Lead by Example: The Power of Apology

By Kimberly Feltes Taylor and Eric Braun, coauthors of How to Take the ACHE Out of Mistakes

Lead by Example: The Power of ApologyImagine your son has a dance recital at 6:00, and he’s nervous. His teacher wants the kids to be there by 5:00 for warm-ups and to get everyone arranged. By 4:00, your son has gotten himself ready and is pacing anxiously around the living room. At 4:30, you check Facebook real quick. At 4:50, you’re still on it. It’s a time suck. At 4:52, your son stamps his foot. “We’re going to be late!”

So you close out of Facebook and hustle to the recital hall. The whole way there, your son fidgets and looks miserable. “We’re going to be late,” he says again.

Sure enough, you arrive at 5:10.

In spite of your son’s nerves, you know that everything is going to be fine. The dance troupe has been ready for a week, and the show will be fabulous. So what do you say to him before he rushes inside? Have fun? Good luck? Don’t worry about it?

How about: I’m sorry.

It’s probably true that those 10 minutes don’t matter in the grand scheme of things (though the dance teacher might be a bit annoyed and probably deserves an apology too). But those minutes matter to your son. And your actions increased his anxiety. An apology can help him feel better.

In our book, we tell kids that saying you’re sorry is an important part of fixing a mistake that hurt someone else. But it can be hard for kids to do. It’s hard for all of us. It can be especially hard for an adult to apologize to a child. Maybe we don’t want to admit fault. Maybe we don’t want to reduce that larger-than-life image that kids have of us—a superhero grown-up who never makes a mistake.

But apologies are powerful. And when an adult apologizes to a kid? That’s doubly powerful. Triply powerful. That’s because we’re validating the child. We’re saying: You are important. Your feelings matter. When those sentiments come from a grown-up kids admire, they pack a punch.

Even if being late wasn’t your fault, an apology might be a good idea. Let’s say you didn’t go on Facebook. Let’s say instead that it was a series of freak events that delayed you—an overturned fuel truck blew up on your ride home and you rode your bike bravely through the wall of flames because you knew your son had that recital, and then at home the dishwasher was spewing soap all over the kitchen and you cleaned it up in record time—and in spite of your Herculean efforts, you ended up late. You didn’t screw up through negligence or spite. But you are late. Your son is upset. And an apology might help him feel better. Why? Because with an apology you’re saying: I know this is important to you, and I didn’t get you there on time. I’m sorry.

Imagine that boy going into the recital feeling important. Feeling heard. His self-confidence spikes.

Even better, you are modeling something healthy, a valuable tool that kids can learn from. You’re teaching that child that it’s okay to admit mistakes, and it’s okay to apologize. In fact, it shows strength. After all, if that superhero grown-up does it, it must be okay.

(That’s you: superhero grown-up!)

Apologizing is not just for parents either. Maybe you’re a teacher, and you promised to have the reading tests graded and returned by Friday, but you didn’t get them done. Doesn’t matter why, and maybe most of the kids don’t care one bit, but this is still a good opportunity to model apologizing. “I’m sorry. I told you I’d have these done by today, but I’m going to need a few more days.” And with just a few words, you’ve set a great example.

See how powerful an apology is!

Kimberly Feltes TaylorKimberly Feltes Taylor has written over 15 books for young people, including the popular Yolanda series of advice books, which provide tips for dealing with peer pressure, family issues, friendship problems, money management, and workplace dilemmas. Kim has also written dozens of classroom magazine articles. She lives in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.


Author Eric BraunEric Braun writes and edits books for readers of all ages, specializing in academic and social and emotional topics. Books he has worked on have won awards and honors including the Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award, a Foreword Book of the Year Gold Award, a Benjamin Franklin Award, and many others. A McKnight Artist Fellow for his fiction, he earned an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two sons.

How to Take the ACHE Out of MistakesKimberly and Eric are coauthors of How to Take the ACHE Out of Mistakes

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2020 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

Posted in Parenting, Social & Emotional Learning | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

12 Ideas for Kindness in the Classroom

By Shannon Anderson, author of Penelope Perfect: A Tale of Perfectionism Gone Wild

12 Ideas for Kindness in the ClassroomKindness is an essential character trait we want all our students to embody in the classroom and the world around them. How can we encourage kindness? This year, Random Acts of Kindness Week is February 16–23. Here are a dozen ideas for spreading smiles at your school.

1. High Fives and Hellos

Kick off Random Acts of Kindness Week with friendly door greeters. Have students stationed at each entrance to your school to give friendly high fives, hellos, and good mornings as kids enter the building.

2. Classrooms Care About Other Classrooms

Have each class do a random act of kindness for another classroom. You can do this by putting all the teachers’ names in a hat and matching them up. One classroom could make cards for another classroom, decorate their lockers, provide a treat, or perform some other kind gesture.

3. Caring Cards

Have kids write letters or make cards for those serving in the military, care center residents, patients at a children’s hospital, or other people needing encouragement.

12 Ideas for Kindness in the Classroom4. Kindness Displays

Create Kindness bulletin boards and displays with encouraging words or ideas for inspiring kindness. You could also do locker decorations with a kindness pledge on them.

5. Support a Cause

Find a good cause to support. Kids can raise funds and awareness for others in need. Ideas include Kids Heart Challenge, 5K runs for various charitable organizations, and St. Jude Math-A-Thons.

6. Kindness Club

Start a Kindness Club at your school. This club can initiate kindness projects for the whole year. They can host coat drives, collect animal shelter donations, and collect canned foods for local food pantries. They can also help organize service projects such as leaf-rakings and community cleanups, or they can help at school events.

7. Kindness in the Arts

Students can use the arts to communicate kindness. Kids can write poetry, paint kindness murals, perform songs, or write and perform kindness skits to share. If weather allows, you can have kids write kind messages with sidewalk chalk on the sidewalks around the school.

8. Kindness Envelopes

One way you can promote kindness among the members of your classroom is to choose one student per day to have the whole class write about. (This student can decorate an envelope that all the notes will go into while classmates are writing.)

After the class has had a chance to write about every student, you can pass out the envelopes and have students all open their envelopes at the same time to read the thoughts their classmates shared. (You could time the reveal to occur on Random Acts of Kindness Day or in the fall on World Kindness Day.)

9. Secret Missions

Students can create cards of appreciation for various staff members and deliver them secretly. Kids can write kind messages to other students and slide them in their locker vents, or make bookmarks with kindness quotes that can be hidden in library books throughout your media center. These secret missions deliver smiles when found, every time!

10. Have a Jolly Time at Lunch

Pass out Jolly Ranchers as kids head to the cafeteria. Place cards labeled with the various flavors on each table. Students have to sit by someone with their same flavor. This way, kids are mixed up and sitting by students they may not normally sit with. On the backs of the cards on the table, have fun conversation starters, questions, and jokes. Allow students to take turns reading them while others respond.

12 Ideas for Kindness in the Classroom11. Do a Deed Diary

For Random Acts of Kindness Week, you can record a kind deed by each student in your class for each day of the week. Make a “Deed Diary” for recording each name and act. If you really want a challenge, you could have a Deed Diary for the whole school year!

12. Have a Ball Being Kind!

This activity raises awareness of kids being kind. Get 100 superballs or marbles and a fishbowl or clear jar. Each time a student is caught being kind, that student gets to add a ball to the bowl. Examples could include holding the door for someone, pushing someone’s chair in, giving a compliment, helping someone pick up spilled crayons, and so on. Once your class has achieved 100 acts of kindness, you can celebrate by treating them with an act of kindness of your own. Maybe an extra recess, lunch in the room, or a tasty treat!

As you can see, there are so many ways kids can spread kindness. No one is too small to perform an act of kindness, and no act of kindness is too small.

Shannon AndersonShannon Anderson has her master’s degree in education and is currently a third-grade teacher, high ability coordinator, and presenter, and a former first-grade teacher, adjunct professor, and literacy coach. She loves spending time with her family, playing with words, teaching kids and adults, running very early in the morning, traveling to new places, and eating ice cream. She also enjoys doing author visits and events. Shannon lives in Indiana with her husband, Matt, and their daughters, Emily and Madison.

Free Spirit books by Shannon:

Penelope Perfect: A Tale of Perfectionism Gone WildCoasting Casey

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2020 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Educators: What Keeps You Going?

Educators: What Keeps You Going?Teaching and working with students can be rewarding—and exhausting. So we asked the Free Spirit Advisory Council for their best piece of advice about what keeps them going as educators. Here are their responses:

“Reminding myself that things don’t have to be perfect—I just need to try my best.”
Donna, SLP teletherapist

“As I think about what keeps me going as an educator, I think about how during the past year, I worked on finding ways to address joy and empathy in my life. I decided to take a deep dive into work-life balance and ways to support it that were meaningful and real to me—and also into how I can bring my true self to work. I started to work on a daily practice of meditation and found that the Headspace app fit into my schedule for practice. Also, I took work email off my personal phone because I would automatically go to it in my off time, which brought a level of stress and worry to my life and took away from my focus on the day and setting boundaries between work and home.

“I made an agreement with myself that I would bring my true self to work each day. I acknowledged each day how I was truly feeling and worked on dealing with those emotions before stepping into the workspace. Deep breaths! Also, I acknowledged that everyone I meet is coming with feelings, etc., and a beginning of the day that I do not know about, so I do not assume why someone is feeling or responding in a way that I might not agree with. I stay present in the moment, pause, check in with self and others, and then move forward in care. I find that this way of approach keeps me centered, empathetic, and calm.

“The daily work and practice with the children and my colleagues keep me going as an educator. I try to bring joy and fun to each day, too, so we can all enjoy the day together!”
Debbie, early childhood educator

“I work as a middle school counselor. We very rarely see the fruits of our labors before we send students off to high school. A lot of days, I have to stop and remind myself that they’ll get what I’m trying to teach them someday soon. I am also lucky to be part of a child study team that works well together. We laugh, we cry, and we check in on each other often.”
Sarah, middle school counselor

“With the new year upon us and also a new decade, what keeps me going is the idea of giving students a ‘fresh start’ in terms of compassion every day. Don’t hold past behavior against them. Just as you had your classroom spotless, with sharp pencils and brand-new name tags on students’ desks in August, you can have that same spotless, fresh, and new beginning for your students every day they come through your school or classroom doors. So many factors affect a child—some we can see, like they forgot their coat in the car or they stayed out late watching an older sibling’s basketball game, but many we don’t see and might not ever see. So as school begins again for the second half of the year, treat your students with a fresh start. Not just a fresh start from December, but a new beginning each and every day until they walk out your door into summer.”
Ana, principal

“As a special education teacher, I remind myself to walk in the shoes of the children I serve—most of the time it is not pretty. I keep relationship and compassion in the forefront. That helps with the day-to-day, not-taking-things-personally aspect. For myself, I value my time with my family and do my best to keep work and home separate (meaning not bringing work home with me as much as possible). I never feel guilty to go home and put my feet up. I always remind myself why I got into the profession. I know that when I can’t smile at that, it will be time to leave because I won’t be doing the students or myself any good at that point. Be kind to yourself in a way that works for you, and always show grace toward the students in front of you—you might be the only one who does.”
Shannon, special education teacher

“After a wonderful 12-day winter break, we went back to our respective offices and classrooms today; the same offices and classrooms I’ve been teaching in for almost 18 years. I was tired, it was 6:45 a.m., and I already needed more coffee. I longed for my yoga pants and fuzzy socks . . . and then the students started filling the room, staring at their phones, of course. I posted three photos of my winter break on the screen for them to see. Nothing. I asked them what they did for break—nothing. This wasn’t good. Quickly, I closed my eyes, took three good breaths, cleared my mind, and wrote something on the board. Notebooks open, pens to paper, and they were off!

“Boredom. They were bored. They didn’t think they were ready to come back to learn, but they were. And I realized in an instant, so was I. When I got excited and challenged them with something, they were quick to respond.

“I love that. I love watching kids get excited about learning something—that’s the best part of the job.

“While we may feel tired and need an entire Starbucks delivered to our offices or classrooms, it’s simply our brains readjusting from one period of time and activity (or inactivity in this case) to another. Watching kids get excited, understand a good challenge, and enjoy their learning is the ‘gold star’ moment for me. It’s what makes me want to get back to teaching day after day.”
Tara, high school educator

“Being an elementary school psychologist, I feel passionate about engaging in self-care, because how can I ask my students and colleagues to utilize coping strategies if I haven’t been practicing them myself? Throughout the year, I run four to five times a week to help regulate my stress levels. I also make sure that there is one thing I do for myself each day, such as a warm cup of tea at night, acupuncture, or cuddling up with a good book.”
Jenny, elementary school psychologist

“The best advice I ever got as a teacher (and now pass on to the teachers I work with) is to take things one week at a time. Focus on what you need to do that week, and if you have time, get one ‘extra’ thing or goal done. For example, once you have completed all your teaching tasks for the week, try to squeeze in time to work on one of your teaching or classroom goals. Maybe it’s a station you want to create for spelling or some new visuals on a behavior your class is struggling with. Whatever your goals are, try to get one done each week. By the end of the month, you could have FOUR items removed off your wish list. In two months, EIGHT items are done. Seeing a big to-do list can be intimidating, but when you break it down week by week, it can be empowering!”
Christine, college instructor and mentor manager

“In order for me to continue doing well an entire school year, I consider eight dimensions of wellness: intellectual/creativity, mindfulness/inner self, occupational/career, physical, social/cultural, emotional/mental health, environmental, and financial. If I don’t spend time on each of those, I become out of balance. It looks like so much, but every one of those areas has an effect on the others. What helps me? My district provides a wellness program throughout the year that conducts trainings, classes, and incentive practices. I stay current with research in the dimensions, and that allows me to select activities (many times simple and quick, but sometimes detailed and time consuming) that support the various areas. Particular examples include health wellness checkups, learning and using stress management strategies, implementing nutrition standards, taking a break on weekends from work emails (this has been the hardest for me), using essential oils, exercise, allowing myself to pursue hobbies, and even something as simple as having conversations with others that make me realize I am not the only one experiencing something.”
Gail, district quality compensation program coordinator

“My best advice is to make sure you have family and/or friends who support you. I have several friends in the education field who know what I deal with in and out of the classroom. They listen to me and help me make better decisions without judgment. At times, we just want someone to listen to us, and many times we realize that when it is said out loud, it may not be as bad as we first thought it was.”
Dana, high school English teacher

“I know it sounds cliché, but honestly, it’s the kids that keep me going as an educator and administrator. The connection and relationships formed are so valuable and priceless. They keep me coming back to work each day no matter how tired or frustrated I may feel. Support from coworkers also keeps me going. When you have a strong team that supports one another, you feel like you can conquer anything.”
Jeni, director of an early learning center

“As an educator, what keeps me going is having the time and space to interact and communicate with my colleagues about work and life. These moments could be as simple as a quick chat in the morning before the day begins, grabbing lunch together, or having team meetings.

“What I also find helpful is practicing self-soothing and self-care. Being a teacher is hard! It takes a lot out of us, so it’s very important that we nurture and care for ourselves first. This not only benefits us, but those we care for as well. Journaling, drinking water, taking deep breaths, getting massages, and napping usually work for me.”
Jameelah, head teacher

“What keeps me going as an educator is my passion for helping young people. They are our future. I believe in supporting and providing assistance to young people. We, as professionals, have an obligation to help our young people become better individuals. I strive to be intentional and impactful. In addition to being supportive and providing guidance, I also try to understand my limits and my need to practice self-care. Self-care is easier said than done, but I try to make sure I read a book or take a vacation to rejuvenate, so that I can be the best professional I can be. I have learned that saying no is a complete sentence, and I try to allocate my time in the most meaningful way to ensure I am not experiencing burnout.”
Bianca, residential services supervisor

“What keeps me going as a social worker who works in education is maintaining a balance of learning new things as well as giving myself permission to take some time to rest or reinvigorate myself. So I will take an education course, read a blog on social and emotional development, listen to a podcast or to the ideas of my colleagues, attend a seminar or study group, and continue to try new strategies that will benefit children.

“In addition, I will take some time to breathe, get lost in a book that has nothing to do with education or social work, go for a hike, watch a thrilling movie, or enjoy my other hobbies of sewing, knitting, and traveling to new places to maintain that balance. I know it is important to expand my knowledge and expertise as well as expand my capacity for joy and rejuvenation.”
Kathy, school social worker

“Snack time! I live for my team who can read my face across a meeting, kick me under the table when I need to keep my thoughts to myself, and talk me down from heightened emotions. We love our gab times, because we all know where each other’s hearts are, but sometimes we need to vent a little and laugh a lot to get through the day! Throwing snacks into the mix is an instant happy party—from carrots to ice cream, depending on what the situation warrants, we congregate like a family. Afterward, do something positivity centered (e.g., send a thank-you note home to a student who has been working hard, pop into a fun science lesson, or high-five down the hallway), and you are sure to turn your whole week around!”
Stephanie, middle school counselor

“There are three things that keep my joy alive in our work. Seeing students years later who remember me. I recently bumped into a student and her mother, both of whom said my name and my student said I MISS you and I LOVE you. Or hearing how they are doing when their families reach out via social media. Makes my day. I’m thankful I was able to make an impression on them as they made an impression on me.

“Another thing is seeing how families are changed and how we change ourselves for the better. A mom shared with me how she was feeling frustrated after a long day of work, and while doing dishes a glass slipped and smashed on the floor. She was angry, but a little voice (her daughter) said, ‘It’s okay, Mommy, accidents happen. I’ll help you clean it up.’ That mom shared how she is thankful for how we model in our classroom, and how it is changing lives.

“The final thing is personal growth and reflection as a teacher—knowing when to jump in and scaffold, when not to, and things like that. Here is a story: I waited and watched him. The metal hoop kept sliding every time he tried climbing the ladder. I didn’t run to his rescue. He kept picking it all back up and leaning the ladder again, saying, ‘Ms. Jill, I’m really going to dunk this time! Watch me, watch me.’ Then the hoop would slide because of his weight. This kept happening over and over again. He finally asked me for help. I wanted to help him, but at the same time, I wanted him to solve this one all on his own. I believed he could.

“I said, ‘I’m noticing every time you climb, the hoop slides and the ladder falls. Maybe it’s weight? It’s not stable.’ Then I said, ‘What else can you try? Without my help? How can you stop the hoop from sliding and the ladder from falling?’

“He looked at me and said, ‘You can hold it.’

“I said, ‘I know I can do that, and I thought about that, too, but pretend I’m not here. What would you do? Try more solutions. You got this.’

“He looked around. He spotted the fence. He dragged the hoop to the fence. He dragged the ladder and propped it against the hoop. He climbed it. The hoop didn’t slide, the ladder didn’t fall, and HE DUNKED. I smiled. I pretended not to see it. He yelled, ‘Ms. Jill, I did it! All by myself! Did you see?’

“I said, ‘No, but how do you feel?’

“He said, ‘I feel proud, Ms. Jill! Proud of myself!! I feel sooooo good!’

“I said, ‘Love, that’s what matters the most.’

“Change starts with us, and our imprinting on children that they can and will do anything they set their minds to. Sometimes with help and sometimes without. And that it doesn’t matter who’s watching.

“The last is my favorite part of being a teacher.”
Jill, teacher

The Free Spirit Advisory Council of Educators is a group of professionals who provide feedback that helps make Free Spirit books even more beneficial for kids, teens, and the adults who care about them. Interested in becoming a member? Recruitment is ongoing! We are especially looking for elementary and middle school teachers. For more information about the benefits and responsibilities of membership, download our Free Spirit Advisory Council flyer and our Free Spirit Advisory Council application.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2020 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

Posted in Free Spirit News | Tagged | 1 Comment

3 Technology Tools to Enhance Your School Counseling Lessons

By Danielle Schultz

3 Technology Tools to Enhance Your School Counseling LessonsIt can be challenging to come up with engaging school counseling lessons that draw in students. One way to pique their interest and enhance engagement is to add a technology component to your lessons. Here are three technology tools you can use to enhance your school counseling lessons.


The minute students hear the upbeat background music, they are ready to Kahoot! Kahoot! is a free web-based application school counselors can use to create learning games that assess students’ knowledge. Students can participate in the learning games using a device such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You can set it up so students play one-on-one or on teams.

Creating learning games in Kahoot! is quick and easy. Add your content to existing templates or follow tutorials to learn how to create your own Kahoot! learning game. Want to take it a step further? Professional development materials teach you how to create great Kahoot! games and even become Kahoot! certified.

If you would prefer to use an already made Kahoot!, you can explore learning games created by other users. In my work as a school counselor, I use a Kahoot! learning game that I created at the end of our career lessons about Holland Codes. You can access my Holland Codes Review Kahoot! and use it with your students. Using Kahoot! during my Holland Codes lessons lets me know in real time how much of the class understands the concepts and what areas we need to go over or review.

I encourage you to explore and use this tool as a fun way to engage your students and assess their learning!


Have you ever wished you could make a PowerPoint presentation more engaging? Nearpod helps you do just that. It allows you to add interactive elements to existing lessons or presentations or build an interactive Nearpod from scratch. The website also hosts 7,000+ ready-made lessons you can use. Nearpod even partners with organizations such as Common Sense Media to provide high-quality lessons that are ready to use.

Nearpod allows students to view and interact with the presentation on their device or smartphone. Interactive features include polls, quizzes, open-ended questions, collaborate boards, fill-in-the-blanks, virtual reality field trips, matching games, and a whiteboard feature on which students can draw or write a response. Nearpods can also play a video clip on all student devices or allow you to have a video clip play on only your device for the class to view.

We have used Nearpod this year in creating and implementing lessons for our Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program. The PBIS team creates lessons related to our monthly PBIS theme. Classroom teachers are then able to easily facilitate the lessons in their advisory period. All students receive the same interactive and engaging lesson. The teachers and the PBIS team can view student responses to the interactive components, such as collaborate boards, to assess student learning.


Do you wish you could have students create a quick video? If iMovie seems cumbersome for students to use during a lesson or activity, Clips is your answer. Clips is an Apple app for creating sharable videos. It is extremely easy to use.

Students are drawn to it because it has the feel of a social media app. Clips allows the user to create videos out of pictures, animations, and video recordings. There are lots of features to enhance your video, such as filters, animated stickers, and music. You can use Clips on an iPad or iPhone.

There are many resources available on the Clips app webpage to help school counselors and educators learn how to create Clips and use them in their work. The Apple Teacher site provides access to free Clips training materials. There is also a free digital book created by Apple titled Everyone Can Create Video.

Clips has many different applications in school counseling lessons. Having students create short Clips during a counseling lesson can help you assess their knowledge about a variety of topics. For example, you could lead students in a lesson about bullying and then ask them to make informational videos about what to do if someone is bullied or who students can turn to for help. After facilitating an organizational skills group, school counselors could lead students in creating Clips to share tips they learned in group with their peers. After giving students time to research a career cluster, you could lead students in creating a video to share with their peers about characteristics and jobs in that cluster.

Technology can be an excellent way to add more excitement, engagement, and interaction into your school counseling lessons. All three of these technology tools offer tutorials or additional information to support you in learning how to use the tool. What technology tools do you use to enhance your school counseling lessons?

Danielle SchultzDanielle Schultz (schcounselor.com) is a middle school counselor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She enjoys connecting and collaborating with other school counselors and educators. Danielle can be found on Twitter @sch_counselor and Instagram @sch_counselor.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2020 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Getting the Word Out: National School Counseling Week

By Stephanie Filio

Getting the Word Out: National School Counseling WeekThere is no quick way to describe what it entails to be a school counselor. Our days are never consistent and our schedules rarely stay intact or go uninterrupted. We are the ultimate jacks of all trades, masters of none. We serve many people, we are used for various purposes, and our routines change faster than a locker door slams shut. This can breed a lot of misconceptions about what we do, hurting our ability to support students by reducing our connections to them.

The American School Counselor Association’s National School Counseling Week is the perfect opportunity to share with others what we do and to celebrate our role in students’ lives and within the larger school framework. As counselors, we know exactly what we do, but to someone outside the office, our jobs remain a mystery. By clarifying what we know based on our education and identifying what we are good at, people will be better able to utilize and advocate for us.

What COUNSELOR Stands For

So what do we do? Since we love our acronyms and acrostics in education, here is something to help lay out what a counselor’s function is in the life of a student. We can celebrate with something a little extra special during National School Counseling Week and promote all our wonderful and valuable skills.

C: Collaborating with Teachers, Specialists, and Administrators

We are everything to everyone. Teachers think we are on their side, administrators think we are on their side, and parents think we are on their side. But really, we have one priority: students. By craftily letting everyone else think they are our main concern, we ensure that our students get a coordinated congregation of people to support them.

Ideas for National School Counseling Week: Leave a little treat in staff mailboxes with a note from the school counseling department (for example, “We’ve noted your support” on a sticker attached to a pack of post-its, or “Thank you for your role in our counseling” on a Tootsie Roll).

O: Orating and Teaching

Counselors give lessons to many audiences, and we have to instantaneously read a room and be ready to change course if needed. We design, write, and coordinate lessons for the whole school, an entire grade level, individual classrooms, and small groups, and then create progress plans for individuals. It takes a lot of planning, but the exposure to students is worth its weight in gold!

Ideas for National School Counseling Week: Make a guest appearance on the morning announcements, be extra present in the cafeteria, have a small group snack attack celebration, or pop into classrooms with a quick digital game on emotions.

U: Uncovering and Compiling Data

Counselors are masters of those tiered levels! With so very many students on our caseloads, we are constantly investigating and evaluating our data to make a game plan. We uncover trends and patterns, make a blueprint, and then adjust as the data fluctuates.

Ideas for National School Counseling Week: Offer a professional learning session to show teachers how to examine data. Outline your process and encourage them to use it in their classroom and see how your method works.

N: Networking in the Community

Sometimes, a kid needs something that our division can’t provide. From dog visits to school supplies to mentors and speakers, school counselors maintain a strong side hustle in the community to make sure we can get our students as many resources as we can!

Ideas for National School Counseling Week: Have students draw pictures to put on cards. Send them to your community partners to thank them and tell them about National School Counseling Week!

Getting the Word Out: National School Counseling WeekS: Supporting Students

Rapport building is just like the old movie line, “If you build it, they will come.” Students feel compelled to see us for large and small things—from their deepest life events to completely random ones! What an honor it is when a student chooses us to be the one they think of when they have something to share about their lives.*

Ideas for National School Counseling Week: Play School Counselor Visits BINGO and see how many things your students come to you for! (Download a BINGO card here.) What will be the prize for the team member who gets BINGO first? Share your boards on social media to give people a snapshot of your day.

E: Engaging Students in School

School counselors are the glue that brings everyone together to create a superb learning environment for students. Because we build rapport and know kids on a deeper level, we can share students’ interests and needs with their support system to help engage even the most finicky learners. Everyone can feel a purpose, as long as they have the tools to find it.

Ideas for National School Counseling Week: During lunches, have a National School Counseling Week banner for students to sign and share their favorite part about coming to school.

L: Lifting Staff Morale

Because we have heart, we also have the potential to make all the difference with our staff. The more positive staff are, the more positive interactions students will have with them! We encourage our teachers, we allow them to vent, and we help them out.

Ideas for National School Counseling Week: Leave a treat, such as cookies or snacks, in the teacher work room with a card from the school counseling team.

O: Occasional (Ha!) Paperwork

Let’s face it. We work on schedules. We register kids, we add and drop classes, we arrange student duos that do better in separate rooms. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Ideas for National School Counseling Week: Do yourself a favor that will pay itself forward by blocking out a half or full day to catch up on calls, schedules, and emails so that you can get back to what you’re really there for—seeing kids!

R: Realizing Various Documents

Some of us just have to do it: the 504s, IEPs, and student team meetings. Divisions differ on this, but many school counselors are also responsible for various city, state, and federal documents that impact student achievement.

Ideas for National School Counseling Week: Get your Child Find on, and partner with the special education department to hold a parent workshop explaining the various resources available to students.

School Counseling as a Philosophy

I’ve always felt like school counseling was more of a philosophy to education than a singular profession. It is a belief that social and emotional learning must be nourished for students to be able to learn new educational content. School counselors mobilize this learning. We respect the process, we nurture the spirit, and we take care of business! This job is magical, because if you come from that space, you cannot go wrong.

So let’s cheers to not having to explain to people that school counselors are not teachers! Hip-hip-hurray for teachers who know they have access to trauma-informed reservoirs of knowledge in their counselors! And a great big huzzah to administrators who understand the area between simply playing board games with kids and ethical clinical boundaries!

Happy National School Counseling Week, everyone, and THANK YOU for everything you do for your school, staff, and community.

*Reasons students might come to see a counselor once they have established rapport: because they got a dog, to find their bus number, to have a place to cry, to ask about clubs/activities, to call home, because their parents have hurt them, to get food for the weekend, to ask for algebra help, to tell you it’s their birthday, to get lunch money, because they are mad at their parents, to show artwork, to complain about a teacher, because they don’t know why they’re sad, to ask for information on try-outs, because they got their phone taken away, because they need help talking to their friends, to share gossip, to make a card for a deployed parent, because they’re excited about a new science kit, because a parent was incarcerated, to get help on an assignment, to tell you about a fight in their neighborhood, because their shoes have a bump in them, because they need a snack, because they actually came to school, to see if you brought the Hot Fries you promised, to prove they did homework, to tell you their parent is out of the hospital, to work on an essay, because they don’t feel well, for a daily check-in, to make sure you still have their artwork up, to beg you not to have a parent-teacher conference, because they lost their phone, and many more!

Stephanie FilioStephanie Filio is a middle school counselor in Virginia Beach. She received her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Virginia and her M.Ed. in counseling from Old Dominion University. In a discussion with one of her UVA professors about her desire to stay in school forever, her mentor wisely responded, “If you want to be a lifelong learner, go into education,” and so she found her place. Prior to her six years as a school counselor, Stephanie worked in private education, specializing in standardized tests, test preparation, and future planning. She writes about her career and hobbies at her blog, Weekend Therapy, and can be found on Twitter @steffschoolcoun. Stephanie also enjoys spending time with her books, crafts, and family.

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