You may remember learning about my Career Cafe (right) last month. I spoke about my personality inventory called "The Color Quiz," which is how I organize my students into groups for our guest speakers.

I decided to create another video to focus specifically on the quiz to help explain how it works. For more information, go to this classroom-based counseling link.

Also, this year, my colleagues took the survey during our staff meeting and then met as grade level teams to review the results in greater detail. It's been a fun, but educational way to look at how we function as a team.




I know I say this all the time, but Pixar is one of the best resources for school counselors.

"Boundin'" is part of Pixar's short film collection. As described on Amazon: "A shearing leaves a dancing sheep humiliated until a jackalope passes by and
demonstrates that it's what's inside that counts."
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I use this short film with my small groups to help build positive relationships. After viewing the video, we discuss how the sheep felt and how the jackalope was a good friend. Then, I give each student a workpage (above). I write a group member's name on each student's paper, then explain that they must write and/or draw something nice about that person. In this way, they are acting like the jackalope, helping their group friends feel good about themselves.

Once everyone has finished their work, we share our words and/or pictures one at a time. Then, I ask for the receiver to say how they feel after hearing the positive feedback - I record their response at the bottom of the paper. I make copies of the projects for my own documentation, but let the students keep their originals, which serve as a reminder of how valued they are.

The video is also great with individual students who may focus on the negative aspects of their life. The jackalope shows the sheep that bad things happen and sometimes, you just need to keep moving forward until you feel better again; you can't let every little thing get you down.
The past few months have been an unexpected whirlwind of activity. In addition to the typical hectic nature of the school counseling profession, I have been happily overwhelmed with three community theatre productions this season. The second show, I Hate Hamlet, just closed, which is both calming and sad.

I Hate Hamlet is about a television actor who moves to New York City to perform particular, Hamlet. I played the wildly romantic (and incredibly bubbly) girlfriend who wants nothing more than to see her boyfriend achieve theatrical glory in, as she puts it, "the most beautiful play ever written."

This role (and this show, for that matter) was a wonderful, intentionally over-the-top opportunity. I loved every minute of the rehearsal process, because I was able to push myself past my comfort zone and enter the world of comedy. Typically, I am cast in more serious roles, so this was a welcome departure and learning experience for me.
As I prepared to write this "what I've been up to" update for you, I stumbled upon a review of our show. Prior to reading this review, I had received amazingly positive feedback; audiences loved I Hate Hamlet, including other local actors, who are a difficult crowd to please. So, when I read this negative review, my heart fell into my stomach. I let someone else's words affect me so deeply that I began to question every little detail of my performance and our production as a whole.

I have to say, theatre is an incredibly intimidating art form. You put yourself out there day after day, just waiting to be judged. When I began to act, I struggled with an embarrassing amount of self-doubt and anxiety - I was never comfortable with my performance and constantly wondered what everyone else thought about me as an actor. I was worried that I didn't fit in. Over the years, I have been able to let a lot of those negative thoughts go, which is why I was so surprised and angry with myself when they came screaming back.

In a way, I am grateful that I stumbled upon that review. It reminds me that I can't have such little self-respect that I let random (and often times, unfounded) feedback get to me. Have you ever had a parent claim that you have "done nothing" to help their child, when, in fact, you have gone above and beyond to do so? Have you ever found yourself defending every facet of your school counseling program because one individual is looking for someone to blame? You can't let the 1% (negative feedback) taint the 99% (positive feedback). Easier said than done, of course.
School counselors are sensitive, empathic individuals who want to make others happy. It's hard to hear a complaint and not instantly think: Of course! They're right!

As Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman (right), "the bad stuff is easier to believe." But...we have to start listening and absorbing the positive stuff too.

So, my challenge for all of my lovely readers is this: Do your best and give yourself a break. You can't be in 10 places at once, despite every attempt to do so. Know that you are doing the best you can for your students - everything else will fall into place.
On that note, here are some production photos from I Hate Hamlet courtesy of Todd Michaels. Enjoy!
Do you ever get bored of the same old board games? Well, try changing the rules of other games to meet your specific school counseling needs. Typically, it's just a matter of changing the questions.
One of my favorite games to revamp is How to Train Your Dragon: Dragon Training 101. The board is VERY simple, so you can create your own questions for students to answer. I use it to discuss anger (the "dragon" that needs to be trained).

I ask students questions based on the issues they are currently experiencing. This allows for even greater game play flexibility.

You could use this game with students in both individual and small group counseling settings.
A few months ago, I posted a video (right) about creating your own games. This is an inexpensive, yet effective, way to help your students.
Want to save a little time?

Click here for free printable board game templates. 

You could print, laminate, and design countless games for your students to play and learn from.
The following is a guest post by Sarah Fudin from USC Rossier Online. I was intrigued by this topic because, as a school counselor, I often work with students who struggle with their weight and those who depend on free or reduced school lunches. The two, of course, are not always related, nor do they have to be.

After reading Sarah's post, share your thoughts on school lunches.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem. According to an infographic produced by USC Rossier Online, one in three school-age children are obese or overweight. Despite this, only 18 percent of high school cafeterias offer fruits and vegetables to purchase, while 50 percent offer chocolate. For schools to help combat childhood obesity, which can lead to diabetes and other health complications, healthy eating needs to happen in school cafeterias. The following are some of the benefits of healthy eating for students:

Healthy Weights

Healthier food choices prevent unhealthy weight gain. According to Livestrong, many of the foods typically offered in school cafeterias, like pizza and fries, contain a lot of saturated fat and calories. These foods also make children sluggish, so they are less active. Lunches should be high in essential nutrients and incorporate fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This ensures that students will feel full, but not uncomfortably so, and they have more energy for recess and gym. Choose My Plate has information on the five food groups and portion recommendations. 
Positive Behavior Effects
Good Morning America reports that Appleton Central High School, an alternative school is Wisconsin, had major behavioral issues and a high dropout rate. After taking the soda out of vending machines and replacing them with juice and water, as well as replacing standard cafeteria fare of pizza and fries with fruit, vegetables and whole grains, disciplinary issues decreased dramatically. Teachers credited the lunch program with the major behavior improvements, and students reported that their concentration levels increased and that they had more energy. When children eat well, they simply feel better and are more alert.

Brain Food

Livestrong again states that healthy food feeds the brain. As previously mentioned, fatty foods make children sluggish and healthy foods make them more alert and active. This translates to increased concentration and motivation in the classroom. When a child feels alert and well, he is more receptive to learning new information and participating in lessons. After all, you cannot learn if you are asleep. 

Long-Term Results
Establishing healthy menus at school and encouraging healthy choices through the curriculum leads to healthier habits later in life. If eating healthy is obviously valued at school, children will more likely promote good eating habits at home. They will make better choices as adults, decreasing their likelihood of being overweight and developing serious health problems. The infographic cited above reports that children that are obese have an increased likelihood of having high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, trouble breathing and joint issues. These are very serious issues that could not only take away from quality of life and self-esteem — they can kill. Thus, promoting healthy habits now can lead to longer, more successful and happier lives tomorrow.

Sarah Fudin currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education’s online Master’s programs, which provides current and aspiring teachers the opportunity to earn a Masters  in Education or Masters in Special Education online. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.