End Poor Hygiene with Students Once and for All

Talking about hygiene with your students is never easy.  Trying to throw hints never works because they can't smell themselves and usually have no idea that they smell.  Every year, teachers ask me to address this issue with specific students.  Although I don't mind having individual conversations with students who are missing the mark on good hygiene, I like to start off with a group discussion.  I've struggled with finding fresh new ways to address this issue with students.  This year, I decided to turn my discussion points into a game that students can play in small groups. 

My goal is to use humor to break the ice and make it easier to have those tough conversations.  The discussion cards have real world advice to get students to start thinking about their own habits.
Click HERE to download the game.

5 Days to Reduce Teacher Burnout

It must be that time of year.  State testing is over.  Convincing students that we still have work to do is getting increasingly difficult.  It's dig deep time.

Good students are getting detention.  The sweetest teachers are cussing.  The principal is not looking anyone in the eye.  The financial secretary is hiding in her office with the door locked.  Parents are calling with complaints and I am wondering why the year doesn't just end already! 

At my school, we spend the week after testing decompressing and educating staff about the importance of the little things in life that keep us going physically and emotionally.   We know that if teachers can model a refreshing happy attitude, it will trickle down to the students.   With a different theme each day and a small daily treat, we slowly unwind from what may be the most stressful week of the year.

1.  Mindful Monday
On this day, we reflect on our mindset and how it affects our reality.  Having a positive attitude about stress is more helpful than actually reducing stress, according to Stanford Psychologists.  I like to put growth mindset coloring sheets on the tables along with a sound machine with spa music.  This year, we had a local chiropractor give ten minute massages all day in exchange for having flyers in our lounge.

2.  Tranquil Tuesday
On this day, we look at multiple ways to calm ourselves through breathing and relaxing activities.  Local spas send us coupons for massages and salon services.

3.  Wellness Wednesday
On this day, we concentrate on nutrition and exercise.  This is a great opportunity for a jeans and sneakers day.  Local health clubs and nutritional service reps send us coupons and flyers for their businesses.  Organizing an after school exercise class is always a bonus.

4.  Thankful Thursday
On this day, we focus on our blessings.  Gratitude is linked to stress reduction.  I like to place "I am thankful for" coloring sheets on the tables.

5.  Fun Friday
On this day, we let loose and discover many different ways to laugh more.  We recommend funny books, movies, and activities that will keep us in stitches.  A large group of us even booked tickets to see Eddie B. Comedy, a teacher turned comedian who knows the struggle. Organizing an after school potluck is on my agenda for next year's Stress busters Week.

 The week would not have been complete without a youtube loop of Gerry Brooks and Eddie B Comedy streaming in the lounge.

Thank you for reading about our week full of self care.  
Click to download the

Digital Footprint


What is a digital footprint?

 Your digital footprint includes all of the information about your online activity including shopping habits, check-in locations, pictures, comments, posts,  web browsing history and any other information posted by you or others about you. 

Did you know?

  • Colleges look at your social media history.
  • Businesses look at your social media history when you apply for a job.
  • Anyone can easily steal your information and pictures to create a fake account.
  • Nothing is ever truly deleted from cyberspace.
  • Cyber bullying can be punishable by law.
  • Sending or receiving indecent pictures of yourself is considered child pornography by law  if you are under 18

These days, it's hard to avoid a large digital footprint.  So it's important to be sure that the things that you say online are always positive.  Even when you are sharing something privately between a few people, remember that it could end up being seen by many more.  IF there is anyone in the world who you wouldn't want to read something that you post, don't post it. 

Download this free self-assessment to evaluate the size of your digital footprint. 
FREE Self-Assessment

You can download the full lesson here:
 Social Media and Internet Safety Lesson

Friend or Frenemy

The line between friend and frenemy can be hard to clearly define.  Teens and tweens need to educate themselves on how to spot a toxic friendship and how to identify healthy relationships.
Without fail, my office is flooded every year with reports of mean girls and friendships gone wrong.  This behavior begins in elementary school and continues well into middle school.  I created a small group friendship lesson that educates girls on how to self assess their own behaviors, evaluate their friendships, and begin healing or moving away from some of those relationships.
Using a "friendship scale," girls begin to see that everyone can move back and forth along the spectrum of healthy and unhealthy behaviors.  The idea is to recognize that and move towards the healthy side.
Click to see full lesson: http://bit.ly/2gMP4GL

Once they see that friendship skills are on a continuum, they realize that they have room for improvement.  I encourage girls to work on their friendships before burning bridges with friends.  If an attempt is not made by the other friend, then it is time to move on and seek friends who are willing to put in the effort stay healthy and happy.  

Sample practice sheet from the "Friend or Frenemy" group counseling lesson on TPT.  

 Learning how to spot toxic relationships with friends is an important stepping stone of development. These are skills that will be used as they get older and begin to have romantic relationships.

Friendship Lessons: http://bit.ly/2mdrP82

Drama is draining.  Girls begin to realize that friendship doesn't have to be hard.  It should be easy and care-free, without fear of "messing up."

Click to see my "Friendship Quiz Show" from TPT 


Let's Talk about Suicide

Nobody wants to talk about it.  Nobody thinks it will happen to their friend or family member.  Nobody thinks a ten year old would do it.  Nobody would ever suspect that their happy, amazingly funny friend has thought about it throughout their life and that humor has been their only way to survive.  Nobody wants to think that it is the third leading cause of death in our youth.

ONE in FIVE teenagers in the U.S. seriously considers suicide annually.  (CDC)

Unless you have experienced the dark side, the dark thoughts, or the feeling of complete and utter hopelessness, you might not ever consider how dangerous and dark the mind can become.

Suicide is a preventable killer.  Knowing the signs can and will save lives.  You just have to believe that it DOES happen and it CAN happen to people that you love who you would never suspect would do such a thing.

Did you know that most people that attempt suicide had told more than one person that they were going to do it, but those people didn't believe them, or didn't know what to do with the information?   Did you know that when someone decides to kill themselves, they may begin to seem happy again and that this is actually a very dangerous time period?  Let's talk about what to look for and the things that we can do to help, to save a life.

As a middle school counselor, I have seen my fair share of children with suicidal ideations.   Usually these students don't just show up in my office one day to let me know that they need help.  When a student is feeling this level of hopelessness, they really don't think help is possible.  Therefore, they often don't seek help.  Often, with their impulsive thinking, they come up with the only solution that they feel will offer relief, which is, sadly, suicide.  That is when PEERS become critical.  Their peers are the ones who are receiving these red flags and hearing the kinds of things that would indicate suicidal thoughts.   Our youth need to be trained to follow up with their friends and TAKE them to an adult for help, even at the risk of the friend getting mad at them.  Often the one thing that saves a life is that the friend was brave enough to tell an adult that actually went through with getting the resources needed to help the family.  I applaud every child who has ever stepped into my office and was brave enough to say "My friend may need help."  This statement is usually followed by, "I promised I wouldn't tell anyone, but I am scared he/she will do it if I don't do something."   These brave kids are my heroes.


"It's just not worth it anymore."  "Nothing seems to matter."  "Why are we even here?"  "Nobody really cares."

"They won't have to worry about me for much longer."  "Maybe everybody would be better off without me."  "The world would be better off if I wasn't in it."

If someone is diagnosed with or has signs of depression, getting medical attention is crucial, because depression alone can cause suicidal thoughts.

Telling friends what songs they would like to be played at their funeral.  Discussing caskets and flowers for their funeral.

A funny person becomes sullen.  An "A" student is suddenly failing classes.  An athlete stops going to practice.  They quit activities they once enjoyed.  They no longer hang out with friends.  A loud person becomes quiet.

Giving away prized possessions and not caring about their things anymore.  Making sentimental gifts representing their friendship.  (out of the blue, not for a birthday or special occasion.)

No longer concerned with looks or hygiene.  Not worrying about their looks as much as before.

Writing letters to multiple friends telling them what they mean to them.  Becoming sentimental with friends and giving away tokens of appreciation.  Calling friends, old and new, just to say they care and how much they have meant to them.

Sometimes, but not always, self mutilation (in a variety of forms such as "cutting") can be a precursor to suicide.  It can be a way to "practice" for the real thing.  If somebody has attempted suicide in the past and failed, they are more likely to be successful the next time.  Never assume that it was a cry for attention.  Any cry for attention is concerning and should be addressed.  It's easy to want to say that somebody is just a "drama queen" but even still, this is a big red flag.  If they are begging for attention, they need it.

Once a person has decided to go through with suicide and have a well made plan, the sense of dread of life temporarily leaves.  They have found a peace with it and begin making rounds to tell everyone they love good-bye.

Other things to consider:

I just wanted to add a note about anti-depressive medications.  While these have been proven to be helpful to many people, they can also have the opposite affect, especially the first couple of months.  Please watch your loved ones closely if they start on or change mood medications.

Tweens and Teens are especially vulnerable to suicide because of their impulsive thinking and the tendency to have faulty or distorted thinking patterns such as "catastrophic thinking" and "all or nothing" ways of looking at the world.
The elderly are at risk for a variety of reasons.  Loss of dignity and loss of multiple loved ones over the years can cause depression which is one of the leading causes of suicide.

I tell students that even if they just have a tiny suspicion, that nothing is too silly to report.  We have multiple ways at our school to report these types of concerns.  Our district has a "text-a-tip" phone number for students to make anonymous reports.  We also have a lock box that students can place notes in that only counselors have the keys to open.  I do a suicide awareness training early in the school year.  We get quite a few concerned students coming to the office immediately following our presentation.  Knowledge is power.  Knowledge SAVES lives.

If you want more information about suicide, please visit The Jason Foundation.  They have a 24 hour suicide hotline and helpful resources.

I wish I could say that I wasn't personally affected by suicide.  I hope for you that you never have to experience this type of loss.  One way to cope is to empower others to recognize the signs.

Concerned about someone or yourself?  

Take an Online Screening.

More about The Jason Foundation:
Knowledge is power.  The Jason Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness of youth suicide.  Jason Flatt was a young man who told many friends that he was going to kill himself.  Tragically, nothing was done about it.  His family decided to start this non-profit organization in his memory. The Jason Flatt Act has now passed in 19 states, mandating educators to complete 2 hours of youth suicide awareness and prevention training each year in order to be able to be licensed to teach.  With a simple online request, they will send you free lesson plans, DVD’s with a powerful video of scenarios, powerpoint presentations on a CD, and cards with a 24 hour 1-800 number to hand out to all students after the lesson.   Free professional development resources for teachers is also provided.

Visit: http://bit.ly/2mcIoQA

Zen-sational Therapy Mini Pigs for Schools

There's nothing more relaxing than snuggling up to a mini pig.  Pigs make perfect emotional support animals (ESA) for people with depression, severe anxiety, autism, or post traumatic stress disorder.  They are also used as therapy animals visiting schools and nursing homes.

This baby Juliana pig named Clara caused quite a distraction for teachers at Houston Middle School on this last day before the first day of school for students.  This is an extremely stressful time for educators.  Many of us are rushing around our classrooms like designers trying to beat the clock on an HGTV remodeling show.   Last minute trips to Target's Dollar Spot and checklists on top of checklists are a must this time of year.  Clara was a big hit with teachers today.

Clara is not a registered therapy pig, but I do believe she will be making quite a few more visits to our school this year.  She is such a fast learner, and I hope to teach her many fun tricks to show the kids this year.  After visiting many local pet shops, I realized that I will have to order cute outfits for her online.  Doggie and kitten clothes just don't fit quite right.  I'll try to update this blog throughout the year with more pics of this cutie pie.

Stay tuned for more :D

Need more ZEN?

Back to School Counseling Resource

I'm giving a big, huge, colossal, tremendous shout out to my friend Rebecca from Counselor Up for creating this free ebook for counselors!  She spent weeks collecting amazing and free resources for counselors and putting them together in this downloadable file on TPT.   I am seriously going to Office Depot today to buy an external hard drive to keep all of the files that I have downloaded from Teachers Pay Teachers this summer alone.

On another note, tonight is the first official "school night" for this counselor.  I'm excited and also a bit sad to say farewell to the summer and to sleeping late.  Time to start remembering what day it is and looking at my planner every day to make sure I don't forget something.  Time to start wearing real clothes again (no more pj's until noon -- Who am I kidding -- no more pajamas ALL DAY) and getting into a routine.  At least I have this book to pump me up for a fresh new year!

For those of you who still have summer days ahead of you, make them count!