Mindfulness in School Counseling

Mindfulness can help students increase their academic performance, develop social skills, and provide them with coping mechanisms to handle they stressors. Mindfulness can also help students become more confident because as they learn to control their emotions and learn to self-regulate, they feel better about navigating life's difficult situation.

 I began the year teaching all my lunch groups a lesson on mindfulness.  We talked about what it was, how it could be used and why.

I also had the students practice several different mindfulness strategies that they could use when they were angry, stressed or felt that they were becoming unfocused in class.  Each student made a booklet that he or she could put in their trapper keeper and pull out when they needed it.  They loved that they could use these techniques at their desks and that they could do them without drawing attention to themselves as they calmed and refocused.  

Once I was done with the lesson, I also left up the important concepts on my focus board for several weeks.  This helped the students have a reminder of the lesson.

I also have a calm corner in my room where I have some yoga poses.  Many times the kids will come into my room and stand in front of the posters and try a pose or two.  I also have smaller task cards with poses and sequences that are laminated and on a key ring that they can flip through.  

Yoga is a great way to incorporate mindfulness and you don't need to be an expert.  You do need to remember to keep it slow and focus on deep breathes in and slowly letting them out.  Here are the posters, cards and sequences I use.

Mindful Yoga Bundle

5 Tips For Starting A GSA At Your Middle School

A few months ago, a couple of my students asked me if I would talk to my administration to see if we would be able to start a GSA--or Gender-Sexuality Alliance also known as Gay-Straight Alliance.  They wanted to have a place for students to come together in a safe place and help our school become a more inclusive space.  Today, Valentine's Day, was our first meeting.  It was great to see the kids come together in support of acceptance, tolerance and individuality.

Here are some things I learned along the way.

1.  It may take some time to get things up and running.  I'm lucky I live in a very tolerance driven community, but I still had to do my homework about what does a GSA do at middle school?  I needed to talk to faculty and staff members and create allies for this group.  I have several teachers who want to come to meeting and interact and support kids.  My students know this and it has been helpful to them because they have people who they can go to if they have a need.  I also did need to figure out the process for starting a new club and had to get administration approval at the district level.  This definitely isn't something that you decide to do today and start tomorrow.

2.  Identify key members.  You need students who are willing to act as leaders.  These students will be the ones making posters, recruiting new members and talking about how great a GSA is going to be for the school.  You need to capitalize on their help and strengths.

3.  Do your research.  I found a lot of great information from GLSEN's Jump Start Guide.  Ther are download guides for helping to start your group.  Another great resource is from the GSA Network.  They have information about forming your club, how to facilitate a meeting, and how to deal with hostility and opposition.  Most GSA's at the middle level have of a mission of building tolerance and inclusion within the school community and as such, complete a service project.

4.  Advertise.  We made posters and made morning announcements for 2 weeks before our first meeting.  Word of mouth was another big form of advertising and I had a lot of students come to me to ask questions about how to join.   You really need to give yourself several weeks to do this.  It took about 2 weeks for the kids to make the posters, have them approved by the administration, and to hang around the school.

5.  Prepare for your first meeting.  Like any productive meeting, you need to have a plan of what you want to accomplish and do.  In addition, for your first meeting, you need to establish ground rules and expectations with the members to keep it a safe space and to have all members have a voice that is heard.

For our first meeting, I went over group rules:

  • One person talks at a time.
  • Everyone has a voice.
  • We will treat everyone with respect.
  • What we say in here, stays in here.
After we did our group rules, I handed them 2 slips of paper.  

I asked the students to answer Why I'm Here Today and then had them break into pairs to share their responses.  It was a great way for the students to get to know one another.  When they were done discussing, I asked if anyone wanted to share with the group.

Next, I handed them this sheet:

I asked them to think about their priorities and to consider what you hope to accomplish in this group. Do you hope to educate your teachers and peers? Educate yourself? Change a school policy? Expand your social network? Get emotional support?  Afterwards, I had them each share what they had written to the group.  The common themes were to have a safe space to talk and to educate the school about acceptance.

When we were done sharing, I did one last activity with the group.  I had them all stand in a line in my room and then asked them either/or questions.  They needed to take a stand and move to one side of the room or the other based on how they felt about the choice given.

It was great to show that even though we all had our differences, we could all come together in the end.

To wrap up the meeting, we talked about what we would be doing in upcoming meetings--creating a mission for our group, and deciding on a few meeting topics, questions we need answers to and a project we could do for our school.

One last thing I want to share with you are these posters.  They will let your students know your room is a safe, inclusive place.  You can grab them for free in my TpT Store.

Over the next few days, I will post the Why I'm Here Today/Where Do My Priorities Lie and the Where Do You Stand Powerpoint in my TpT Store for you to have Free access to them.  Please look for an update soon.  

100 Affirmations To Help Build Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Affirmations are words we say to ourselves to affirm our self-worth.   What we tell ourselves reinforces our self-esteem and can be either positive or negative.  It's important to help our students build a positive mindset.  Our mindsets becomes our belief systems about ourselves and if we work at telling ourselves positive affirmations, we are helping ourselves to become more confident when others may try to tear us down. 

Sometimes we need to preprogram our mindset.  Using affirmations helps to do that.  If we keep telling ourselves something, we will believe it to be true.  I did a lesson where I taught my girls' group how to write their own affirmations.  We started with "I" or "Me" added a verb in the present tense and then added some additional positive words.  

Affirmations should be positive, should stay in the present tense, and should take a positive thought and make it positive.  Try to stay away from words like "will" or "am going to".  These signify things in the future and doesn't focus on where one is now.  Keeping affirmations in the present also helps keeps individuals motivated towards their goals.  

Here is a list of affirmations I use with students.

1.  I am strong.
2.  I am capable of doing hard things.
3.  I am brave.
4.  I am happy.
5.  I have a positive mindset.
6.  I am beautiful.
7.  I am confident.
8.  I am capable of facing my fears.
9.   I am loved by my friends and family.
10.  I am healthy.
11.  I am excited for today.
12.  I am kind to others..
13.  I have done my best today.
14.  I  am choosing  joy today.
15.  I will make it happen.
16.  I will make good choices for myself.
17.  I am a wonderful person.
18.  I have a happy heart.
19.  I am capable of anything.
20.  I am grateful.
21.  I  am caring to others.
22.  I am a great friend.
23.  I am creative.
24.  I  can set goals and follow them through.
25.  I am unique.
26.  I can keep my chin up when things are hard.
27.  I am intelligent.
28.  I have flaws and they are OK.
29.  I am at peace with myself.
30.  I am accepting of others.
31.  I am successful.
32.  I am unique.
33.  I embrace change.
34.  I am thankful.
35.  I believe in my abilities.
36.  I am proud of myself.
37.  I am a leader.
38.  I forgive others for their mistakes.
39.  I am awesome.
40.  I have the courage to be myself.
41.  I am worthy of love.
42.  I enjoy life.
43.  I am thoughtful.
44.  I am optimistic.
45.  I see the good in myself.
46.  I respect myself.
47.  I am going after my dreams.
48.  I learn from my mistakes.
49.  I have the ability to overcome challenges.
50.  I am centered and grounded.
51.  I can face adversity.
52.  I can honor my own life path.
53.  I define my own success.
54.  I love myself.
55.  I deserve love.
56.  I have a warm heart.
57.  I am enough.
58.  I deserve greatness.
59.  I can seize life’s opportunities.
60.  I am fearless.
61.  I know my power.
62.  I am a warrior.
63.  I can do this.
64.  I am deserving of my dreams.
65.  I am blessed.
66.  I am courageous.
67.  I am secure.
68.  I am keeping  my body healthy.
69.  I am inspiring others.
70.  I choose what I become.
71.  I believe today will be a good day.
72.  I am surrounding myself with love.
73.  I have all I need.
74.  I am grateful for life.
75.  I am okay.
76.  I am focusing on my dreams..
77.  I am valuable.
78.  I am loveable.
79.  I am honest.
80.  I am a rainbow in someone’s day.
81.  I am riding out the storm.
82.  I have opportunities in life.
83.  I am in control.
84.  I can make a difference.
85.My thoughts are remaining positive.
86.  I am hopeful.
87.  I control my attitude.
88.  I control my own destiny.
89.  I make the world a better place.
90.  I can work through my struggles.
91.  I am sincere.
92.  I am wise.
93.  I am motivated.
94.  I can remain focused.
95.  I am tough enough to handle challenges.
96.  My determination is great.
97.  I make my own choices.
98.  I have good values.
99.   I am mindful.
100.  I bring my own sunshine.

I put them all together for you in this list.  This is great as a handout for students, teachers, and parents.

Affirmations are great when they are made into cards.  I like to tell my students to put them in their binders, tape them on their mirrors at home, post them near their beds, or I will leave them randomly around the school.  I also made an Affirmations Jar in my office.  Kids can take one whenever they need a little pick me up.  You can find these Affirmations here.

Teaching Coping Skills and Self Regulation in School Counseling

I spend a lot of time teaching students coping strategies.  One of the things I want to make sure they learn is how to self regulate their emotions when they are feeling stressed.  I want them to know what to do when they are in class and they begin to feel anxious.  It's not always an option to head down to my room.  I can't always be there with them through every difficult situation.  They need to learn the skills to help themselves.  This is something I think all of us want for our students.

There are several ways I do this.  I may start with a feelings check in.  This will help students get a feel for how upset they are on a scale from cool to hot and then give a few minutes to try some self regulation strategies to see if they can deescalate their temper.  Star breathing is a great way to try to calm.  When students focus on their breathing, they breathe deeper and calmer.

Another thing I do is to try to teach skills when they are already calm.  I do a lesson with my small groups about Mindfulness.  We talk about what mindfulness is and how it can help us to think things through before reacting.  I also teach them several mindfulness techniques and they get to make a small booklet of use anytime skills to keep in their binders.  They can use these during classes right at their desk and because they skills are subtle, they do not draw attention to themselves.

Today, I had my students make beaded fidgets, which are also know as Active Response Beads.  These fidgets are really easy to make.  My lunch bunch girls also helped to make this video for you so you can see how easy they are to make.  Once the fidgets are made, kids can take them with to class.  When they are feeling stressed they can just hold them in their hands and slide the beads as they take their 10 deep breathes.  Just moving the beads back and forth is relaxing too and I have a few in my office students can use to play with as we talk about what is on their mind.

I play a lot of games to teach coping skills too.  The main thing is to be consistent with students when they are struggling by having them practice the skills they have been taught.  I try to use the same few skills over and over.    Below you will find some links of the games I use.

OFF LIMITS~ Coping Skills Game

Coping Skills Card Game

These pennant are also visual reminders and can be displayed after they are taught.

I really love these calming spinners and they are another great craft for kids to make and use.  

What do you use?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

Using An Escape Room As A Growth Mindset Counseling Lesson

Each year I go into the 8th-grade classrooms for 3 days to talk about mindset, goals setting, and future planning.  This year I wanted to throw a new twist on Growth Mindset, so I decided to challenge all the classes with an Escape Room.

The evil Dr. Dread has broken into the school and is trying to turn the students' brains to mush, but the only way to combat him is to have a growth mindset and solve all his puzzles.  

I had the students break into teams and then gave each team a set of challenges to work through.  They had 30 minutes to look at the puzzles, decide what they needed to do to solve them, who would be responsible for working on each puzzle, how to find the ciphers that were hidden around the room, and how they would use their time to use the cipher when another team wasn't.  (I had only one of each of the 5 different ciphers, so all the teams had to share.)  As they solved the puzzles, they were able to collect keys that held the code to escape the room.  Not all the groups were able to escape.  In fact it was about 1/2 that were successful.  Word got out and with each class the students were more eager to beat the last winning time to solve the escape.  I enjoyed just watching them.

The Escape Room was teaching the students to work together, to use time management skills, to compete while being collaborative, and to grow their mindset.  Every student was engaged, and it didn't matter if it was the shyest kid, the one that always seems to be in trouble, or the classroom leader, they all had jobs to do. 

I did give each group "I Need A Hint" passes they could turn in for help.  It was interesting to see how they decided to use them and how they would come together to help their peers who were in need of help.  

Because our classes are only 38 minutes long, I did not have time to process the Escape Room the same day we completed it (which was yesterday).  We did process it together during today's class. Since the purpose of me going into the classes is to help them to begin to think about high school, and what comes next, I asked them the following questions:
  • Did you have fun?
  • Why would I have you do an escape room if I wanted to talk about growth mindset?
  • Were any of the challenges too hard?  Were they too easy?
  • Why do we need a growth mindset for high school?
  • How can you take what we experienced yesterday (in the escape room) and apply it to high school and future planning?
They all told me they had fun ( and were disappointed I didn't have another one for them to do today) and they were able to make the connection that they needed the growth mindset to complete the challenges.  In terms of applying what they did to high school, a school should be fun.  They need to take courses that are neither too hard or too easy.  The same holds true with goals.  Having a growth mindset will help them obtain their goals and keep learning fun because new challenges are waiting. 

I do believe they understood what I wanted them to walk away knowing.  I can't wait to do my next Escape Room!

If you would like your own copy of this Escape Room, you can find it in my TpT store here.

Best On-Screen School Counselors

As we head into the holidays, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to find a way to give way to the seasonal stress and spend a moment to de-stress with a little humor in our profession. When Sam Frenzel, a writer for Teach.com, asked me if he could write a guest post on the Best On-Screen School Counselors, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to add some humor into our day and to celebrate the movies that showcase School Counselors in a positive light.

From Sam:

Best On-Screen School Counselors

While it is often school principals who steal the spotlight in movies and television (who could forget Mr. Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Richard “you mess with the bull you get the horns” Vernon from The Breakfast Club?), school counselors have their place as well across both the big and small screen. Here are Teach.com's picks for the most iconic school counselors from tv and movies:


Tammy Taylor, Friday Night Lights (portrayed by Connie Britton)

Mrs. Taylor never played second fiddle to her football coach royalty husband Eric Taylor, opting to carve out a legacy of her own in Dillon, Texas in this sports drama. Tammy possessed one of the most important skills in every good counselor's repertoire: an ability to meet the students at their level. She never failed to play advocate for the underdog and seemed to genuinely care for her students - regardless of their past. Though her advice may not have always been gentle, her no nonsense attitude always had the students best interest at heart.


Emma Pilsbury, Glee (portrayed by Jayma Mays)

Emma was a quintessential member of the William McKinley High School faculty in the unforgettable teen musical/drama Glee. Not only did she guide her students through difficult personal and academic problems, but was also an integral part of the wildly successful glee club. Though her personal life had it’s ups and downs, it never interfered with her love of her students and her unwavering efforts to see them succeed.

freaks and geeks.png

Jeff Rosso, Freaks and Geeks (portrayed by Dave Allen)

The free-spirited Mr. Rosso is a frequent character on the short lived, but beloved teen comedy Freaks and Geeks. He spoke to his students like adults and, rather than patronizing them, offered topical and current solutions to their problems. He gets bonus points for suggesting The Grateful Dead’s American Beauty record as study music!

last chance u .jpg

Brittany Wagner, Last Chance U (portrayed by… Brittany Wagner, a real academic counselor!)

One of the most memorable characters from this documentary-style show about a scrappy community college football team is the academic counselor Brittany Wagner. She is both a source of support for the football players and someone they take advice from in their pursuit of a better life. Best of all, she is a real-life advisor! As well as being “the mother” to most dominant junior college football program in the United States, Brittany is a nationally respected athletic academic counselor.


Mr. Abbott, Everybody Hates Chris (portrayed by Chris Rock)

In Everybody Hates Chris, a coming of age television comedy, Chris Rock plays the role of guidance counselor to a character that he based off of himself. Chris Rock’s Mr. Abbott serves as a no nonsense imparter of wisdom to middle-school aged Chris. He is, as many counselors are, a wake up call for Chris to take his studies more seriously and a reminder to follow his dreams.

Honorable Mention: Ms. Perky, 10 Things I Hate About You (portrayed by Allison Janney)Perky.jpg

Although she wasn’t a particularly good guidance counselor, Ms. Perky stole her scenes in 10 Things I Hate About You and provided unforgettable laugh-out-loud moments.

What’s another word for engorged?

Rotten Apple Award:


Mr. Porter, 13 Reasons Why (portrayed by Derek Luke)

Mr. Porter is the school counselor in the controversial teen drama 13 Reasons Why and is, generally, the worst. When a distraught Hannah Baker comes to his office for help dealing with a whirlwind of events, from bullying to sexual assault, he is dismissive and disbelieving. He does everything wrong that the good counselors on this list do right and, for that reason, has landed himself the rotten apple award for failure in school counseling. Don't be like Mr. Porter.  

Final Thoughts:

The best on this list demonstrates just how effective school counselors can be in altering the lives of their students for the better. Each of the school counselors on this list come to life through powerful writing and masterful performances and, much like actual school counselors, carry the ability to inspire and amaze.

Sam Frenzel’s love of pop culture started at an early age and has culminated in his ability to catch obscure references and dominate a trivia night. He’s a writer for Teach.com based in upstate New York where he covers topics from education policy to teacher welfare.  

Do you have any favorite on screen School Counselors not mentioned here? I'd love to hear who you think represents our profession well! Leave me a comment!

How to be a Tech Savvy School Counselor

Here is my presentation and links to the different tech tools that will help you to be a tech-savvy school counselor.

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For Notetaking/ Inspiration and Ideas/Lesson Planning:
•  Evernote-  
•  PollEverywhere   
•  Livebinders   
•  Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/
•  Dropbox  
For Presentations and Newsletter:
•  Emaze-  
•  Prezi
•  HaikuDeck -  
•  Powtoon-  
•  YouTube 
     YouTube Downloader– add SS before youtube in the link you   want to watch—www.SSyoutube.com/link
•  Smore -  
•  Animoto  
For Tutorials:
          •  SCOPE    
Ipad Apps
•  Fotovidia 
•  iMovie
•  Legend 
•  Quik
For Networking:
•  Twitter
                  Caught In The Middle School Counselors
                  Elementary School Counselor Exchange
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