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Friday, August 18, 2017

How School Counselors Use Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw is about engaging in self-care. Put another way, "balance feels best." The four components of self-care are body, mind, heart, and soul. We take care of our bodies by eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and sleeping enough. We take care of our mind through learning. We take are of our heart by nurturing the relationships we have with family, friends, coworkers, and students. We take care of our soul through religion, meditation, etc.

Source: Franklin Covey

School counselors use Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw by:
  • Self-care: My graduate school program at Lehigh taught me about self-care. Early classes didn't focus on it as much as my internship classes did. Our clinical coordinator made sure that we understood the importance of self-care and that we talked about burnout. During my first year in the program, my migraines went from one a month (undergrad baseline) to two per week (first semester of grad school) to 20 per month (second semester). My professors began talking to me about self-care. The ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors reminds us of our obligation to take care of our physical and mental health. It went to my doctor. I took a class on ethics and read up on the topic. I'm thankful for this experience because most of the time I put everyone and everything else before myself. I still put others first, but I also learned that it's important to take care of myself. We have to lead by example and help our students follow suit. General self-care covers all four categories. 
  • Staff Self-Care Support Group: Being an educator is a difficult and underappreciated job. A lot of negative things are said about educators. I've even heard people insinuate that teaching isn't a real job. We have lots of tough cookies in the classroom. There's lessons to plan, tests and assignments to grade and don't forget about following the IEP and 504 accommodations for your students. So at the end of the day, our teachers could use some support. Ever since reading this Education Week article, I have wanted to run a self-care group for staff. School Counselors get visits from teachers who are looking for support, so why not have a group? Confidential information about parents and students should not be shared. If a teacher needs help with a parent or student, they should seek confidential consultation from the counselor at another time. I would say that the group would allow staff to check their baggage at the door. Maybe start off writing down something they are holding on to from the week, crumble it up, and throw it away, cut it up, or shred it. This way what's bothering them is kept confidential. Allow staff to talk about anything that's overwhelming them. If you're a Leader in Me school, talk to teachers about how they can use the 7 habits to decrease their stress. Practice mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing as a group. Have members choose or assign "accountabil-a-buddies" so they have someone to check in with during the week if they're feeling overwhelmed. This group would address the heart component of self-care. 
  • Hobbies: Take time to get to know yourself. What do you like to do in your spare time? Make sure that you engage in those things throughout the school year in order to relax. I enjoy gardening, cooking, counted cross stitch, sewing, crafts, and reading. I might not get to do these things every week, but I try to do something I enjoy to de-stress. Depending on your hobbies, you may be engaging in body, heart, or soul components of self-care. 
  • Time with Family and Friends: Educators take a lot of work home. I sometimes spent 20 extra hours a week working from home planning lessons, writing observation reports, inputting FBA data, writing 504 plans, and responding to email. Mind you, this was when I was a part-time school counselor. I may not have had to do that if I had a full-time job. Spending time with family and my cats is important to me (heart component), but I was neglecting that part of my self-care whenever I came home and continued working until it was time to go to bed. Remember, "balance feels best." If you're a perfectionist like me, it may be hard to tell yourself that things can wait until tomorrow and some things might not get done at all, but you have to take care of yourself too.
  • Professional Development: As educators, we have to keep up on current trends in education. This means taking graduate school classes, attending conferences, etc. In Pennsylvania, we need to complete 180 Act 48/ Continuing Education  Credits. every 6 years. Think of your ASCA specialist trainings and conferences, your state-level conference, etc. Professional development takes care of the mind component of self-care. 
  • Other ways to engage in self-care: going to your doctor (body), going to a counselor (mind), getting a massage (body/ soul), getting a mani/ peti (body/ soul), jogging or any other exercise (body), nature walk (body/ soul), etc. 
School Counselors use Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw through: 
  • Class Lessons: We can teach students about self-care during our class lessons. When you're teaching students about Habit 3- Put First Things First, you can teach students about time management and scheduling their time wisely so they have a "balance" between activities for school, exercise, time with friends/ family, etc. Think about teaming up with a health/ physical education teacher to teach a lesson on Sharpening the Saw. 
  • Small Groups: You can Sharpen the Saw with any of your groups by playing a game with them. You can talk about Sharpening the Saw in friendship group by talking about things friends can do together (relationships). In self-esteem group you can hit on Habit 7 by taking about activities that your students are good at. In coping skills group, ask your students what their hobbies are and see if the hobbies can be used as a coping skill. An academic or transition group can cover all of the habits. 
  • Individual Counseling: For any of your kids that are perfectionists or have high anxiety, it's a good idea to talk to them about calming strategies like deep breathing, yoga, mindfulness, etc. (mind/ soul). Maybe some of your students need help to find balance, which is what you are there for! 
  • Extracurriculars: Maybe one of your interests would lend themselves to being a club advisor or athletic coach. Take some time to Sharpen the Saw with your students and show them how balance is best!

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