Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

About a year ago,  I bought a new car which kind of forced me to purchase satellite radio (Hair Nation rocks!). The other day I got a wild hair (pardon the pun) and decided to explore some other stations.  As I was exploring, I came upon an old radio program that was on when I was a kid called Casey Kasem's Top 40 Countdown (for you younger school counselors, Ryan Seacrest has become the new Casey Kasem). It was so awesome to go back in time and listen to those forgotten hits that were popular when I was growing up. As I was driving, it occurred to me that it was time to share my countdown of the top ten posts of the year from For High School Counselor's Blog.

So, let's get started...

I have received a lot of response from this blog post...some disbelief and some just basic shock.  As a school counselor, it is important to  understand that drugs are a pervasive part of the culture of youth.  Although we may not be able to prevent all drug use, we certainly can be aware of the most dangerous trends that threaten to destroy the lives of our students. This post will be updated in 2018.

After taking a class in Trauma and the Brain from Georgia State University, I decided to write this post for school counselors.  Understanding the brain's role in trauma is super important and learning trauma informed practices can make a huge difference when working with your students.  

Trauma Informed Practices and Resources for School Counselors

This post certainly resonated with many school counselors and has been featured on other school counseling blogs (thank you to those who shared!).  Self care is essential in our field and many of us still fail to take care of our mental or physical health.  Maybe you will find a tip or two that will be helpful to you in this post.

End of the Year Tips for the Overworked Counselor

After attending the Georgia School Counselor Conference in 2016, I decided to share the idea of creating a comfort kit for students who experience self-harm.  There are a lot of great ideas of how to put together your own kit in this post.

Comfort Kits for Students Who Self-Harm

Ever since I pinned this information in 2013, I have gotten many shares and likes from school counselors at different levels.  Each year, I like to include a revised list of my favorite websites, blogs, and resources which you can  also find on my blog.

173 High School Counseling Websites and Resources

As a school counselor, it is not always clear what we should do when we experience students who engage in non-suicidal self harm.  I decided to write this post after I attended a training session on self injury among adolescents.  

I discovered the power of coloring among teens as a school counselor several years ago and decided to share some resources that may be helpful to other high school counselors.  This post has been widely shared and liked by other professionals and parents.

We all know the movie called The Bucket List.  However, if you are unaware of this movie, here is the plot in one sentence. This movie chronicles the journey of two elderly gentlemen who decide to do the things they always wanted to do before they, well... "kick the bucket." Since the senior year is often stressful and hectic for our students, I decided to share of list of fun things we could share for them to do before they graduate.  

This is another post that I have received a lot of response from school counselors.  Unfortunately, as a school counselor, you may be asked to fix a student's hygiene issues. If you find yourself in this situation, I hope that some of these suggestions are helpful.

Many school counselors, like myself, love forms. Therefore, I decided to write a post that features over 1,000 forms.  In 2018, I may update this post and make it 2,000!!

Well, that is my top 10 list for 2017.  Next year, I hope to continue to write informative and helpful posts for my counseling colleagues.

  Until then, in the words of Casey Kasem...

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Disaster Resources for School Counselors

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

It is hard to believe that 2017 is coming to an end in three weeks! Being an eternal optimist, I love to see each year end on a positive note; however, 2017 may disappoint me...sigh.

Looking back over this year, the United States (and many other countries for that fact) has seen its fair share of natural and human disasters. Here is a quick highlight of some of these US disasters over the last year.


2017 saw over 204 storms making it one of the top 10 busiest seasons in the Atlantic Basin.  Many communities, such as Miami and Houston, experienced devastation and flooding.

Source: The Weather Channel


This year over 1,1 million acres have been burned in Northern and Southern California due to drought and windy conditions.  2017 is now considered as the second worst season in acres burned since 1987!

Acts of Terrorism

In 2017, there have been 10 violent acts of terrorism against US citizens from Florida to Las Vegas.

  • 5 killed and 6 injured in a mass shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport.
  • Fatal shooting of Denver Transit Authority Guard.
  • Stabbing attack in New York City.
  • Shooting attack targeting Republican lawmakers (5 wounded).
  • Vehicle attack of protestors (1 protestor killed).    
  • Church shooting in Tennessee (attacker killed).
  • Shooting at concert in Las Vegas (59 concert goers killed and 527 injured).
  • Attacker killed 8 when he drove into a bike path in New York City.
  • Church shooting in Texas (27 killed and 30 wounded).
  • Pipe bomb exploded injuring 3 people in New York City.

School Shootings

In 2017, there have been three school shootings.  Here is a list of school shootings that have occurred this year.


North Park Elementary School, San Bernardino, California
Teacher killed by estranged husband and 2 students are wounded.


Freeman High School, Spokane, Washington
One student killed and 3 wounded by a Sophomore student.


Aztec High School, Aztec, New Mexico
After illegally trespassing on campus,  a former student kills 2 students and then dies by suicide.

Role of the School Counselor During Disaster

Truly, 2017 was a year full of tragedy and confusion!  Unfortunately, these types of events often  have devastating impacts on our students and families.  More than ever, school counselors need to be trauma informed experts

Exactly what is a trauma informed expert?  In 2016, ASCA created a position statement describing the role of the school counselor in promoting trauma sensitive environments in their school community.  

Role of a Trauma Informed School Counselor

ASCA gives clear guidance on how to become a trauma informed school counselor.

• recognize the signs of trauma in students
• understand traumas need not predict individual failure if sufficient focus on resilience and strengths is present
• avoid practices that may re-traumatize students
• create connected communities and positive school climates that are trauma-sensitive to keep students healthy and in school and involved in positive social networks
• implement effective academic and behavioral practices, such as positive behavioral interventions and supports and social and emotional learning
• promote safe, stable and nurturing relationships
• provide community resource information to students and families dealing with trauma
• educate staff on the effects of trauma and how to refer students to the school counselor
• collaborate with community resources to provide support for students
• promote a trauma-sensitive framework for policies, procedures and behaviors to entire staff
• recognize the role technology can play in magnifying trauma incidents for students
What to know more about trauma informed practices?  Check out the link for training from ASCA...

Also, want to do more for your community?  Consider becoming as a Disaster Mental Health Volunteer with Red Cross.  You will learn how to respond in a disaster,  Psychological First Aid skills, and much more!  I have served as a DMH Volunteer for two years!!

Resources for School Counselors

I feel that it is important for school counselors to have research based resources.  If you need resources for your school, that has experienced a natural or human disaster,  check out the list of resources below.



Coping with Trauma and Stress in the Face of Wildfires

Tips for Managing Stress After Wildfires


NCTSN: Talking to Students About Bombings

NCTSN: Terrorism Resources

Natural Disasters

Disaster Distress Helpline

Tips for Talking to Children and Youth After a Disaster

Helping Kids During a Crisis

Other Resources

School Crisis Guide

Trauma Resources for Teachers

Resources from For High School Counselors

School Shootings and the School Counselor

School Counselor Resources for Displaced Students

Trauma Informed Resources for School Counselors
Here is to a better 2018!!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Guest Post: Four Major Misconceptions about School Counseling

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Four Major Misconceptions about School Counseling

By: Sheldon Soper

I am pleased to have a quality piece written by Sheldon Soper on the misconceptions about school counseling.  

Sheldon Soper is a New Jersey middle school teacher with over a decade of classroom experience teaching students to read, write, and problem-solve across multiple grade levels. He holds teaching certifications in English, Social Studies, and Elementary Education as well as Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the field of education. In addition to his teaching career, Sheldon is also a content writer for a variety of education, technology, and parenting websites. You can follow Sheldon on Twitter @SoperWritings and on his blog. 

Four Major Misconceptions about School Counseling

It takes dedicated, knowledgeable, and passionate professionals to help students achieve academic success. Still, today’s students face a litany of challenges that reach far beyond academics.

Stakeholders like teachers, tutors, administrators, and parents all play key roles in helping students succeed. Often overlooked, the school counselor is actually one of the most vital yet underappreciated pieces in the support equation. Part of the reason for this oversight is that there are numerous misconceptions about what a school counselor actually does.
I spoke with two accomplished school counselors about these misconceptions in an effort to unpack the vital roles school counseling plays in fostering a positive and productive school community.
Our conversations provided eye-opening insights into just how much effort, passion, flexibility, and expertise go into being a school counselor.

Misconception 1: “Aren’t school counselors just guidance counselors?”

In recent years, there has been a deliberate shift away from using the term “guidance counselor” to describe counselors in schools. One of the main reasons for the evolution is that the guidance counselor archetype from decades past represents only a fraction of what modern school counseling encompasses. Gone are the days where a counselor’s role began and ended with college and career prep.
Hence, there is potential harm in failing to distance the profession and its efforts from the preconceptions tied to the antiquated title. Phyllis Fagell explains:
“I think some people think that school counselors are solely paper pushers or schedulers or involved in discipline. School counselors have master’s degrees and use data, creativity, and evidence-based practices to remove barriers to learning. Many of us are licensed mental health professionals as well[.]”
Some counselors, like Barbara Gruener, acknowledge the rationale for the shift, but find ways to repurpose the term as a reflection of the amazing work today’s school counselors actually do.
“I think a perception about school counseling might still be that we are guidance counselors just focused on college and careers like way back when. [...] I don’t mind the word guidance personally, because I like to think of myself as a guide through a child’s journey down Character Road, but I get the semantics behind the reframe, because we do so much more.”
For many, the term guidance counselor still carries with it overly simplified connotations of the position’s role in the educational landscape. By renaming the profession with a title reflective of its school-wide importance, the value of a counselor’s impact on the learning community is less likely to be overlooked.

Misconception 2: “School counselors stir up and validate student drama.”

Spend enough time in schools (or raising teenagers) and your head will spin with the amount of focus kids put on their peer relationships. With the advent of social media and smart phones, students now carry their social lives in their pockets everywhere they go.
One of the negative consequences of this evolution is that since there are now so many new platforms where students’ relationships with each other can play out, there are that many more opportunities for potential misunderstandings, conflicts, and even bullying.
School counseling plays a key role in helping students navigate the social and emotional challenges of a socially interconnected world. By offering students opportunities where they can speak freely with reasonable assurances of confidence, counselors give students the opportunity to have their thoughts and feelings heard by an unbiased third party.
However, the work doesn’t stop there. Counseling is not just a venue for students to gain adult validation for their social concerns. Gruener describes:
“School counselors are connectors. We help students connect to one another and to their friends. We help them build healthy relationships based on good character choices. We stretch and nourish those glorious virtues like empathy, compassion, and kindness so that they position themselves to be in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.”
Helping students foster these types of relationships can have positive implications for their academic success as well. Fagel attests, “[W]e know that a kid in crisis won’t perform well academically. We need to educate the whole child and teach soft skills such as conflict resolution”.
Effective school counseling does not perpetuate interpersonal student issues; it is instrumental in both solving and preventing them.

Misconception 3: “Only the troubled kids see the school counselor.”

The link between the term counseling and the field of mental health leads to a common misconception about a school counselor’s clientele.
School counselors do offer support and coping mechanisms to those in need. Gruener clarifies:
“We connect people to resources when the game of life throws them a curveball. Families fall apart, pets and/or people pass away, parents fall on hard times, things change ... Feelings get tender, raw, hurt, so we’re there to help [people] bounce forward into their new normal, to see that sometimes when it feels like we’re buried, we’re really just planted.”
Nevertheless, the services of the school counselor are not limited to those in times of emotional distress. As Gruener also articulates, “the perception that if you see the counselor you might be in trouble - or worse, troubled - couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
It is common for parents, teachers, and administrators to seek out a school counselor’s expert advice on any number of student-related issues. While the majority of conversations during counseling remain in confidence, the unique and unprejudiced perspectives of school counselors provide benefits to all members of the school community’s stakeholders.
Fagel recounts some of these types of experiences from her career:
“Over the years I’ve testified in court, made home visits, scheduled courses, guided parents through the special education process, helped facilitate communication between home and school, and taught kids everything from cyber-civility to mindfulness.”
School counselors like Fagel, Gruener, and others like them, possess a wide range of expertise and regularly are called upon to put it to use in service of a community much broader than just troubled students.

Misconception 4: “School counselors only do ‘X’.”

School counseling takes on numerous forms depending on the needs of a school and its population.
The reality is, today’s school counselors have to wear many hats. Unfortunately, as with countless professions, there is a tendency to try to oversimplify the job description in such a way that undercuts the versatility and diversity of their work.
As Fagell stresses, “There’s really no ‘typical’ for a school counselor.” She elaborates:
“School counselors attend to students’ academic performance and mental health, impart social-emotional skills and help them plan for the future. They work with kids individually, in groups, and in the classroom, but they also strategize with teachers and administrators, provide parent education and support, create programming and collaborate with outside professionals. Sometimes they need to function more like social workers, securing resources for families in crisis.”
For education veteran Gruener, she has filled similar roles working under the title of school counselor. Beyond counseling students, she has also tackled additional responsibilities ranging from the social media specialist to the service-learning coordinator. She monitors lunch duty and also serves as the mandated reporter of abuse or neglect.
These trained professionals, like many counselors in schools across the country, possess skills, training, and perspectives uniquely suited for optimizing student growth and aiding the key players in the process.
The counseling school counselors provide extends well beyond the classroom; counselors support the whole child, not just the part that exists within the school walls.
“We’re not the guidance counselors of past generations,” asserts Fagell. “That said, I think there’s a trend toward appreciating the critical role that counselors play in the school setting.”
She continues:
"School counselors know that if we want to prepare kids for the future, we need to look beyond math or social studies. Students need to be resourceful, responsible, considerate and willing to take risks. […] Teachers know that creativity, collaboration and resilience matter as much as academics, but the problem is that those traits are harder to measure than grades and test scores.”
Therein lies the major complication in both defining school counseling and highlighting the importance of school counselors: while it is easy to point to data like rising math scores to demonstrate a math program’s effects, there are no standardized tests for things like socialization and emotional strength. Some of the most important work a school counselor carries out happens behind the scenes, in unquantifiable ways, often sealed in confidence. Other times, counseling extends beyond the counselor’s office and finds its way into the classroom or the community at large.
Because of that fact, it can be easy to give in to misconceptions and fail to both understand and celebrate the uniquely imperative roles school counselors fill within their greater school communities.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Student Mental Health and Self Care: Free Resources

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Each year our district hosts an annual teen leadership summit for middle and high school leaders.  Until recently, this conference was totally planned by an adult committee; however, the adults realized that it is a student conference and students should actually take part in the planning process!  So, the students were given an opportunity to provide feedback on which topics they felt were important at a student-led conference and one of the topics was, surprisingly, on  balancing life (particularly managing positive mental health and employing self care tactics).  Fortunately, my social worker friend and I were asked if we would present on this topic and we humbly accepted.

Work Life Balance and Self Care

Maintaining a Work Life Balance has become the war cry of the majority modern day workers and should justifiably be taken seriously by employers!!  Although we all strive to maintain that fine balance, how many of us school counselors effectively find that sweet spot? (If you need a reminder about the importance of school counselor self care, read this article from Dr. Rhonda Williams!!) What is this concept anyway?  According to the mental health and well-being page of the government of Queensland, Australia, Work-Life Balance is "adjusting your day-to-day activities to achieve a sense of balance between work life and personal life." If adults have an issue finding this balance, youth are certainly more susceptible to falling into the same trap.  

It's a Balancing Act

My friend and I divided the presentation into two sections.  First, I discussed the concept of mental health, when students should be concerned about their own mental health, and how they can assist others.  Second, my colleague gave tips on self care and she intentionally provided concrete examples that students could use once they walked out the door. 

Attached is the power point presentation that you are more than welcome to borrow or revise for your own use.  

In addition to the presentation, we shared some additional resources with the students.

Student Self Care Kit

My colleague and I created three self care kits to give away to students in the sessions.  They were simple to put together and surprisingly the students loved them...go figure!

Some items we included were:

bubble wrap
dark chocolate
green tea
lolly pops
stress ball
colored pencils
self care cards

Self Care Cards

Here is a sample of the self care cards we gave to students.  

Additional Resources

We also gave out some mental health resources which included the Georgia Crisis text line for students experiencing a crisis. Here is the link to the resources we shared - mental health resources.  Also, my colleague brought her diffuser (she put in peppermint-lemon oil) and Himalayan Salt Lamp for the students to experience.  If you are interested in purchasing these products, check out the links below.

Also, here are some additional worksheets you may want to include in your self care kit or use with your students experiencing an out-of-balance school-life.

Setting Goals

Now, it is your turn to share your ideas and tools.  What tips/resources/handouts do you use with your students.  Please feel free to share!!!