Monday, October 26, 2015

Great American Smokeout: Give Teens a Plan to Stop Smoking!

Monday, October 26, 2015

One substance that has a negative impact on teen mental and physical health is nicotine.  Although the majority of kids realize that smoking is bad for them, it is really difficult to stop smoking.  When I asked one of my relatives why it was so hard for him to stop, he told me that so much of his daily patterns were centered around smoking.  I had never really thought about how ingrained smoking was in a person's daily life. In addition to smoking being a part of his everyday routine, smoking had been a great way for him to socialize and make friends.  This really got me thinking about why so many teens start smoking in the first be accepted.  So, why would our teens want to throw down their pack of cigarette and socially isolate themselves on a day like the Great American Smokeout?

Well, I don't have the answer to this question, but it certainly helps me to see that quitting is not as simple as just throwing down a pack of cigarettes for a day.  In reality, quitting entails helping teens come up with a plan and developing coping skills that adults normally don't share with teens.  So, this year if your school decides t participates in the Great American Smokeout, you may want to do more than throw up a couple of posters...students need a plan!   

Smoking Plan

Here are some tips from the American Cancer Society and Smoke Free Teen to prepare for Quit Day and Beyond:

  • Pick the date and mark it on your calendar.  Students can download an app (yes, there is an app for quitting) or go to Quit Calendar.
  • Tell friends and family about your Quit Day.
  • Get rid of all the cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and at work.
  • Stock up on oral substitutes – sugarless gum, carrot sticks, hard candy, cinnamon sticks, coffee stirrers, straws, and/or toothpicks.
  • Decide on a plan. Will you use NRT or other medicines? Will you attend a stop-smoking class? If so, sign up now.
  • Practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke.”
  • Set up a support system. This could be a group program or a friend or family member who has successfully quit and is willing to help you. Ask family and friends who still smoke not to smoke around you, and not to leave cigarettes out where you can see them.
  • Think about your past attempts to quit. Try to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

On your Quit Day:

  • Do not smoke. This means not at all – not even one puff!
  • Keep active – try walking, short bursts of exercise, or other activities and hobbies.
  • Drink lots of water and juices.
  • Start using nicotine replacement if that’s your choice.
  • Attend a stop-smoking class or follow your self-help plan.
  • Avoid situations where the urge to smoke is strong.
  • Avoid people who are smoking.
  • Drink less alcohol or avoid it completely.
  • Think about how you can change your routine. Use a different route to go to work. Drink tea instead of coffee. Eat breakfast in a different place or eat different foods.

After you quit:

  • Ask others not to smoke around you!
  • Identify triggers and make a plan to avoid them.
  • Ask for support not to smoke. Teens can sign up for a text message from Smokefree Teen for additional support!
  • Remind others you will be grouchy and to be patient with you.
  • Celebrate milestones (24 hours, 48 hours, etc).
  • Prepare for carvings.
  • Throw away ashtrays and lighters.
  • Track and monitor  your progress.
  • N.O.P.E-not one puff ever. However, don't beat yourself up if you slip.

ucanquit2 Campaign Materials 
Download free social media cover photos and posters for your quit day.

Prevention is Best!  

Of course, prevention efforts are the most effective way to stop smoking!  Below are materials you can use in your school to urge teens not to smoke.

CDC Tobacco Materials for Teachers  - contains posters, videos,  and other materials to be used in the classroom.

Smoking Danger Demonstration -Great for a science class.

Badvertisement-Teaches students how to create truthful advertising posters about smoking by using magazine articles.

Poster from Badvertisement

Joe Chemo-Spinoff of the Joe Camal mascot with quizzes,  campaigns, facts, and activities for students in grades 6-12.

E Card that can be sent by a student.

No Smoking School Campaign Ideas

The Truth-Get the latest facts about tobacco use and put them up around the school.

Fact Posters from the Truth and the CDC. 




November Awareness Events For High School Counselors

Can you believe 2015 is almost over!  Next month starts the holiday season and I am definitely looking forward to time with my family and eating my mother-in-law's Thanksgiving dinner (my mouth is watering thinking about it).  Since the holiday season will soon begin, it is important to think about our students who see the holidays as a source of stress.   This month, in addition to the can good drive, think about focusing on the mental and/or physical health of students as we go into the holidays.

November Awareness Activities

November 8th - 14th
Mental Health Wellness Week

November 19th
National Smokeout Day

Runaway Prevention Month

Over the next week, I will be adding blog posts about ideas for promoting these events in your school.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ideas to Bring Attention to Cliques in Your School

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Recently, I attended my 30th class reunion...yes, I am that old. The reunion was spread over two evenings and included a home football game (we lost by the way) and a riverboat cruise. Although we had a modest turnout,  I was so excited to see a lot of my old friends at both events!  At one of our
My old school!
dinners, I noticed the segregated tables and how cliquish the groups still were after all this time.  As my husband and I were deciding where to sit, I looked at him and said, "You know what I want to do, right."  My husband knows me all to well and responded back, "Lead the way."  Instead of choosing a table with a group of my friends, something I would have never done at 17 years old, I sat with some classmates that I did not know very well.  After sitting with them for a while, I decided to walk around the room to make sure that I spoke to everyone.  Although it was uncomfortable to talk to people I hadn't seen in three decades, I felt a sense of satisfaction and pride from talking to my classmates.  Now, if only I had been that confident to do that when I was teenager!


The Pink Ladies aka "bad girls"
Truly, if adults have trouble talking to others outside of their clique, think about how difficult it must be for teenagers.  A clique, according to the Center for Young Women's Health, allows a person feel like he or she belongs.  The group sets rules for popularity, unacceptable behavior, trends, and more.  In this group, a teen can feel comfortable because he or she takes on a specific identity (i.e. jock, nerd, bad girl, cheerleader, or emo); however, this identity can be striped away if the individual does not conform to the group's standards or rules. Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, in an article for PsychCentral, believes it is important to help kids stay away from cliques way before they become teens.  In her article, she gave some suggestions of how parents can educate their child about the dangers of cliques.

  • Parents should model diversity in their own friendships.
  • Parents can help their child develop good social skills,  like being a good friend.
  • Parents can help their child develop empathy for others.
  • Parents can encourage the child to follow activities that interest him or her.  Finding people who generally have the same interests may lead to lasting friendships and relationships.
  • Parents should assist their child in developing confidence.
While parents can promote these traits at home, educators can continue fostering these characteristics in teens by encouraging activities that challenge students to get to know their peers at school.  One great activity to promote social skills, empathy, and confidence at school is Mix It Up Day!

What is Mix It Up Day?

Mix It Up Day was created over ten years ago by Teaching Tolerance to encourage students to stretch their "social boundaries" and get to know other students.  Typically held at lunch, some schools have taken the concept and created a day or week of activities.  Even if students aren't willing to sit with others at lunch, it is a great moment to show why your students should think about stepping out their comfort zone. So whether you decide to have a lunchroom activity or incorporate activities in the classroom, the Teaching Tolerance website has a ton of great ideas for your event.  Think about participating on October 27th. 

How to Get Started

Mix It Up Twitter Chat

Getting Started - Mix It Up Toolkit

Downloads  - Includes posters, press releases, and clip art.


Mix It Up Lunch Activities
Mix It Up Day Ideas - Pinterest page by Carol Miller.
Middle and Upper Grades Curriculum Guide by Teaching Tolerance
Mix It Up Photo Booth Activity
Becoming a Model School

How To Become a Model School

Resistance By Students

But I Want to Sit With My Friends!

Changing School Climate

School Climate

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ideas for Connecting Disconnected Senior Parents

Sunday, October 18, 2015
  If you are a consistent reader of my blog, you may have read an earlier post that I have a high school senior. So in exactly ten months, I will be the parent of a college freshman!  I can't believe my baby girl is leaving to go to college and we will have an empty nest (something I have only fantasized about after raising kids for the last 28 years...evil laugh). My kid has a long list of schools that she is interested in attending; however as we all know, you must make a plan to visit the campus. Although she has good intentions,  I have found out that my daughter doesn't always follow through on her responsibilities. Now that we are in October, I really have been pushing her to apply for scholarships, retake the ACT, and go on a college, it is not working so well (sigh).  Okay Morton, I thought, you have been a high school counselor for 16 would you help these types of students??? 

Believe me, it is more difficult being a parent of a high school senior than just being his or her school counselor! Since my daughter is a dual enrollment student and I have taken a new job in our district, we both have become disconnected from all the senior news at her high school which puts us at a disadvantage.  In essence, she has been missing her senior meetings, the school counselor visit into the English class, the college lunch visits, the trips into our college and career center...well, you get my point.  Now, I truly understand how parents and students can feel disconnected from school and how important it is to keep them connected during the senior year.  So now that I feel like a disconnected parent (sad face), I have to find ways to reach out to the school and hope the school will reach out to me!

Helping Disconnected Senior Parents and Students

Okay, I admit it!  I have complained about disconnected parents and students.  I wondered why they could not reach out to me and take care of business (I have 500 students for crying out loud!).  However, I am feeling rather empathetic toward our disconnected parents because it is easy to loose touch with everything going on when you are out of the loop.  For example, it is like binge watching your favorite show for two weeks and not staying abreast of current events or going out of town for vacation and being overwhelmed when you get back in the office.  You don't mean for it to happen this way, but other things require your immediate attention. The majority of our
parents really care about what is going on in school and want to be a part of the process.  The problem, as Prince pointed out in one of his songs, is "this thing called life".  Parents have so many daily obstacles that many of them do not have the time or energy to go to a high school assembly or meeting.  Also, many parents do not realize they are disconnected and count on their teen to inform them of what is happening and even keep on track. In fact, I didn't realize I was disconnected until this month and I started a plan to make a change.  

My Plan

First, I had to recognize that I was disconnected as a parent.  When I realized I was disconnected from my daughters' school, I looked for ways to find out information that I had missed.  Fortunately, I have the knowledge to find out the information I need; however, many parents don't have this luxury.
As school counselors, it is important to get out information to parents and not expect them to get it from their teen.  Here are some examples of information that may be helpful to parents from high school counseling departments.

12th Grade Action Plan for Parents
20 Questions to Ask Your School Counselor
36 Questions to Ask on a College Visit
12th Grade Resources
College Fair Checklist

Second, I had to find out what we missed and future events.  Asking questions and having accurate information is imperative at this point.  However, if parents don't know what events have happened or will happen in their students' senior year, they may become frustrated and start putting the blame on others (um, you).

If there are parents that you haven't heard from during the senior year, make attempts to reach out to them. Sending out a parent survey may be a helpful way to find out the needs of your parents.

Brookwood High School Senior Survey

Third, I had to do my research and get accurate information.  Since we are not at our old school, we must go the extra distance to get information about college fairs, application deadlines, scholarships, testing, and senior events.  Again, many disconnected parents don't know what they don't know. Here are some college resources you can share with your parents on your website!

Big Future Scholarship Search
Cappex Scholarship Search Site
College Essay Guy
College Planning for Students With Disabilities
College Raptor  - Retaking the SAT/ACT.
College Ready - The college application.
College Scoop  - Information for parents about college entrance.
College Tidbits - Provides information for parents and students about college.
FinAid - Financial aid information for parents.
Mapping Your Future
Next Step U
Parents Count Down to College Coach - Tips to make the college essay pop.
Parents Guide to Financial Aid
Plexuss  - Resources for students and parents.
Scholarships 4 Students
United Negro College Fund

Fourth, I have to get involved.  Making an appointment to meet with our counselor and college representatives is imperative. In the past, I would reach out to parents that I had never heard from and make a personal invitation for them to come in.  Another great idea is to think outside the box about how you can get information to parents who are not able to come into your office. In the past,  I have made presentations in community centers, churches, and for civic organizations.  Another method, that I love, is the recorded online presentation!! Here are some great presentations to share!

Big Future Applying to College Videos
Brookwood Counseling Parent Center
College Checklist Podcast
College Ready Video on Scholarships

College Week Live - Students and parents can join live chats with representatives.
ECampus Tours - Students and parents can view college campuses online. 
How to Host a Financial Aid Community Event
Financial Aid Kit
North Tahoe High Counseling Recorded Meetings and Tutorial
Saginaw High School Senior Presentations

 Top Ways to Engage Your Parents

This section includes some ideas of how to engage the parents who cannot come in during a evening parent night or during a daytime conference.  Also, I have included some suggestions from Ryan Stevenson and Dr. A.J. Metz

Another idea is coffee with the counselor
1.  Offer meetings and information sessions during times that parents are available.

Senior Parent Breakfast-check out Burlington High School Senior Parent Breakfast Series.
Have one night per month for parent late night appointments.
Conduct an online conference or a teleconference-this can be great for parents who work out of town.

2. Utilize as many modes of communication as possible:

a.  Create a blog to get out information to parents and students.
b.  Design a comprehensive website for students and parents. Here are some examples:
          Anacortes High School Counseling Center
          North Tahoe High Counseling Blog
          Northview Counseling
          Novi High School Counselors Blog
          Pikesville High School Counseling Blog

c.  Send out text message reminders for parents and students. 
3. Use Technology and Useful Tools

a. Creating Invitations for Parents and Students - Smilebox

b. Creating Handouts for Parents:
Handouts by the Middle School Counselor
Brookwood High School Senior Bulletin

c. Making Appointments for Parents -  check out seven free tools for making appointments online.

d. Produce your own online presentations:
Any Meeting
Go To Meeting
Google Hangout
Join Me

Get more Ideas!

Find out more ideas from the #SCCHAT 

Promoting Your School Counseling Program #SCCHAT

The State of College Admissions Counseling with Patrick O'Connor

Thursday, October 15, 2015

6th Annual National Peer Helper Conference

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Birth of the National Conference

Each February, the Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation hosts the National Peer Helper Conference in beautiful Point Clear, Alabama located on Mobile Bay.  The Jennifer Clair Moore Foundation was established in the memory of Jennifer Claire Moore who died by suicide at the age of 16 with no warning to her friends or family.  However, after reflecting on her daughter's suicide, her mother said there were warnings.  Although the warning signs were there, friends and family members were not educated on how to pick up the subtle hints she was telling them before her death. Unfortunately, this is all to common in the majority of homes and schools, but Jennifer's mom was determined to make a change!

A year after her daughter's death, Jennifer's mom established a foundation to fund a peer helping program in two of the schools that Jennifer attended in Baldwin County, Alabama.  One of the goals of these programs was to train students to identify signs of depression and suicide in their classmates and get them the help they needed.  Since establishing peer programs in those two schools, the county has slowly embraced Jennifer's mom's mission and now every school in the county has a peer program (it is truly amazing!).  Due to the foundation's great success in creating peer programs, the Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation decided to share their ideas and host a national conference in 2010.  Word quickly spread and a new conference was born.  Shortly after finding out about their program, the National Association of Peer Program Professionals decided to offer their support behind the conference and provide certified training to peer program sponsors.

History of the Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation

Description of the National Conference

Now in its sixth year, the conference has some really unique events and options for peer helper coordinators that I would like to share.

For Newbies

Option 1 – Full 3 Day Conference focused on new or upcoming Peer Helper Programs:
Wednesday – This day you will attend an adult and youth special event from 9am – 1:30pm known as the Peer Helper Jubilee, where speakers address student Peer Helpers in elementary, middle, and high school groups. The Jubilee also consists of youth networking and best practice sharing. After the Peer Helper Jubilee, conference attendees will meet for a 1 hours session to debrief and dive into methods of Peer Helper collaborations. Breakfast and lunch are included.
Thursday – Full day of “Building a Peer Helper Program from the Ground Up.” This course will cover establishing a Peer Helper Program as well as program evaluations and training Peer Helpers. This day will also consist of two general sessions. Breakfast and lunch are included
Friday – This day will consist of a general session and breakout sessions in which you will choose upon arrival. Breakfast is included.


Option 2 – 2 Day Conference focused on New or Upcoming Peer Helper Programs
Thursday – Full day of “Building a Peer Helper Program from the Ground Up.” This course will cover establishing a Peer Helper Program, as well as program evaluations and training Peer Helpers. This day will also consist of two general sessions. Breakfast and lunch are included.
Friday – This day will consist of a general session as well as breakout sessions in which you will choose upon arrival. Breakfast is included.

For the Experience or Mature

Option 1 – Full 3 Day Conference focused on mature and experienced Peer Helper Programs
Wednesday – This day you will attend an adult and youth special event from 9am – 1:30pm known as the Peer Helper Jubilee, where speakers address student Peer Helpers in elementary, middle and high school groups. The Jubilee also consists of youth networking and best practice sharing. After the Peer Helper Jubilee, conference attendees will meet for a 1 hour session to debrief and dive into methods of Peer Helper collaboration. Breakfast and lunch are included.
Thursday – This day will consist of two general sessions and grade level focused breakout sessions. Breakfast and lunch are included. Breakfast and lunch are included.
Friday – This day will consist of a general session as well as breakout sessions in which you will choose upon arrival. Breakfast is included.
2015 Peer Helper Jubliee

Option 2 – 2 Day Conference focused on Mature or Experienced Peer Helper Programs
Thursday – This day will consist of two general sessions and grade level focused breakout sessions. Breakfast and lunch are included.
Friday – This day will consist of a general session as well as breakout sessions in which you will choose upon arrival. Breakfast is included.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the lodging.  It is spectacular!   The conference is held at the Marriott’s Grand Hotel Resort on the Bay of Mobile.  Some really wonderful events that I love about this hotel include tea time which is held everyday at 4:00  pm and the processional before the firing of the cannon.  You must check out their website to truly appreciate this hidden gem in LA (Lower Alabama).

National Peer Helper Conference

Grand Marriott
I hope I will see you at the conference and don't hesitate to contact the Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation if you have questions or need assistance!  They are amazing people!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Guest Blog: Top 5 Questions to Ask On Your College Admissions Visit

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

In the Spring, I welcomed my first guest blogger and received a lot of positive feedback.  Naturally, I decided to add a second guest post. This post is hosted by SPI Study Abroad so make sure to check out their site which I included at the bottom!  Hope you enjoy this information and I welcome your feedback!!

Top 5 Questions to Ask On Your College Admissions Visit

Aside from choosing your future spouse or accepting your first job (the kind that comes with a salary and benefits, rather than an apron and a hair net!), selecting the right college remains one of the most important choices in your life – and trust us, we know how overwhelming this whole process can be! There are a few things you can do to help make the whole thing a lot easier on yourself, though – namely, learning to ask the right questions on an admissions visit:

Finances and Financial Aid
These days, a college education is one heck of a substantial investment. A recent study by the College Board reported that a “moderate” in-state, public college for the year 2014-2015 would average about $23,410; a private institution, $46,272. Whew! This definitely isn’t chump change, to say the least. Understandably, today’s college graduates are saddled with an average of $30,000 of debt upon graduation. Being smart about what you and your family can afford is a huge part of the college financial equation. And with multiple options for financial aid, it can be difficult to narrow the topic to just one question – you’ll undoubtedly want to ask about loans, grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and aid packages. But one key question not to be missed is: What is the approximate amount of debt that graduates leave with, and how long does it take them, on average, to pay it back? Understanding the financial risk involved at any given institution will really help you narrow your options down. 

Residential Life
Surviving and succeeding during your first semester has as much to do with your living situation as it does with acing your final exams. If you’re a student who participated on a high school summer exchange program or long-term summer camp, you likely know what it takes to live on your own for an extended period of time. But for those who haven’t had any high school study abroad or camp-like experiences, living apart from your family for the first time can feel daunting. This is why it’s important to ask questions about residential life – you’ll be able to get a better feel for what your life on campus would really look like. Simple questions such as, “How many triple rooms does your school currently have?” will clue you in to potentially cramped living quarters. A question like, “What is the percentage of students who stick around each weekend?” will tell you about the availability and quality of recreational programs on campus. But one question hits the mark, and is best directed to a current student or recent alumnus: Tell me about your freshmen experience in a college dorm – what was the biggest challenge, and what was the biggest reward?

Outside Opportunities
Most institutions now offer several opportunities for learning outside the classroom – these experiences help deepen student understanding of a particular area of study. For instance, students interested in studying Spanish ideally should look for schools that have sister institutions in Spanish-speaking countries (hello, study abroad for the same cost as attending your chosen university!). Other areas of enrichment may include internships, service opportunities, or research studies. These opportunities really help indicate the kind of relationships the university has with their community, business partners, and experts in the field. One good statement when looking into an institution’s offerings is: Name the types of outside learning opportunities provided, and tell me about their requirements.

Academics and Support
Colleges are now facing mounting pressure to produce graduates prepared for today’s competitive global marketplace. This is why it’s so important for incoming freshmen to get a strong sense of how academically rigorous (and academically supportive!) a school is.
When meeting with admissions staff, consider these two questions: What is it like to study (a specific major) at your university? You’ll want to press a little bit here, and ask for specifics. Are chemistry majors able to receive grant funding for specialized research? Can engineers participate in internships as freshmen? Another important question to ask admissions officers is: What percentages of graduates from here get jobs in their related fields upon graduation? Some schools boast of high job-placement rates; however, this statistic is often misleading if students end up in a job unrelated to their area of study.

About the Author: Founded in 1996, SPI Study Abroad offers high school study abroad programs for college credit in Spain, France, Italy, Costa Rica and China. SPI’s interactive language immersion programs combine inspiring global leadership experiences, volunteer service projects, and exciting travel excursions where language and culture truly come to life!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Run, Don't Walk From the New SAT!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Every month, my friend Amber Shepherd hosts a high school counselor chat on Twitter known as #HSCCHAT.  Tonight, I had the pleasure of standing in for Amber and hosting tonight's chat featuring information on the new SAT!  Lauren Gaggioli, founder of  Higher Scores Test Prep, did an amazing job of explaining the differences between the old and new SAT and how school counselors should advise our students.  Because of all the mystery behind the new SAT, here are some important highlights I wanted to share from tonight's chat.

  • The new SAT appears in March, 2016!
  • The new SAT will include four mandatory sections: Reading, Writing, Math (No Calculator), Math (With Calculator) in that exact order. In addition, the content will change from strategy based information.
  •  The PSAT changes this October to match the new SAT. 
  • Not only has the content changed, but College Board has removed the guessing penalty (which could be good or bad depending on how you view it). 
  •  Juniors should take the new PSAT!
  • The old SAT and the new SAT are two totally different tests!
  • Students should prepare for either the SAT or ACT for at least 8 weeks.  You can check out Lauren's site for more test prep information. 
  • In preparing for the SAT, students should take two back to back exams with a third in reserve.  Lauren gives great tips on how students can avoid mistakes when planning to take their test(s). 
  • Students should always take a practice test to determine their stronger test. They should not wait to see which test is best.  
  • Most schools are accepting both tests for the Class of 2017.
  • If juniors feel they must take the SAT, advise them to take the Fall SAT (September, 2017). 
  • Avoid 3rd party books about the new SAT...they stink!
  • Lauren's final recommendation...the Class of 2016 & 17 should STAY AWAY from the new SAT!!    
Final word from Lauren..Students should take the ACT!  
The New SAT
College Board: Difference Between the Old and New SAT
College Raptor: Nine Things Every Student and Parent Needs to Know About the New SAT
2015-16 ACT and SAT Dates