Friday, November 27, 2015

Teen Hygiene Issues: Tips for the School Counselor

Friday, November 27, 2015

Although it was old and sterile, I was so proud of our my dorm. It was exciting to be away from home for the first time and more exciting to have three other suite mates! Over time, my excitement about living with three other girls began to diminish as I noticed we all had different ideas about cleanliness. Unfortunately, our biggest point of contention was the bathroom the four of us shared.  Earlier in the semester, we all decided to take a week and keep the bathroom clean. When it was my week, I took cleaning the bathroom very seriously. My roommate, who was just as phobic about cleaning as me, made it her goal to have a clean bathroom during her week.  Then there were the suitemates...well, let's say they were not as dedicated.  Imagine, if you will, a bath tub at the end of the week with four girls bathing twice a day using hair products, baby oil, body wash, shower gel, and shaving cream.  Well, let's say it was not pretty.  Not able to take the filth, my roommate and I broke down and cleaned that disgusting bathroom during our off weeks.  Following the months of cleaning, I became known as "Miss Clean."

Four girls in a bathroom...yuck!
Seems that my suite was not the only one facing hygiene issues.  Brewing next door was a problem between two girls, who were best friends, and another girl who lived in her room alone.  The lone girl seemed a little different from the rest of us. She lived a long way from home, she never went home on the weekends, and she rarely spoke of her family.  Physically she was very plain, rarely washed her hair, and wore the same plaid shirt day after day. Although she was different, we made an effort to include her in our social activities. One of our favorite activities was to watch our soap opera every afternoon.  One particular day, we were watching our show and the girl did not show up.  After the show was over (no one dared to talk during the show), we inquired about her whereabouts. One of the best friends chimed, "She had to study today, but I am glad she couldn't come. She has worn that same jacket all week and has a terrible body odor."  After sitting quietly for a minute, I opened my big mouth and put my proverbial foot in it. "You know someone really should tell her that she needs to wash her jacket and her hair."  Immediately, all eyes turned to me and one of the friends smiled and said,  "Great idea! You would be great helping someone clean up." Suddenly it was unanimous that I would represent the group by informing the girl about her bad hygiene.

As a helper, I considered it my duty to enlighten our neighbor about her hygiene issues.  After several days of putting off the conversation, I finally found myself alone with her in my dorm watching music videos.  Nervously, I sat watching the new Sting solo video and commented on how I wished that the Police had never broken up.  Okay, I is now or never. Finally I looked at the girl, expressed that her body odor was not pleasant to other people, and told her that she needed to do a better job at cleaning her hair and clothes.  After taking in what I said, she acknowledged that she needed to take care of herself better.  Yes, go me! At that moment, I was so proud of myself!! However, my feelings of success were short lived.   During one of our afternoon soap opera times, everyone was gathered in our suite as usual.  All of the sudden a smell permeated the room of perfume and body odor.  Someone yelled, "Who is wearing that perfume?!"  Slowly, all eyes turned to the girl. Innocently she looked at the group and said,  "Do you guys like my new perfume? Cindy suggested that I wear it." 

Scientist have found that perfume
enhances body odor
Okay, as you see this situation did not go so well.  Unfortunately, just because I was chosen as the right person to talk to the girl doesn't necessarily make me the best person.  The problem was that the girl needed a lot more than attention, assistance, and education than I could give her.  In fact, she could have really benefitted from all of us working with her.  Actually, hygiene is a process of education, information, practice, and  reevaluation.  Although I was elected to "fix" her problem, I was not the answer to her hygiene issue. 

Student hygiene must be taught
Fast forward to my days as school counselor.  One day a teacher comes to me about a freshman with hygiene issues and she tells me that someone (me) should speak to him about what to do to stop his body odor.  Immediately, my school counselor super powers go into action!  "Sure! I will see what I can do."  Before I called the student into my office, I had a flashback to the day I spoke to the girl.  Wait...what are you doing?  You may not be the best person for this job.  I really started to think about who were the right people to help this student. Just because I am the school counselor doesn't always mean that I have all the answers; however, I may be part of the solution.

Teen Hygiene

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, hormonal changes between the ages of 8-14 in girls and 9-14 in boys are the biggest causes of body odor.  Other factors like sweat, dirty clothing, tight clothing, food choices, failure to bathe regularly, dirty bedding, poor hygiene, smoking, and drug use, can make body odor unpleasant for other students and staff who are in close proximity. 

What are the Top Reasons that Teens Stink

1.  Bad breathe caused by lack of brushing, tooth decay, or gum infections.
2.  Body odor from pheromones to sexually attract or repel others, toxins that the body is trying to expel like alcohol or food, and bacteria from dead skin.
3.  Foot odor
4.  Odor from private areas

Sadly, if a student does not learn good hygiene by elementary school, he or she may have a difficult time in middle and high school. Dr. Ken Shore believes that educators must not ignore hygiene issues as it can often lead to teasing and bullying.  So what can a school counselor do?  I found a blog post by Jessica Jones Walters, Musing of a Middle School Counselor, who gave some great tips on how to help students with their hygiene issues. In addition, I added a few suggestions by Dr. Shore who provides some steps that schools can take to help students with this delicate and often ignored subject.

Tips for Working with Students on Hygiene

1. Learn what hygiene education is being taught to your students before 9th grade. 

2. Be aware of any cultural differences of the student you are working with as his or her ideas of hygiene may be different than your own.

3. Provide interesting educational videos and pamphlets for students.  See the following videos below.

How to Maintain Good Hygiene

Hygiene for Girls

Helping your peers with hygiene issues

Great ally!
 4. Team up with other staff members like the school nurse, coaches, school social worker, assistant principals, and health teachers to create a protocol for working with students on hygiene issues.

5.  Always talk to students independently about their hygiene issues and probe about their routines. Tell them that your goal is not to embarrass, but to help them to solve the problem.

6. If the problem originates at home (cigarette smoke, dirty clothes, lack of water), provide a way for the student to clean at school.  Honestly, I have gone to the special education classroom to use the washing machine and dryer to wash students' clothes. Also, utilize your school social worker as he or she can make a home visit and educate parents about the importance of hygiene and cleanliness.  This can be helpful in working with immigrant families that may not be familiar with deodorant and daily baths.

7. Provide students with a checklist of essential hygiene activities and check in with them to see how they are working.

8. Think about incorporating teen educators to help students with teen hygiene issues.

9. Work with the school nurse to contact parents when there may be a medical concern for the body odor. 

10. Work with the school nurse, social worker, and coaches to create and distribute hygiene kits for males and females.


Hopefully, practicing these tips will help you feel more comfortable when you find yourself asked to work with student hygiene issues.

Additional Resources

Education World

Seventeen Health Quiz for Teens

Classroom Caboodle: Talking to Students About Hygiene

Communicating with Teens About Hygiene

Teen Survivial Guide by Girl's Heath

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

School Counselor Top Posts from 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Three years ago, I started my blog as a side project to record my thoughts and reflections as a high school counselor. As 2015 comes to an end, I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect back on the most popular reader choices from the year.  Over this last year, the most popular posts have included topics regarding technology, teen sexting, self injury, Red Ribbon Week, the advantages of coloring books for teens, and much more.   So, take a minute over Thanksgiving to look over some of my posts from the past year!  Enjoy!

175 High School Counseling Websites 
This has been my top post for the last three years. Check out the cornucopia (pardon the Thanksgiving pun) of high school school counselor websites, school counseling blogs, school counselor associations, and much more!  Lots of sites for you to find ideas and resources.

School Counselor Bucket List for High School Seniors
After reading an article in the Huffington Post about bucket lists, I decided to create my own senior bucket list as the school counselor.  This list contains 50 practical and outlandish activities for students.

The Ultimate List of School Counselor Forms 
In this post, I expose my compulsion for school forms of every kind.  Some are borrowed and others I created for school counselors to use.  

Self Injury Resources for the Clueless School Counselor 
This post discusses my experience or lack of experience with self harm since becoming a school counselor.  Also, I have included tons of information about the science behind self harm and resources for school counselors.

My New Counseling Tools for 2013-2014
I love technology and this posts showcases the tools that I fell in love with during the 2013-14 school year.  At that time, my new favs included Google Docs (still rocks), Twitter (I still love), Remind (use it all the time), Livebinder (I still use daily), and some other tools that I don't use as much (but really like!). 

Dangers of Teen Sexting 
Featuring a blog talk radio program about sexting, Pattie Porter and Raychelle Lohmann expose the dangers of sexting among teens.  In addition to this program, I included several additional resources that may be useful to school counselors.

Out of the Box Red Ribbon Week Ideas 
This post includes some of the most out of the box Red Ribbon ideas I could find on the web. Some examples include exposing the economics behind the drug trade, helping staff members to identify a drug sale, showing how the brain and drugs don't mix, giving parents information on how to set guidelines for safe parties, and preventing parents from becoming accidental dealers by showing them that it is important to lock up their medications.

Coloring for Teens: Coloring Books for High School Students 
After a morning of reading Parade Magazine and eating breakfast at Denny's with my grandson, I found out that coloring is a helpful activity to help children, teens, and adults relax.  This post includes some information about the benefits of coloring and includes printable coloring resources. 

Becoming a Tech Savvy Counselor in 2014 
This blog post features the remarkable Dr. Erin Mason and her awesome site called SCOPE (School Counselor Online Professional Exchange).  Dr. Mason hosted a series of  Google Hangouts on some of her favorite technology tools including: Twitter, Livebinder, Google Drive/Forms, Smore, and Remind.  

Creating Your Own Counseling Whiteboard 
After a couple of days in the hospital with my son, I discovered how useful the whiteboard was for nurses and the patient.  It kept my son updated about his medical staff, his care plan, and his pain management. I took this concept and decided to create a prototype counseling whiteboard.   

High School Transition is Not One Event!

As the counselor reviewed her sporadic attendance, poor grades, and declining behavior, the girl sat expressionless.  Beside her was her mother whose eyes started to well with tears. After the mom composed herself, she turned to the girl and said, "You are only in 9th grade! I am not going to let you drop out of school! At least your sister  had the sense not to drop out until she was in 12th grade!"  The student just glared at her mom and then screamed, "You dropped out of school and you have a job! I don't have to finish high school to find a job."  The mom turned to the counselor with desperation and cried, "Can't you talk some sense in her!  Tell her what she is job, no future, and the men...tell her about them and how they will take advantage of her!" "Ms. Moore, said the counselor, I wish I could say more to help, but your daughter just is not listening to me. Many of her friends are leaving school and she has decided high school is not for her. I suggest that we talk about additional alternatives for her."  Disheartened, the mom got up and stormed away. 

According to research, 9th grade
 has the highest dropout rate.
Unfortunately, this is a true story told to me by a parent about her daughter in the mid 90's.  So, what happened to the student?  Well, sadly she quit school in the middle of her freshman year and eventually went to a Youth Challenge Program sponsored by the National Guard.  While she graduated from the program and got her life together, she regretted that she did not stay in high school to complete her education. When I asked her why she quit, she said that there were several reasons. First, she felt unprepared for the amount of work in high school. Second, she was picked on because she was different and never accepted by her peers or teachers. Last, she felt that her family stepped in too late to help her because they did not understand her frustration with high school.  Unfortunately, this woman's story is not uncommon.  In fact, researchers have found that students drop out of high school in ninth grade more than any other grade.  This high drop out rate has earned ninth grade the nickname of the "bottleneck" grade.

9th Grade: The Bottleneck of High School!
Reasons Students Drop Out of School in Ninth Grade

Many 9th graders are
unprepared for HS rigor
Researchers have found that ninth graders tend to drop out of school for three major reasons: social and developmental issues, lack of structural knowledge about the school, and inability to handle academic rigor. During the first year of high school, peer relationships tend to become more important to students than academic concerns.  It is during this time that students often become involved in negative social situations that may get them into trouble.  Due to these increased negative behaviors, suspensions and expulsions are often higher in ninth grade than in any other grade.  The increased time out of class can cause students to lose valuable instructional time which may spiral into academic failure.  Because high schools tend to be much larger than middle schools, students often fall through the cracks before interventions can be implemented.

Since high schools can be the size of a small city, students often become anonymous and feel disconnected to school and their teachers. During their freshmen year, students are expected to be proactive and responsible for their learning.  However, in a 2006 study of middle school students in 26 states, one-fifth of the students reported they never received information about their courses, the difficulty of the content, or skills they would need in high school. Not feeling connected to learning can cause frustration and lead to failure in students.

In addition to feeling disconnected, ninth graders are often academically unprepared for the academic rigor of high school.  The Breakthrough Coalition found that students were three to four times more likely to fail one or more classes in ninth grade.  Even
students who made adequate grades in middle school find themselves performing poorly in high school.  If left unchecked, 70-80% of students who fail in ninth grade do not graduate from high school.
Many freshmen feel isolated

Is There An Answer To the Ninth Grade Drop Out Dilemma?
One answer in preparing students for the challenges of high school includes establishing a smooth transition from eighth to ninth grade.  Morgan & Hertzog (2001) and Smith (1997) found schools that have an explicit transition program have significantly lower dropout rates. In addition, the National Middle School Association has found that decisions made about career and college choices during the eighth grade year have a greater impact on a student's future more so than decisions made when they graduate from high school.  Also, researchers say that the most successful transition programs are not one event, but include a continuous process.  These processes should be multifaceted, involve parents, include collaboration between high school and middle school staff,  and meet the developmental needs of students. "The importance of a smooth transition from 8th grade to 9th grade cannot be emphasized enough, as this transition will determine a student's success in high school as well as decisions about their post-secondary school life." (Quote by Cooper & Markoe-Hayes from Improving the Educational Possibilities of Urban High School Students as They Transition from 8th to 9th Grade as cited from Challenges from the Ninth Grade Transition )

So, how can successful transition occur between middle and high school?  In an article by Cheryl Ellerbrock, she gives suggestions to educators of what they can do to help students transition to high school.  First, districts must be willing to allocate resources for high school transition. This can be as simple as funding programs that create positive peer network development or mentoring. Next, schools should be proactive and provide education to families about the importance of 9th grade transition. This can include newsletters, events (like parent nights, teacher meet and greets, and orientations), and the creation of informational websites for 8th grade parents.  During these events, students can practice procedural changes from middle to high school.  Some examples of these procedural changes include bell changes, lockers and combinations, lunchroom rules, how to get to class on time, and a copy of handbook with activities. Because many incoming freshmen are under prepared for the type of work they must complete, students can be given examples of  high school work and tips about personal responsibility. Another effective transition method includes creating individual graduation plans for each student. Students should learn how credits work and their importance before arriving to high school.  Check out this resource from Own Your Own Future on high school credits, the 8th grade Road Map to College, and a four year plan by Louisiana Believes. One last suggestion includes educating students and parents about the importance of joining activities, school clubs, and extracurricular activities. Providing students with a list of extracurricular activities and even establishing a mentoring program between incoming freshmen and older students can be helpful (see resource Why Leadership Skills are Important).

Resources:Middle and High School Transition and Ten Things Students Should Do For a Successful Transition to High School

Now that we have an idea of what schools can do, what about the school counselor? Although I know it difficult to even think about 8th graders when you have your current caseload, there are some steps school counselors can consider to encourage a smooth transition from middle to high school. Foster, Peterson, and Johnson, give some pointers in their article, Easing the Middle School to High School Transition: A Guide for Schools.

Provide information to middle school parents and students about your school. Possible activities include:
  • Establishing student-led tours of your school;
  • Shadowing a high school student in the spring;
  • Holding a student panel discussion in the spring at the middle school;
  • Offering advanced planning with the high school counselor;
  • Establishing e-pal relationships between high school and middle school students;
  • Authoring a newsletter for middle school parents;
  • Asking parents of 9th graders to serve as ambassadors to 8th grade parents.
Help students build positive social interactions with current students:
  • Establishing orientation and mentoring programs like Link Crew (see below) or peer helpers;
  • Holding an open house for 8th graders hosted by 9th graders;
  • Arranging a newcomer festival for incoming 8th graders before 9th grade starts in the fall;
  • Scheduling regular counselor hours with 9th grade classes;
  • Providing a 9th grade hot line to counselor or administrators for parental contact.
Provide consistent contact between middle and high school counselors:
  • Arranging K-12 curriculum planning meetings;
  • Communicating with elementary, middle, and high school liaisons;
  • Creating a transition team.
Provide opportunities for parental involvement:
  • Developing a 9th grade newsletter that 8th grade parents can receive during middle school;
  • Inviting parents to spend the day at the high school;
  • Creating learning opportunities for parents and students.
If you find yourself part of a transition team or you are the transition team, here are some additional resources you can use to assist with your upcoming process.  Hope you find some helpful information!

School Resources
Wake County Public Schools Transition Guide
Fairfax County, Virginia Transition Plan
Oregon Transition Program
West Virginia Transition Plan
Louisiana Transition Plan
Great Neck North High School Peer Leader Advisory Manual - You can contact @Ryan_Fisk for the full manual.
Count Down to High School -  contains curricula and resources for creating a 8th to 9th grade transition program.
Drighton-Rehoboth Regional High School Transition Program
Fulton County Schools Spring Transition Letter to Parents
Fulton County Transition Timeline
Fulton County Transition Presentation
Carmel High School Transition Brochure
Greyhound Kickoff Program Website
Freshmen Greyhound Kickoff Day
Freshmen Greyhound Kickoff Day Information
Dade Schools Transition Lessons
Rainbow Schools Transition Booklet

Organizations That Support Transition
Why Link Crew?  Members of the junior and senior class help freshmen make a transition into high school by planning activities and events.
Link Crew Timeline
Kick Off Program
Resources for Mentoring
The Freshmen Transition Network
NOSCA: HS Counselor Guide to College and Career Awareness

Focus on Freshmen Conference 2016
Freshmen Transition Initiative

Monday, November 16, 2015

How School Counselors Can Inspire Their Students to Serve Others

Monday, November 16, 2015

Last week, talk radio was buzzing around the topic of student debt.  On this one particular show, the host was criticizing some students' belief that the top 1% of Americans should fund college education.  Of course, when you are 19 or 20 years old it is easy to expect someone else, who you believe to have more income or assets, to pick up the tab.  I wanted to know more about the rationale behind the students' protests and I eventually ran across an interview with one of the protesters.  This particular young lady felt that it was not fair for any college student to start off with a huge debt. She even went so far as to say that she was comfortable with a 90% tax on her income if she could get a a job making $250,000 a year.  Though I am not a mathematician, I believe that this young lady would only bring home an income of $25,000 a year....hmmmm.

A Shift in Thinking

Although I understand the student's protest over student debt, their rationale is a huge shift from the ideals of the late 80s. As a teen and college student during that time, we felt that having wealth was obtainable through hard work.  What changed? In a 2013 study, researchers discovered that today's young adults, called Millenials, feel wealth is important; however, they are less likely to work for this wealth.  US News and World Report interviewed Robin Marantz Henig and her daughter about why Millenials experience huge rates of student debt and higher rates of unemployment.  One interesting finding from their research was that today's teens and young adults are experiencing a new development stage called emerging adulthood.  This new phase has developed from the belief that life has slowed down due to our constant connection with others through technology. Another aspect of this current generation of Millenials is the feeling of entitlement.  Dr. David Sack found that the reason why so many teens have a sense of entitlement is due to a lack of gratitude and empathy. 

Student Sues Parents

Teen Sues Parent
Source: CNN
Take the case of the high school student who decided to sue her parents for current living expenses and her future college education.  The teen claimed her parents kicked her out of the house at age 18 which threatened her ability to attend college.  Since there was no proof that the parents "kicked her out" (actually the teen left home over an argument with her parents), the judge ruled against her 
receiving current living expenses.  However, the court decided to hold a hearing regarding her future college expenses.  Because of the case, a lot of criticism was aimed at the student for being a spoiled brat, but psychologists also point to the parents and adults in the teen's life as part of the problem for her sense of entitlement. 

Students Often Lack Empathy

If you look at the attitudes of current college students, studies have found that young adults have scored significantly lower in empathetic concern and perspective taking of others. Why the decrease?  Many researchers believe increased exposure to social media, video games, reality television and hyper competitiveness have created a self absorbed and individualistic culture.  When empathy decreases in a society, the culture may experience a rise in bullying, narcissistic behavior, rigidity in thinking, and lack of civility toward others (Marilyn Price Mitchell). In Psychology Today, Dr. Denise Cummins explains how the empathy response works in response to suffering. When a person sees suffering in others, the same neural circuits are activated as when that person experiences his or her own suffering. Because these experiences are negative, many people experience a negative emotional response and look for ways to protect themselves from these feelings (including avoidance).  Without teaching students how to react to suffering or unpleasant circumstance in healthy ways, they often experience emotional burnout.

So how do we teach students to effectively deal with suffering in others? 

Many educators believe that teaching Social Emotional Learning can make a difference in helping students manage their emotions, establish positive relationships, and feel and show empathy for others.  Dr. Sack found that adults can model gratitude in teens by following these guidelines:

1.  Model thankfulness and good manners.
2.  Share the gift of giving.
3.  Perform service for others.

One method of teaching empathy to students can be accomplished through service learning.

As a school counselor, I often encourage students to participate in community service activities.  However, the majority of my students do not act on their community service initiatives until their senior year as they begin to complete college applications. Although the college admission process encourages service to others, it is often only an act for college admissions rather than altruism. Understandably these colleges and universities are looking for students who will make a positive contribution to their community; however, Daniel Woodbridge sees accessing ones character based on a few acts of community service as counterproductive. As educators, we often misinterpret service learning as community service; however, there is a distinct difference between service learning and community service. Edutopia defines service learning as more than serving in a soup kitchen or showing up to clean up trash in a park.  Service learning requires choosing a relevant project, learning about the issue, and finally linking the problem to the academic subject matter through reflection.

What are some of the true benefits of youth service?

Reduces engagement in risky behavior;
Contributes to higher academic success and civic volunteering;
Reduced drop out rates;
Increases changes of finding employment;
Helps promote problem solving

King and Gratz believe that school counselors should be key in helping students make connections between student learning and their career goals.  In the American School Counselor Association magazine, Wilczenski and Schum found that school counselors can sponsor service learning projects to help humanize learning in meaningful contexts.

 How can school counselors assist in service learning initiatives?

1.  Find businesses or organizations that have similar objectives as what your school is trying to accomplish.  Some organizations include Educational Tours and High School Study Abroad Program sponsor community service tours and We Day promotes global service learning initiatives.

2.  Look for community initiatives that students can get involved.  One great idea is to participate in a recognized service day like International Volunteer Day (November), MLK Day of Service (January), or Global Service Day (April).

MLK Prep Day Presentation
Creative Ideas for Service Learning

3.  Identify career skills to be developed through service learning. Youth Service America recognizes that the 4 C's (Critical  Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication) were developed through service learning and are essential in the business world.

4.  Integrate desired skills into the school's curriculum.

5.  Provide reflection activities for students to learn from their experiences.

As a school counselor, check out some of these resources below when you consider starting or promoting your own social learning initiative in your school.

How to Start an Idea for Service Learning?

Sparking an Idea
Finding Others to Help
Making It Happen
Getting the Word Out
International Volunteer Day

Service Learning Ideas:

Generator School Network- Resource for sharing service learning ideas and networking with other educators.
Do Something
Classrooms With a Cause
Map Your World  - Students can create data maps on key issues to collaborate with organizations and students around the world.
Youth Volunteers - View stories of youth volunteers and how they have made a difference in their communities.


Volunteerism Posters
My World Toolkit
Data Repository for My World
Baltimore City Schools Service Learning Guidelines
Chicago Public Schools Service Learning Tools
Chicago Public Schools Service Learning Reflection
Chicago Public Schools Service Learning Forms
Generation On Livebinder-  includes forms, curricula, and resources.
Factsheet on Youth who Participate in Service Learning
Enhancing Student Leadership Using SMART Goals

Organizations Sponsoring Service Learning:

Corporation for National And Community Service
YSA Grant Opportunities


Youth Grants
All State Grants

Saturday, November 14, 2015

December Awareness Campaigns for High School Students

Saturday, November 14, 2015
Well another year has almost come and gone...I can't believe it!  This month I want to continue to highlight awareness campaigns that can be observed in schools before the holidays.  Hope you find something that can be useful at your school!

December 1st-Giving Tuesday #GivingTuesday

Following the Tuesday after Black Friday is Giving Tuesday.  Giving Tuesday focuses on the real reason for the holiday season, charity and giving, rather than consumerism and shopping. Now in its fourth year, Giving Tuesday uses the power of social media to encourage nonprofit organizations, civic organizations, businesses, families, and individuals to donate their time, resources, and  talents to address local challenges. 

Want to help students understand the importance of giving?  Check out the Guide to Giving Lesson Plan for students. Also,  check out my blog post on Giving Tuesday from 2014 for more ideas!

Giving Tuesday Toolkit

December 5th-International Volunteer Day #IVD2015

Passed by a UN Resolution in 1985, IVD is now entering its 30th year!  I am passionate about teaching the importance of volunteering and serving others in the community.  If you need ideas, there are lots of great ideas you can get from the IVD website.  This year's theme is "Your world is changing. Are you? Volunteer!"

Ways to Celebrate


Poster 1
Poster 2
Poster 3
Poster 4

T-shirt logo

Web Banner

December 10th-International Human Rights Day #Human Rights Day

Another United Nations initiative that has been around since 1950 is the International Human Rights Day.  This year's theme,"Our Rights. Our Freedoms.  Always.", aims at focusing on our basic freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Human Rights Issues



National Impaired (Drugged and Drunk) Driving Month

December is a great month to observe the causes of impaired traffic accidents among youth. Researchers have found that traffic accidents significantly increase during the holidays and New Years for teens (  The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 16 and 19. While alcohol is the most commonly used drug of choice in impaired driving, marijuana has become the second most used substance among teens.


NHTSA: Stop Impaired Driving
MADD: How to Prevent Someone From Driving Drunk
The White House: Drugged Driving
Teen Drugged Driving Resource
White House: Community Teen Drugged Driving Toolkit-includes activities, discussions, and scenarios.
NOYS: Impaired Driving
Teens in the Driver's Seat: Impaired Driving
Drug Driving Facts
SAM: Smart Approaches to Marijuana
Marijuana and Driving
Drug Involvement of Fatally Injured Drivers
Marijuana Impaired Driving: A Public Health Concern
Impact of Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado
Drug Free World

Poster - Marijuana and impaired driving

Do Something: Take Action


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

National College Application Month

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Since 2012,  our district has participated in an annual college application day.  Each high school has designated days in November where school counselors, volunteers, and college representatives host an Apply to College Early event for high school seniors and their families. This year, one of our schools is even extending our application day to include a Saturday. Have you wanted to host your own event?  Well, you are in luck because this event has gone national!  This year, the White House has proclaimed November as National College Application Month.  Want to know more about this event?  Check out this month's High School Counselor Chat hosted by Amber Shepherd Thompson. Also, I have added some additional resources for high school counselors to use when working with their college bound seniors!


Presidential Proclamation-National College Application Month
Reach Higher
Host an Apply to College Event - For High School Counselor Blog
Parts of a College Application
Khan Academy Video: Walking Through the Common Application
Admission-Early Action v. Early Decision
Khan Academy Video Regarding Early vs Regular Decision
Testing Delays
Student & Parent Resource for Applying to College
Application Timeline
Khan Academy Video: Applying to the Right Number of Colleges
Khan Academy Video: Receiving An Admission Decision
NACAC Professional School Counselor Page
Questbridge Recommendation Letter Guide
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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Hey School Counselor! Teen Gambling Addiction is No Joke

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Several weeks ago I attended a conference in Reno, Nevada.  When making my plane reservation, I was quite surprised that I would have a three hour layover in Las Vegas.  After a four hour flight,  we finally landed in Vegas! Looking out of my window, I saw some of the posh hotels on the strip and wished that I could visit (I have never visited Vegas before).  As I exited the plane, I was met with the sounds and lights of slot machines and I mean lots of them.  They were on the walls, near the restaurants, and each concourse.  Wow, I thought, this is overwhelming. Living in the South, I have never really been exposed to gambling to this extent (only the lottery and some video poker games in the back of some of the seedier mini-marts) and almost every shop was selling or promoting  gambling.  After my brief stay in Vegas, we finally landed in Reno and headed to our hotel.  I had been in several casinos before, but I had never actually walked through the gambling area. In fact, each time I had to get to the conference area, I had to walk through the casino.  So, whether it was 7:30 in the morning or 11:00 at night, people were gambling, drinking, and smoking (cough, cough, cough).  Each time I passed by my heart ached for those who sat expressionless at the slots sipping on their drinks. While commercials show casino life as exciting and profitable, the majority of these folks looked far from happy. Honestly, many of them looked miserable, disheveled, and lonely.

Casino Reality

Fiction: Harrah's Come and Play Commercial

Yes, Gambling is an Addiction

Harvard Medical Researcher, Howard J. Shaffer discovered that gambling addiction is the fastest growing addiction among high school and college aged students.  In fact, the American Psychological Association and American Medical Association recognizes pathological gambling as a mental health disorder.  Researchers have found that fast paced gambling has increased the number of Americans with a gambling addiction.  Next time you turn on the television, check out how popular Fantasy Football has become! Unlike past years, gambling entrepreneurs have free reign to take advantage of this group of mentally ill people.

Check out the commercial for Fanduel

Teen Gambling

Dr.  Ken Winters found that this is the first generation of youth exposed to a socially acceptable, but risky form of addiction that is even accessible in the classroom.  Kory Sinha identified several factors that contribute to pathological gambling.  The first set of factors include personality traits which may lead to the development of a gambling problem. These risk factors include impulsivity, ineffective coping mechanisms, antisocial behavior,  and learned helplessness. Other factors include gender (more males than females develop a gambling addiction), influence of the social group  (even in youth), socioeconomic status, family history, and stress. According to the website, College Gambling, an estimated six percent of young people have a gambling problem which is statistically higher than adults. In a report by the University of Minnesota Medical School, many adult gamblers reported that they started gambling at a young age.  Although many believe that gambling is a selfish behavior that can be stopped at anytime, researchers disagree.  Gambling is a serious psychological issue that emerges from the centers of the brain that seek reward and pleasure.  Researchers found that gambling changes the flow of blood to the brain which is similar to the use of cocaine.

While the majority of youth who gamble will not develop an addiction, there is a small segment that will develop this addiction and experience problems in their relationships, school, and families. Unfortunately, many parents view gambling as a socially acceptable activity with little risk; therefore, they introduce their children, as young as 10 years old, to gambling (buying lottery tickets, playing poker, and betting on sports teams).  Since teens are high risk takers, have poor impulse control, and live in the moment, they are often susceptible to addictive behaviors like gambling. Because the majority of teens are technologically literate,  remote gambling, games on internet sites, cell phones, interactive television, and mobile devices, can be highly addictive because they can be played anywhere and are not regulated by any government agency.  This type of gambling may appeal to students who may be shy, feel powerless, and want instant gratification. In addition to remote gambling, other youths may prefer traditional forms of gambling like bingo, cards, sports betting,
playing the lottery, and other skill based activities.  Bringing awareness to students and families about gambling problems and co-occurring issues can be helpful for families facing this little known issue.  Some additional concerns that can emerge from gambling addiction include smoking.  Researchers have found that people who gamble have an increased chance of smoking while gambling which may develop into everyday use.  Also, researchers found that smoking can be a strong reinforcement for gambling behaviors. 

What Can School Counselors Do To Educate Staff, Parents, and Students? 

If you are unaware of the problem of teen gambling, I urge you to view the resources at the bottom of my blog.  Truthfully, this is a new issue for me and a topic that I want to learn more about in the future. If you want to make an impact in your school, think about promoting prevention education to your students.

Suggested Activities for School Counselor:

1. Conduct an in-service for staff to be able to identify sources and signs of youth gambling.
Warning signs of gambling:

Frequent unexplained absences from school.
Sudden drop in grades.
Progressive preoccupation with gambling.
Withdrawal from friends and family.
Changes in behavior.
Lying about gambling behavior.
Unexplained debt.
Borrows money to gamble.

Teens are often opposed to gambling as young as age 10
2.  Show administration the importance of creating policies to handle gambling in schools. This can include policies that discourage gambling type fundraisers (i.e Casino night) and persuade faculty to make referrals to counselor when a student(s) is caught in gambling related activities. If administration is reluctant, ask if gambling awareness information can be given to parents and teens.

Source:  Problem Gambling Prevention

3.  Provide education to PTO and parent groups.

4.  Encourage teachers to include gambling awareness in their classes (math-statistics, civics-societal costs, health-addiction).

5. Share the Myths and Facts about gambling with teens starting in lower grades.

6. Assess teen gambling by using a self assessment like Out of Luck , a gambling assessment for youth.

7. Help students identify risk and protective factors.  Also think about posting the 10 Rules to Responsible Gambling posters around your school.

8. Think about joining the holiday campaign to make parents aware of exposing their youth to gambling (like buying them lottery tickets).

I hope this post has been insightful in exposing the issue of teen gambling addiction.  Please check out the following resources for more information.


Lessons, posters, flyers

Know the Odds: Youth Gambling EBook
Talking to Youth About Gambling 
Youth Decide NY: Gambling Facts Posters
Youth Decide NY: Gambling Facts Sheet
Youth Decide NY: Did You Know Brochure
Youth Decide NY: Fact or Fiction Poster
Problem Gambling Prevention Lessons

Self Screeners

DSM 5 Diagnostic Criteria-Gambling Disorder
Self Screening Tool

College Gambling

College Gambling: Play It Safe


International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems
Gambling Laws in the US
Help and Treatment by State
Gamblers Anonymous
US Hotlines 

National Conference 

National Conference on Problem Gambling