Monday, February 26, 2018

Educational Tribes

     From the moment I entered the profession, I learned about the many issues our jobs were encountering.  I trained and implemented the comprehensive school counseling model.  I kept outcome data and followed the inquiry-based process.  I promoted smaller caseloads and changes on the non-counseling activities imposed on school counselors.  I joined the “tribe” and promoted the “movement”.  Was there really a movement?  After many years in the profession, several workshops throughout different school counseling associations, it seems that changes still are needed.  What is missing for school counselors to see a change in their professional practice?
I came by the chapter in my dissertation on change theory and began reading it again.  I branched out to the books and articles I used on Systems Thinking and began analyzing the main idea.  I read Seeing Systems by Barry Oshry and it all connected.  It was about not following the general message and having a new perspective: the business of education.

     Student needs are different, but the educational system remains the same.  As in any company or organization, for success to be achieved, the understanding of the parts and their contributions to the whole is essential and common sense.  We need to pause on our ideals we have been sharing and think through the culture, the people and the gaps within our educational systems.  What should we be looking at?
              Emotions: As humans, we live on emotions.  It is part of our developmental process.  The problem is that we focus on emotions based on our perspectives and reactions to a trigger.  Maybe it is the additional non-counseling activity just placed on the school counseling team or the decision to reduce staff in the counseling department.  We begin by reacting rather than understanding.  Understanding does not mean acceptance but getting the right information regarding the decisions.
              Stories: I read that we, as individuals, thrive on storytelling.  We like to share our beliefs and what we perceive through stories.  Stories may not be factual, but a reaction to the emotions felt and what we, as storytellers, want to believe.  Stories can be dangerous as the essence can cause toxic environments.
              History: Before we tell stories, let’s do some historical searching.  Let’s take the concept of validation of profession.  As a school counselor, you may want to spend time trying to understand how the understanding of the professional practice changed from administration to administration.  I recently mentioned to a group of higher education professors in the area of administration how important it is to have a class that educates future leaders on the role of student support systems (school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists and school nurses).  Understanding the history of philosophical changes at the local level can guide school counselors to re-educate administration, faculty, parents, and others on the support and programs benefitting the students as well as the community.
              System members:  Our emotions influence our storytelling and blocks historical perspectives.  Instead, visualize what the administrator or teacher must face daily.  What decisions do they make and what emotions are involved in their practice?  What struggles are they encountering in making decisions that will affect personnel and programs?  By going through this reflection process a school counselor can be aware that no decision is made without difficulty.

      How do we approach challenges now?
           Step back and reflect before the reaction takes over.
           Write down the questions that come up in the conversation.
           Talk to the administrators about how the decisions came about.
           Have an open conversation about the difficult process it may have been.

Understand, process and reflect.  Seeing the system can change the perceptions.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

School Counselor's Journey

For the past three years, I stopped writing on the blog.  As a school counselor, I was undergoing a professional transformation that required my attention.  The professional transformation was also affecting me.  By questioning "why is a school counselor leader needed" it also questioned my personal value as a human. 

Many said I did not play the political game correctly that exists in education. I beg to differ.  I believe that every child deserves a chance to learn and be successful. I believe that school counselors should be focusing on students rather than managerial tasks.

I put a pause on everything.  I made a difficult decision to let go.  With one door closing, I had to take a break and reflect on all of the teachable moments endured.  This took a year, a change in mindset and a desire to continue inspiring.

Here is my story from the past years.   I have met and spoken to many school counselors nationally who have similar ideas and are faced with different perspectives or conflict. I embraced courage to share my journey since 2016 in the hopes it will give school counselors some inspiration to being a support for others.

Today is the first day of a new journey. I am setting my goals and my pathway for the coming year, personally and professionally. I am not sad, upset or discouraged. I am free, centered and balanced. I did not cry during the New Year arrival but was encouraged and excited to feel a new energy embrace my soul. Welcome 2016!I read many quotes regarding today being the first day of a 365-page book. My first page is about understanding that the past were lessons that prepared me for the growth I have experienced. Not moments that defined my personal or professional character. Moments that opened my soul to new experiences.

You really don’t begin thinking about who you really are until you hit the bottom of the barrel. In my recent years, I noticed myself being the target of harsh words that kept pushing me down further and further. Every morning I would wake up with a knot in my stomach and the words repeating in my mind: you are worthless. I questioned who I was as a leader and a school counselor. I even began to question who I was as a person. The environment became chaotic, I was useless, my purpose was unclear and I felt unsafe in a world where before I made a difference.

In my journey of clarification, I found that I had lost a sense of purpose and understanding of who I am. Call it soul searching, but it was more than just feeling good. It was a path that would bring me back to who I really was and had lost along my many years of trying to be accepted and belonging to a cultural environment that felt disconnected.

Who am I? An earth angel with lots of smiles as one person who inspired me once said. Yes, not a true angel, but a human with an abundance of support, positivity and caring for others. A guide who delivers a sense of purpose and clarifies the next path to be taken. An inspirational soul that believes in a profession that supports everyone and assists them with finding their own journey. Hence the career of school counseling matched my purpose in life.

I am also an empath. I feel the joy, sadness, frustrations and all of the emotions one can feel. I struggle with them as I try to help others overcome the barriers. At the end of the day, I find a way to let go knowing that tomorrow the sun will rise and a new day begins with different emotions. I look for the beauty of a new day, of each person I meet, and how they are teaching me something new. Not how I am helping them. With a new knowledge, I grow as a person and can understand humanity better one issue or emotion at a time. I can celebrate the gains and spread the smiles!

Through my own soul searching, I found my peace. I found that it is important to take care of myself first if I am to support others. I found that there is a reason for why things happen and look for lessons from every event that comes my way, good or bad. I have learned that angry words and behaviors towards me are not “my problem” but a reflection of the dark soul who shares those. I have embraced the smiles, gratitude, and the desire to continue spreading the wealth of positivity. I am an earth angel!

                                                               The Power of Positivity