The Spirited School Counselor

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Fostering Resilient Learners: a must read

Resilient Learners

Disclosure of material connection: Some of the links in the post below are “affiliated links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item I will receive a small commission. With that said, I only recommend items that I have found useful as a school counselor and educator. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


I just finished my first read of the summer and it was fantastic, inspiring, and encouraging! If you checked out my previous post on summer reads for 2016 you would have found this one mentioned there. The book: Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kristin Souers with Pete Hall was better than I had hoped.

Kristin Souers’s background is in mental health and Pete Hall’s resume includes teaching and administrator. The combination equates to realistic ways to use the information they are sharing, which if we are being honest doesn’t always seem to happen in professional development books. Part of why it feels do-able is because they encourage self-reflection and questioning when you find yourself in situations with a student, which I love.


The book, itself, is broken down into 5 sections:

  1. Trauma
  2. Self-Awareness
  3. Relationship
  4. Belief
  5. Live, Laugh, Love (Self-Care)


Section 1: Trauma explains what trauma is and looks like. The authors also discuss ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences – and how they impact a student’s education and what it might look like in the classroom. From there they explore how to respond to students in a way that wont hurt your relationship and will benefit the student. All of that in just the first section of the book! What!?!?!


Section 2: Self-awareness helps remind all educators why they started in the helping profession they are in. There are some self-reflecting questions that made me pause and think. They also give tips on how to stay grounded amid chaos that occurs in schools sometimes, as well as identifying your own and students’ triggers. As the saying goes, “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable” and they give strategies to help prevent some of the chaos.


Section 3: Relationships is my favorite because I feel that relationships are such a key component in education. One of the things the authors suggest is that we do not have to have life changing relationships with all of our students but, instead, we should aim to be “safe-enough and healthy-enough for every person in our lives.” For me, this was a game changer in the way I think about establishing relationships with all 400+ of my students. I marked this section of the book up (okay, I did this through the entire book)! There are just so many great nuggets of information and ideas.

One of the things Pete Hall said really stood out to me, “The first seven seconds of our interaction with every student in our school should be brimming with enthusiasm, joy, compliments, or some sort of friendly banter.” This can help a student get back on track after a rough morning on the bus or at home, this can help a student feel welcomed into school, this can make a student’s day. You never know how it can positively impact a student but it only takes 7 seconds and it gets everyone off to a good start. When I am free in the mornings I tend to be a greeter at our front door. This was a great reminder about how important that moment in the hall is AND the importance of being present, consistent, and available.

The last thing I am going to mention about this section is that I had lots of thoughts about Love & Logic as I read. There is a great emphasis with the Love & Logic approach and this book also puts a needed emphasis on relationships. If you are at all familiar with Love & Logic (and I am just learning about this approach) then I think a lot of this section will resonate with you too.


Section 4: Belief focused on your personal mindset about the students, families, and parents you work with each day. This section makes you evaluate how you view the kids you work with. There have certainly been moments in my short career as a school counselor where I have wondered if what I do at school will make any difference because of the up-hill battle students have outside of the school. I have been able to get myself out of that slump of hopelessness quickly and this book encourages that. The authors push the reader to think of what you CAN accomplish in the hours we have control over – the time the students ARE at school. We have an incredible opportunity as educators to make a true difference (even if we never hear about or see it ourselves). This section also touches on our own fears – fear and expectation that meltdowns will occur, that misbehaviors will happen, that we will not have control. Again, the authors give suggestions on ways to try to prevent the problem since many times they are predictable.

At my school I head B.E.S.T. meetings (Behavior Education Support Team) that focus on looking at students poor behavior choices and how the school can better support the student. Teachers fill out a request for assistance form and then we meet as a team (admin, counselor, psychologist, teachers, other parties involved). This section of the book gave me an entirely new outlook and approach for these meetings. I sent myself several work emails to ensure I don’t forget the points in this book.


Section 5: Live, Laugh, Love is broken down into 3 tiny sections on grace, cookies (praise & self-praise), and self-care. I found the overarching theme self-care, which I struggle with. The authors remind us that we have to model to our students what these things look like and then we can empower them to do the same in their own lives. Self-care is an important part of our jobs but if you are like me, it usually gets neglected. The authors break down self-care into 4 pieces: health, lvoe, competence, and gratitude. They also have a self-care challenge. Although I dont think I will follow the challenge to a T, I have made it a goal of mine this summer to build up a routine so once school begins again in August it will be easier (hopefully this plan works).

When the authors wrote about grace they asked the readers to think of an especially difficult parent that they’ve had to work with in the past or are still working with. Then challenge the reader to think of that parent’s greatest strength. I am going to try really hard to remember to do this in a difficult situation. Everyone we work with has strengths. Identifying them helps us view others with compassion. I loved this point, as well. Kids “need to know they came from something good” and that they have value. Sometimes we have to be the ones that help them find that value and goodness. With that said, one of the best things in the chapter on grace is a chart: blame versus grace in the classroom. I imagine I will refer to this page often during the school year when brainstorming with staff members about certain situations.

The biggest piece I took away from the cookie chapter was that “praise can actually be a trigger” for some students. I had never thought about that before but it makes a lot of sense. This chapter talks about the importance of praise, self-praise, and ways to incorporate it into our work with students.


Here are the authors speaking about their book:

Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom from ASCD Author to Author Videos on Vimeo.


I seriously loved this book and can’t recommend it enough. As soon as I finished it I sent out a staff-wide email about it, posted it on my personal facebook page as well as a counseling group, and personally mentioned it to some staff members, admin included, hoping they would read this book. I offered up my personal copy if they didn’t want to buy it. I work in a Title I school and many of my students have experienced a lot of trauma, but even if you don’t work in a high-needs school this book is for you. There are kids who have experienced trauma at every school and this book is a great resource. The authors challenge you to reflect on yourself and your role in kids lives, as well. Read Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom! You wont regret it.

Thanks for stopping by!




End of Year Needs Assessment


This year I was new to what felt like everything… new school, new grade levels (switched from middle to elementary), new area, and a very different population in terms of needs and background.

My first instinct was to settle in for a little while and build relationships with some staff members before jumping into data. I know some may disagree with this approach but I felt like I needed to earn at least some of the staffs trust and get some buy in before sending out a needs assessment.

This school year I sent out 3 needs assessments – 1 towards the beginning of the year (about 9 weeks into the school year), 1 following winter break, and 1 at the end of the year.

My initial one had a broad focus to give me an idea about what the staff felt was needed in the school. My mid-year assessment stemmed from learning that there was a high need for a social-emotional focus. My end of year assessment asked for feedback from staff, provided information for my annual goal, and gave me a great amount of direction for next school year.

I was a little nervous about getting feedback from the staff but overall it was really positive. This year I made it anonymous but I think in the future I will ask for names. This was actaully a suggestion from my admin. I sent out the needs assessment and a reminder email but I still didn’t get full staff participation. I am assumming this is due to end of year testing and busyness in general. If I ask for names I will be able to send out a reminder email to those staff members who didn’t complete the form. It will also allow for staff members to know whether or not they actually completed the form since google allows you to limit 1 response per email.

You can see a copy of my end of year needs assessment below:

As I built this needs assessment I looked at several school counseling needs assessments I found online. I borrowed a lot of The Helpful Counselor’s categories and format. I asked teachers to check off the 5 most important topics instead of using a likert scale. I used the 1-5 scale in my first 2 assessments but found that many topics came up as a high need. I decided to use check boxes so I would get a better idea for the most important needs of our school. Exploring School Counseling blog also has a few needs assessment examples for students, families, and staff.

As I was working on this blog post I found another format that really emphasizes the ASCA model within the needs assessment. I may consider using Alachua County Public School’s format in the future.

Not sure how to create a google form? Head over to Educational Technology for a step-by-step guide to build your first google survey.

With that said, I really like using google forms as a base for my needs assessment. Not only is it user-friendly, but it also analyzes the data for me!

I’d love to hear how you create your needs assessments and what works for you.

Thanks for stopping by!



Summer Reading for School Counselors, 2016 edition


Disclosure of material connection: Some of the links in the post below are “affiliated links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item I will receive a small commission. With that said, I only recommend items that I have found useful as a school counselor and educator. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


One of my most popular past posts has been my summer reading list so I decided to make it an annual occurrence. This year I have a stack of books picked out and I hope to read them all this summer. You may notice one is a repeat from the last list. This is because I don’t always make it through all of my summer reading books.


I’m half way through Fostering Resilient Learners and am loving it! I have learned some great information as well as new ways to help teachers build stronger relationships with their students. It’s written by a veteran mental health clinician and an experienced principal. The authors are a fantastic combination for a school counselor, but really any educator. I don’t know about you, but my grad program didn’t go into too much detail on ways to help children who’ve had a traumatic event be successful in school. This book has been a great introduction for me and I can’t wait to learn more ways to create a trauma-sensitive classroom (and school).


One of the things I mentioned on my year-end reflection was that I would like to use data to show my effectiveness as a counselor next year. I hope to do this by reading 2 books: The Use of Data in School Counseling: Hatching Results for Students, Programs, and the Profession & Facilitating Evidence-Based, Data-Driven School Counseling: A Manual for Practice. I did collect enough data to create a G.R.I.P. for one of my groups this year but I want to do more in the future. I’m hoping these books can help!

Two of the books are from Love & Logic. I recently attended a one day training on this approach and connected with many of the ideas and strategies to use with students. They put a great emphasis on relationships and empathy, which I love! I want to learn more and hope to this summer! The two books I decided to buy at the conference were Creating a Love & Logic School Culture and From Bad Grades to a Great Life!: Unlocking the Mystery of Achievement for Your Child (Love and Logic).


A couple other books that are on the table for possible reading this summer focus on challenging behaviors and mindset. As an elementary counselor I find myself helping with challenging behaviors far more than I did as a middle school counselor. One of my co-workers recommended How to Reach and Teach Children with Challenging Behavior (K-8): Practical, Ready-to-Use Interventions That Work and I am looking forward to checking it out. Positive Strategies for Students with Behavior Problems is in the same realm but I am hoping to get some fresh ideas from it! Lastly, a couple on mindset! I attended our state counselor conference earlier this year and attended a great session on mindset. I even did a lesson on growth and fixed mindset for my 4th graders after I attended. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools were both referred to during the presentation.



What are you reading this summer? I’d love to hear whats on your P.D. summer reading list (or your for-fun reading list!) as well as any recommendations.

Thanks for stopping by!