Personal Happiness and My Counseling Philosophy

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thought.I had a realization today about my counseling style and how it has changed my outlook on life and how I perceive others. As a counseling education major in grad school, I learned theory. I studied it, memorized it… but I honestly didn’t quite understand it. Professors would ask us to explain our “counseling style” but my answer was always “I’m an eclectic counselor” because how was I supposed to know my theory without actually experiencing the art of working with another person? Fast forward almost 4 years later, two years experience as a middle school counselor, two years experience as a special education teacher and many personal experiences – I finally fully understand my “counseling style” and theory that best represents me. I can now explain it because I use it in my every day life with my family & friends…not to mention my middle (emotional) schoolers.

I found myself explaining my side of a discussion with my typical rant about “perception”. How we see our reality is our perception. My example always saying, “two people could witness the same experience but have two different stories”. Both sides would be correct and valid…because who is to say that how you perceive something isn’t valid? In a real life example, I feel I can related this to my middle school girls that are experiencing peer conflict…sometimes our actions made someone feel a certain way – and maybe we didn’t do that on purpose…or vice versa. We cannot blame another other person for making us feel a certain way…instead we should acknowledge that because of their behavior and the way we perceive it, we are having an emotion to it (and thats OK!)

I am not going to say that getting a 12 year old girl to understand this concept is easy (especially since it has taken me almost thirty years to really grasp this idea fully and realize that now what I believe in life is actually cognitive behavioral therapy)… but I attempt to mold the young minds into identify their thoughts to evaluate how realistic they actually are…and what they can do to help fix it in their mind.

If you don’t like the way somethingin your life is going, what is your first way you cope with that feeling? Maybe a pint of ice cream or a yoga class does the trick? Maybe it puts a bandaid on the issue but I really want to know, how do you REALLY deal with this feeling? Heres where CBT has infiltrated my life – My first thought that comes to my mind is – how would I know that it was better? (identify what it is that you really want) and then I try to figure out what I can do to make this change? What can I do to make this outcome happen the next time? Because honestly – all I really care about is me and how I feel at the end of the day…everyone else is just there doing their thing. ALL I CAN CHANGE IS MYSELF. I can’t expect anyone else to change for me…and sometimes I realize it’s all about how I’m perceiving things to be, I just may need to see it another way in order to make myself have a different view of reality. This mindset helps me stay positive, optimistic and overall happy.

The quote above really encompasses my idea of perception and happiness…happiness is relative and what makes one person happy, may not make the next person happy. However, if you are happy – GREAT, keep it up…what you are doing is really working! If you’re not happy, ask yourself: how can I reframe this experience or thought to be better? What can I think of that will remind myself of all the good things in my life so that this thing doesn’t seem so bad? What about the last time it was different – what did that look like, feel like? These are all questions to ask yourself and those answers should tell you what you need to do to make the situation better. Because again, its up to you –  no one else!

So there you have it, my (current) counseling philosophy and life model. I hope that through my probing questions and conflict resolution sessions I’ve convinced a kid (or adult) or two to think a little differently when it comes to how how others are making us feel (even though that goes against what I’ve been saying because, others don’t make us feel, remember? it just didn’t sound as good if I said, how other’s behavior and the emotion we felt because of the way we perceived it made us feel)

How to Help with Middle School STRESS

I recently had a crying student come in that was very frustrated and stressed out (and I only had 20 minutes until my lunch group was coming in – sound familiar?)

Together we identified the many things that were stressing her out (peers, a teacher, her mom, her step-mom, her brother, school work, her iPad) by placing each thing on a sticky note and then we started to try to “fix” some of those issues. I could easily remove the peer problem, school work, teacher & iPad issue to give temporary solutions – which allowed us to take away that sticky note.

Everything else she listed seemed like pretty normal teen stuff…but then everything together was becoming overwhelming. Does this sound like a student you know? This is when I start to wish I had a magic wand…how can I help this poor girl that is crying in my office?

RX For Stress

My first line of defense was my favorite “RX for Stress” in a jar. I split up the cards and told her to find a few that she wanted to try. Together we chose 8 cards that could help her calm down when she is stressed such as “make sure you eat breakfast”, “get enough sleep”, “talk to your school counselor”, “do a tree pose (yoga)”…which then reminded me of another idea!

GoNoodle.com is a FANTASTIC website that “helps kids channel their physical and emotional energy with short desk-side physical activities – brain breaks – to help them with their specific issue” and it can be used individually, small group or even whole group.  So I logged in to the website (I have my own classroom version – its free!) and I let the student choose the activity type – she chose the “calming” category and then she chose the activity called “Flow” (one of my favorites). It talks kids through deep breathing (rainbow breaths) and adds visuals to help entertain. This 7th grade student LOVED IT. She said it really helped her calm down. She wanted to see some more activities so I let her choose one more (they are 1-4 minutes in length). She left my office with a smile on her face.

gonoodle

I left feeling accomplished. I did NOT fix this student’s issue but I helped her add to her own bag of tricks – and that is my goal…having kids learn the skills to adapt to every day issues!

Here is information on how to use it in your classroom or school counseling office – GoNoodle Tutorial Walkthrough

My favorite activities are Stretching Brain Breaks with Maximo, Flow and some of the energizing activities such as learning how to dance to “Move your Body” by Beyonce – let me tell you, its a great workout and my girls loved it!

How do you help a stressed out kid in your office?

Google Drive is Driving up Traffic for the Urban Educator!

I am very excited to announce that one of my favorite bloggers, The Middle School Counselor, has posted my most recent blog post to her website! Check it out here!

I love the image Carol created for the post, thanks so much for sharing! Keep up the good work, I love your blog!

Google Drive

….and to all my new readers – thanks for all your support and I will continue to keep you updated with my life as an Urban Educator!

-Natalie

Google Form Example for School Counselors

I am blown away at the attention my last blog post has received about data received through google forms!!!! Thank you to everyone who has visited my blog and welcome to The Urban Educator!

Many of you have asked to see the google form that I use…so the easiest way for me to share it with you was to make one especially for you (instead of giving you the link to the one I use everyday). Check out my google form for student notes here – this is the version I use to document my student notes (the live form) *this is just an example – you need to create your own to input student information*

This is what it looks like when I am creating the google form:

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Once you create your google form through your google drive, there will automatically be a (Responses) table created that will show your responses in your google drive. This table will show you all of your responses and you can sort by grade, type or student (it will automatically sort by date). Many of you also asked how to see the graph after you have documented your student notes. This is the EASIEST part of the data collection process.  See photo below…all you have to do is click on FORM – SHOW SUMMARY OF RESPONSES and google creates that pretty little color coded graphs with all of your data 🙂

Summary of Responses

Any suggestions are always welcome! Collecting data is important to prove to everyone that your job is important and I personally find this way super easy. Best of luck and continue to check back often 🙂

-Natalie

Counseling Data

That scary 4 letter word, data. We are told we need it but sometimes have a hard time gathering it. Collecting it is time consuming…a burden for sure. But the end result can blow your mind.

The data doesn’t lie.

And it is certainly amazing to see – especially with pretty little color coded graphs outlining your month’s work! Welcome to my 2nd month counseling at my new school. September was slow because I was getting to know students and make daily schedules…I wasn’t quite impressed with what I had accomplished yet. This month, October, I got into a good groove, made a system for scheduling students and started lunch groups. Below you see my October Counseling Stats, made using Google Forms (my favorite data collection source – totally customizable for my needs and easily changed) which can take the table responses from my “Daily Notes Form” and transform it into the beautiful pictures below that explain what I do so much better than words!

Take the data and run.

After realizing that a lot of my students come in for peer related issues, I want to dig a little deeper. What are my most popular topics when students come to me to discuss peers? For November, I’m breaking it down into 3 additional sections:

  • Conflict resolution
  • “bullying”
  • Friend support

Hopefully I’ll gain additional insight into our peer issues to start new groups with those topics in mind.

October Student Data_Page_1

October Student Data_Page_2

Using iTunes U for School-Wide Counseling Support

Have you heard of iTunes U?

Surviving Middle School

If you have an iPad or iPhone you can download iTunes U which is basically an online course that your students and teachers can subscribe to and have all of your documents/materials and lessons at your fingertips.

This year, I’ve created our Middle School online course, “Surviving Middle School” (click here with your iOS devise) that gives students information from “How to Make Friends”, “What is a Bully?”, “How to Prepare for BIG Tests” and many more topics under the umbrella of School Counseling. Updates happen often so keep checking back for new information and links to helpful websites and apps to use for your School Counseling Program. Hope you find my course helpful for you and your students!!

Using Video to get in to EVERY SINGLE CLASSROOM

I can get in to EVERY SINGLE CLASSROOM in one day without leaving my office.

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Yes, that’s right, I was seen by every student on my caseload in one day. Now, some of you may not feel comfortable being video taped or even audio taped…well than this idea just isn’t for you, sorry!! I have done so many school-wide presentations that the thought of speaking in from of 400 students at the same time doesn’t phase me so speaking in to my computer is no big deal. I have had at least 20 students say, “Hi Mrs. Mecaughey! I saw your video, super cool!” so this has been totally worth it for me and I will continue to do at least 1 video a month for our school-wide character traits.

So, heres the deal.

  • First, I create a keynote presentation (I am slowly transitioning over from powerpoint) with the information I want to show.
  • Then, I click PLAY and RECORD SLIDESHOW
  • The slideshow will start and the red light will be on, during this time you talk…just as if you were presenting in front of a room of students (yes, I probably did 20 different takes until I got it right)
  • When you are ready to go to the next slide, click the arrow button and continue on with the presentation until you finish the slides
  • Once you are sure everything is ready and you are done, SAVE and then click EXPORT
  • You can share this as a quicktime video or .key document with teachers via email (compress the file if it is too large or send via googledrive or post to your online course in iTunes U)
  • Teachers can play this in the classroom on a smart board or TV…or even large screen computer
  • Students can watch this video anytime with your course on iTunes U on their iPad (if applicable)

It is important to note that the person watching the slideshow will NOT be able to pause it at anytime…so keep that in mind when creating the video.

Interested in seeing a video in action? Check out my iTunes U course Surviving Middle School and click on October Character Trait and watch my “Responsibility Video” (you must have iTunes U on your IOS devise to watch). Feel free to ask me any questions about this process and best of luck!