Building a Vibrant Classroom Library

By Amadee Ricketts, author of Gentle Hands and Other Sing-Along Songs for Social-Emotional Learning

Building a Vibrant Classroom LibraryThe start of a new school year is a great time to think about building or enhancing your classroom library. Even in schools with well-staffed, well-stocked school libraries—which are far too rare—classroom libraries make the difference between being surrounded by books every day and only having access to books on library day. This makes your classroom library especially vital for the many children who do not have books at home and whose families do not make regular visits to the public library.

This post offers tips and strategies from a public librarian on building a balanced, appealing collection while making the most of your limited resources.

Elements of a Vibrant Classroom Library
Most educators would agree that an effective classroom library includes books that represent various interest and reading levels, highlight different types of literature, and reflect a variety of people and cultures. I would argue that along with a balanced collection, a classroom library should have a clear system of organization and clear procedures for borrowing and returning books.

Offering designated spaces to display favorites selected by teachers and students, as well as books on current and upcoming topics of study, adds interest and makes it easy for students to browse. This also helps incorporate the library into daily classroom activities, ensuring that it is a key resource rather than a storage space or an afterthought.

Look for a much more comprehensive discussion about establishing a classroom library, along with practical tips for evaluating and organizing your own library, in “Building an Effective Classroom Library,” an article by Susan Catapano, Jane Fleming, and Martille Elias from the Journal of Language and Literacy Education.

Is More Always Better?
One common recommendation for classroom libraries is to include at least 10 books per student and a minimum of 100 books overall. That is a good goal, but the quality and appeal of the individual books matters at least as much as the number of titles. A small, well-considered selection that grows over time is more likely to excite young readers than a large collection of random titles selected for the sake of filling up a bookshelf is.

Selection Tools and Techniques
If you work with a professional school librarian or media specialist, that person is likely to have excellent resources and advice for building your classroom library and should be your first stop. If your school library is staffed by an aide or parent volunteers, they generally lack the subject expertise to provide much assistance. The resources below are useful even if you have a media specialist to work with, but they offer an especially good starting place if you don’t.

Public libraries have collection development policies to guide selection decisions. Some school districts have similar policies that cover classroom libraries, but they tend to be broadly written and focus on handling challenges to materials rather than how to select materials in the first place. Before you begin building or updating your collection, make sure you are aware of any policies that may be in place in your school or district.

Next, consider your collection priorities. How much of the collection should directly support your curriculum? How important are popular materials that build reading motivation but may not directly support instruction? What is the right distribution of reading and interest levels for your classroom population, and how can you identify reading levels in non-stigmatizing ways? How will you ensure that your collection reflects and supports diversity?

Once you have made these decisions, you will have a framework to guide your selections using some of the following resources.

  • Public libraries. Your local public library may have booklists for various ages and interests, and youth services staff may be able to help you identify books and authors popular with kids in your area. As with any professional connection, it helps to build a working relationship with librarians before you need help and to recognize that they may have conflicting demands on their time. You may also want to look at public library resources from outside your area. Many library systems (including Hennepin County Library in Minnesota, Multnomah County Library in Oregon, and New York Public Library) offer excellent booklists and recommendations online.
  • Award lists. The Newbery and the Caldecott are the big names in youth book awards, but the American Library Association (ALA) offers other award programs and notable lists that can help you identify high-quality books of interest to your students. For instance, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award spotlights the most distinguished books published each year for beginning readers. The Coretta Scott King Book Award recognizes excellent books by African American authors and illustrators and reflecting the African American experience. For a full list of ALA youth media awards, visit the ALA website. For reader’s choice and other book awards by state, author Cynthia Leitich Smith hosts a nicely organized list.
  • Review journals. Public librarians and school library media specialists rely heavily on professional review sources when making selection decisions. School Library Journal, The Horn Book Magazine, VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates), and Booklist all make some content available online, and they are useful tools for keeping up with new releases.
  • Selected websites. As you seek to create a balanced collection that reflects a wide range of cultures and experiences, sites like A Mighty Girl and We Need Diverse Books can be invaluable. As you consider genres that might be less familiar to you—graphic novels, perhaps—specialized sites like No Flying No Tights can help fill in the gaps. And as you try to keep up with what’s new and popular in youth literature, sites like Kidsreads, which posts reviews and conducts author interviews, are very handy. Last but not least, if you have a public library card, you may well have access to the wonderful NoveList database, which is like a librarian-curated version of Goodreads, with full editorial reviews and booklists for a wide range of subjects and interests.

If you select your classroom library materials based on professional recommendations, popular interest, and a clear collection-development philosophy, your students will be well-served and you will be in a good position to handle a materials challenge if the need should arise.

Sources for Books (and Funds!)
Unfortunately, most teachers have little to no official budget to invest in their classroom libraries. Organizations like First Book provide books at very low cost to Title I schools and those with at least 70 percent of students eligible for free and reduced lunch. Kids Need to Read also offers free books to qualifying organizations that serve low-income students (mouse over “Donations” and click “Request a Donation”). DonorsChoose.org gives teachers a way to reach out to the public for help crowdfunding classroom needs.

You may find even more help closer to home in the form of colleagues who are retiring or changing grade levels, families and businesses willing to purchase books from a wish list, and students who are moving up to the next grade and want to leave their own copies of favorite books for next year’s class. Reach out to your community through neighborhood social media (such as Nextdoor), online classified ads (such as Craigslist), school bulletin boards, your classroom website, notes home to families, and personal emails.

None of these avenues make up for the fact that school funding is insufficient to meet basic needs in many districts across the country, but it is heartening to see so many people and organizations making a valiant effort to do their part.

Amadee RickettsAmadee Ricketts received her MLS degree from the College of St. Catherine and has been a librarian since 2002. She is currently the library director at the Cochise County Library District in Arizona. When not working or writing, she enjoys taking photos of insects and other tiny things. She lives with her husband, who is a photographer, and their cat.

 

Gentle HandsAmadee is the author of Gentle Hands and Other Sing-Along Songs for Social-Emotional Learning.


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.


Suggested Resources

Allington, Richard L. “What Really Matters When Working with Struggling Readers.” The Reading Teacher, 66(7), 2013.

Bridges, Lois. Compendium of Research: Ensuring Student Achievement and Teacher Effectiveness Through Proven Research. Scholastic.

Catapano, Susan, Jane Fleming, and Martille Elias. “Building an Effective Classroom Library.” Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 5(1), 2009.

Jensen, Karen. “Sunday Reflections: Classroom Libraries Are a Stark Reminder That Not All Schools Are Created Equal.” Teen Librarian Toolbox (blog), August 19, 2018.

National Council of Teachers of English. “Statement on Classroom Libraries.” May 31, 2017.


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Back-to-School Supplies for Your Special Education Classroom

By Andrew Hawk

Back-to-School Supplies for Your Special Education ClassroomThe beginning of the school year is an exciting and busy time for teachers. Having just prepared for the beginning of my twelfth year as a teacher, I can honestly say that I am still just as excited as I was when I prepared for my first year. Being a special education teacher, sometimes my supplies list strays a bit from the typical list. Here are a few things that will help you set up your special education classroom this year.

All the Usual Supplies
You are going to need all the typical things that go on a classroom supply list: tissues, hand sanitizer, pencils, scissors, and so on. I have been fortunate at the schools where I have worked because my colleagues have offered to share the supplies their students brought in to start the school year.

Pencil Grippers
Does anyone on your caseload receive occupational therapy for fine motor skills? Be prepared and pick up a pack of nice pencil grippers. These are also great for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), because grippers ease the burden on the numerous hand muscles required to write. I have had several students on the spectrum who focused so hard on forming letters that they had trouble simultaneously selecting words to write. Pencil grippers will also help your sloppy writers write a little neater.

Oral Sensory Rubber Sticks
Do you have a student who will not stop chewing your pencils and pens? Students from all exceptionalities (and typical students too) may crave oral sensory experiences. I suggest saving your writing utensils and purchasing some of these rubber sticks. They are referred to by a variety of names and come in many different shapes. A quick internet search will turn up all sorts of options. It has been my experience that these handy objects last for quite a long time.

Fidget Toys
Please keep reading! Yes, lots of teachers dislike fidget toys. Yes, if they are misused they will distract from your teaching. On the other hand, have you ever witnessed a student spinning scissors on a desk? What about tapping out a rhythmic beat with a pencil? Students will fidget whether they have a fidget toy or not. The fact is, after a certain period of time, students shut down. Fidget toys can be used to give students a two- or three-minute brain break that will improve their overall performance in your class. I recommend setting up a small station in your classroom with some sort of fidget toy or toys. If you do not want to spend a lot of money on this type of item, I have found that a bag of fuzzy pipe cleaners works just fine.

Egg Cartons
Yes, egg cartons. But be sure to wash them first. Next, randomly write the numbers one through twelve in the cups and place a single bead inside. It is now a random number generator! Have students pair up, hand out one egg cartoon to each pair, and tell them, for example, to practice the three’s multiplication table. One student shakes the carton and opens it. Whichever number the bead lands on is the other number for the multiplication problem, and partners race to see who can answer first. Have students take turns shaking and opening the carton. This is a fun alternative to math drill worksheets for helping students learn math foundation skills. I have only used it with multiplication, but it would work with other operations too.

Shaving Cream
I believe it is important for struggling readers to learn sight words. It is my experience that direct sight word instruction increases oral reading fluency, which in turn increases reading comprehension. The problem with sight word instruction is that it is boring to read flash cards and repeatedly write words. Instead, cover students’ desks or table areas with shaving cream and have them smooth it out into an even layer. Then have them use their fingers to spell the words you call out. It is a fun change of pace, and students who learn well in tactile ways will benefit even more. The shaving cream cleans up easily.

Alternative Seating Options
Alternative seating options are being used more in recent years as an accommodation in individual education plans (IEPs). Wiggle stools (or wobble chairs) work fine if you are okay with purchasing one. Exercise balls are cheaper but take up more room. In addition to these options, I have tried bucket seats from a van and sensory cushions. Some teachers provide multiple options and let students use different seats on different days.

Noise-Canceling Headphones
Many students with ASD find discomfort in noisy parts of the school building, such as the cafeteria and gym, and a pair of noise-canceling headphones can help alleviate that discomfort. Even if you do not have a student with ASD, it’s nice to keep a pair on hand for any student who needs them.

Visual Timer
The special education population typically has trouble estimating time, even short periods of time. A visual timer, such as Time Timer, works best for these students.

Andrew HawkAndrew Hawk has worked in public education for sixteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher, and for the past five years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. Andrew earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University, and in 2016, he completed a second master’s degree in educational leadership, also from WGU. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.


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Everyday Mindfulness in the Classroom

By Liz Bergren

Everyday Mindfulness in the ClassroomMindfulness, a buzzword we hear everywhere. The term, first coined by Buddhist scholar T.W. Rhys Davids, was reintroduced to us as a practice through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979. Kabat-Zinn is a renowned MIT-educated scientist who created the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Since the inception of MBSR, mindfulness has seeped into the mainstream and is practiced everywhere, from the therapist’s office to Fortune 500 companies to the classroom.

Mindfulness in the classroom, when practiced regularly with students, has been shown to improve focus, regulate behavior, reduce tension and stress, and contribute to an overall healthier classroom climate. This post offers suggestions for how to introduce mindfulness to students.

Mindfulness can reduce anxiety at school.
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders among children and adolescents. About 32 percent of adolescents in the United States have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. According to Mindful Schools, a California-based program that trains educators to bring mindfulness into school communities, mindfulness is one of the most essential skills necessary to navigate life: “Scholarly research finds that mindfulness practice decreases stress and anxiety, increases attention, improves interpersonal relationships, strengthens compassion, and confers a host of other benefits.”

It is important for educators and all those who work closely with young people to understand the effects stress and anxiety can have on engagement in the classroom and on overall academic success. Mindfulness practices can be quick and easy to implement throughout the school day. The most important factor is consistency, so the practices become a habit and a natural response for coping with difficult emotions.

Consider using mindfulness practices at the beginning of the school day. They can also be helpful during transitions from one activity to another. Following are simple strategies you can use in the classroom.

Introduce students to breathing exercises.
To be in tune with your breath is a foundation of mindful practice. To help younger students understand how breathing can help them feel calm, read the story Breath by Breath: A Mindfulness Guide to Feeling Calm by Paul Christelis with your class. Pose questions to students such as, “How did breathing exercises help the characters in the story?” Tell students to place their hands on their bellies and feel their bodies move up and down as they breathe. Guide them through a belly breathing practice by having them imagine the up-and-down motion of air coming in and out of a balloon. Do this exercise for two minutes or longer, depending on the age of your students, and check to see if they notice a difference in their focus and energy after performing the exercise.

You can find breathing exercises for older students at TeensHealth.

Practice mindfulness in nature.
If you have time in your day, take students for a mindful walk outside where they can practice tuning in to the sounds, smells, and sights of nature. Enjoy the sounds of the birds, how the breeze feels on the skin, and the different smells you notice as you walk different places. Students can practice being quiet and working hard to pay attention to what is around them.

If you are strapped for time or you live in a climate where getting outside can be difficult, you can bring items from outside into the classroom to use in a mindfulness exercise or have students find an item in the room to use. You could also have them choose an item to bring from home that may have an interesting texture. When using an object from either outside or indoors, have students practice paying close attention to the details of the object they are holding. Tree bark is a great object for this exercise because of its intricacies, which we often don’t notice because, well, it’s tree bark. Ask students to notice how the object feels in their hands—is it rough, soft, hard, cold? This exercise can be a five-minute “before class” activity or it can be more elaborate, with students passing various objects around the room.

Students of all ages enjoy the practice of mindful eating.
Mindful eating is an essential skill to have, not only to increase the enjoyment of food, but also to prevent overeating or bingeing. Practicing a mindful eating exercise in the classroom can be tricky because of food allergies. Survey your students to check for allergies. For younger students, you may need to check in with parents prior to eating something in the classroom.

For this exercise, I often use Dove chocolate because of its smooth texture, its meltability, and because who doesn’t like chocolate. I’ve also used apples to compare and contrast different textures and flavors. Guide students through the following steps with two pieces of chocolate:

  1. Have students open their first piece of chocolate and eat it how they normally would with no direction.
  2. For the second piece, have students place the chocolate in their hand and notice how the wrapper feels in their palm.
  3. Direct them to slowly unwrap the chocolate (wrapper side down to avoid melting in their hands) and smell it. Tell them to notice any memories they have of eating chocolate or what comes to mind when they smell it. Smell is the sense most closely linked to memory, and they might enjoy sharing stories.
  4. Have them take one bite out of the corner and move it around in their mouths, savoring the flavor and feeling the texture of the chocolate change as it melts. Repeat that for three more bites.
  5. Poll students about how it made them feel to eat the two different chocolates. Which piece did they enjoy more? Did the first one taste different than the second one?

Mindfulness can also benefit adults who work with young people. It can help alleviate burnout and make the day feel a little less crazy. Consider utilizing these practices in your own life. Check in with yourself before the day starts and before you enter any space that children occupy. Be mindful of your own moods and how your energy and body language may be influencing your instruction. Take time to practice self-care and see how it impacts your days. I’d love to hear how you use mindfulness in your classroom!

Liz BergrenLiz Bergren is Free Spirit’s education resource specialist. She is a former teacher with 15 years of classroom experience. In addition to being a teacher, she spent five years working for Park Nicollet’s Melrose Institute, where she counseled and taught classes to patients who struggled with eating disorders. She has a B.A. in health and secondary education from the University of St. Thomas and an M.Ed. in family education from the University of Minnesota.


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Happy Labor Day

Happy Labor DayFree Spirit Publishing staff wish you a wonderful Labor Day and hope that you find time over the long weekend to recharge. We’ll be spending time with our families and friends (human and furry), getting outside to take advantage of the weather while we can, and finally digging into that book we’ve been putting off reading.

To everyone whose work supports the social, emotional, and educational needs of young people, thank you for all you do.


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Identifying and Supporting Girls with Depression

By Stephanie Filio

A recent Washington Post articleIdentifying and Supporting Girls with Depression grabbed the attention of educators by pointing out statistics that show a rising trend of depression in girls, and at alarmingly younger ages than before. One study showed that symptoms begin presenting as young as eleven. By age seventeen, 36.1 percent of girls have been or are depressed, compared to 13.6 percent of boys.

Coming fresh from a middle school hallway, processing suicidal ideation concerns, self-harm assessments, and crisis center enrollments, I unfortunately cannot say these statistics came as a shock. The article cites the urgency of this issue due to the prevalence of learning, attention, and social acclimation issues that often arise in students with depression. Classroom warriors know—this urgency is absolutely right.

Some of the disparity between girls and boys makes biological sense, specifically with timing, because girls hit preadolescence and puberty several years before boys do. However, this disparity does not disappear as boys hit the same hormonal threshold. Based on this, we can assert that young women are simply more likely to have symptoms of depression. While the article hints at why this difference exists, I can’t help but think that, like everything else, there must be several layers of explanation—as well as layers of potential support.

Identifying Depression in Girls
Symptoms typically presented with depression include feelings of isolation and detachment, hopelessness, emotional instability, chronic sadness, weight fluctuation, and physical listlessness. In hindsight, these symptoms might remind many of us of our own middle school careers. However, a diagnosis of depression includes a persistence of these feelings. Feelings of suicidal ideation may or may not be present.

As school counselors, one of the toughest lines to straddle is between recognizing a possible diagnosis and our professional authority to verbalize it. Since we are not technically in the clinical realm, suggesting a diagnosis can be seen as unethical. Making this even tougher is the fact that we have first-row seats to the barriers students can face in getting a diagnosis: access to healthcare, parental knowledge of mental illness, geographic distances, lack of internet and technological resources, and so on. For these reasons, many students struggling with depression may not receive professional treatment. Knowing local resources and having flyers on hand with symptoms and home interventions can help create a bridge.

Why Girls in Particular?
As girls grow, they are bombarded by hormonal changes that take a toll on the mental and physical health of their bodies. This happens at the same time they are experiencing cognitive growth, so they are subsequently bombarded by intense new thinking about abstract concepts and a new recognition of deeper meanings. Social relationships become more complex, as do interactions with parents. This all creates a windstorm ripe for emotional confusion and deepened feelings of hopelessness.

There may also be social factors playing into this female-centered crisis. I have an open-door policy, where kids get candy rewards for visiting and can say things that wouldn’t fly in the hallways. Teachers, too, can come in and vent, and we will never speak of it again. All are welcome to shoot a few baskets, put their feet up on my table, or take a cat nap. But there is one rule for my office: Do not, under any circumstances, use the phrases “mean girl” or “drama queen.” The poor lug who learns this the hard way is subjected to my soapbox explanation of how these pop culture references perpetuate female stereotypes. It’s frustrating to hear these in everyday communication, and the thought of my students adopting such self-fulfilling prophecies is just too devastating. How many girls are dismissed as simply being “dramatic,” and how many suffer in silence with the assumption that their deep feelings of sadness are a normal part of femaleness?

Is it going too far to assume that gender inequalities may have something to do with more young women than young men experiencing symptoms of depression? Ruth Bader Ginsburg was once asked when there would be enough women on the Supreme Court to exemplify equality. She said, “When there are nine.” People were shocked. But there had been nine men, and nobody ever raised a question about that. Though progress has been made for women, strong social stereotypes implying that women are too emotional, too bossy, and shouldn’t be loud or particularly heard still exist. That’s a lot of pressure. Is it possible that our young women are experiencing a collective existential crisis? How can we address this?

Supporting Girls
My world is full of students who suppress thoughts and feelings in fear of being a social outcast. Making sure young women have plenty of opportunities to voice their feelings on growing up female is an essential part of getting to the root of female emotions. As family life classes are increasingly scripted and teachers feel more pressure to hold strong barriers with personal communication, there are fewer outlets for young women to talk about their hormonal, emotional, and social changes. As counselors, we get to be the safe place for students to discuss anything without judgment or embarrassment. Students feel comfortable coming to us and breaking down their walls. As long as students are not in danger of harm, we respect their confidentiality so they can feel secure as we peel back the layers.

The counselor’s secret weapon is the ability to build relationships. When we see symptoms of depression or other concerns, we can discuss treatment options with students and help them communicate more openly with their parents. I am honest with parents about my observations, and I give literature with ease, but I believe it is essential for students’ long-term success that they are able to articulate their feelings and build stronger relationships with their parents.

Starting a Girl Group
In addition to recognizing symptoms of depression and having open dialogue, we can be agents for change by helping girls be comfortable as loud, proud, and smart leaders. Groups are a fantastic way to reach students and also give them a built-in support system. I find this especially true for students who feel isolated or socially uncomfortable in their own skin. By helping them build bonds with peers and see that they are not alone, while also being present to guide conversation in a solution-focused way, you offer a model for healthy relationships.

When the students I work with were in seventh grade, I started noticing that some of my female students were hiding their leadership qualities behind a timid veil, and I decided to start a girl group. I wanted it to be an extracurricular instead of a therapeutic group so the girls wouldn’t feel I was pathologizing female characteristics. So many intervention models approach young women as broken, with the group intended to fix their deficiencies. I wanted something that would act as a mirror, celebrating all parts of my students, and helping them be more comfortable as the gregarious, wonderful kids they were.

Soul Force Ladies was created based on Martin Luther King Jr.’s concept of nonviolent resistance to oppression. We should be far beyond the concept of feminism as taboo, and I wanted to let young ladies know that it is okay to tell the world they are proud to be female. I promoted the group with open invites, specified invites, announcements, and by encouraging friend pairs. We started the first meeting by discussing the concept of womanhood and gender disparities, threw out ideas for future meetings, and created a code of conduct.

I was blown away as I became more of an observing advisor than an active leader, and these young women inspired me to be positive and proud and to endure obstacles. They were relative strangers at first, but after chatting about everything from friendships to rapid emotional changes, they became a sisterhood. Each girl in the group alluded at least once to typical signs of depression, such as insomnia and feelings of worthlessness. The rest of the group would typically respond with “Ugh, I hate that!” and give comparable examples from their own lives. They supported one another and made one another feel wonderfully, abnormally normal.

While chatting, I also provided literature to read and discuss, and we completed a planned activity. Here are some of the things we did in our girl group:

  • We wrote encouraging and positive messages on little pieces of paper, folded them up, and walked all over the school putting them in random lockers.
  • Slime was the in thing when we started, so we did a couple of science experiments. We mixed and made a mess while talking about women in science and math fields and reasons for gender disparities in professions.
  • For International Women’s Day, we made cards for various women in our lives. Moms, teachers, sisters, and aunts were the recipients of several very special letters. We discussed what a good role model is, and girls shared many examples of strength and perseverance as we talked about our heroes.
  • We had poster-making sessions where we made female empowerment posters to hang around the school. We promoted our group while also giving an extra smile to other preteens in need of some love.
  • Our favorite activities were our infamous pop-up potlucks! We each brought in food special to our individual cultures or families. While we ate our feasts, we told stories, laughed, and planned our next meal. Often, women from around the building would join us (especially if someone brought in Filipino pancit), and we just enjoyed one another’s company.

Stringing It Together
Data about depression in young girls clearly indicates that they are struggling. However, there is a difference between strained and broken. The intense hormonal changes in preadolescent females are biological but not a defect. As we continue to question perspectives on gender inequality, we find more effective ways to reach and embolden young girls. As we observe our students and note possible signs of depression, the best thing we can do is use our school counselor powers to have open dialogue with families. In doing so, we can empower our girls instead of victimizing them, and they can grow from the strength of their bravery. We might not be able to solve the crisis nationally, but in our own hallways, we can stop seeking a quick fix and instead help larger student populations grow from the process.

NOTE: It cannot be stressed enough that when we see red flags that indicate suicidal ideation, it is essential to be proactive and respond swiftly to ideation (and not just to behaviors). All of the work above can be saved for later. An assessment should be done and parents must be contacted before any other intervention.

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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