It's the first snow day I've had in 2 years, so I'm excited for the unexpected opportunity to relax...and my definition of relaxing is movies, theatre, and blogging.
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These are some of the movies I've been digging lately. All 3 deal with tough topics and can certainly help school counselors reflect on the challenges their students experience. While there are inappropriate parts in each film, there are brilliant clips that students could benefit from as well. For additional movie suggestions, visit my Amazon store
I know many of you have watched Shane Koyczan's powerful visual poem about bullying. When I saw it for the first time, I couldn't help but cry - I became a school counselor because I want to help students who feel broken become whole again. This is the kind of thing that stirs the helper and healer inside of me.
But...the poem also made me think about my own childhood. I had trouble in school, I was made fun of...but...did I inflict pain on others in order to fit in? Did I say something I thought was funny, but really damaged someone's self-worth? The thought haunts me sometimes, because I may never know how I'm truly perceived through another person's lense.
I discuss this with my students, because not only do I not want students to feel bullied, I also don't want students to live with regret. I don't want anyone to be the villain in someone else's memory. I, like most of us, will never know the extent to which my kindness and my cruelty (intentional or not) have impacted others. My hope is that we all take a step back and reflect on our actions, good or bad. Then, and only then, can we become better people.
Right now, I'm preparing for The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, my 4th and 5th shows of the season. These plays discuss the aftermath of Matthew Shepard's murder in Laramie, Wyoming. We have a company of 13 actors who are dividing up over 100 roles, which are, in actuality, real people who were interviewed in Laramie.
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I first read The Laramie Project my freshman year at Bowling Green State University, because it was the Honors Program's "community read." It broke my heart as I discovered more about Matthew Shepard and the town he lived in. Matthew was gay. One night, he was tied to a fence and savagely beaten by two Laramie men. When he was found, Matthew was barely breathing and days later, died in a Poudre Valley hospital.
Members of Tectonic Theater Project interviewed the people of Laramie and created a moving play based on those interviews. Ten years later, they came back to see how things had or had not changed. "The original will move you, the follow-up will shock you." More on these productions will be posted soon!
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I recently added a new school-wide program to my website. It's a friendly, good behavior competition my school started to improve cafeteria behavior. For more information on this program, click here
In other news, Elementary School Counseling.org was featured in the January/February issue of ASCA School Counselor
! The article, Get on the Blogging Bandwagon
, was written by Darrell Sampson, the founder of From the Counselor's Office
Check it out!
If you're a school counselor, then I know you've been asked to, in some capacity, manage bullying and bullying prevention at your building(s). The trouble is, we don't always have materials available to us. I've had to create my own lessons and materials more times than I can count and while I love to exercise my creative muscles, sometimes I need something that's ready to go.
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I recently heard about S.H.A.R.K. (Students Help Achieve Respect & Kindness) Patrol, a program for grades K-3. The goal is help students understand the importance of working together and taking responsibility for our actions.
You can buy
the whole kit or just pick and choose your favorite components. I personally love the CD, because the music is very catchy. I use the songs as a way to engage my students at the beginning or end of a lesson. Since my primary students LOVE puppets, I bring in a puppet to help "sing" the songs. You'd be surprised at how funny and enchanting a singing puppet can be. Try it in the mirror with any song...see what I mean?!
In my day-to-day school counseling world, I spend a lot of time reading between the lines. I am constantly scanning my surroundings to informally check-in with hundreds of students and dozens of staff members. In the hallway, we exchange our "Hi, how are you?" pleasantries, but the responses are typically riddled with hidden messages.
A few years ago, I had one clever student explain to me that he always responds with "good" because it's not bad enough or special enough to warrant further conversation. When you want to disappear, bland vocabulary can be your best friend. When you need help, but are afraid to ask, "fine" can be all that squeaks out.
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A friend of mine recently posted this thought-provoking video on Facebook. It deals with the underlying causes of bullying, particularly why individuals feel the need to lash out and hurt others.
I must warn you that this video contains some harsh language and mature themes. I still, however, felt it was important to share because school counselors work with both sides of bullying and must find a way to pull back the layers of lies, hurt, embarrassment, shame, and fear to get to the truth. Only then can there be hope of long-term solutions.
With that, I'll leave you to have a GREAT (not good) day!
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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."
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.
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As a school counselor, I often feel like a sponge. I soak up the chaos around me, attempting to clean up the emotional spills. By the end of the day, I have absorbed more than I should have. I rarely take the time to ring out the excess before cleaning up another mess, so all I am is a soggy sponge... and let's face it, that is no use to anyone.
This, perhaps, overdramatic interpretation of my feelings leads me to an amazing novel and, dare I say, equally amazing film: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The main character, Charlie, is an introverted, intuitive, and intelligent high school freshman who is able to see those around him for who they really are.
Like many school counselors, Charlie absorbs others' pain. He wants to fix their problems, provide a shoulder to lean on, and give them hope for a better tomorrow. In doing this, Charlie sees the cycle of pain, which is hard to ignore; there is always someone experiencing heartache. However, when you open yourself up to this reality, you must be prepared to protect yourself. Don't be the saturated sponge, working to clean up a spill, but only spreading the mess around. We must take care of ourselves in order to take-on the world. Charlie, unfortunately, has not mastered this skill.
When I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I knew I had to blog about it. Watching these thoughtfully-crafted characters experience the world made me think of my students. I have students like Charlie, who need time and support to open up. I have students like Sam, who have experienced some form of trauma and desperately need to connect. I have students like Patrick, who use humor to hide the depth of their struggles.
I also thought about my own experiences in school - those times when I felt completely alone, the times I just wanted to blend into the background. I think when we leave high school, regardless of what that experience was like, we forget how claustrophobic it felt. Life revolved around a petri dish of students, all floating within the barriers of the container. The moment those walls are removed, you finally see the world for all its possibilities. It's the fresh start you thought you'd get in high school, before you realized that your middle school years followed you.
| |The Perks of Being a Wallflower
is a powerful reminder of the only world our students know. They haven't experienced life outside of the dish yet. In smaller elementary school settings (like mine), a student may only have 50 other students in their grade. What are the odds that 1 of those 50 would be a perfect friendship match? For some kids, our school pond is a little too small. The end result? The kids on the outside, the wallflowers, are reminded that they are different and, in some cases, believe their future will never improve, even after high school.
If nothing else, this film reminds us to look beyond the surface and see individuals for who they are. We all have our baggage, our struggles, our own journey that shaped our present.
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One of my favorite Pixar short films
is called "For the Birds." It's about a group of birds with poor social skills. I use this film to discuss the types of behaviors that students see or engage in at school. The worksheets are a great way for students to express how they would respond to these situations.
Want more great short films?
Buy the DVD here
Download the worksheets here
| || |E! Investigates
will be airing a special called "Bullying: Celebs Speak Out" on Tuesday, August 14th at 8:00 pm EST.
Celebrities who share their personal experiences with bullying include: Bill Clinton, Mike Tyson, Khloe Kardashian, Jillian Michaels, Lance Bass, and Michelle Trachtenberg.
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I recently started working on a local theatre production
of "From Up Here," a dramatic comedy by Liz Flahive. From the minute I opened the script, I loved this show! In essence, it's about a family dealing with the aftermath of a serious school incident - the son brought a gun (unloaded) to school and threatened other students. The boy must now prepare for a public apology to his school community, while also navigating stressful family dynamics.
I was cast as the fun-loving aunt who runs from difficult situations. The more I rehearse, the more I realize the depth and complexity of this particular topic.
We hear about tragic situations every single day - individuals are pushed to their breaking point and lash out. As a school counselor we work with students most at-risk for this type of behavior and, in fact, are often pushed to the limit ourselves. How often have you had a day where you gave others everything you had mentally, emotionally, and physically? Are you always recognized for your efforts?
School counselors may be able to help their students, staff, and communities, but if they do not have their own way of decompressing, then it's only a matter of time before the water comes to a boil.
As you gear up for another busy school year, please remember to take the time you need to breathe and "reboot."
Promo from The Circuit Playhouse
| |Dateline NBC
aired a special called "My Kid Would Never Bully" that aired in 2011. Within the special, teenagers are put in mock bullying situations to see how they handle themselves.
Who ignores it? Who joins in? Who stands up for the target? The results will surprise you.
View the entire episode here