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Tackling the Weight of the World with Groups

Being that I moved schools this year, I have only had this short year with my great new group of kids.  Next year they will go off to high school and need the skills and good stuff to be ready to tackle the challenges they will find there.  We spend so much time prepping for registration and talking about classes, graduation requirements, and logistical transition needs, that we forget that if the kids don’t have the skills to carry out these more mundane check-boxes, it’s nearly pointless! With all of this in mind, I started to freak out that I wouldn’t be able to get them properly prepared for their next phase, and that old feeling of letting them down started to creep in.

After getting a hold of myself and realizing I was being melodramatic (the hallway hormone osmosis factor), I thought back to a session I attended at the Virginia School Counselor Association this year on small groups.  And viola!  I decided to go in that direction.  I started by establishing a couple of groups based on things I have heard through conferences, parents, and teachers as being barriers to success.  And came up with five groups (the four here and one more for my perfectionists!).

groupgift certificate small group

Currently I am developing the each lesson.  I settled on four sessions each so that I can try to do it twice before our standardized testing starts.  In the meantime, I sent a letter to teachers outlining the project, and included an easy strip of paper that they could use to suggest kids.  These groups are turning out to be so fun to plan, and I am really excited to get started with them in February.

Next up, I need to develop and permission slip for kids and start to get information out and lock in a schedule. My hope is that these groups can be part of my larger effort to help kids start to learn skills to help them operate without the assistance (corner cutting, entertainment, or otherwise) of technology. Updates to come!!

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Selling Ourselves

As far as I’m concerned, any day where I get to watch a Family Vacation scene with students is a good day.  Today we worked on applications for High School Academies (something in our division where students can attend another school, if accepted into a high caliber program). I get a little competitive of my kids during this time when I am in 8th grade, and so I try to provide as many opportunities for perfected their applications as possible.

Academy pop up series

Although crazy, filling out these applications is much like filling out a college application (minus the charge, and FAFSA, so better really). Today’s pop up session was regarding short answer questions, such as future goals, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, etc. I am trying to get the kids to realize that for any application, we are simply selling ourselves so that they stand out against other students from across the city. For Middle Schoolers, I find that just about anything where they get to be social can become engaging.

So alas, I decided to relate how to sell yourself in short answers to how to make a great speech.  We started with talking about the Elevator Speech (which is essentially what we are doing on paper for short answers), and then we discussed a Banquet Speech. That is, how to wrap things up in a really pretty package to make everything sound magical and amazing.

Academy Pop Up 2

Before we ended the session with an open lab where they worked on their application (thank you Google Docs for allowing me to say “share it with me and I’ll read it later” when I Have 60 kids ready for attention!), we make our own toasts; we make them specific and detailed and beautiful.  It is so fun and one of my favorite lessons!

*** This is easily adaptable for High Schoolers in college application workshops, or for career and networking lessons in all grades!

Academy Pop Up 2_

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Moving On

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I’ve been hearing lots of chatter lately about people wondering whether they are where they should be. In relationships, an activity, a possible addiction, with kids (mine’s 15…oy vey), at our school or post, in our industry.

‘I’m done. I’m over it. I can’t do this anymore. Why am I here?’

It doesn’t mater what profession you are in, there are always signs of weary souls wandering around.  But in the education profession, we walk a particular line with questions of moving on. We joke at work that it’s like an abusive relationship.  We start the year fresh, excited, we get worn down, we are asked of more that we can give, we go unseen, we say we’re done.  Then, right before we turn in our papers- TA DA! -we get a break (Spring, Summer, Winter? No difference at all).  And in that sweet, sweet freedom, we say…’it’s not so bad.’ Ha! And the cycle continues year after year until we turn around and can’t believe we are getting another five-year paper weight.

It’s like when you go to Target and fill your basket impulsively with a million ridiculous kitchen gadgets, DVDs you’ll never watch, 70 ridiculous lay tiny towels, and adorable stationary sets.  You feel so good…until you get to the line and realize you work for the public school system and can’t afford any of that Target magicalness and empty it all but the peanut butter and Cheerios.  But the feeling of pretending for a little bit is enough to hold you over.  For 2 hours (albeit wasted), you were all 5 (I think) of the Kardashian sisters.

So I started thinking about what factors could be considered when trying to decide if it’s time to move on.  I found three, mainly based on my BFF and main man, Viktor Frankl and his Existentialism. If you haven’t read Man’s Search for Meaning, throw your worthless electronic down and run -don’t walk- to a book store near you and get it.  Well, unless you are into digital reading, then don’t throw your electronic down, dummy. I’m sorry, that was mean.

Anywho, I think these three things are the most important to consider when trying to decide if it’s time to move on. OK, here goes:

1. Letting go of the past- Have you tried, to the best of your ability, to let go of the past?  This includes letting go of things you wish were true (even the age-old).  Hanging on to what should or could be only gets us stuck, and keeps us from being able to view our prospects with clarity.  You’ve got to let go of this and catalogue what is so that you know what the reality of the situation is.

2. Honest perspective- Have you really truly taken in other perspectives? Like, reeeallllllyyyyy tried.  This means understanding the bigger picture, our role in the larger system, and getting clarity on your situation in context of what other people are going through. I know, I know, this seems in contradiction to the first consideration, but I don’t mean stopping on what could be, but understanding our situation in a larger manner to ensure we have not simply lost focus of a world in which we are the center staple.

3. Effort toward contentment- Have you truly tried to find meaning in your situation? This one is a big nod to my Vik (we’re cool like that). A la #2, Frankl points out that Holocaust survivors, POWs, terminally ill, etc. report being able to find meaning in the moment.  They can still appreciate something, and feel a meaningful existence by something.  This is not to shame goal-seeky people though guys. I mean, a little fire goes a long way… and under the tush pushes us to do some amazing stuff.  But this is more like a gut check. Have you truly put effort into finding contentment and holding tight to it? The trick is that you should feel contentment and meaning that is not based on how you feel, but rather your contentment in being a bystander to great things and other people as well.

So here’s the deal.  I feel like these are really important to try, BUT they are not the end of the road.  Sometimes we do everything we can (these three things included) and still cannot find happiness.  It’s not that we’re not trying hard enough, maybe it’s that whatever situation you’re in has run its course. And it’s time to move on.  Like, these make up the timeless 90’s movie’s holy grail. If they don’t work, maybe you’ve really exhausted your time and effort, and/or you are STUCK (and probably bitter) and you’ll get your full mojo back after moving on. Of course, if someone keeps moving around and still feels pooty, there might be some other things to contend with- patterns are super revealing.