Thinking Outside of the Box with BCHS Career Speed Dating

Today was Bishop Carroll’s second annual Career Speed Dating Event. An opportunity where we invite Bishop Carroll Alumni, Parents and Students to come together and have a discussion about the many pathways and ways we earn a living in todays society.

This session involved two parts:

  • First students were seated in a circle with the adults around the outside facing them. The pair was given 5 minutes to discuss their career and the pathway to get there. Then we had a one minute break for the adult to rotate clockwise to a new seat and a new pairing occurred. We allowed students an opportunity to meet with 10 different adults.

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  • Second, the adults in the room moved to the edge of the gym to stand under their career labels. Students were then encouraged to go up and speak with anyone who had the specific career that they were interested in.

The reason that both parts were important to the process was that it not only opened the students eyes open to the possibilities but also validated their personal interests.

Based on feedback from our amazing parents, the adults also enjoyed our day.

Creating a Compassionate Community

 

This past Tuesday we offered our 3rd annual Mental Health Symposium. It was held  during the morning and brought over 100 students, staff, and guests together to discuss why mental health is so important, especially during our high school years.

Mental illness is often stigmatized, making individuals who are struggling feel  reluctant or embarrassed to share their stories with others. A consistent message that our guests shared with our students was “You are not alone”.

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Brett Rothery and members of the Mental Wellness Team.

 

“Mental Illness is NOT a death sentence” – Claire Hickie U of C Student

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Empathy is about sitting with someone and just being

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“Love me in the middle of my mess”. – Taunya – psychologist

Students also had opportunities throughout the morning to share their messages of love, hope, and thoughts on the importance of diversity.

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One of the activites which our Mental Wellness Committe had asked me to facilitate during our morning together is called Snowballs of Advice, one of the most popular activities from last years symposium

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Once again our students have proven that not only do they come into our classrooms with a variety of challenges, beyond simple academics. They have also proven that they are compassionate and can provide their peers with fabulous support and advice.

How do you share the importance of mental health and wellness with others. I look forward to hearing about your ideas.

Erin Luong

 

 

 

Supporting Students Who Experience Anxiety

Anxiety is the anticipation of the unexpected. It is a normal part of life. When harnessed it can be a positive force that can encourage us to take a chance and try something new.

However, as with all things in life, too much of anything is not good for you.

When I am explaining the purpose and process of anxiety to a student in my office I will often use visuals. For example the Yerkes Dodson Law, represented below, provides a visual on the impact of extended arousal (or stress) on a person`s ability to perform.

Anxiety are the thoughts and stress are the symptoms.

Strong anxiety can move our bodies into a physical state called the Fight or Flight Response.


 Historically our bodies evolved to protect us from physical threats such as predators. If a cave person wanted to survive they could NOT stop to think about what species of wild cat might be after them. Rather they needed to react.

Today the students in my office do not have to worry about wild cats attacking them.

However the Fight or Flight Response is still often triggered by thoughts about situations we perceive as threatening.

Common topics of concern for high school students often include: athletics,  dating, economics,  family, friendships, peer relationships,  pressure to do well, test taking,  university/college acceptance, and  world events

Don`t worry there is HOPE.

The one thing that makes us uniquely human is our ability to rationally use our brains. If we can learn to become aware of what is happening in our bodies as we are starting to become stressed… we are able to evaluate our situations and determine whether there is actually a threat, or only a perceived one. This allows us to change our thinking patterns, and then move ourselves back into our optimal performance zones.

As a school counsellor I am there to teach my student about the topic of anxiety, help them talk about their fears, and guide them through learning tips and techniques for managing their own anxieties.

 

 

A Glimps into Living With Schizophrenia

This week my Innovation and Change Coursera Course asked me to ask the customer what they need. For me as a school counsellor, my students are my “customers” and it’s important for me to keep in touch with what they need.

I really appreciate the following video I found about living with schizophrenia because it allows me an opportunity to develop empathy towards students with this condition. I would also recommend it as a resource for sharing with high school students who might need to learn more about this illness.

Making Ripples Around the World

Gandhi

I am working in Japan this year and I have chosen to take a MOOC on Social Psychology while I am away. Now I chose the course before I decided to move, but I think that fate stepped in because the content of this course seems so relevant to me right now.

Every little positive thing we do, no matter how insignificant it might be has the power to create a powerful change. The following TED talk clearly demonstrates this.

Life is about more than forcing your own position, its about trying to find a clearer view of both sides. I often tell students that as a counsellor I am a helicopter flying above their forest of trees.

This week I am helping a Calgary student start a ripple right here in Japan. Before I left Calgary I was told about the Marisa Project http://www.themarisaproject.org/ and given a book to bring with me. The theme of the Marisa Project is: Dreams aren’t only for sleeping. This morning I shared the book with my staff at Fuwa Junior High. They have agreed to participate and help me fill a book of dreams to bring back to Canada.

I am excited as this little ripple will strengthen the bond staff and students feel between Calgary and Tarui.

Moving to Japan and Reflecting on Compassion

My day of compassion

 

On Friday September 6th,2013 I attempted to complete my day of compassion. For this project I will refer to compassion as the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compassion

). I had two main goals for myself: 1) to be aware of the needs of my husband, son and daughter who had just moved to Japan two days earlier, and to respond to their fears and concerns with patience, compassion and understanding. 2) to be aware of the needs of the students I would be teaching English to in Tarui,

 

Background:

I moved to Tarui, Japan on July 30, 2013. I was hired to be an assistant English teacher and Coordinator of International Relations between my home school board the Calgary Catholic School District in Canada and the Tarui School Board in Japan. The partnership between Calgary and Tarui first began 25 years ago. It involves encouraging students from each country to learn about the other students language, customs and culture in order to create social awareness. My position this year is to work with the Japanese English teachers, as well as coordinate the 40 Japanese students who will be visiting Calgary in March as part of a homestay experience. I am particularly excited to have this position because 22 years ago when I was a junior high student, I had one of the first set of Tarui students stay at my home in Calgary. Now, as an adult, I have the opportunity to allow other students the same wonderful experience.

 

In order to accept this position I had to be willing to relocate to Tarui Japan from Calgary, Alberta Canada for one year. I discussed this opportunity with my husband (39), son (8) and daughter(5) and they all agreed that it would be a great opportunity for our family. In Canada we were used to being a member of the majority and had never really experienced what it might be like for the many immigrant families  who are new to Canada and do not speak the language, read, or understand our customs and traditions. Moving to Japan would be a real eye opener for us all.

 

We had decided that the best way to do this would be for me to move to Japan at the start of my contact on July 30th, and then my husband and children would come to Japan on September 3rd

after spending the summer with friends and family. This also allowed me to come to Japan first and to make sure that the house, schooling and other necessities would be ready for my family when they arrived.

Goal 1:

When my family arrived in Japan on September 3rd, I had already been in Japan for one month and had started to adjust to the culture shock. I was starting to understand how to read certain signs, how to ride the subway and even how to turn on the gas stove at our house. For my family, however everything was brand new and overwhelming. They had many questions about how and why to do everything. Sometimes the questions would feel frustrating because even after only one month I already thought that the answer was obvious, I needed to be very aware of the tone of voice I was using to explain everything to them because when you are new to a situation everything feels more threatening. I needed to make a conscious effort to slow down my speech, explain things multiple times and allow them the space to feel just as scared and overwhelmed as I had felt, without shame.

 

I never told my family about this project before I started, it was just a gift that I wanted to give to them, yet even with my best intentions I found myself slipping every once in a while back into an impatient tone. For- example- my husband asked why we had to fold the futons up every day.  Instead of patiently explaining that folding the futons would create more space in the house and reduce the likelihood of mold, I responded shortly `just because ok`. This response was uncompassionate and I felt guilty after saying it, especially as I was aware that I had set the goal to be more compassionate. I noticed that when I was rushed (trying to head out the door on my way to work), or speaking to my husband from another room, I was less likely to respond in a compassionate manner. However, when I took the time to slow down, look into the faces of my family members and actually think about what they might be feeling I was able to remain true to my goal. The more connected I felt to my family the more compassionate I seemed to be able to be.

Goal 2:

Part of my position is to work in the Junior High schools to teach English. For non-native speakers English can be a very confusing language which is difficult to learn. The pace of speech and vocabulary can also be very challenging for students. When I am working with students I want to be able to create the best conditions possible to help them to feel successful as learners.

 

Students started back to school from summer vacation on Sept 2. Starting September 5th I had been asked to go into the various classrooms and introduce myself to the

students and speak about my family and life in Canada. I had made a power point presentation to use for this introduction.

 

The first presentation that I did for a class, on Thursday, went ok. I had not consciously reflected on the speed and level of language and the teacher told me that she thought the presentation might have been a little too difficult for the students in the class. I decided to revamp my presentation to be able to meet the needs of my students.

 

On Friday Sept 6, 2013, I entered Fuwa Junior High with my second day of compassion goal in mind to be aware of the needs of the students I would be teaching English to in Tarui,. That day I had three presentations to do and after each presentation I reflected on what had happened and made some more minor adjustments to accommodate my students.

 

The first class, I used the same power point as the day before, however I significantly slowed down my speech and simplified my vocabulary. The students appeared to be following along with me fairly well. I asked the teacher for feedback at the end of the class and she said that she could tell that I was working on my language and speed but that asking the students to image different ideas was a little bit difficult.

The second class I continued to use the simpler speech and speed. In addition I tried to ask questions to help the students related to the experiences of students in Canada. For example: In Canada we have snow (point to the photo), Do you have snow? Please raise your hand if you have snow. (this allowed the students to respond to the lesson without having to think of all the words for the sentence). I noticed an improvement in the quality of the interaction between myself and my students, but I still wondered if there was more I could do to help facilitate the connection.

 

For the third class I decided to speak to the teacher before class and ask for any advice that she might have regarding teaching her students. She said that students may have trouble thinking of questions to ask me on their own so if we gave them an opportunity to brainstorm in small groups I may have a better response. In order to allow time to brainstorm I also created a shorter power point presentation.

 

The third class was by far the best and most interactive class that I taught that day. By being aware of the students nervousness to ask questions, and working to alleviate that stress by allowing them an opportunity to develop and practice asking questions in small groups before Iasked them to respond in front of the whole group I was able to create a positive learning experience for both myself and my students.

The Day of Compassion project was personally very beneficial to me as it taught me a few very important factors about myself that I should easily be able to implement to help me to continue to live my life in a compassionate manner.

1)     I need to slow down and look at my family before I respond to them. Similar to the experiment with the seminarian students (lecture 3.2) I need to be reminded of my emotional connection to my family. They are important to me and should be a priority.

2)     Pace, language and vocabulary is important. Students need time to process the new language that they are learning.

3)     Allowing students opportunities to practice in non-threatening situations (small group) before moving them into more threatening (large group) situations will alleviate their discomfort and result in more academic growth.

4)     Finally, my experience in Japan in general, has taught me of the need to slow down and look around. Sometimes people require reassurance even if they don`t ask for it directly.

 

 I am very
happy that I will be able to spend the year in Japan. I believe that this
experience of being new and an outsider will increase the compassion I will
feel towards families new to Canada. This experience will impact my practice as
a school counselor in Canada in many ways including the fact that I will always
try to make sure I book a translator to attend any meetings that I have with a
family whose first language is not English

Summer is a great time for reflection

This week I had a lot of fun tinkering around online, thanks for the great ideas Open Spokes. I was  trying out new ideas while reflecting on what I want to teach my kids. 

I started out playing with the new haiku deck app… see the following link,
http://www.haikudeck.com/p/mQBhZc6BTC/what-i-hope-my-children-will-learn-from-me
Slide01

I was then able to import my haiku deck into a powerpoint.

From here I was able to import the power point into imovie.

I added some creative commons musics using the site http://www.jamendo.com/

And my final product turned out like this:

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
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. Erin Luong ‏‪@EHordyskiLuong‬ 21 Jun 

‪@verenanz thanks for checking on… How about u?
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.
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.
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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) …

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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.

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rescue

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.
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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.
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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.

Erin