Monday, December 12, 2011


This weekend I visited one of my favorite places in the world. (Right behind Phipps, Ikea, and any sunlit park path.) Scholastic opens its warehouses occasionally so teachers can purchase all of their leftover books at half price. Technically I am a teacher. And technically my sister is, too. So we went. 

I wanted to stock up on books for my future counseling career. Bibliotherapy is a popular technique where you--forgive me if it seems obvious, but I would be remiss to gloss over a brief explanation--give a client a book that will help him/her explore his/her problem. If a child is having trouble fitting in, give them a book about a character who feels the same way and then ask them to talk about it. What about the character did you relate to? How did it make you feel when the character did ____? What did _____ remind you of? Sometimes it's easier to talk about an issue if you're thinking about it in terms of the character instead of yourself. (At least that's what my friend... Jenny... says. I wouldn't know, personally.) Also, school counselors do part of their work in the classroom setting, and I look forward to reading lots of books to kindergarteners. Like, all the time. 

So after 2+ hours circling around this warehouse, I had easily over $100 worth of discount books. And then my sister supervised me on the painful task of putting most of the books back. I wound up with some great finds on topics ranging from friendship to catastrophizing thoughts to racial tension to career development to gangs to gender norms to feeling homesick at school. And some Christmas gifts for my niece. And some posters for my future office. I may have gotten carried away. But it turns out that my premature shopping trip was useful for more than future supplies. The entire time I was thinking about what books might help my clients, but I realized that I was also defining my role as a counselor. The books I selected helped me paint a picture of the professional I'd like to be: the issues I am interested in, the theories and techniques I relate to, the age levels I connect with. So yes, I prepared for the future this weekend. But I also learned a lot about how to prepare myself for that future. 

Also, if anyone comes across a non-disgusting kid version of a "Would You Rather?" game, let me know! I think it would be a great tool for choice therapy, but I really don't want to spend that much time asking six-year-olds, "Boogers or barf?"  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

They all look the same to me

After a while in elementary schools, you learn that kids speak their own language. "I like your dress" becomes "You look like a princess!" while "I dropped my pencil on the floor and don't feel like looking for it" becomes "Someone stole my pencil from my desk!" If you spend enough time among the natives you learn the key phrases to get you through the day. However, it is nearly impossible to "go native" because the locals are so wary of outsiders. Do they enjoy having some new faces to talk to at recess? Sure. But they will never accept you as one of them.

I learned this after months of being told, "Are you related to Mrs. (insert name of whoever I'm covering that day)? You look just like her!" I hear this almost every time I sub for a female teacher. Please note that almost every teacher has photos in their classroom. I can see what the teachers actually look like. Except for some chromosomal similarities, there is rarely a resemblance. But as far as kids are concerned, two grown up women with long hair may as well be long-lost twins. So there you have it: the outgroup homogeneity effect isn't just for racism anymore! It's also vogue among ageist prepubescents who really want to make smalltalk with substitutes. As long as I don't get compared to a hunchback, I suppose I'm okay with it. 

I do still need translations for a few phrases, though; could anyone tell me how to say "Please be quiet while I'm giving directions" in kidspeak?