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Counselor's Corner

Welcome to the Counselor's Corner!

Maddie BelowHello! I am Madison Below, the Mid School Counselor at MMI. I believe that navigating the world of middle school can be simultaneously a daunting endeavor and an exciting adventure. During these pivotal years of rapid growth and change, students face unique and diverse challenges; therefore, in addition to working with students individually and in small groups, meeting with parents, and collaborating with teachers, I teach the Classroom Guidance course.

In Classroom Guidance, students learn skills to help them grow and develop academically, socially, and personally. Topics covered range from the character education lessons of bullying, decision-making, relationships, and self-esteem to the executive functioning skills of time management, goal-setting, planning, and prioritization. Through both team-building and individual reflection, Classroom Guidance assists students in achieving personal growth while acquiring positive social skills and values.

I am going to use the Counselor's Corner page to give a glimpse into what we're currently studying in Classroom Guidance and to share articles related to mental health in early adolescence. I hope you had an enjoyable, restful summer break and that you check back often for new posts covering our fun-filled week at Bridge Camp as well as tips for a successful 2015-2016 school year!

Read Across America Day

Read Across America Day, also known as Dr. Seuss Day, took place on Wednesday, March 2. In my sixth and seventh grade Classroom Guidance classes, we celebrated throughout the week by reading the classic Dr. Seuss story “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”.

I told the students that they are never too old for Dr. Seuss, and in fact the copy of the book that I read to them was a gift from my cousin when I graduated high school. In the story, which was Dr. Seuss’s final published work before his death in 1991, the main character experiences the highs and lows that come along with life. He contemplates going down scary, dark paths that represent the decisions we must face. He experiences “bang-ups,” “hang-ups,” and “slumps,” all of which represent the challenges and difficulties that we all inevitably go through.

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Therapist Lori Losen visited two of my Classroom Guidance classes to discuss the topic of anxiety, a feeling some students know all too well. Students learned that from the ages of 12-18 they are developing their identity, and this can be an anxiety-inducing process. The frontal lobe of the brain is under construction and is the last part of the brain to mature, usually by about 24 years of age. The frontal lobe is considered the conductor and controls judgment, impulse control, and emotions. It is also the center of executive functioning skills such as reasoning and problem solving. When anxiety occurs, good judgment and impulse control can become compromised.

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Unity Day

MMI was a sea of orange on Wednesday, October 21st as students, staff, and faculty wore the color in support of Unity Day. Kindness, acceptance, and empowerment were the themes of Unity Day, encouraging both youth and adults to stand together against bullying.

Bullying is defined as a repetitive behavior that hurts another person physically or emotionally. In a bullying situation, there is either a real or perceived imbalance of power, and the target of the behavior has difficulty stopping the action directed at them. Bullying behaviors can be overt or covert and can happen in-person or with the use of technology. Bullying can have both short- and long-term effects that impair the health, safety, and education of those involved. Children who are bullied may avoid school, be unable to concentrate, experience low self-esteem, have trouble sleeping, engage in self-harm, and have a feeling of alienation. Bullying often impacts more than just the target of the bullying behavior. It also has implications for those who engage in the behavior and those who witness it.

A large Unity banner was hung in MMI’s cafeteria, and students, staff, and faculty were encouraged to sign their name as a pledge to take a stand against bullying. Additionally, several classes read the story Confessions of a Former Bully in Classroom Guidance and role-played various ways to handle bullying behavior. We want MMI to be a safe and supportive community, and we promote the messages of inclusion, kindness, and acceptance among our students.

A Letter to My Future Self

During my first Classroom Guidance class with all 8th through 9th graders, I had students write a letter to their future selves. Students began by brainstorming ideas for their letter using a graphic organizer, essentially creating a time-capsule of thoughts that would be returned to them at the end of the school year. They were encouraged to write down special memories of their first few days of school that they didn’t want to forget.

Were they feeling nervous? Were they particularly excited about a new class? Did they figure out how to work the lock on their locker? What advice would they give themselves to have the best possible year at MMI? What words of encouragement could they use to get through a challenging class or while studying for their first test of the semester?

They were encouraged to write about both short-term and long-term goals as well as their plans for the future. While it is often helpful to write goals in a place where they can be seen every day, it will also be fun to look back at goals that have been recorded in August, sealed in an envelope, and returned in May. 6th and 7th grade students filled in a similar graphic organizer in which they wrote about what they are most looking forward to this school year, anything they are feeling a bit nervous about, and what they hope to learn by the end of the year.

Students will likely be surprised how their feelings, hopes, peer relationships, and goals change over the course of nine months. It will be fascinating to see how their dreams and desires evolve not only throughout the 2015-2016 school year, but throughout their time at MMI!


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