August 22, 2011

ASCA National Conference 2011...Perk Up Your Program!

The famous market! 


This year I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 2011 National School Counseling Conference in the lovely Seattle, Washington. On my very, very, very long flight home, (A Layover in Phoenix just to get to Milwaukee? I don't get it sometimes but whatever) I decided to write an article about all that I learned and absorbed during my time at the conference. I thought I would share it here with all of you. Enjoy!

"8 Things I Learned to "Perk Up" My Program ... When I Have One."
~One graduate students perspective on the 2011 ASCA National Conference.

2011 has brought a lot of firsts for me. Being done with my first year of graduate school, my first internship, my first time traveling totally alone, and my first school counseling conference, the ASCA National Conference. 
I learned so much at the ASCA National Conference from now on called Seattle 2011. Some revelations were personal while others were professional. I would like to share the top 8 things with you all.

  1. I actually can enjoy traveling by myself. This was the first time I have ever traveled completely alone. I was more than a little bit nervous. I found as the conference progressed that I was actually enjoying being by myself. There was no one holding me back which was nice because I also like to be early to things. I even enjoyed having dinner by myself at a nice restaurant. It felt a bit weird at first but by the time my food came to the table, I was totally comfortable.
  2. Students stay connected to counselors not because of what or how we are doing things but why. We work with our kids because we care and we want to see them succeed. I don't think any of us would be counselors (in training...) if that wasn't the case. When I get my own school, I am going to put up a sign that says "Why" so that I always remember why I am there. Sometimes we can get so caught up in what we are doing or how we are going to do it. Remembering why I am there will help keep me grounded.
  3. You may think that just because I have a macbook, iPhone, and I grew up with technology that I am savvy. Well guess what, that's not the case. I learned about so many cool technologies that I can use as a school counselor. There is a new one called iTunes U which is seriously worth your time to check out. Thanks Dr. Joy Burnham for keying me into it. Also timetracker and ezanalyze are very useful and time saving tools for counselors but also for other professionals. We can always use things that help us better manage our time with our jobs often entailing so much. Those are also free, which is great as all of you well know! Who doesn't like free stuff?? I can tell you I was having a blast in the exhibit hall with all the "swag" I took away!
  4. There isn't, in my opinion, enough talk about LGBTQQA youth. For those of you not in the know, that is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, and ally youth. I was glad I was able to sit in on a session that talked about just that. What I will take away the most from the session by Lisa Koenecke and Joni Downs was that no matter what a student's sexual orientation is or what our personal bias may be, it is always important to stress with these kids what a healthy relationship looks like. This is a topic that can transcend sexual orientation into something that every teen should be talking about.
  5. I was told by one of the counselors at the conference that what happens at the conference, stays at the conference. What are we in Vegas here? Apparently counselors need to cut loose just as much as the next professional. Who knew right? But in all honestly, I had to laugh when I heard this because I knew that I wanted to take back everything that I was learning, seeing, hearing, and experiencing to my fellow classmates so that they could reap the benefits of the conference that I did while I was there. As for what happens at the conference, staying at the conference, I guess everyone will just have to come to the conference to find out! ;-)
  6. I know that I have experienced this over and over again throughout my time in school, which I recently counted to be 20 years (K-Graduate School)!!! Often the learning a student does happens outside the classroom and can be more beneficial that the learning that happens inside the classroom. No offense to teachers, because I have the utmost respect and admiration for them, but children learn so much better when they can have time to explore their environment. I remember the things that I learned on field trips and other outside activities than I do in my classroom. Even now being in graduate school, I felt I learned more from this conference than I did in some of my classes the last two semesters. We as counselors can deliver information to students in a hands on way so that they do absorb the information. If we go into their classroom and talk at them, they probably wont remember a thing we said. I don't know about you, but I want the kids I work with to remember the things I am trying to teach them.
  7. How much do you know about Hip Hop? I can tell you that I know a whole lot more now than I did before Seattle 2011! If you EVER want to know more about the hip hop world, you should check out XXL and The Source. They will be a lot of the research you are looking for. My brother, who is a senior in high school, always tells me I have my own "era". I am not that much older than the kids that I will be counseling, but if my brother looks at me like I have my own era, then I am sure the kids will too. Its all too important for us to be able to connect with our students. They will take notice if you know a little about a little. Even if you know an artist to a particular song, something in pop culture or a new type of technology, they will take notice in that. Even if they don't catch it right away, they will think about it later on. As counselors, we can never go wrong with showing interest in a kids world. It shows them that we care about them. It can also help us learn more so that we can understand them better. If the students really know how much we care, they will be more willing to come to us whenever they have a problem. I have full faith in that!
  8. The final thing that I learned at Seattle 2011 is to always keep in mind What, So What, Now What? I think that this is a great pattern in order to assess a situation in a quick easy way. We can think about what is the situation that we have at hand, why is this a problem, and what can we do about it. It really takes into account what I learned in classes about making sure you get all of the story from the student so you can accurately assess what is going on and then try to come up with a solution. If you come up with a solution too quickly, you lose site of the so what! It is a good way to sum up basic counseling of students in any situation. 
As counselors, I hope that we can all "take action together today to work on the challenge of making school counseling comprehensive in all our schools." I know that because of Seattle 2011, I am going to strive to be the best school counselor that I can be and try to make whatever program that I end up in, a program that is completely comprehensive. Why you ask? For the students, to make them the best people that they can be!

Did you go to the conference? What did you learn? What was your favorite session? I want to hear from you! Have a great evening!


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