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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Vision Boards & Random Acts of Kindness Day 2020 Ideas

Hello, friends. I don't know about all of you but I have had the most amazing weekend because, here, in the Dallas area we have had the most beautiful weather ever. It was a beautiful 75 degrees today so we enjoyed plenty of time outdoors. I truly believe that sunshine and playing outside brings JOY!!!

There is even some research that proves sunshine brings the positve vibes.

"Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused." 
"Sunlight cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin."

-Healthline.com
Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD on May 25, 2018 Written by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN

Today I wanted to share a little about vision boards. My friend and I went to a workshop in my neighborhood at the start of the year to create vision boards for the new year. My other friend had also led a group activity in counseling supervision this past year. 

Vision boards are such an easy, wonderful way to focus in on goals and a vision for your future. When creating a vision board and planning for the future, the individual or group you are working with can decide the timeline. For example, maybe it is 6 months, 1 year, or 5 years. 

The supplies you need are quite minimal. You can use large construction paper, poster board, or a cork board (what our neighborhood session used). From there, you can have magazines, newspaper, ability to print pictures online, stickers, scrapbook material. You can create it with minimal supplies or you can go all out! 



I truly believe that when setting goals, creating a visual makes it seem much more attainable. Just like writing down your checklist can sometimes be motivating, I think seeing what you hope for your future to be can inspire you to DO.

Here is a picture of my finished product:


Another key piece when creating a vision board is to display it somewhere that you will actually see it. I always recommend a client or student to put it in a place where they start the day or get ready so it is right there to remind you of your goals. 

I actually plan to do a vision board night with my husband and kids. What a fun, cheap family night where we can talk about our hopes and dreams...and create visuals of it!!

Another thing I want to share is that tomorrow (Monday, February 17th) is Random Acts of Kindness Day!!! I believe in random acts of kindness everyday but what a fun way to highlight this with students. If you are on low on time, I  have a kind note from the counselor HERE.

Print a few on color paper, cut out, and leave positive notes around your building for teachers, students, parents, etc.

Need a few ideas but you are low on time? Here are a few, super quick ideas:

  • Have blank post its in a central location with a sign that says to write a positive note and pass it on
  • Have each hallway or grade level choose a kindness project tomorrow but give them a deadline to complete it. Have them write their kindness project on butcher paper, decorate, and they can all sign it and hang it at the end of their hall or in the main hallway
  • Highlight random acts of kindness that have been done this school year on announcements. Celebrate kindness and hopefully it will spread!!!
  • Show these precious Pass It On videos HERE during lunches or during announcements (if your school is set up for that)
I hope you all have a wonderful Random Acts of Kindness day tomorrow. I am staying up tonight to write some encouraging notes to various people. Remember, it does not have to be something that costs money. Kindness is FREE!!! 





Melanie

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Self Care Sunday and Compassion Fatigue

Sometimes caring too much can hurt. I have struggled with this a lot as an educator and parent. I care so much that sometimes it causes stress. For those of you who may be reading this and are educators, this may sound familiar. We love our students so much and so badly want to ensure we are supporting them to the very best of our ability. We think about how they may be doing over breaks, for some we may worry if their basic needs are being met, and we may worry or stress about how they are doing socially, emotionally, and academically.

There are many professions that can experience compassion fatigue: health professionals, counselors, caregivers of those who may be ill or aging...but what exactly is compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is an emotional (and sometimes physical) state that one experiences when they are preoccupied with the stress or suffering of those that they are helping which can sometimes cause a secondary stress for the person who is helping.

What are the symptoms of compassion fatigue?

The American Institute of Stress outlines the following:

Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue
– Affects many dimensions of your well-being
– Nervous system arousal (Sleep disturbance)
– Emotional intensity increases
– Cognitive ability decreases
– Behavior and judgment impaired
– Isolation and loss of morale
– Depression and PTSD (potentiate)
– Loss of self-worth and emotional modulation
– Identity, worldview, and spirituality impacted
– Beliefs and psychological needs-safety, trust, esteem, intimacy, and control
– Loss of hope and meaning=existential despair
– Anger toward perpetrators or causal events


Compassion fatigue is a process, it doesn't just happen overnight. You may be reading this right now and thinking, "Oh my goodness!!! I have compassion fatigue!" You very well might be suffering from it. So, how do we overcome compassion fatigue??

Below are some tips. Let me preface this by saying I am far from perfect. I have to remind myself to practice these very things (especially sleep). But can I tell you how powerful positivity and starting your day with something motivational is? I wake up each day with positive self talk.
The struggle is real but these are some tips to set you up for success.
 I can't even begin to share how important it is to have "a person." Someone you can call and vent to and then laugh about it with. I think out of the whole list that is the most important. It's good to have someone you can trust and share with. We never want to carry our negativity on our sleeve and then live in it because we will be what we carry.

Now on the same note, I want to talk about Self Care Sunday! 
Remember that self care can be as simple as taking a warm bath and watching a funny show or curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee. However, self care is more than that. Self care is realizing what you want and adjusting your routine and habits to get you there. If you are finding yourself frantically trying to get through the week, set aside time to intentionally plan and put habits into place like prepping each Sunday. Self  care can be a little moment or a life changing moment. 

I am so excited about some things to come to share with you all in the next month (a new book). 

Some of you have asked about my LPC, as well, and it is going great. I am on track to finish in February. It has went by so fast and I am loving every moment of it. I know supporting others is what I was made to do and I can't believe I will be finished soon. I am a bit sad because I love my supervisor and our group. 

On a side note, I have to share this picture. For those of you that have watched my videos...I always start with a "Hey, yall!" My sweet Ella took this picture of me this past weekend at a little shop with a mug with that saying. 
I hope you all have a great week and make sure to take time for you. We talk about SEL needs for our students...remember they are just as important for those leading them! 


Melanie

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Negative Self Talk: The Awfulizer Book Giveaway & FREEBIE!

Negative self talk. This is something I think every person struggles with. I pride myself on having a positive outlook but can I tell you that negative self talk creeps in at times and it can sometimes limit what I do? I am an adult who is trained in mental health yet I am such a victim of this at times. So, how can we work with kids and teenagers with negative self talk?

I received this book a few weeks ago. It is called the Awfulizer: Learning to Overcome the Shame Game by Kristin Maher and illustrated by Robert Dunn.


Y'all, I am LOVING it. If you know me, I love all books but this one illustrates negative self talk and how to overcome it. The negative self talk is portrayed as a big, green, fluffy creature which won't be intimidating for younger children.

I have never utilized a book about self talk and shame. The book details strategies the character uses to overcome the Awfulizer and how to become an AWESOMIZER!!! This can also be tied in with having a growth mindset and grit.


This would be perfect for a small group lesson or a guidance lesson. After reading through this book, it got me thinking of how I could use it with a client or counseling group, so I created this FREEBIE that you can get HERE!


This is geared for students who can independently write or you can use this one sheet in a small group and the teacher can fill in the chart as the group members go around and share.

If you are interested in this book, you can check it out HERE.

Another thing I wanted to share that would be great to use for high school is this video. Although the animations look as if they are geared towards younger students, this is actually targeted for high school and even adults. As mental health professionals, we are all very familiar with good ol' Cognitive Behavior Therapy. If not, Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a treatment that helps clients truly understand their thoughts and feelings and how they affect or impact their behavior.

This 2 minute video gives two strategies that students or adults can use: 1. Distract    2. Combat
This would be great to show a group and then discuss or journal how they can utilize those two strategies when facing negative self talk.


I hope these resources are helpful for you to use in your school counseling program or in your counseling practice. I am excited to begin consistently blogging (my goal is every week)!!!

Take care of others and take care of YOU!

-Melanie




Saturday, April 20, 2019

Balance: Book Review of Seraphina Does Everything!

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

Monday, March 25, 2019

Social Emotional Learning


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

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Counselor Introduction, My Counselor is a Princess, and #NSCW19

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 or happy. 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 husband'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 invest in your well being.













Melanie

Monday, November 19, 2018

My Teacher is An Elf and Writing Our Own Books

Hello, friends. Happy Almost Thanksgiving. I have my fingers crossed for days full of naps, wearing my pj's and robe all day, and watching Hallmark movies kind of relaxation.

I have been meaning to share a little about our (my husband and I) new journey writing books. Since I was in college we wanted to write a book. My husband, Joey, has also loved doodling and drawing. I still have notes from him when we were in college with characters all over it. For you young ones, we totally wrote notes before texting...haha!

We both had kept ideas of books we wanted to one day write together. We always thought it would be cool to be a husband and wife team...and here we are today. We have three books available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and plenty more coming. Our first three are all a similar style but we are excited about our upcoming ones that have a totally different feel and look.

With it being the holidays, we are excited to share about our recent release My Teacher is an Elf. This book is based on my years as a 1st grade and Kindergarten teacher and my students' suspicions. You can find it here.


This book was written for pure fun to be enjoyed by all but it was really written from the viewpoint of a teacher to use during shared reading. There are plenty of opportunities to make inferences, discuss character traits, and comparing and contrasting.

Something we were so excited to hear about is how a Elementary Principal is using it in Florida. We received a snippet of the email she sent to her awesome staff and we think this is a pretty neat idea!



My Teacher is An Elf On the Shelf???!!!! Whhhaaattt???!!!!

You know how those ornery elves hide during the holiday season? You find 'em in a different place every day (well, almost every day😉)...Those elves are usually up to somethin' no good!

Well, we have a similar scenario that's going to be happenin' here at Sterling Park! From the Monday after Thanksgiving through the last day before Winter break, ornery elves are going to be hiding one book each night, the lucky finder of the book gets to keep it! What's the book called you ask?

My Teacher is an Elf! By Joey and Melanie Acker


We will have our own My Teacher is an Elf on the Shelf hunt! Be on the lookout each day for the book! It could be hidden anywhere! When you find it, send an email to STPE-AllStaff with the location that you found the treasure so we'll all know it has been found for the day.

We can't wait to see pictures of all the fun they have. If you are using out book in your classroom or on your campus, please feel free to share pictures. We would LOVE to see them. You can email us at joeyandmelaniebooks@yahoo.com. You can also follow us on Instagram & Twitter @ackerbooks and like us on Facebook here.

We also have My P.E. Teacher is a Ninja and My Counselor is a Princess. You can find each of them HERE and HERE

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving, eat lots of pie, and take plenty of naps. 



Melanie