Sunday, July 26, 2015

Online Peer Mediation

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A couple of years after becoming a school counselor, I decided I wanted to be a mediator.  Why? I can't really tell you the reason, but I thought it would be a great skill to have as a school counselor.  So, I signed up for a 40 hour Civil Mediation training and met the practicum requirement of mediating in court.  My very first case involved a young girl who was being followed by a middle aged construction worker.  Instead of the judge sending him to jail, both parties agreed to go to mediation to determine how they would interact with each other in the future.  After expressions of high emotion and intense dialogue, the teen was able to express her fear and why she wanted the man to stay way from her.  The man expressed that he was sorry that he had scared her and that did not realize the harm that he had caused her.  An agreement was written, given to the judge, and they went their separate ways. The two people were able to decide their own outcome and it was powerful.

From this experience, I decided to train a group of high school students in mediation.  Over five years,  I continued my education in conflict resolution, joined the leadership of the Association for Conflict Resolution, and re-instituted the peer mediation program in my school.  By year seven, our mediation program became so strong that other high schools asked for their students to be trained and we created our first countywide cohort of peer mediators .  A year later, some of our elementary and middle school counselors decided they wanted to have peer mediation programs and became peer mediation facilitators.  Part of our training mission included having our high school students train and mentor our middle/elementary students.  Looking into the future, our dream is to have our very first peer mediation tournament among our high school students.

So, this is how our peer mediation program has evolved and changed over time.  I was satisfied with this traditional type of mediation program until I was offered a chance to co-create an online peer mediation program through a grant offered by the JAMS Foundation. In November, 2014, our school district and Fresno State University were awarded the opportunity to create the first online peer mediation program for our students

Online Peer Mediation Platform

What are the components of the platform?

  • A comprehensive online peer mediation website which houses free curricula, resources, videos, and simulations.
  • The platform enables children aged 10-18 to learn about, participate, receive mentoring in, and share their experiences with peer mediation. 
  • A skills assessment for trained peer mediators and a platform for conducting online peer mediation sessions. 
  • Guidance on how to establish and maintain a successful program by using the peer mediation standards created by the Association for Conflict Resolution. The peer mediation standards were created to:
  1. Give guidance on how to develop and implement a sustainable program.
  2. How to develop appropriate evaluation.
  3. How to select or create curricula. Check out Creducation for information on free curricula.
  4. How to improve established programs.
  5. Promoting adult professional development.
  6. Model conduct for peer mediators.
  7. Appropriate length of training for elementary, middle, and high school students.
  8. Choosing a theoretical model of mediation.
      9.  Selecting peer mediators.
      10.  Role of adults in training mediators.

Although the standards are not a how-to manual, it provides guidance to schools on what should be done to maintain a sustainable program.

What is an online simulation like?  Well, I want to share some of our simulations with you and how they work. Also, if you are interested in starting a peer mediation program, please feel free to join our peer mediation chat in August!  Other topics will follow!!

View the Online Peer Mediation Simulations

Monday, July 20, 2015

September Awareness Events

Monday, July 20, 2015

September 7-13

Suicide Awareness and Prevention Week
Bring awareness prevention, intervention, and postvention strategies to your school. 

More Than Sad
Program created to increase the understanding of youth suicide, risk factors that increase suicide, and prevention strategies.

After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools
This toolkit provides guidance for schools on suicide. Includes: templates; do's/don'ts; guidelines for action; and topics like memorials, handing a crisis, social media, and suicide contagion.

Suicide Shouldn't Be a Secret PSA
The PSA's educate about the warning signs of depression and action steps to take when a youth is suicidal.  

Other Resources:

Youth Suicide Prevention Program
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
Sources of Strength

September 17

Constitution/Citizenship Day

Great week to promote civility and digital citizenship.

Democracy Is Us- Website created by Bill Warters of Wayne State University promoting civility. 
The Morningside Center - Using circles to discuss the Charleston Massacre.
Teaching About Controversial Issues in the Classroom - Great outline of how to create a discussion around controversial issues with students.
Speak Your Peace Toolkit - Discover the 9 tools of civility.
Nine Tools of Civility - Contract on speaking to each other respectfully.
Nine Tools of Civility Poster

Digital Citizenship - Curriculum and resources from Canada.
Digital Citizenship - How to combat cyberbullying.
Edudemic - 15 Digital Citizen resources.
Digital Citizenship in School

Digital Summit  October 3, 2015-Discussion on digital citizenship.

September 18-21

Clean Up the World Weekend

Naviance asked school counselors why students should be involved in community service projects and they gave four reasons:
1. Gives students a sense of purpose.
2. Community service has a positive impact on grades.
3. Can change the way students view the world.
4. Community service has a positive impact on college admissions.
Clean Up the World 2015 Logo

As a school counselor, consider encouraging your students to be involved in community service projects like Clean Up the World Weekend. This campaign started in the 90s in Australia and is quickly catching on around the world.  Students are encouraged to pick an environmental issue and plan a community service activity. 

How to Plan an Activity 

September 21

International Day of Peace
Promote peace in your school and community!!

The Peace One Day USA Education Resource  - Action plan and resource guide for Peace Day Activities.
The Peace One Day Global Education Resource  - Resource guide with activities and lesson plans for teaching about global peace initiatives.

Check it out:
Peace Cast TV - This web station will broadcast submissions from all over the world on Sept. 21st.

Think about encouraging your students to use their talents to promote peace by participating in some of these events:
One Day One Goal - Promotes peace through the power of soccer.
One Day One Dance  - Encourage peace through dance.

Some Fun Activities to Consider for Your School:

Create Peace Doves
Right to Peace Sing A Long
Make a Peace Flag
Chalk for Peace
Pinwheels for Peace

Monday, July 13, 2015

Coloring for Teens: Coloring Books for High School Students

Monday, July 13, 2015

It is a relaxing Sunday morning. My husband and I drink coffee together, my kids sleep in, and later I decide to read the Sunday paper.  After looking through the usual coupons and sale papers, I grab Parade magazine.  Usually, I just scan the magazine, but today a particular article grabbed my attention called, "The New Joy of Coloring".  The premise of the article was how coloring books can reduce stress for middle aged adults. Immediately my wheels begin to turn, but they are interrupted by my four year old grandson who is ready for breakfast.

Later that morning, we decide take the grandson to Denny's for pancakes. When the waitress brought our menus, she gave our grandson a coloring book and crayons.  Immediately, he went from playful banter to intense drawing and coloring.  Before I knew it,  my husband starting coloring with him and they went to their own happy place.  Watching them color, my mind went back to the article and how this could be something  helpful to use with my students!

After I arrived back home, I began to search for school counselors who use coloring books with teens.  Frankly, there was nothing; however, I did find a lot of information from elementary school counselors and private therapists who use coloring books frequently.  Here are some examples:

The Helpful Counselor - Free coloring book pages for elementary kids.
Andrea Burston - Livebinder of coloring pages for elementary counselors.
Career & Technical Coloring Pages - Coloring pages on community helpers and careers for elementary & middle school students.
School Counseling Files - Ideas to use in a girls' group.
Counselor Toolbox for the Classroom  - Ideas to use in the elementary classroom.
100 Art Therapy Exercises -Ideas for therapist.

Since there was little information about high school counselors, I decided to conduct my own research on how coloring can be helpful on reducing stress for teens.

How Can Coloring Reduce Stress? 

According to psychologist, Dr. Alice Domar, coloring engages both sides of the brain and offers complete absorption in the activity. The ability to concentrate on one task allows the person to take his or her mind off everyday stressors because the brain is not allowed to multitask (color and stress).  In fact, the more difficult or abstract the coloring pages, the more engaged the person becomes in the activity. At some point, the person begins to loose interest in his or her current thoughts. Through the activation of both hemispheres, activities are reduced in the amygdala (part of the emotional brain) and  the person is able to relax. In addition to relaxation,  Antoni Martinez, a psychologist, found that coloring can increase one's creativity.

Resource:  Coloring Books for Grown Ups Can Ease Stress and Calm the Inner Child 

The New Trend of Coloring for Adults and Teens

The popularity of adult and teen coloring book emerged from the Europe and has quickly spread to the US.  In fact, several books have topped the best selling list on Amazon. Some of these books include:

Secret Garden
Enchanted Forest
Color Me Happy

Why the popularity?  With all the stress of life, grown ups want a chance to unplug and detach from their phones, tablets, and computers.  One way to do this is by slowly concentrating on a complex image using soothing colors like blue, greens or purple.  Another advantage of coloring is that it is a great way for adults to socialize. In fact, socialization groups exist where people can color together and there are even Facebook pages that promote coloring.

Selena Gomez enjoys coloring!

What Does This Mean for High School Counselors?

Though coloring may not work with all our students, there are many who can benefit from this activity. 
  • Students who suffer from depression and anxiety.
  • Students who need a time out due to intense anger.
  • Students who have experienced some type of trauma.
  • Students with physical or learning disabilities.
  • Students stressed out because of academic, social, or familial relationships. 
  • Students who have a hard time expressing their emotions or feelings.
  • New students who may feel uncomfortable in their new environment. 
If you are interested in trying this technique, here are some steps you can follow:
  • Find your coloring resources.  You can download free pages from Pinterest, from websites, or purchase coloring books.  See a list of resources below.
  • Purchase coloring crayons or pencils. Personally, I prefer coloring crayons because you can buy them in large quantities and they come in lots of great colors.  However, some teens may prefer colored pencils as they are more "mature".
  • Be aware of how colors affect a student's mood:
  1. Cool colors (blue, green, or purple) have a calming impact.
  2. Warm colors (red, orange, or yellow) can pick up your mood.
  3. Bright colors can be energizing.
  4. Dark colors can be relaxing.
  5. Pastels can be soothing.
Resource:  Color Psychology
  • Tell the student to "just go for it".  Have them pick a color and just start coloring.
  • Consider using relaxing music as the student colors.
  • Join the student for a bonding experience.
  • Make sure that the student has uninterrupted coloring time. 
Below are some free coloring pages that you can download for students.  In addition, there are books that you can purchase and organizations that you join to help you with this technique.
Free Coloring Pages:

Pinterest coloring pages for teens
Sample page from Color Me Happy

Pinterest Disney coloring pages
Coloring pages for Adults and Teens
Color Me Girl Crush
Supercoloring: Pages for Teens and Adults
Complex coloring pages for teens
Difficult coloring pages for teens
Colorpedia: Hard coloring pages
Printable coloring pages
Indulgy: free coloring pages for teens
Difficult & abstract coloring pages for teens
Somebody Do Something: Coloring Pages for Teens
Only Coloring Pages: coloring pages of flowers for teenagers
Beautiful butterfly pages for teens
Abstract pages for teens
Abstract coloring pages for teens
Cool coloring pages for teenagers
Sports cars
Animal coloring pages
Anime coloring pages for teens
Graffiti coloring pages
Codehooligans: Top coloring pages for teens
Animal coloring pages for teenagers
Mandalas by Susanne Fincher
Funtown free coloring pages for teens
Disney coloring pages

Information About Coloring: 

Therapy in Color 
Popular coloring book for adults that has been applauded by celebrities and therapists for its ability to help with stress.

How to Color
The author gives step by step directions and supply suggestions for coloring. 

Groups That Promote Coloring:

Coloring Away the Pain Foundation
This foundation was created in response to Hurricane Katrina and ships coloring books and crayons to children who experience trauma.

Coloring Book Magazine
Sign up for a free subscription to learn more about the benefits of coloring.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Texas Conflict Coach Radio Show: Youth Mental Health and Conflict

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Pattie Porter
 I am so excited to be a guest on the Texas Conflict Coach Radio Show Back to School Series!  The Texas Conflict Coach, also known as the fabulous Pattie Porter, is a conflict resolution expert, mediator, conflict
coach, and speaker. Each August, Pattie hosts a series of issues around conflict in schools. In this series, Pattie will have a lot of great topics. I have included the ones that are currently published on the website for August.

August 4th - The Sure Fire Way to Stop Bullying Now
Anita Telle
Tracy Culbreath

August 11th - Adolescent Mental Health Disorders: Adults Negative Reactions Can Amp Conflict
Cynthia Morton (aka me!)

What is Youth Mental Health First Aid?

Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) offers help to a person developing or experience a mental health crisis.  Although YMHFA is not a substitute for counseling, its goals are to reduce stigma and provide early intervention to adolescents. Anyone who works with youth can be trained in YMHFA. 

Algee the Bear
This course is designed for those who work with adolescents between the ages of 12-18 and introduces them to the unique risks and warning signs of mental illness. In addition, the course identifies the importance of early intervention and teaches participants how to help youth who are experiencing a mental health crisis. Not only is this course appropriate for those who work with youth, but the course is also appropriate for older adolescents (ages 16 or older) as to encourage peer to peer interaction. 

(See my past blog post about YMHFA)

Additional Resources about YMHFA

Youth Mental Health First Aid 
Find a Training in Your State 
Resources to Recognize and Help Troubled Youth 

Past Episodes from the Texas Conflict Coach Radio Show

Also, check out past shows regarding conflict in schools.  

Want to know more about YMHFA?  Please feel free to contact me!


Did You Miss ASCA15? Check This Out!!

Me sulking in the corner because I missed ASCA15
So you were not able to attend ASCA15 this year.  Well, I know the feeling because I was not able to go to Phoenix either!!  However, through the magic of Twitter, I was able to vicariously keep up with the conference from the tweets of fabulous school counselors at ASCA. If you missed the conference, I want to share some amazing resources with you!!

Franciene Sabens - I Built Something Magical and Now I am Ready to Spice it Up!

Danielle Schultz - Notatasca15-Virtual Chat 

Chris Belcher - My Favorite Tweets from #Notatasca15

Susan Spellman Cann 
ASCA15 Conference and Connections in Phoenix
Asca15: Making a Difference...School Counsellors

Jeff Ream - Fiery School Counselor: From Blah to Blazing

Carol Miller - StarBound, Check out her new book

I will so be at ASCA16!
Don't miss next year's conference in New Orleans, LA from July 9-12, 2016.