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Happy Friday, y'all! I am not sure about you but we have a 4 day weekend and me and my family are oh-so-excited. We are supposed to have beautiful weather in the Dallas area so that is a bonus!

Speaking of being excited for some time off to be with family. I wanted to talk about balance. In our society, being a goal getter and working hard is something that is admired and valued. I am definitely not one to argue with working hard for success because my list of goals is long. However, something we sometimes miss is balance. I was talking to my Dad the other day on the phone. He was talking to me about living a simple life, not worrying, and enjoying each moment. I am so thankful for talks with my Dad because my family knows that I am a planner and task oriented. They know I want to know the schedule and do 10 things in between. My husband is also good about "making" me rest, relax, and take time for me. It is good to be surrounded with people that remind us of that. I think we often get caught up in everything around us and everything that we are doing, we lose focus of the why and the moments around us.

I recently had the opportunity to review a new book called Seraphina Does EVERYTHING and I have been eager to share it with you all because it is a kid version of what I am explaining above. This book is so well written and has beautiful illustrations. As I read the story, I kept thinking that this was a good book for ME to read, as well.


The story follows a young girl who is excited about doing and being everything. However, she soon realizes that she is overwhelmed with being so busy that she is missing some special moments with friends and family. The author does a wonderful job focusing on balance. I think sometimes kids (and adults) are excited about the many opportunities to do and be so much (which is awesome) but it's all about balance and not being so busy where you aren't enjoying any of it.

This is a great book to add to any classroom, counseling office, or home. I know I am so excited to share it with my own children. You can find more information on the book HERE and you can purchase it HERE.

This book is published by the National Center for Youth Issues. Many of my favorite counseling resources are from them. You can find link to their accounts and page below:

I am excited about my next post as a I share my new Plum Paper planner and some of my recent Target and Dollar Tree finds. Have a Happy Easter! 

Melanie
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A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity of co-moderating the #escchat (elementary school counselor chat). It was an amazing time collaborating with school counselors from all over the country on the topic of social emotional learning. Social emotional learning is the buzz word everyone is talking about and for good reason. But what exactly is it? It is often used in conjunction with character building and guidance lessons. While it does have some of those components, social emotional learning is much more than that. It is a required life skill set.

The What
Social emotional learning is how we (adults and children) learn to manage our emotions while also understanding them. Self regulation and emotional awareness are key to this. It also encompasses showing empathy, being responsible, making responsible decisions, and establishing and maintaining positive relationships.

Social emotional learning is not another program or initiative that a campus or district puts into place. Social emotional learning is a skill set that we must have to be healthy kids and adults.

The Why
Research shows that incorporating social emotional learning boosts student achievement. And that is no surprise. I am a big believer that we can't get to Bloom's without meeting Maslow, meaning that our students cannot get to those high levels of learning if basic needs aren't met (safety, basic needs, belonging).

SEL is also proven to help with behavior. If students are taught how to regulate emotions, be empathetic, and how to have positive relationships, behavior concerns will decrease. For example, think of a student that may have outbursts or get upset easily. If taught healthy self regulation skills, they will not only be able to utilize those strategies, but as they get older, they will be able to regulate feelings of frustration and anger in a healthy way.

When I was an elementary counselor in a larger, urban school district I began studying SEL (around 2013). The campus that I served consisted of around 91% low socioeconomic students and we also had the opportunity to serve refugee students from Burma, Nepal, and the Congo. It was vital to teach these skills just as we taught curriculum for content areas.

I think that is the key to social emotional learning. It is not a program. It is not a temporary "buzz" topic. It is a needed set of skills for students to be well equipped as they grow older.

Misconceptions
Many believe that social emotional learning is character building and comes from a counselor. Social emotional learning isn't just about highlighting a character trait or receiving a guidance lesson from a campus counselor (while those are all wonderful things). It is a whole campus teaching approach that is best for ALL kids. Another misconception is that social emotional learning is provided or focused on solely for students who are currently struggling with behavior or emotions. Yet, SEL is beneficial for ALL students. It could be beneficial for adults, too. Think of how often you may see people get so upset and not be able to control their emotions. While we are all human, it is important to be able to regulate ourselves and our emotions so they we can interact in positive ways with others.

Resources
Everywhere you turn, SEL is being discussed. With it being such a needed skill, where can you turn for support and guidance?

Below you can find some wonderful resources from organizations that solely focus on Social Emotional Learning. I am currently also working on resources and resource guides that will be available in my TPT store. Follow @stylishschoolcounselor on Facebook (here) or Instagram (@stylishschoolcounselorblog) for updates.

CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning
https://casel.org/

Edutopia: They have a wonderful page of SEL resources and articles
https://www.edutopia.org/social-emotional-learning

Whether you are a classroom teacher who is wanting to equip your students with more than academic support or a counselor who wants to spark the conversation of incorporating SEL into your everyday routine...you are taking a very exciting step. It all starts somewhere!

Want to see more posts like this? Check out my post on Mindfulness here!
-Melanie
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Hello, friends! Can you believe it is almost February? And that means celebrating one of the most exciting weeks of the year, National School Counseling Week. As a school counselor this was always one of my most favorite weeks. Not only is it a fun week to be recognized, but most importantly, it is an opportunity to highlight your school counseling program and the effects it has had on your campus.

Often times, I would create a menu of services or a cute, quick sheet highlighting things in the program, or fun facts such as our school has had 136 guidance lessons to date on these topics...or there have been 13 lunch bunch sessions. Not only is this a wonderful time to share what it is that you do, it is also a chance to advocate for the counseling program. I would also do an announcement each day sharing a counseling fact or something special about the program that week (Ex: we have learned about 3 important character traits so far at our school: respect, integrity, and kindness).

I would also give all staff members a certificate of appreciation for their support for our school counseling program/. You can find some of my past links below:

2014
2015

You can also find ideas at ASCA's website HERE.

As I shared in my last post, my husband and I began writing books as a fun hobby. Our newest book is one I just knew I had to share with you all. It is called My Counselor is a Princess (HERE). This is a very light, simple read that discusses briefly what a counselor does. As with the other books in our series (My Teacher is an Elf HERE and My PE Teacher is a Ninja HERE) the students find some of her qualities to be that of a princess and wonder if that is what she really is. It would be great to use at the beginning of the year or during school counseling week as a fun activity.


Not only are we excited to release it right before National School Counseling Week but I have finally created a companion activity pack to go along with it on Teachers Pay Teachers. You can use the activity pack with or without the book. You can find it HERE



There are 5 activities (only 1 you would need the book for) and 5 posters. I must say the posters are my favorite and I will show you why! When I created these posters, I thought it would be important to not put the feeling word that most may think of when they see the pictures. I wanted these to be laminated and used in guidance to talk about feelings. Students may come up with great words aside from the usual mad. They may think of frustrated, hurt, etc. These would also be great to have in a hallway or classroom.






The book and activity pack would be a fun. quick addition to your guidance lesson resources and if you do use it, I would love to see pictures. You can also now follow me on Instagram at @stylishschoolcounselorblog and also over @ackerbooks (side note: my hsuband's instatories crack me up)


 I hope you all have a wonderful School Counseling Week. I created and posted this earlier in the week but remember to take care of YOU. We cannot be our best and give our best if we don't take time for ourselves. Remember, self care is one of the top ways to prevent burn out. Even 15 minutes of yoga or singing in the car with a cup of coffee all alone...don't forget to treat yourself a little.



Melanie
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Happy almost Thanksgiving, friends!  It is so cold in Texas right now. Those of you in places up north are probably laughing hysterically at me right now while I sit in my robe, on a heating pad, and under about 7 layers of blankets. It's a whopping 36 degrees and in Texas, that is straight up winter weather. Our family is excited about the break and I hope you all get time to renew and practice self care!

I am really excited to review a new book titled ABC Worry Free by Noel Foy. Now that my husband and I are writing books, my love for picture books has grown even more (I will blog about that in detail at another time). Y'all...I love books. My husband thinks I buy tons of shoes and clothes but really it's books...they are just much easier to hide. I even love the smell of books. Can they make that as a candle scent?



What I love even more than a good picture book is a book that easily relates hard to understand situations and emotions to kids. Things like depression, frustration, and anxiety are often difficult to express to children in books....even in person. Noel Foy does an amazing job of this and with an easy to understand situation.



The character in the book has a rough experience (an encounter with a bee) and begins to feel anxious about ever going out or being with friends. It touches on what anxiety and worry can look like in kid form, which I love. Not only does it show what the boy experiences (not wanting to go outside, not playing with friends), it gives an outside look at what his friends are thinking. It even gives a catchy coping technique (A-Accept, B-Breathe, C-Change).

This would be a wonderful addition to your guidance rotation and also great for a small group. The illustrations by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov are warm and inviting, as well.

You can purchase the book HERE, and find more information about the story and author HERE.

As I am beginning to work with kids struggling with anxiety in my LPC-Internship (under the supervision of the amazing Erin James, LPC-S), I have found a great need for resources like this. I have even created a quick sheet that you could supplement the story with. You can find that for FREE in my TPT store HERE.




I am also giving away a FREE copy of this book. Check out the instructions on Facebook to enter! Have wonderful week and enjoy the rest of the week with your students!
Melanie
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Happy almost September...say whaaat?!?! How is that even possible. I am over here still trying to get myself together and Starbucks will be breakin' out the pumpkin spice latte soon. August and September always flash before our eyes. With my new position, getting my own kiddos ready for back to school, and me and my husband's side projects (more about that later)...it has been busy, as I am sure it has been for all of you. I hope you have welcomed sweet students through your doors and have had time to catch your breath.

One thing that has really been on my heart to blog about has been Leadership. I don't mean leadership as an administrator or central office staff member (while those are important, too) but I simply mean leadership.

I was thinking about what it means to be a leader. Sounds simple enough...to be a leader means to lead. Yet, so often we get titles and leadership confused. Leadership goes way beyond titles. Leadership isn't something you magically inherit when you obtain a certain role. To be a leader is an action. To be a leader is something you choose to do when it's not easy. To be a leader is to take risks. To be a leader is to be passionate about something and want to share that excitement with others.

I can remember throughout my career thinking that when I have this job or that job, I can do "x, y, and z." I remember telling myself I couldn't be part of starting a new initiative because I wasn't in a "leadership role." I would think about the next job I could get where I could impact more, do more, or lead.  In reality, I could have been a leader right where I was. It wasn't about what position I held, it was about my mindset. In education, I feel that we all do this at times (I am guilty of it). We tell ourselves if I was in this place or in this position, it would be better or I could do more. It's almost as if we sabotage ourselves. I love the quote that says, "The grass isn't greener on the other side, it is green where you water it." I remember there was a poster of this at the middle school I worked it. It has stuck with me since then.

That very quote is what keeps me joyful. Sometimes we are in tough situations or our hearts are set on something else but it is our outlook and perception that can make all of the difference. Remember, you can lead and impact exactly where you are. I truly believe we are all put in the position and place we are for a reason. We have the choice to embrace it and lead.

As a back to school gift. I am sharing this reversible door sign. It serves a purpose with a side of humor. You can find it in my TPT store for FREE HERE!

TIP: As I shared before, a great place to print items with a lot of color are UPS stores. I do all of my personal printing and even some work printing there. I can usually look at Retail Me Not for coupon codes. The ink and paper quality are pretty amazing.




Have a great rest of the week and take time for you!
-Melanie
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Friends...how is August almost here? I am hoping you had an opportunity to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. One of the vital parts of being a counselor is self care, right?

I was recently reading an article on mindfulness in children. With technology providing multiple distractions and immediate responses and gratification, mindfulness is something that we are losing touch of. I think we can all agree that this is very true with adults, as well.

So, how can we teach mindfulness to our students? There are so many benefits to mindful practice in our schools and with our kids. Below are a few easy ways to start:


  • Start small with deep breathing and sitting in a relaxed position (start off with just one or two minutes). Have students close their eyes or focus on something for a minute. 
  • Use a fun app. I have talked about Go Noodle before and I am sure many of us use it. It has a whole piece simply for mindfulness. They have tons of channels and one of them is called Flow. It has relaxation and mindfulness activities. 



  • Use items to help practice mindfulness like sensory bottles, snow globes, or an hourglass with sand. Have students watch it settle and focus on it. Reflect on what they were thinking about and what it was like to relax and be mindful of the sand or glitter as it fell. 
  • Use literacy to help students gain a better understanding. An amazing book to do this with is Julia Cook's new book Be Where Your Feet Are!! 
          I absolutely love this book. It is very unique because I have not seen many stories that focus on mindfulness. I think it is something we talk to kids about all the time but it can be hard to describe how it affects us. 


Julia Cook does a phenomenal job, once again, by really relating to how kids feel, giving vivid examples of what those feelings look like, and how to control them in a healthy way. She describes a young boy's day and how the many tasks and thoughts affect his day. I love the reoccurring theme and saying, "Be where your feet are!" It is an easy, catchy quote to teach students about being mindful and present. 

As I read this book, I kept thinking of the countless kiddos I have talked to that describe the very same feeling described by the character in the book. This is definitely a must have for your counseling libraries and would be great for a guidance lesson.  You can purchase the book HERE

To celebrate the release of this amazing, new book. I am giving away 2 copies to start your school year off with. To enter, like this blog post on Facebook and share. A winner will be announced this Friday, August 3rd


Have a wonderful rest of your week. It is such an exciting time of year full of being busy, don't forget to take care of you! :) 

Melanie
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I want to apologize for how long this may be. I had had a lot of requests and messages for this post, so here you go! :)
When I began graduate school right after undergraduate, I knew I wanted to one day be a licensed professional counselor (I kind of want to be everything one day). I had it all planned out. I would graduate with my Masters degree and would immediately start my hours towards becoming a licensed professional counselor but as life usually works, things didn’t go as planned. When I started graduate school the plan was to wait years before having kiddos. When I graduated in December 2009, I had a 2 and half year old precious boy and was pregnant with a baby girl. Although, my dream was to do it, being a mom that could devote more time to my babies was much more important and I don’t ever regret it. Being a full time working mom of 2 kids under 3 and working on those hours would have been too much at the time.



Fast forward 8 years later. Becoming a LPC had still been on my heart and one day after thyroid surgery, I received a call that really prompted me to go after it. I got a call from the surgeon saying they had found a small amount of malignant carcinoma. I went to the next doctor which said it was papillary thyroid cancer. It was all taken out and they continue to monitor. It was such a blessing that it was all pretty quick and easy.

However, that experience really made me reflect. What if it would have been worse? What if it ever got bad to where I couldn’t have worked full time? Being a wife and mom are my top priorities but I also find so much joy working with people. I felt as if all of that was a push from God. I talked to my husband and knew this was the next step for me. I do not have plans of pursuing this full time or anything because I LOVE working in the schools but knew it was something I wanted to do and soon. I immediately began studying for the NCE. Below are the steps I had to do and check off:

  • I first had to go to my state’s website (I am in Texas) to see what the requirements were. I printed it off and made a checklist. One of the things that comes up is what kind of degree or classes are required. When I worked on my masters I did not get a Masters of Education, I received a Masters of Science. I went with the 3 and a half years degree plan, it was around 63 something hours. It included what I needed to be a LPC (clinical and classes on diagnosis) and a school counselor.
  • I had to get approved through the National Board of Certified Counselors to take the National Counseling Exam (which is required in my state and almost all I believe). I had to fill out some forms and get my graduate transcript to them to ensure I had the correct degree/classes. Make sure when you do this step to ensure you are applying to take the test and not to become a national board certified counselor. You can do both but it not done correctly you won’t get approved to take the needed test (I almost made that mistake).
  • I studied as hard as I ever had in my life for the test. Remember I had a 9 year gap between graduating with my masters so I had to refresh on a lot of material, especially the new DSM-5. I am a positive person but I was almost certain I was not going to pass (where was my positive self talk, right...lol). I used a great website I found online called National Counseling exam. It was exactly what I needed. You can choose how many days you would like to use the program. It had printable features like study guides which I made a binder out of but I mostly used the online study tools and practice exams which were the most helpful part.


  • After passing the exam, I began to look for a supervisor. You must secure a supervisor and have them complete an agreement with you before you can submit all your paperwork to the state. I simply looked online. There were so many great ones out there but I knew I wanted someone with different experiences than I had. My background is all school so I knew I wanted to expand my knowledge base so I looked for someone that had more of a hospital/clinical background. I contacted her, we met up to see if we were both a good fit for each other, and I had my first supervision this past week. Once you are officially approved through the state, you can begin your hours. I can tell I am going to love supervision time with her. I already learned something new!
  • After I completed the test, finding a supervisor, and gathering all the required documentation (transcripts, application, state paperwork), I took the Texas Jurisprudence exam. This is not a pass/fail test, this is more a review of ethics in regards to counseling.
  • I bought a bright pink envelope because I wanted to send this in a “counselor version-Elle Woods” way. I wanted it to stand out because I knew it was going to take months to get approval. I sent it the fastest way possible. (Note: It did take around 2 months but not as bad as I had expected).

  • Now I am working on getting my 3000 supervised hours. 1500 are direct counseling (counseling and conversations with parents/families) and 1500 indirect (assessments, researching, documentation, weekly meetings with my supervisor).

Finally a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern under the supervision of Erin James LPC-S

I hope that helps if you are considering starting the process. Just a reminder that I am in Texas so if you are in another state, the requirements could be different. Please feel free to message me any questions.

There are some exciting things with the blog coming up!! I have a collaboration in the works with another blogger! We will have a bit of spin off with a FB group, new blog, and more!

I am also working on a Top 10 Back to School post and I can’t wait to share it with you! Hope you are all enjoying your summer!

Love & Positive Vibes,
Melanie
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When talking to fellow administrators, one of the topics that frequently comes up is visibility on campus. Sometimes, we have weeks with many meetings or are handling situations where we may not have the opportunity to be out in the building as much as we would like to.

As an elementary counselor, I would feel this way, too, and often I would take my counseling bag and just visit kiddos in the hall and devote a day to being around the building and doing check ins. With all the duties of a counselor, those days reminded me of my why.

 I do not like the feeling of not being as visible to the staff and students. Having a mobile office is the perfect solution. I have seen it floating around on Twitter and Instagram and thought I would give it a try. I know Megan does it, as well, at her campus. I even had the privilege of seeing her "wheel" by one day when I was at a meting. So what exactly is a mobile office? Basically, you grab a cart or flex/standing desk, grab your laptop and walkie, and anything you need to work on and work around the building. I was also doing classroom walk throughs so I didn't have a specific place to station myself. If a discipline situation came up or a staff member needed me, I had my walkie and my phone. I actually was able to "roll on over" to where I was needed and it worked beautifully. Outside of my office door, I put a sign that said I would be in my mobile office and to please text me if they needed me so if anyone stopped by, they would know how to reach me.


I loved being able to answer any questions, address any situations quickly, and for the students and staff to not have to come to me in the office, instead I was right there to serve them. I actually got a lot of work done in between walk throughs. The students loved saying hello in the hall.  It was something so simple yet gave me the opportunity to be available and serve, which is what I aim to do.

Our campus had purchased the standing desk that I am using in the picture above. We have one we share in the office and we had a few that we have used for students that need them in the classroom. I do not have the link to the specific one I am using but there is a similar option that you can find HERE. Megan has a nice, oval shaped standing desk that has a lot more room. Of course, you can also use a cart or you could station yourself in a particular hallway with a regular desk and chair.

Regardless of how you do it or what you use, the goal is to be available, visible, and enjoy being a part of the campus where everything is taking place...right in the halls and classrooms.


-Melanie




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