Lessons for a New School Counsellor … an ongoing dialogue for this school year

As I spend time in Japan this year, I have made an opening for a brand new counsellor to work at Bishop Carroll. I have also left behind a dear friend who is going to make sure that “the new guy” has a fantastic first experience.

Lessons for a New School Counsellor … an ongoing dialogue for this school year.


Reach Out- Social Media Helping to Relieve Tension in Times of Pressure

Yesterday I woke up to a surreal situation. Calgary, Alberta, Canada, my hometown, the place where I have lived since birth, was declared to be in a state of emergency due to flooding. I heard it on the news and then went straight to my twitter account to gain all the latest up to date information.

The first thing everyone I know did was touch base with each other and make sure that everyone was ok. – Thankfully everyone I knew was safe, even if they had to be evacuated. I had many conversations like the following:

Verena Roberts ‏‪@verenanz‬ 20 Jun 

‪@deirdrebailey Just checking in on you… ‪@ErinCouillard ‪@EHordyskiLuong ‪@SSpellmanCann ‪@Stephkrammer

. Erin Luong ‏‪@EHordyskiLuong‬ 21 Jun 

‪@verenanz thanks for checking on… How about u?

Susan Spellman Cann ‏‪@SSpellmanCann
21 Jun
‪@verenanz ‪@deirdrebailey ‪@ErinCouillard ‪@EHordyskiLuong ‪@Stephkrammer thx for checking hope all are safe

Thanks to the power of social media, my family from all over the world had heard about the flooding (even my father in Kuwait and uncle in New Zealand had heard the news), but I was also able to reassure everyone that my family was ok.

My mom and stepdad live on the opposite side of the city. Flooding made it impossible for us to physically reach each other, but texting and phones helped us feel connected.
sandy beach
An uncle from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, called to give our family advice around plumbing and keeping our drinking water safe. I was very touched that he took the time to reach out to us, and also awed by the power of social media.

Throughout the day I was constantly receiving updates via twitter, Youtube, Facebook, and email not only about the tragedy and loss of property and park space (here are a few pics from a few blocks from my house) …

mckenzie fish creek

mckenzie golf coures

mckenzie lake
But also of inspiration and hope as I learned about other citizens, as well as students from my own high school I teach at, who were coming together to support our community.



I had forgotten that the military does more than go over seas. I was so grateful to see the tanks driving in to help out.

Volunteers were helping out all over supporting our vulnerable citizens and animals around the area. The big cats from the Calgary Zoo were even moved into the court house for safe keeping as Princess Island is totally under water.

Requests for volunteer support were both given and accepted on social media sites such as Twitter and Kijiji. An email from my church in the evening asking for sleeping bags and supplies was met with a quick response.

Now 24 hours later I can’t imagine how much more isolated and scared my family would have felt if we did not have all of these 21st century connections. Personally I am thankful that my family is both safe and plugged in this evening.

Sending love and prayers out over the net to all those affected by the Alberta floods.


Am I looking for students to experience “Failure” or to realize that somethings are worth working for?

Today I read the following excellent blog post WHERE DOES FAILURE FIT http://somewherefromhere.edublogs.org/2013/05/28/finding-the-freedom-of-failure/#.Ua35T5GtC1g.twitter

After reading Kirsten’s thoughts I began to wonder? “Am I looking for students to experience “Failure” or to realize that somethings are worth working for?”

I decided that the next thing I need to do was reframe my perception of failure, and to do so I should look up a few synonyms.

When I looked up the synonyms for failure the following statements popped up in my minds eye.
It’s not the end of the world?
Try going on another path?

How can we encourage students to find those other paths?

Tony Wagner suggests the following 7 survival skills http://www.tonywagner.com/7-survival-skills
• Critical thinking and problem-solving
• Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
• Agility and adaptability
• Initiative and entrepreneurialism
• Effective oral and written communication
• Accessing and analyzing information
• Curiosity and imagination

I would suggest promoting RESILIENCY

On Social Intelligence (SI) and Emotional Intelligence(EQ) Curriculum in Schools

 “People don’t leave companies- They leave bad bosses”- D. Goleman

My ah ha moment during our staff meeting today when we were discussing the pros and cons of promoting Google hangouts was: “If I force a child to come to me they will never come, if I flex and meet them where they are at they can be drawn”. – Erin Luong
Teachers need to listen, students are telling us they want to engage with technology and we need to allow this. However we need to use technology to enhance core ideas rather than replace them. Google hangouts are one method for teaching students communication skills.

If we don’t connect with our kids we turn them off and fail to teach.

New society and work environments create the need for Social and Emotional Competencies- (probably why it needs to be more emphasized in schools today)

A current school issue- only focusing on academics not teaching coping skills, self awareness, managing emotions and problem solving.

During our online lecture this week Dr. Boyatzis commented on a longitudinal study that he had completed with a group of colleague around changes in the educational system of American from the 60’s until now. One of the trends his team had observed was that our school systems began placing less of an emphasis on Social and Emotional skills in schools, and more of an emphasis on facts and assessment. They hypothesized that— A decrease in Social and Emotional skills being explicitly taught to students has been correlated with a lack of impulse control and an increase in negative societal consequences such as : violence, teen pregnancy, defiance, drug use, suicide, eating disorders, and depression.

All of the results prove to me that the importance of Social and Emotional Learning needs to increase
*** Schools need to support SEL philosophy

By helping our students learn to manage their emotions and the emotions of others they could quiet the emotional voices in their heads and hold onto more information.

CASEL was founded in 1994 by Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, educator/philanthropist Eileen Rockefeller Growald, Timothy Shriver, Linda Lantieri, Mark Greenberg and David Sluyter. We are a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that works to advance the science and evidence-based practice of social and emotional learning.
Benefits of Social Emotional Learning

Schools that help students and staff develop greater social and emotional competencies, in turn help ensure positive short and long-term academic and personal outcomes for students.

SEL improves students’ positive behavior and reduces negative behavior.
It promotes young people’s academic success, health, and well-being at the same time that it prevents a variety of problems such as alcohol and drug use, violence, truancy, and bullying.
SEL is also associated with significant improvements in students’ academic performance and attitudes toward school.
A landmark review found that students who receive SEL instruction had more positive attitudes about school and improved an average of 11 percentile points on standardized achievement tests compared to students who did not receive such instruction.
SEL prepares young people for success in adulthood.
SEL helps students become good communicators, cooperative members of a team, effective leaders, and caring, concerned members of their communities. It teaches them how to set and achieve goals and how to persist in the face of challenges. These are precisely the skills that today’s employers consider important for the workforce of the future.

For further information on the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning- CASEL project as well as examples of how to address Emotional and Social Intelligence in schools I would recommend checking out the following website http://casel.org/

How Do We as Educators Promote SEL?
Emotions need repetition and practice

Through the careful incorporation of Positive Emotional Attractors (PEA) and Negative Emotional Attractors (NEA).

The PEA is:
a. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system to cause arousal; feeling positive and hopeful; thinking about the future, dreams, and possibilities;
b. Being optimistic, focusing on one’s strengths;
c. Excited about trying something new, experimenting; and
d. Being in resonant relationships.

3. The NEA is:
a. Activating our sympathetic nervous systems (Fight and Flight) ; feeling negative and fear; thinking about the past or present, expectations of others and problems;
b. Being pessimistic, focusing on one’s weaknesses;
c. Feeling obligated to things you “should” or are “expected by others” to do, like a performance improvement plan;
d. Being in dissonant relationships.

4. Sustained desired change tends to start in the PEA.

Teachers who are able to create PEA’s can be described as “ OPEN, WARM, OPEN TO BAD MOVES AND GOOD LISTENERS
Teachers who create NEA’s tend to be: Aloof, ridged, focused on minor details, remote, uncaring,
To sustain learning or change efforts, it is likely that you have to spend 3-6 times in the PEA as the time spent in the NEA. This is to compensate for the observation that negative emotions are stronger than positive.

My roles as an mom, counsellor, educator and mentor is to help the children around me develop a vision of their futures.

I hope to one day to be remembered as the person who inspired someone’s legacy list.

Music a Way of Connecting Souls Together.. and other reasons I can’t give up band camp


When I was 12 I was really a bit lost… no longer a kid but not quite fitting into the preppy world I needed to find a place where I belonged.

Then along came DCI- Drum Corp International and my life changed for the better.

age 13

I not only gained a group of friends, I was able to tour all over North America with. I learned the power of performing.This confidence I built in my ability to learn music, survive on my own, figure out where the bathroom stops were, do my own laundry and budget my tour money so I wasn’t broke the last week stuck with me.

I marched from age 12 to age 18.

When I started high school the first thing I did when I walked through the doors was to find the choir and sign up, because I knew that I would feel safe in the music community.

Now I am a counsellor in a highschool and I still find myself drawn to the music community. Their positive energy and team work is inspiring… also they have those great band trips (oh I love the smell of a tour bus). I want other students to experience all the joys that I remember, and therefore I volunteer my time to be a chaprone for our high school.

Those clips are just a sample of what I was able to witness this year on tour in Whistler BC. I felt so blessed to be given the sacred position of the “bus mommy” for another generation of kids.

Emotions are Contagious


Emotional Contagiousness: + Social Collective Emotion creates the positive energy found in THE WAVE, FLASH MOBS or even LIP DUBS

With the trend in schools towards text messaging, e-mails home and blogs there is still a need for a little face to face interaction in order to solidify the relationship between team members.
About two weeks ago I had the pleasure (preconcussion) of attending EdcampYYC. I have to tell you I was super stoked to attend this event not just for the content but for the opportunity to connect and chat with profs and students I had met during #etmooc.
I find I get the same excitement when it comes to Teachers Convention, Opening Day Mass and the District Hockey Game.
My primary job as a teacher and counsellor is to CONNECT WITH PEOPLE. Even if I move into a leadership role, Face to Face is still important.
resonate relationships

The Boston Marathon Impacts Us All- Resources to Help Counsellors Support Their Students.


The news of the Boston Marathon impacts students in many ways, often causing students to feel a sense of threat to their own personal security. In my office over the last week I have had students anxious about going out in public, the threat to North America, expressing upset over the lives lost and people hurt and etc…

I was very grateful to Dr. Anna B. Baranowsky, CEO, Traumatology Institute for providing me with the follow resources to reference when working with my students.

Coping with Disaster Resources      
Explosions  (section on After an Explosion) http://www.ready.gov/explosions
Coping with Disaster http://www.ready.gov/coping-with-disaster
Managing traumatic stress: Tips for recovering from disaster and other traumatic events http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/recovering-disasters.aspx
American Psychological Association 
Taking Care of Your Emotional Health After a Disaster http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4240142_EmotionalHealth.pdf
American Red Cross
Recovering Emotionally http://www.redcross.org/find-help/disaster-recovery/recovering-emotionally
American Red Cross
Helping Children Cope with Disaster http://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/children.pdf
American Red Cross/US Federal Emergency Management Agency
Disaster Distress Helpline (24/7 phone and text) http://disasterdistress.samhsa.gov/about.aspx
Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration
Building Your Resilience http://www.apapracticecentral.org/outreach/building-resilience.aspx
American Psychological Association

Just as Dr. Barabowsky reached out through the virtual world to provide support. I hope that my blog may have a similar result.

God Bless