Over the past few days, I've posted a bunch of new resources on the website portion of my site. Here are the recent additions:
I have numerous students who struggle with the stress, fear, and confusion that can come with a parent who has been deployed (or will be deployed). It can be difficult to find quality materials for these individuals and their families; I am so excited to share this new film with my school community!
I highly recommend that you check out these films at Professor Child's website and consider purchasing your own copies. Trust me. They are worth it! Although the topics are intense, the films are hopeful and remind you that you are not alone.
You can purchase a digital version of the film (available for immediate digital download) or a DVD. Additionally, Professor Child offers a FREE workbook that includes over 50 pages of thought-provoking discussion questions and creative exercises. The workbook is divided into 12 chapters that correspond directly with the film, which makes things even easier for busy school counselors. Plus, did I mention it's FREE?! ;)
Are you a director, writer, or production company? Do you have an educational film that you would like me to review on my blog? If so, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd be happy to check out your work and spread the word to my readers.
Transitions are difficult. I spend a lot of time throughout the school year working with my 6th graders on building their self-confidence and important life skills. You can find some of my lessons here.
After one of my lessons, I asked students to complete an exit slip (which I use often to determine what they learned and what they want to learn more about). This time, I used the information to determine which students might benefit from additional support with the transition to 7th grade. This could definitely be used with other grades, though.
At my District Leadership Team meeting this evening, we opened with this very entertaining and also VERY enlightening video from TEDx Talks. The presenter, Shawn Achor, discusses how happiness can positively impact our lives, including how successful we feel at work, home, and beyond.
I think this would be a great video to show at a staff meeting or to cut into segments to discuss with older students. I would like to use these concepts to help my 6th graders, in particular, find better ways to deal with stress, disappointment, frustration, and failure. There are some aspects of the talk that may be inappropriate for your intended population, so be sure to view and decide which sections, if any, you'd like to share with those specific individuals.
Just watch. You will be glad you did.
How would you use this video to help your
When I was younger, I begged my parents for a pet. "My life is not complete without a dog," I'd say...over and OVER again. I went to my local library and researched dogs - how to train them, how to determine if a potential dog is right for you, etc. My parents still did not seem convinced.
Exactly 1 week after my 14th birthday, we received a phone call from my aunt who told us that her dog, to her surprise, just had puppies. Needless to say, my aunt's frustration combined with my research-based whining weakened my parents' defenses long enough for them to say, "Okay, fine."
Before I knew it, we were bringing our darling Cookie home.
Sadly, I had to say goodbye to my little girl yesterday morning. My dad called, telling me she was in pain and that they needed to take her to the vet. I left school to be there and watched Cookie slip into a peaceful sleep. I went back to work, completely unprepared for how this would affect me. I thought about her face and the last goofy smile she gave me before she was gone. It was difficult to focus on anything else. My overly-dramatic "my life is not complete without a dog" mantra was true; I certainly felt emptier without her.
I have a number of grief resources here, but I thought it would be helpful to add a few that were specific to pet loss.
I Remember is about a little boy whose dog became sick and died. The boy dealt with grief. He could not stop crying and no longer enjoyed the activities that used to make him happy. Over time, the pain subsided and the boy was able to think about the happy memories with his dog and enjoy life again.
Houdini Was is a true story (written and illustrated by a 2nd Grade class) about a class pet named Houdini. The book was a way for the students to express their grief, but in a positive, productive way. In the book, the students say that they are choosing to be happy because Houdini was special to them and they want to remember all of the great things about her, not just the sadness they feel right now.
Dog Heaven, also available in Cat Heaven, is a way to comfort pet owners of any age. Due to public school policies, this should be used with discretion. Dog Heaven may be a great resource to send home so an entire family can read it together. It could also be a jumping off point for a student to create his/her own book to imagine what a pet is doing in heaven.
Another helpful grief activity is having a student create a memory book. You can purchase a set of softcover books or hardcover books that students can draw their memories in. Also, I will sometimes call parents and ask permission for extra photographs that the student can add, making the final product even more personal and comforting.
I typically work on these books in individual school counseling sessions over the course of a few months. Each session, we work on a couple pages of memories. This can also be done effectively in a small group.
Finally, if you have access to pictures (and even video), you can help your student create a slideshow of the person or animal who died. Then, the student can think of the song that represents that person or animal’s life the best and add that to the video. The final product is a beautiful tribute to their loved one.
I created the video on the right to remember Cookie. I can honestly say that it helped me cope with my grief. Maybe it would help your students too. :)
1) Make it easy for your child to navigate high school: Unlike many middle schools, high schools may require students to walk back and forth between classes throughout the day. Alleviate your child’s anxiety by helping them navigate the school’s layout and learn the new environment. Get your kid’s schedule before school starts and walk through it with him or her before classes start. Additionally, if a school offers freshman orientation programs, encourage your child to attend and explore the building afterward. This will reduce some of the uneasiness he or she will experience when beginning high school.
2) Be enthusiastic: Be your child’s cheerleader and discuss the exciting events and extracurricular activities that high school offers. For example, sports teams, clubs, and other organizations are likely available. Getting involved in such activities will help your child meet new friends, build a resume, and transition into high school easily.
3) Discuss some of the changes: Don’t take your child’s worries lightly during the transition. Instead, help him or her embrace the change by listening openly to what he or she is going through, how he or she feels about being around older kids, the difficulties of homework assignments, and the trouble he or she may have making new friends. Emphasize that there will be people—such teachers, students, and counselors—to help during the adjustment.
4) Talk about the importance of high school: Introduce the idea of college to your child when they are a high school freshman. This will help your child think ahead about schools he or she would like to attend, as well as consider admittance, SATs, and scholarships. However, don’t go too far and pressure or frighten your child, but simply ensure that he or she understands the importance of high school from the start.
5) Encourage your child to talk to a current high school student: It will probably be easier for a teenager to talk to another, older teenager than to his or her parents. If you know a high school student who you feel would be a great influence on your kid, ask him or her to speak to your child about high school in order to advise him or her about the experience.
Follow the 5 tips above to help your child transition from middle to high school, and you’ll experience a confident teen ready to succeed in high school and beyond.
About the Author
About the Author
By creating or playing fun games that can be played one on one or in a group, you are teaching your child tools they can use to interact with others. Other kids can be intimidating, and it can be hard for a shy or anxious child to figure out social rules as an outsider. However, if a child is able to implement familiar rules in a social setting, namely the rules of a fun game, they get a leg up in interacting with other kids on an even playing field.
Fun games you might play with your child and suggest that they ask other children to play with them might include alphabet games (spotting items in the surrounding world alphabetically until you get to Z, i.e., apple, bee, car, dog, and so on), the game “I, No, Yes” (wherein one person is not allowed to say the words “I,” “no” or “yes” and the other is supposed to try and trick them into saying them, and if any of the words is said then the two switch), or story games (one person says the first sentence of a “story,” such as “Once upon a time there was a dog.” Then another person says a sentence to continue the story, and everyone involved takes turns and tries to make the story as interesting or funny as possible).
Go to Craft Fairs
Craft fairs are a great place for children to interact with others while also engaging in an activity that takes the focus off of socialization. Children will get to practice social skills such as asking politely (“May I use the scissors, please?”), and learn to share their personality publicly via the safe and creative medium of art. You can also suggest that they watch and see if anybody’s art reflects the things that they themselves like, such as dinosaurs or horses, and encourage them to compliment others’ work. Compliments help to start conversations with others off on the right foot.
If you can find a craft fair where adults are welcome, too, you can also help by modeling the behavior you want to see in your child by smiling at others, complimenting them and asking conversational questions. You can also compliment your child later on any positive social choices they made during the fair: “Way to walk up to Cameron and ask him for the scissors—you were so confident!” or “Did you notice how Susan smiled back at you when you smiled at her? You’ve got a great smile!”
Choose an Adventure
Give your child a choice of several “adventures.” These might include swimming at the local pool, having a picnic, going to a park, getting ice cream, or almost anything you can think of. As part of these adventures, ask them to invite another kid they know or have met to come along. Be sure to mention that the child’s parents are welcome to come, too. As the child they ask might decline, don’t put too much pressure on your child, but make it clear to them that you both have a “mission” to make some other kid’s life more fun by bringing them on an adventure with you.
One on one activities lower the anxiety involved in socializing, and can make it easier for a child to learn what behavior is most effective in their interactions with others.
Sticker prizes are ideal for almost any kind of behavioral motivation in children. A good way to introduce sticker prizes for socialization is to make a poster “calendar” with a grid of all the days of the month. Every time you see your child make the effort to approach another child, or introduce themselves, or initiate a conversation by saying “hello!” or “good morning!” with a smile, allow them to add a sticker to the calendar for that day.
If you want, you can make it a matter of trying to get as many stickers on the calendar as possible, or think of additional “prizes” for weeks or months with a sticker on every day, such as buying them their favorite kind of sugary cereal, or having to address them as “Sir” or “Milady” for a day.
You can make it a game for your child to practice introducing themselves to you as themselves as a cue for you to pretend to be someone fascinating or funny, and have them ask you questions and share information about themselves with this person. Place emphasis on the idea that you never know who you might meet on a given day, and that the chances are good that they might meet someone more interesting than they expected—like a princess, alien, or dragon in disguise—if they just ask enough questions and help you to trust and want to open up to them.
It may be helpful to tell them things like “I hardly know anything about you!” or “Guess what my favorite animal is” or “Do you always look so SERIOUS?” to make them laugh and change their attitude or encourage them to talk more or ask more questions.
It’s important not to put too much pressure on your child to socialize, but not to allow them to shut themselves away entirely, either. It can be tricky finding a good balance between the two, but as long as you maintain a healthy and positive attitude towards the idea of socialization rather than an attitude that induces further stress, your child will be overcoming their anxiety and meeting new friends before you know it.
Okay, so it's only been 3 months since Impossible Marriage closed. Not too bad, right?! ;)
As always, I wanted to reflect on my latest production, if only to give you a glimpse into my strange theatre life. If you've been following my site, you know that I've been a busy lady this year, which is a big reason why my posts and updates have been MUCH less frequent. I was in 6 shows this season, which is 4 more than my average. What was I thinking?!
Anyway, on to the show! Impossible Marriage was my first "starring" role in a while, which was exciting. For this production, I had to sing, speak in a dialect, play the harp, "dance," and move like I was pregnant. My character, Floral Whitman, is definitely one of my favorite parts to date. She's feisty and intelligent. It can be hard to find great female roles, so I cherished every moment as Floral.
Impossible Marriage is about a family preparing for a controversial union. Young Pandora is to wed a much older Edvard Lunt, a well-known author who divorced his wife of 23 years to be with Pandora. Floral Whitman, Pandora's older sister, is pregnant and unhappy in her own marriage. In an act of love (and perhaps, jealousy as well), Floral decides to break up her sister's marriage through a series of manipulative interactions. Along the way, she confronts her past and reveals a secret that has haunted her for 9 months. Despite their fears, the characters find a way to conquer the impossible and as a result, become much happier people. The end. Oh, and it's a comedy. ;)
You're probably wondering what I learned this time. Well, since you asked, I'll tell you. This role reminded me why I push myself as hard as I do. Our lives are precious. We have an opportunity to make a difference, to be the best version of ourselves, to look back with no regrets. I want to be remembered as someone who worked hard. I want to think about my life, mistakes and all, fondly. I never want to miss out on something magical because I was too scared to try and perhaps, fail.
Four years ago, I was a much less happy version of myself. I gave up theatre to finish school and then lost all confidence to jump back in. I didn't want to see plays because they made me feel sad - I wanted to be up there with them, but "knew" that I wasn't good enough. One day, I decided I had to audition for something. I didn't feel fulfilled. All I had was work and since my husband was in grad school, I was alone a lot. So, I went for it. During the audition, I felt like I was going to pass out and throw up, my hands were shaking, and I tried desperately to blend into the background in the waiting room. When I got the call that I earned the part I wanted (the smallest one possible!), I couldn't believe it.
When I look back at that time, I both cringe and smile. I was horrible. No, seriously. I was. I didn't remember anything about performing, but because of my supportive director, stage manager, and castmates, I slowly got more comfortable on stage again. Now, I am certainly not an expert, but I can see the growth in my acting abilities. To some extent, it's luck that got me where I am today in theatre - the right part, the right look, the right voice, etc. However, I also was whipped into fighting shape by hours of rehearsals and amazing directors who knew exactly how to challenge me.
As we prepare for this school year, remember that it's okay to start off a little rocky. Just keep working at it, lean on those around you, learn from the "experts," don't be afraid of pushing yourself, and then, enjoy the fruits of your labor. What I love is that I still have many more years to grow as both a school counselor and actor. In fact, the two go quite well together. A school counselor, after all, is often on a stage, engaging his or her audience. An actor must understand emotions, motivations, and interpersonal communication...well, my job lets me work on that all day!
What are your special hobbies? What are you going to find the courage to do this year? Share your thoughts in the comments section, friends. :)
My name is Marissa Rex and I am an elementary school counselor from Ohio. I hope you enjoy my site!
Awards And Recognition
Beginning Of The Year
Grade Level Transitions
Guest Blog Post
Positive School Behaviors
School Counseling Office
School Wide Program
Small Group Counseling