On a recent post on my Facebook page, I mentioned MTSS and School Counseling and the internet blew up a little bit. I promised to come back and share more details with you. I'm over at Confident Counselors sharing a bit more about MTSS, Core Counseling, and tiered counseling interventions. If you haven't checked it out yet, please do!
I recently got a fortune cookie that told me to "bite off more than you can chew and chew like hell." When I first got it, I thought it was so fitting. I laughed and thought about framing it. This past year, I worked, (sortof) blogged, took 24 credit hours in grad school, and wrote a book. It was a challenging year. We've all had them right?! Either because of extra tasks you've taken on, tasks you've been given, family crisis, or school crises, you've felt like you are under water and you can't get above it.
So here's the thing, I thought I had it. I thought I was doing well until about a month before the book deadline, when I was finalizing my last project for grad school and trying to wrap up the work on the book, I just buckled. You see, you can only sustain the pressure for so long before you just can't any more. Since then, I've been sick more days than I've been well but I'm finding ways to pull myself up out of the valley and remember being normal again. I thought I'd share some ideas that I have to help make it through.
Tips for When You're in the Weeds
When I used to wait tables, a job I am terrible at by the way, we say we were "in the weeds" when things were overwhelmed. I have no idea if people still say this but I use it all the time. That's how you feel, like you're stuck in the weeds and you may never get out.
Pick your top priorities and say no to everything else.
Whether your stressors are self-imposed or coming from an outside source, choose your priorities and ruthlessly cut out all other asks. There are always people/things/interests that will pull on your time but when you're in the weeds, ain't nobody got time for that.
Prioritize something good.
Make sure at least one of your priorities needs to be good for you. I love to read. I read over 100 books while in grad school and writing a book. That's because reading to me is such a part of who I am that, without it, I wouldn't be me.
Share where you are.
It takes a village people. Who is your village? Who knows what's going on with you and will check in on your status? I think that we need at least one family member, one colleague, and one friend who can be our person on tough days. If you don't have that, think about how you can cultivate it.
Don't forget your why.
Whatever your stressor, you haven't peaced out and moved to Timbuktu for a reason. What is your why? Are you supporting your family? Following a dream? Working for the good of your students? Relate what you are doing to your why and keep your eye on the goal.
Tips for Recovery
You did it! You made it through the stressful time. Everything is good right? I definitely underestimated the recovery portion of this journey. I thought that when I finished all the things of this past school year, that I would unlock all this free time to get more done.
Give yourself the gift of non-productivity.
After moving past your time of "biting off more than you can chew," you need a break! Like, a real break. Vacations might count but there will be some time when you are less productive than your usual self. That's to be expected. When we're lucky, that happens right around the time of summer break! Even when it doesn't, give yourself some grace.
Share where you are.
Remember that village? It doesn't end when our stressors do. Keep sharing where you are. Not just the good stuff too - the main stressors may have passed but we're still working our way back to normal (or a new normal).
Friend, you have done amazing things. Celebrate those things.
Grant time to grieve.
If your time of great stress came from crises, work environment, or other negative circumstances, give yourself the time to grieve that which once was.
I've ended this season of my life and moved into a new one. I am so thankful for the opportunities that I have had but I've also learned my lesson. I will be much more realistic about what I can take on in the future. What about you? Have you had one of those years?
Why did you become a school counselor? Most people will say it's for the kids. I'm right there with ya but I say to that, why? What about the kids drives you to wake up every morning to come to work in a super hard job that has some serious pitfalls?
You probably (hopefully) say you love your job. What makes you love it? What makes you strive to better your practice for kids? Recently, I had the opportunity to be a guest on the Cutting Edge Conversation podcast. We talked about the book I was currently reading, my love for Dr. Pepper, and how I finally jumped on the apple cider vinegar bandwagon. In the middle of the conversation, something happened. I remembered my why. I think you can even hear it in my voice.
But this post isn't about my why. This post is about your why. If you've lost yours, or never had it, I recommend this TED talk as a place to get started. It's titled "Why Great Leaders Inspire Action." As we know, counselors are leaders within your building. If you want to change outcomes for students, we can't just work with students, we must also work with the adults who guide the students' days.
So unless you know your why, it might be hard to inspire others to change. Here are some sentence starters that might help you:
Then, make a list of all the things you get to do at work everyday that fulfill your why. If you've been struggling to find the time to be a school counselor because of all the other responsibilities heaped upon you, think about how you can find your why even in lunch duty, test administration, volunteer coordination, or the other random things on your plate. Find your why each and every day and don't give up on it.
Now, go write that why down and post it somewhere. Remind yourself of your why every day, even when you feel you may have forgotten. Especially when.
I would love for you to comment below with your answers to the sentence starters above. Who knows, you might inspire someone else's why.
Groceries to get, emails to respond to, to-do lists, phone calls to make - does this sound like your brain? Me too. It's the same for kids too. They are thinking about mom snapping at them this morning, the assessment coming up, what they'd rather be doing (lunch), what they should be doing, friend drama, home drama - the list goes on. We are in such a go, go, go moment in the world, it's no wonder that we are all kinda crushing under the pressure.
That's why I love the new book from Julia Cook, Be Where Your Feet Are. While mindfulness is the underlying concept for the book, it differs from other favorites because it really focuses on mindful action. There is no sitting in a zen pose and deep breathing. I may be a yogi-wanna-be but I don't always want to zen out and, for some kids, I think this approach is much more relatable.
So what exactly is mindful action? I thought I made it up but a quick google shows some other great minds out there ;) When we are in action, particularly actions that are more rote or when we have high levels of feelings related to the action, our minds are elsewhere. We're thinking about the future, the past, the where-we'd-rather-be, or we are ruminating with self-talk about our feelings.
What if we didn't? What if we thought about what we're doing? Say you're washing the dishes. It doesn't take a lot of thought and you might even have some strong feelings about the dishes or the people that left them for you. Thoughts are all over the place. Focusing on the actions that we are taking both in the mundane and in the intense can give our brains time to rest and allows us to do better.
Be Where Your Feet Are
In the book, the boy has distracted thoughts all over the place that cause him to forget permission slips, mess up on a test, and play a different trombone song than the rest of the band. He can't focus long enough to do each thing well. His mom helps him to learn how to "be where his feet are." She suggests he breaks his time into chunks and give each thing all of his brain.
It's a great perspective and I think kids will respond to the drawings and humor within the book. The text is slightly long for younger readers so you may have to support their attention with some "be where your feet are" practice. For example, on page 26 the book says "Give yourself a mindful moment and make your feet and brain a team," it might be helpful to take kids through a short mindful movement. I like to have students move slowly and feel the way that the air feels on their skin, the earth feels on their feet, and the words sound in their brain. Kids really like it too!
Be Where Your Feet Are also has a great solution focused counseling example when the main character's mom asked him about the one thing he had done well that day and helped him to find an exception to his area of concern. Overall, I think you'll really like it. In the next book, I would love to see Julia Cook add more racial diversity in her characters, especially the protagonists. You can see more about the book and hear from the author on the National Center for Youth Issues website and on her author page.
To celebrate the release of the book, NCYI has given me 3 copies to give away! Like all giveaways, members of the VIP list are automatically entered. If you'd like an additional entry, leave a comment below about Mindful Action. I'll choose a winner on Monday, August 6, 2018.
Some of you with a keen eye have noticed my to-do list for creating anti-bias lessons. I began by calling them equity lessons but a colleague pointed out that students can't really control equity. Equity is systemic and beyond the reach of children. Semantics, maybe, but it hit home for me. I am working with a group of counselors in my district to create anti-bias lessons for counselors to use in Grades K-8. We are aligning each of the lessons to ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors and then using the Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards for the learning objectives. I'm am writing about the scope and sequence of the lessons in my upcoming book and, when they are done, I will share some of the slide decks and lesson plans with you here. In the meantime, let's dive into the Social Justice Standards.
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards
Teaching Tolerance released their Social Justice Standards in 2016 with four domains: identity, diversity, justice, and action. They have identified anchor standards for each of these domains but they also go a step further to identify grade level outcomes. The outcomes are divided into grade spans K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. If you follow the domains from grade level to grade level, you can see how the same idea progresses into deeper and more critical thinking skills. Let's look at an example:
Identity 3: Students will recognize that people’s multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals.
In designing our lessons, we tried to concentrate on identity and diversity first and then move into justice and action. We felt it was important for kids to understand who they are and who others are before thinking about how differences effect some people. School counselors do a pretty great job of helping students with identity and diversity. Some programs really focus on action but few, I think, focus on Justice. Let's look at a progression through the justice outcomes:
Justice 14: Students will recognize that power and privilege influence relationships on interpersonal, intergroup and institutional levels and consider how they have been affected by those dynamics.
Cue the record stopping and crickets. This is a whole new world for many. We don't talk about this stuff and it might bring up uncomfortable feelings for you. More importantly, what might parents say?!?! Take a deep breath, you got this.
I encourage you to print out the Social Justice Standards. Circle the outcomes that you already use within your core curriculum. Next, choose a few outcomes that you would like to add in. Take your list to a teacher who is knowledgeable about the English/Language Arts and Social Studies curriculum. You will find there is a lot of overlap where you can work with core teachers to embed the Social Justice Standards. Teaching Tolerance also has a searchable learning plans site that aligns common core standards with the Social Justice Standards.
Choose one anti-bias standard or skill that you want to implement in the upcoming school year and make it happen! Tell me below how you are implementing anti-bias social emotional learning for your students.
Welcome to my blog where I talk about all things school counselor and encourage others to Counselor Up!
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