Wednesday, June 21, 2017

They Call Her The Connection Coach

Her name is Tara Brown....
 and she is one of the best speakers I have had the pleasure of sitting in a room with.

My district has had her as a speaker for school counselors and the Georgia School Counselor Association has had her as a keynote at the fall conference a couple of years ago. As the self described, "Connection Coach," Tara Brown speaks to my soul as she uses her experience, humor, and realness to talk about connecting with students. Her experience is backed by research about how imperative it is to connect with our students. Tara Brown's experience and the research perfectly align to why I do what I do. I'm a school counselor because I know what can happen when students don't connect to an adult at school and don't connect to their education.
Anytime, I see her name on an agenda or program, I am immediately excited. I know I'm going to be inspired and energized to continue doing the work and I know I'm going to come away with new knowledge to implement in my work and to share with others. So, I want to make sure you all know about her too!

If you have  a chance to hear her speak, don't miss out on that opportunity. 
Here's a little peek at her in action.....
"We don't have time NOT to build relationships with our kids." 

You won't more don't you?! 
Well, Tara Brown has an amazing website,, with resources, videos, and more you should check out!  

I use some her educator resources to help remind myself of how to best connect with students and I share them with my awesome school family as well. 
One of my favorites is  10 Crucial Things My Under-Resourced Students Taught Me. These 10 things are so important to read and re-read to remind yourself of what is going on in the minds of a lot of our students. When we can truly understand our students in this way, then we have no choice but to take the time to connect and build relationships that support and engage our students. 

This shortclip of  Tara Brown talking about Running From Lions echoes the words from Born Bright by C. Nicole Mason from my last post. 
If we are going to build  relationships and connect with our students we have to be the ones to show them that there is "a safety and a sanctuary you can rely on in my school/classroom."

Tara Brown also has a book, Different Cultures, Common Ground: 85 Proven Strategies to Connect in Your Classroom. It is a small yet mighty book with simple strategies for anyone to use to connect with students. Another great resource for yourself or to share with others in your building. 
If you believe in the importance of connecting with students and you haven't  already checked out Tara Brown's website, please do. You can find information from Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to Tips for Teaching Boys to Stress Buster Strategies to Using Humor in the Classroom to Information about Transient Students and More!

And if you're on Facebook, you can follow Tara Brown, The Connection Coach, and get weekly video inspiration each Monday morning! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Tales from the Crate 1: Born Bright

I'm back! 

It's time for The Connecting Counselor Blog to get back up and running!
And I'm back with some new types of  posts based on some recent reading. 

I love to read...non-fiction mostly. I especially love to read non-fiction that relates to my love of school counseling and connecting with students. As many of my friends know, I have a crate of books that lives in my bedroom and at times is overflowing with books, because I just can't seem stop myself from buying more! 

I've recently read some AMAZING books that support my connecting focus and I want to share so others can also check out these writings.  
So without further is installment 1 from"Tales from the Crate"

On February 1st of this year, I attended an event in Atlanta at the Center for Civil and Human Rights with my friend and fellow school counselor, Stacey Miller. The event was titled "When Race Meets Us at the Door" and the talk included Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum who is the author of book we both read and loved, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race. Dr. Tatum was moderating a talk with C. Nicole Mason. Dr. Mason is the Executive Director  of the Center for Research and Policy in Public interest (CP2PI) at the New York Women's Foundation. She is also the the author of Born Bright: A Young Girl's Journey from Nothing to Something in America.
At the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Dr. Mason shared stories of growing up in poverty and how that impacted her experiences in school and in her community. She shared about her challenges and the people along the way who saw something in her, connected with her, and helped her along her path to success. One of those people was a school counselor which we were, of course, excited to hear. After hearing her important talk about the lives and perspectives of young people growing up in poverty, we immediately ran to the table to buy her book. 
In Dr. Mason's own words..."In Born Bright, I wanted to tell a different story about growing up in American and to humanize the issue of poverty. I also wanted to include the voices and experiences of the people I cared most deeply about, my family and communities. I want readers and experts who work on issues related to economic security on a daily basis to really understand the sacrifices, challenges, and hard choices low-income families make in order to survive. Born Bright is truly an insider's story." 

Born Bright is a must read story for school counselors and educators. In her memoir, Dr. Mason gives you a glimpse into the world of poverty that some of our students are living in.  It gives you a deeper understanding about the experiences and challenges and choices of some of our students and their families. Many times as I read her memoir, I asked myself or noted in the margin, 'And how many of my students does this describe?'  Dr. Mason writes, "Our lives had become unpredictable and volatile. From day to day, there was always a crisis or problem to be solved. Inside, I felt unsettled and out of control. Externally, I could look around and see that there was no one to tell or confide in. As a result, I learned to see but not absorb and to feel but not cry. I buried what I had seen, heard, or been told in the deepest, most hidden place within my soul. I believe this is true for most children who live in poverty. They deny, conceal, and stuff down the pain and violence they experience in order to  make it to the next day. If and when they do let it out, it is an emotional explosion that too often falls on deaf ears or leads to punishment." (Mason, C. N. (2016) Born Bright: A Young Girl's Journey from Nothing to Something in America. New York, NY: St Martin's Press). 
As a school counselor, I know I have met this student over and over again. These students are 'My Why' and I am in education because I don't want any student to "look around and see that there was no one to tell or confide in." It's why my school focuses on making connections with students.

 Born Bright gives you insight to the perspectives of our students how connecting with all of our students, not just the ones who are like us, is so very important. C. Nicole Mason  shares, "The only White people I had ever seen on a consistent basis were my teachers, all of whom were young women. They seemed so naive and soft. How they got to our neighborhood, I never knew. They did not understand our lives or us. Our problems were not their problems, at least not permanently. If they became overwhelmed, they could leave or decide not to come back. We did not have this option. As a child, I always imagined that they lived far away, perhaps on another planet. And they would drop in just in time to line us up after the first bell rang for school to start." (Mason, C. N. (2016) Born Bright: A Young Girl's Journey from Nothing to Something in America. New York, NY: St Martin's Press). 

Born Bright also shows over and over again the need to not only understand and connect with our students but to connect them to opportunities and information... ALL of our students should be connected with these opportunities and information. As educators, we should be a part of unlocking those doors to future opportunities and demystifying higher education for ALL of our students. Dr. Mason shares this importance, "The rules of negotiating the higher education system were largely unknown and invisible to me. The conversations about what to do after high school in my community, in my family, or among my peers usually focused on immediate employment. Rarely was there serious talk about college, particularly a four-year institution. In this instance, information was currency. What I did not know could cost me dearly."   (Mason, C. N. (2016) Born Bright: A Young Girl's Journey from Nothing to Something in America. New York, NY: St Martin's Press). 

And still one simple line from Born Bright, may be the most powerful from the book and the most true for all of our students, "I wanted to be seen and heard." (Mason, C. N. (2016) Born Bright: A Young Girl's Journey from Nothing to Something in America. New York, NY: St Martin's Press).
We have to see and hear our students in real and genuine ways so that we can create true connections with them and we are better able to connect them with their education. 

Recently I read and retweeted an article from Edutopia by Joshua Block titled, Teaching Toward Consciousness. It discussed the importance of "mirrors and windows" in education and connects well to a lot of the points in Born Bright by C. Nicole Mason. Mirrors "validate and acknowledge" students' experiences and their own reality and windows "expose and reveal the unseen," allowing students to understand the experiences of others, challenging their assumptions and even allowing them to discover new opportunities. (Block, J. (2016, August 4). Teaching Toward Consciousness. Retrieved from

For more information about C. Nicole Mason:
For more information about Born Bright:
For more information about Center for Research and Policy in Public Interest:
Edutopia article, Teaching Toward Consciousness
For more information about Joshua Block:
For more information about Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum:
For more information about The Center for Civil and Human Rights: