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!
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In December, I highlighted
an educational and super adorable television series called Small Potatoes
, which was created by Little Airplane Productions, Inc.
Little Airplane, as described on their website, "specializes in quality film and television programming for young children." They have created many outstanding shows, such as The Wonder Pets
, 3rd & Bird
, and Tobi!
One of my favorites, which was recommended to me by one of my readers, is The Olive Branch
. The Olive Branch
is part of Little Airplane's non-profit wing, Little Light Foundation
. Each 1 minute episode is meant to model effective conflict resolution strategies, but does so without using words. This way, the message can be understood by anyone, anywhere, which is quite beautiful.
"The children of today are the global citizens of tomorrow. They will play and ultimately work with people from different countries and different cultures. Tolerance, the ability to see and incorporate diverse points of view, and the skill to forge win-win solutions will soon be the most important skills we teach our children. It's never to early to lay the groundwork of these skills."
-Laura G. Brown, Ph.D.
While researching Little Airplane, I was lucky enough to speak with Tone Thyne
, Supervising Producer for the company. We discussed how their shows are made, the dreams for The Olive Branch
, and ways that fans can get involved.
We also talked about an exciting and unique aspect of Little Airplane: Little Airplane Academy
, a 3-day intensive workshop in New York for those interested in created their own preschool series. Participants are able to meet with influential network executives during a panel discussion. There's still time to apply for the upcoming February 9-11 session. Interested? Then, contact Tone at email@example.com
Welcome to Day 3 of Pixar
Sometimes the most magical moments do not happen on stage, in front of a crowd...sometimes, they happen behind the scenes as the illusion is being delicately crafted for the audience.
For a fascinating look inside Pixar Studios
, including what it takes to direct and design an animated feature, check out Pixar's behind-the-scenes page
on their website.
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Now, on to the show! Have you ever wondered what happens the moment before the curtain opens on a great magic show? Well, Presto
will show you just that.
The humor (and lesson for our students) comes from a magician's rabbit, a fiesty assistant that desperately wants a carrot to settle its rumbling tummy. This short film can teach our students about patience and self-control, but also about recognizing and responding to other people's feelings.
There are some slightly inappropriate aspects of this film (slapstick humor, such as a ladder to the groin and electric shock), so use your best judgement. Enjoy!
As I'm sure you may have noticed, I have a slight obsession with Pixar
. Their films have depth and substance, creatively expressing the importance of building character. Both their full-length and short films have a magical way of teaching our students why making good choices is in their best interest.
This week, I will be highlighting some of my favorite Pixar short films that you could use with your students. Additionally, I want to explore how these masterpieces are created and recognize the creative forces that brought the stories to life.
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In case you're interested, there is an EXCELLENT documentary called The Pixar Story
that gives you an amazing behind-the-scenes look of Pixar
. You can watch the film on Amazon Instant Video
(you can rent or buy the film). For a short preview, check out the video on the right.
Now, on to the first short film! "Partly Cloudy
," as you can see in the trailer below, is about a world where clouds create little bundles of joy (babies, puppies, kittens, and other adorable creatures) for storks to deliver to loving homes. However, within this sugary sweet world lives a gloomier cloud who likes to create more unique and, at times, unappreciated gifts, such as sharks, crocodiles, and porcupines. This cloud's poor stork is visibly exhausted and falling apart at the seams. One day, the storm cloud's stork friend flies to a neighboring cloud - when old gloomy sees this, his thundering anger builds and his rain tears fall. But, have no fear! The weakened stork returns with a bundle of his own: a helmet and shoulder pads to help make the journeys easier.
So, how could a school counselor use this story? I think there are two excellent ways.
1. The storm cloud has a hard time expressing his feelings, so this movie could spark discussion on how to positively manage strong emotions.
2. Sometimes students who are outside the mainstream are confused why the general population doesn't reach out to be their friend. I think "Partly Cloudy" could help these students reflect on the importance of the quality of their friends vs. the quantity. Being unique is great, but it can also make it more challenging to find great friend matches. It's hard being friends with someone you don't have anything in common with, so naturally, if you think and act outside the box, then you'll have fewer great friends at your disposal. Therefore, you need a plan for how to seek out the right peers.
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I created two workpages (below) that could help students organize their thoughts and create a plan of action for finding and developing positive friendships.
In case you haven't noticed, I love using video clips with my students. It's a fun way to grab their attention and transition into a lesson.
I just found one of the most adorable television shows ever...yes, EVER! Small Potatoes
is about four singing potatoes who travel the world making music and making friends. Each three-minute episode contains a song about a specific topic and audio clips of children reflecting on that topic.
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As described on the Small Potatoes
website, the show helps children to:
1. Develop an understanding of how to make friends.
2. Laugh and relax through humor.
3. Develop an appreciation of a variety of music.
4. Process their emotions through music.
You can create your own potato
through the Small Potatoes Facebook page
. Check out mine (left).
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!
Do you have students who are chronically negative? Typically, these children have trouble making and keeping friends, often feeling rejected by their peers and the world at large. This is a "chicken or the egg" situation: Which came first, the rejection or the negativity?
I think it's important to empathize with students who feel excluded, but we still must address what students CAN control. While they cannot control their environment, they can certainly control how they respond to it. We, of course, must be mindful of mental health diagnoses and trauma that may contribute to a student's negativity. Therefore, some of my ideas may not apply to those specific situations.
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A few weeks ago, I saw this video (left) on Saturday Night Live. It's about a man dealing with his complicated personal life while starting a new job as a mouse mascot.
This is for comedic purposes, but still shows how negativity and sadness can affect how a person responds to his/her environment. In the movie, whenever someone neglects to wave back, even if it was unintentionally dismissive, the man adds more proof to his negativity bank - "See, you were right. Everyone DOES hate you."
Additionally, this SNL video shows how uncomfortable and frustrating sadness and chronic negativity can be for other people.
Children (and, let's face it, many adults) often have little patience for negativity. When students' interventions, such as asking him/her to play or trying to rationalize why something "isn't so bad," do not work, it's easier for them to give up and blame the negative peer for not trying hard enough.
So, what do you do? I always give my students the first few minutes of a session to vent. Then, we move on to the positives so that I don't feed into the negativity and make it worse. For kiddos who struggle with identifying happy thoughts, I create a sticker chart to track all of the positives they can share with me. Each session, they have to name 3 good things in their life. Then, if they are able to complete the task, they add a sticker to the chart. We set a goal for the number of stickers we want to earn and once they reach their goal, they get to pick a prize from my prize box.
After a few weeks of tracking positive thoughts, I definitely notice a difference in my students. They come up to me to share good news and smile more. We also reflect on how their positive attitude feels, how it impacts their school day, and how others students respond to them.
In a world of uncertainty, we have to focus on what we can control. In the words of Albus Dumbledore, "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light."
Let's help our students flip the switch and see the world through different eyes.
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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.
| || |Cupcake
is an adorable book about a plain vanilla cupcake that isn't picked to eat. Cupcake decides that he must find a way to make himself more exciting, but ends up making a friend in the process. Students can learn about self-esteem through Cupcake, having to list things that they like about themselves. I have a worksheet that students can use. Also, you can bring in plain white cupcakes for students to snack on. There is a recipe in the back of the book.
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I have found that the simple worksheet works best for K-1 and the other (right) can be used with 2-4.
I also allow students to decorate their cupcake to highlight how unique we all are.
| Simple Worksheet (left)|
|File Size: ||132 kb|
|File Type: || pdf|| |
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This is a wonderful way to promote your school counseling program. Plus, it helps beautify your hallways and educate other students as they pass by.
Just download the PDF (below) and you're good to go!
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Now that I have an office with a SMART Board, I have been experimenting with all of the special features. I found "word dice," which I instantly knew would be perfect for both small groups and classroom lessons.
I decided to create dice that students could use to roleplay various feelings. So, students go up to the SMART Board, tap the dice, and act out the animal and feeling they are given. For example, a student may have to act out a mad cat or a sad bear.
This is a simple activity that would be great at the beginning of a lesson to grab their attention or at the end of a lesson to practice what they have learned.
If you have access to a SMART Board, please feel free to download my roleplay dice (below). If not, you can easily create your own or use regular dice with a key (that explains what each number stands for).
| Dice (SMART Board)|
|File Size: ||421 kb|
|File Type: || notebook|