information in order to gain a better understanding.  The goal of dialogue is not to change that person's opinion, but to shift how we view self, the other person, and our relationship with that person. Therefore, the point of dialogue is understanding and not to find flows, criticize, or prove your point.

Public Conversation Toolkit

Now that we are aware of the meaning of dialogue, how do you implement it in high schools?  The CRETE project provides a Public Conversation Toolkit that I would like to share with you.  

If you would like to know more information about CRETE and the great skills you can learn, please feel free to email me and I can provide you with further training information.


Tool # 1-The Public Conversation Project (PCP) created a facilitated dialogue process out of their desire to help create understanding between Pro-Choice and Pro-Life groups in the early 1990's.

Public Conversation Project

This dialogue process is voluntary and guided by three prompts:

  • Prompt 1-What is your personal experience with this topic?
  • Prompt 2-What are you concerned about? What do you want others to understand?
  • Prompt 3-Who should have a voice in this conversation? Who is most being harmed by this topic and what would you like to see happen?
The purpose of the prompts is to help participants seek others' point of view, learn respectful listening, and promote understanding. The role of the facilitator is to maintain the environment by making sure ground rules are set, the prompts are followed, and that closure is provided to end the process.  

Tool # 2-Methodological Beliefs created by Educators for Social Responsibility and Rachel Poliner.

Methodological belief is a method that withholds arguments so that others' beliefs can be explored. This can be quite difficult for students and adults as our brain is wired for fight or flight. 

Methodological belief process:

1. Identify the conflicting issue.
2. Ask students to divide into two groups (pros and cons).
3. Explain that the goal is understanding and common ground.
4. Ask for a member of the pro group to present belief statements in support of the issue. While that person is speaking, have students in the other group listen for one thing that he or she can agree with.
5. After that person is finished, have a student from the other group ask questions of understanding.
6. Repeat the steps with a presenter from the other group.
7. Debrief

Tool # 3-Recognizing disrespectful communication  and showing respect or confirming behaviors.

According to Tricia Jones and Jessica Jameson of CRETE, disrespectful communication is often identified when we act as if the other person does not exist (indifference) or does not have a right to assert his/her identity (imperviousness).  In order to show confirming behaviors or messages of respect, one must:
  • Recognize the other person non verbally and verbally.
  • Acknowledge the other person's perceptions, comments or questions without agreeing with them.
  • Endorse or send the message that their feelings or perceptions are okay. 
Tool # 4- Use of Movies

School counselors can have a great impact on school culture by training students and staff members in dialogue processes. One other tool that I use in my school is called Peace Cafe. Last year, I invited some follow mediators to come to my school and we viewed the movie, Odd Girl Out.
After the movie ended, one of the mediators led a facilitated discussion about the issue of girl bullying by asking several probing questions.  The purpose of the questions was to lead students to think critically about the events that led up to the bullying in the film, what factors contributed to the bullying, and what were some solutions to the bullying. Also, the students were asked to talk about specific incidents when they were bullied, what led up to the bullying, and what could have made the situation better for them.  In addition, the students were asked to brainstorm causes of bullying  and possible solutions for preventing bullying at their school. The discussion was powerful and the students seemed to appreciate the process.

This year, I am going to train a group of peer helpers in dialogue processes. I feel that teaching students to use dialogue with other students will continue to have a great impact on school climate!! 

See the following resources to set up your own dialogue processes in your school...good luck!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Help for the Helper

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Have you ever considered adding a peer helping program to your counseling department? 

Not sure about peer helping as a legitimate extension of your department?   Okay, I know there are some blank looks out let me provide a little support for peer helping.

What is Peer Helping?

Researchers, like Barbara Varenhorst of The Search Institute, have found that peer influences can be more powerful than adult-student interactions. Rather than going to an adult, students often seek other students to discuss or help them with their problems. Research also reveals that schools which establish a peer helper program show success in creating nurturing relationships and a positive school culture.  ASCA believes that peer helping is one means of helping students reach a higher level of maturity and responsibility. Peer helping programs can increase the effectiveness of the school counselor by increasing outreach and expanding programs.

Peer Helping has been around since...well, forever (check out this Archie comic).
When I had my heart broken in 6th grade, I didn't go to the school counselor, Instead, my first instinct was to go to my peers for help and comfort.  Peer helping is not just a school concept, it has been used in the gulf states during the recent oil spill, in organizations like churches, in community agencies, and universities. In fact, many of the greatest songs of the 20th century are about peer helping.



Now that you have the official approval of organizations like ASCA and the Search Institute, I think you can start pondering the question of whether your school could benefit from a peer helping program. Believe me, I understand your concerns about supervision, time, training, and evaluation.When I started my first program in 2005, I faced these same concerns.  Not sure how I would go about training my students, I read a lot of great books and how-to-manuals. However, I always felt that there had to be an organization that provided resources, training, and support to peer helping supervisors.  In 2010, I attended my first Peer Helping Training Institute in Indianapolis sponsored by the National Association of Peer Program Professionals (NAPPP).  NAPPP trains, supports, and certifies peer helping programs all over the world.  The trainer was Sue Rouston who manages the first certified peer program called PICT (Peer Information Center for Teens).  At this week long training, I was instructed on how to train students, train other peer helping supervisors, and how to evaluate my peer helping program. Finally, all the pieces were coming together.

After attending the training, I was invited to attend the 2011 National Peer Helping Conference in Orange Beach, Alabama which provided workshops and resources for peer helping professionals.  At that conference, I was inspired to apply for certification for my own program.  Happily in 2012, my program was certified as the first program in the metro Atlanta area. Hungry for more, I attended Ira Sachnoff's  Peer Resource Training in San Francisco. This two day workshop gave me so many great ideas for expanding my program. Now that I have had the opportunity to meet and work with so many wonderful peer helper coordinators, I have had the honor of becoming a NAPPP board member and consultant.   Our goal is to provide a vision, ethics, and resources to peer programs and coordinators. In addition, NAPPP wants to increase certified programs throughout the country and certify students nationally as peer helpers (just like counselors and teachers) through a national exam.

Now that you are aware of an organization that provides training, support, and certification for peer helping programs, why don't you consider starting a program or taking your program to the next level!

Want to know more?  Please feel free to email me for more information.


Canadian Student Leadership Association
Natural Helpers
Safe, Healthy Schools
Roseville High School Peer Helper Program
Peer Helping Resources for Colleges
Peer Resource Network
Students Helping Students
Tapping the Power of Peer Helping, B. Varenhorst
K-12 Peer Helping, Julie Champion
Peer Net British Columbia
Teacher Tube Videos

Monday, July 8, 2013

Looking for Warm Bodies

Monday, July 8, 2013
Living near Atlanta, there is always a sighting of a zombie or vampire.  Passing near a movie set, you see crowds of teens watching scenes from Vampire Dairies or The Walking Dead. Truly being undead is the new rage.  Although zombies are exciting in the movies, the idea of experiencing one in real life is pretty terrifying.  Each year, a new group of freshmen come to high school terrified of their new environment. As a school counselor, we hope to be that person who advocates for them and orients them to the unwritten rules of the school. Unfortunately, if students do not know you exist or see you as this scary thing it is difficult for the school counselor to perform these roles.  In fact, sometimes I feel like that scary zombie when I try to approach my freshmen because I haven't taken the time to get to know them. So, instead of me looking for warm bodies, I want students to feel comfortable coming to me (well, at least not avoiding me).

Typically, the beginning of the year so is insane that it is virtually impossible to get to know your new students.  As a high school counselor, there are many opportunities to meet our new students, but our time is often spent on too many administrative tasks.  By the time a freshman is referred to the counselor, the student is often confused about our purpose for seeing him or her or too timid to let us into his or her world.  It is important to take the extra time at the beginning of the year to introduce the role of the school counselor to our freshmen and their parents.

Here are some ideas of how high school counselors can introduce themselves to freshmen at the beginning of the year:

Make a good impression at Open House

One way to make a good impression is to be available to meet parents and students, talk to them, and provide helpful resources.  One resource that you can provide is a Freshman Survival Guide that students can read before they start school on the first day.

Here is an example of a freshman survival guide produced on North Tonawanda High School Counseling site.

North Tonawanda High School Freshmen Survival Guide

Greet students in the halls during the first week of school

A great way to encourage students to see you as a friendly presence is to be one of the smiling faces they see when they enter in the building in the morning.

Create a Freshman Parent/Student newsletter

The Counseling Geek provides a great video about the advantage of using Mail Chimp to create a newsletter for students and parents to subscribe at the beginning of the year.  At open house, provide a information sheet for students and parents to complete so their emails can be gathered and/or provide the newsletter site.

Lunch with the School Counselor

Invite small groups of 9th graders to have lunch with their school counselor to learn about the role of the school counselor and give them academic, college/career, and personal/social information.

Here is an example of a power point presentation for freshmen by Brian Law of Valdosta High School.

Freshman Presentation

Parent Coffee with the Counselor

Invite parents to join you for coffee after dropping off their students in the mornings for informational sessions. Here is a website advertising an informational coffee session with the school counselor. Below the website, there is a poster advertising a coffee with a middle school counselor for rising 9th graders.

Coffee with the Counselor, Malibu High School

The Middle School Counselor 

Just taking some time to meet with our freshmen early can make a big difference in helping to form lasting and trusting relationships.  If you have ideas to share about how you make connections with your freshmen at the beginning of the school year, I would love to hear them!