Within the last week, Dove
's "Real Beauty Sketches" video has been plastered over social media accounts. In fact, I discovered it through Carli Counsels
, a wonderful new elementary school counseling blog.
It's amazing how quickly good resources and thought-provoking content can spread! I love that I am able to better my school counseling program by engaging in social media. (Insert shout-out to Marty Stevens
for encouraging me to join Twitter in the first place!)
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If you haven't watched "Real Beauty Sketches," what are you waiting for?! Press play...NOW! ;)
I am fairly confident that if I were in these women's shoes, I would have been just as hard on myself. This begs the question: If we are consciously or subconsciously self-haters, how can we teach young children to avoid that path? How an individual feels about their outward appearance is usually quite apparent - body language and clothing choices, in particular, give you away. So, wouldn't our students notice that we are not practicing what we preach? They are looking to us for advice, but are we qualified to give it? I think it's time for us to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
| |The Dove Social Mission
, in general, is a wonderful resource for school counselors. I think you could use almost any of their videos or materials with your intermediate level students. Personally, I would opt for 5th and 6th graders.
I created a companion workpage (left) for the "Real Beauty Sketches" series
, that would give students the opportunity to share how they see one of their peers. This would work best in a small group setting, so students have the chance to reflect and share in a more controlled, safe environment.
I have conducted a similar lesson called "Compliment Circle," an activity where group members must provide positive feedback for everyone in the group. I start by giving every student a piece of blank paper and having them write their name at the top. Then, everyone passes their paper to the person on their left. The students write something positive about the person on their paper. When everyone is finished, we pass the papers again. This continues until the students have written on every paper but their own. Before the compliments are revealed, I have students discuss how they are feeling (anticipation, worries, etc.). Then, students read their compliments. Again, we reflect as a group on the peer feedback and discuss how this could positively impact our friendships.
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Once students hear positive feedback from their peers, it's important to work on their own "inner critics" as well. Sometimes, we rely too heavily on praise and reassurance from others - we need to learn how to generate that from within. You could do this by having students complete the above workpage for themselves (before seeing what their peer created), then compare the two.
I hope there will be a day when image will no longer hold us back, preventing talented individuals from reaching their dreams and performing to their fullest potential. In the meantime, we need to help each other see what's REALLY reflecting in our mirrors...and that's beautiful. :)
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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Each month, I offer classroom lessons
that highlight my school district's core values. "Dedication" is our January core value, so I taught my students about the importance of never giving up.
For my youngest students, I based my lesson on The Little Engine that Could
. This year, I opened my lesson with a Sesame Street
music video called "Don't Give Up." Then, I discussed the story of The Little Engine and told students we would make our own train to show what we will never give up on. They loved it! I definitely recommend this lesson!Click here
for more lesson details.
I also found this amazing video that older students may appreciate. It's about a man who was told that he would never walk without assistance, but with hard work and dedication, he was able to run.
Be ready to wipe away some tears, because this video is quite inspiring.
One of my favorite quotes from the video is: "Just because I can't do it today, doesn't mean I'm not going to be able to do it someday." That is such a wonderful message to share with our students. School isn't always easy (and it shouldn't be), because we are challenging ourselves to be better, stronger people. Let's live this message: Never, EVER give up!
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While catching up on my blog reading, I came across a Corner on Character
post about "the path that leads to awesome." Within the post, Barbara highlighted an adorable, hilarious, and heartfelt video
's "Kid President" that inspires viewers to make the world a better place.
I was incredibly moved by the video and instantly thought of dozens of ways that my students could benefit from its message. But, like the obsessive video scavenger I am, I HAD to discover what SoulPancake
was all about and, of course, if there were more videos school counselors could incorporate into their own programs.
So, here's what I found out:
was founded in 2008 by actor Rainn Wilson and his friends, Joshua Homnick and Devon Gundry. As described on their website, "SoulPancake
sprang out of their desire to create a space where people from all walks of life could discuss and question what it means to be human - a place to wrestle with the spiritual, philosophical, and creative journey that is life" (FAQ
is not just video - there are also print, web, and live event formats.
One of my favorite aspects of the site is the "activities
" section. There are various writing or multimedia prompts (i.e. "List the one thing that you'll never give in to.") that visitors can participate in. These activities are a wonderful springboard for school counseling services; you could easily modify an existing prompt to meet your specific needs. If you trust their little hands, you could even provide your students (in individual or small group sessions, ideally) with a camera so they can respond to challenging questions in a different way.
As for the additional videos for school counselors, I found plenty of clips to spice up a lesson or two. I added some of these SoulPancake
videos to my YouTube channel
- organized by topic, of course! ;)
You can view my "Brighten Your Day" SoulPancake
playlist in its entirety here
. You won't be sorry! I promise! These videos are meant to energize, inspire, and ease the burdens we carry. Lighten the load. Enjoy!Here are two of my favorites:
In addition to their website and YouTube channel
also published a book
. You could use this to spark conversation, encourage friendly debates, or to help with your own self-care.
Wow...big discovery today. Thanks, Barbara!
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Show your students how special and unique they are by writing notes on these beautiful Pixar notecards
! Vol. 2
was also just released.
Day 4!La Luna is a beautiful story about a young boy learning "the family business." Both his father and grandfather
try to push their views, but the boy learns to find his own way.This short film could help students reflect on the pressure they feel from others (friends, family, peers, strangers) to act a certain way.
To facilitate the discussion, try using the workpage below. It will you give a revealing look into the minds of your students.
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This came from a colleague - I'm unsure of the original source.
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.
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I recently read a book by Jennifer Adkins, a first grade teacher in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Mom, Am I Different?
is a story about a little girl who feels self-conscious about who she is. She wonders why she likes to spend time by herself, read books, and do her homework - the other kids don't like those things, so there must be something wrong with her.
The little girl's mother explains that different isn't always a bad thing. This comforting statement gives the girl the courage and motivation to be who she is and make positive changes in the world around her.
I can definitely relate to this story. While I may appear extroverted, I have always been an introvert - I have just found ways to mask it when need be (i.e. theatre). I encounter a lot of students who feel that they don't fit in because their interests and needs are different from the other students in their class. The problem with most elementary schools is that the pond is quite small, so students who have more unique interests and personalities may have to wait until junior high, high school, or even college to make lasting, more compatible friendships.
I definitely recommend sharing this story with your students, especially those struggling with their individuality. The artwork by Georgia Stylou is striking and just like the little girl, unique. Enjoy!
Are you an author? Do you have a book that you would like me to review on my blog? If so, contact me at email@example.com. I'd be happy to check out your work and spread the word to my readers.
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).
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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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.