Google+ Elementary School Counselor blog, by Scott Ertl, Elementary School Counselor

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Know anyone with a brain that goes faster than normal?

Peter Shankman shares how to view ADHD as a gift
instead of a curse.

Without a doubt, Peter Shankman is the fastest talker that I know. So it's a challenge to keep up with him since he has so much passion and desire to help others however he can.
Peter is an accomplished entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and author--but more importantly, he is a man on a mission to empower everyone to recognize their fullest potential and live it out each day. He especially wants people with ADHD, ADD, OCD, and autism to identify and build on their strengths. While it's important to know and overcome your limitations, it's more exciting and fun to engage your super powers into full force!

Different ≠ Wrong or Broken
Different = Amazing and Gifted

As a school counselor, I would often meet with teachers and parents to create behavioral plans to help students get organized, increase their self-awareness, and stay focused on raising their hand instead of blurting out in class. While those are good, Peter says that it's even more important to focus on identifying and building on their strengths

But what are their strengths? It's often just taking a new perspective on their weaknesses. While an impulsive child can be annoying, seeing them as "spontaneous" reframes their energy as a mental strength since we value kids who take the initiative. 
"Inventors aren't followers," Peter says, "They don't fear mistakes. They are risk-takers who enjoy the thrill of discovery and making breakthroughs."
We just need to help them see when to use their spontaneity--like in brainstorming ideas or creating multiple possibilities for solving a problem. At these times, they are like executives who need scribes to record the ideas to later assess on how to best execute them.

Impulsive → Spontaneous
Talkative → Communicative
Hyperactive → Energetic

I asked Peter how teachers and counselors can help kids succeed in school, he said, "Find the ways you are setting them up for failure--and stop. When you are getting the same poor results, remember that you are the adult and you can change what you do to get a better result." 

Students usually don't want to be bad. It's just easier for them to give up than to keep a sustained effort that goes unnoticed because "that's the way you should behave anyway."

3 quick ways to empower kids with ADHD in your class:
  1. Let them know in advance that you are going to call on them to answer the first reading comprehension question about a story they just read so they can be prepared.
  2. Ask them to be your helper and deliver a message to another teacher when they finish their work (correctly).
  3. Allow them to move in class instead of forcing them to sit still all day. They need a way to release their extra energy and anxiety without distracting others. Provide yoga balls, wiggle seats, Bouncy Bands, standing desks, or any other flexible seating options for them to do their best in class.
"Never let kids forget that they are awesome.
Build on their strengths so they can turn their stumbling blocks into stepping stones." 

~Peter Shankman

Want to hear more? Faster Than Normal is the #1 rated ADHD weekly podcast on iTunes. It focuses on sharing success stories from the likes of Seth Godin, Tony Robbins, JetBlue Founder David Neeleman, and many others who have ADHD and/or support those who do. Also, Peter has a Faster Than Normal book coming out in October 2017 that spells out the secrets to increasing productivity. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

5 life lessons kids learn at summer camp

What can kids learn from summer camp?

While camp counselors aren't the same as school counselors, they do strive to teach campers important life lessons that can serve them well in school and beyond.
  1. First, camp is a safe place to try new things. Kids can try out something for the first time without any worry about messing up or getting a bad grade. They feel more comfortable and relaxed at camp when they learn something for the first time--no matter how many mistakes happened along the way. Whether it's horseback riding, fishing, or dancing, kids find great pleasure in the satisfaction of doing something new for the first time.
  2. Kids get an opportunity to unplug from their technology addiction when they get engaged in nature, soccer, music, theater, crafts, swimming, or any of the other numerous activities at camp. (Many camps don't even allow phones or other mobile devices as a way to help kids get back to the basics.)
  3. Camp provides a place for kids to make new friends with others. These friendships can last for years or just the summer, but they all share fun memories about things they did together at camp. Often times, these new friendships help kids discover similarities with others despite being "different" in other ways.
  4.  Most importantly, kids learn the importance of playing, relaxing, and having fun. The school year can be frustrating, difficult and high-pressure for many kids. They deserve some time to laugh and be active without being competitive or serious. After camp, many kids decide to continue developing their newfound hobbies with their parents or friends as a way to create more joy together in their lives.
  5. Kids get to be active. They can try soccer, tennis, biking, hiking, jumping on the trampoline, and many more sports. Instead of watching TV, playing a video game, or surfing the Internet, kids are actually engaging in different activities. Kids can find a natural way to relieve stress through movement as a way to stimulate adrenaline, endorphins, and better relaxation.
Overall, camp has lots of benefits! However, there can be several drawbacks to camp.
  • Cost. Many families can't afford camp. Ask the camp director if there is a sliding scale or financial assistance and you might be able to get some help. Offer to volunteer in exchange for free tuition--just don't hover over your child. Let them experience camp without your over-involvement. They need to get away from you too. If all else fails, save up. Pick a camp to attend for next summer and show the benefits of earning money and saving it for something you want to do.
  • Exposure. Kids will probably be exposed to others with different backgrounds. Camp Counselors might have different rules, expectations, communication styles and discipline than their campers' parents. Talk with kids about how camp is alike and different than home. See if there's anything that can be improved at home to create more fun, less stress, and greater joy together.
  • Disappointment. There are many times when campers are disappointed for one reason or another: Their best friend wasn't able to attend camp with them; They didn't like the food; or They wanted to be in a different group that appeared to be having more fun. Talk about what you can do when you feel disappointed.
 Here's a link to a national directory to find a list of summer camps in your area:

Add a link on your school counselor website to the specific summer camp directory in your area so parents will find new camps that their children will be able to attend. Feel free to copy and paste any of the above information to your counselor newsletter or website to share camp information with your parents.


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Saturday, September 10, 2016

5 ways to Work Out the Back to School Jitters

How to start
the school year

Ok, maybe not completely stress-free, but with as much confidence, peace, and joy possible. Many students struggle with the transition of returning to school. It is sometimes due to a traumatic summer (Move, grandparent's death, divorce, parent's loss of a job, family member incarcerated, etc.) or maybe last year at school was rough and there's fear of this year being even worse. Nevertheless, here are my top 5 tips to start the school year with as much fun and excitement as possible.

1) Many kids get stressed out when there's a substitute and classroom management and instruction changes. Ask the principal to make sure that your child is assigned to a teacher who will be there for the year--with good attendance. You don't want a substitute teacher for 6-8 weeks while the regular teacher is on maternity leave, nor do you want a teacher who is retiring in the middle of the school year and using a sub to fill-in while she uses up her remaining 5 months of sick leave. Principals usually know who these teachers are well in advance. (Most schools have 3-5 teachers every year who have babies or retire and you want to avoid this if at all possible.)

2) Get to know your child's classmates and their parents. Invite them to a community park to play where you are on neutral territory so you can all get to know each other better before bringing them to your home. Have lunch with your child the first or second week of school to help them make a new friend. Help them find similar interests that they might like to do together sometime. (Sports, movies, roller skating, Pokemon Go, or some other activity that they both like.

3) Younger kids like reading the story "The Kissing Hand" and they find it helpful to have something special in their pocket to hold or rub when they are feeling stressed. A special rock, cross, lucky coin, or photo, or love note can be treasured many times in a silent and unobtrusive way.

4) Give your child extra sharpened pencils to bring to school and give him/her permission to share them with others who say that they don't have a pencil. This is a hot commodity in school and always needed. You can even bet more bonus points for having cool pencils with sports or cool designs on the pencils.

5) The most popular school resource right now are Bouncy Bands, which are heavy duty bands that attach to student desks and chairs for kids to bounce their feet and stretch their legs when they feel nervous or stressed in class and they need a quiet way to get some relief. (I invented them 3 years ago and they have been incredibly successful around the world.) They can be purchased on Amazon or directly at

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fun Foot Fiddlers

Foot Fiddlers
keep hands free
for students to work

As an elementary school counselor, I often gave students stress balls, Koosh balls, and other hand fiddlers for them to relieve their nervous energy in class. However, teachers would often take them away from students since they became a distraction instead of being helpful.

While 19 million students have ADHD, anxiety disorder, or a learning disability, most students appreciate having a way to move throughout the day instead of having to sit still for 5-6 hours at their desk every day. There are numerous health, academic, and social benefits for students being able to be active learners in school instead of passive learners.

Some of the above resources have been very helpful for students. However, all of these resources can become exhausting and over-stimulating to children when they simply need a break to "anchor" or not be moving during the day. It can be difficult for students to have 2 different seats so they can alternate between having movement and being still.

Then came Foot Fiddlers! There are many different ways to help students relieve their extra energy, while keeping their hands free to work. Foot fiddlers allow students the opportunity to receive stimulation when they need some relief and then return to "normal." The different resources vary in price, assembly, and effectiveness. In full disclosure, I invented Bouncy Bands, so they are my favorite.

Bouncy Bands for Chairs

Kindergarten through second grade students love being able to bounce their feet when they need relief from extra energy, anxiety, frustration, or even boredom. No more dangling feet or leaning back in their chairs.They help students stay focused and behaved in class so they can get more work done. Installs in less than 3 minutes.

Bouncy Bands for Desks

2-12th grade students enjoy being able to bounce their feet and stretch their legs to allow some movement in class when needed. Students can do better on tests since they can work longer while being able to relieve their frustration and anxiety. Installs in less than 2 minutes.



Students and adults can burn calories while they work. A pedometer keeps track of distance pedaled. It assembles in under 5 minutes. The tension can adjust to fit your desired level of difficulty.

mini Pedalers

Foot Fidget
$52.99 - $60.59

Students and adults can rest and bounce their feet on this padded suspension bar. It assembles with tools in less than 15 minutes and can be adjusted for different heights, depending on the desired height.

Classroom Seating Solutions

In the comments below, please mention other resources you have found to be helpful with students.

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Help students turn bad dreams into good dreams

While 30-50% of adults are sleep deprived every day, many students are not getting a good night's sleep every night either. One cause is bad dreams and even night terrors.

Here's a fun and simple way to help Kindergarten through second grade students create a "Dream Channel Changer" to help them be proactive and decide which dreams they would like to experience that night.

Feel free to download the lesson for your Active Inspire Promethean board lesson or PowerPoint lesson (Right-click and save these files to your computer.)

Here's a blank Dream Channel Changer and here's a sample to download. 

Students can write and/or draw what dreams they would like to experience when they sleep. Before going to sleep, children can review their Dream Channel Changer to decide which dreams they want to experience while they sleep. If they have a bad dream and awake, they can simply change their channel to one they prefer and return to sleep. This way, they are in charge of their dreams!

Here are some fun ways for children to decide what channels they want to include on their "Dream Channel Changer:"
  • Write or draw pictures of themselves doing fun activities (real or imagined).
  • Cut out pictures from magazines or newspapers.
  • Search for clipart on the Internet.
  • Consider favorite animals, places, people, sports, celebrities, foods, movies, etc.
The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Dream (and 12-min. video available on YouTube) is about how Brother Bear and Sister Bear learn how to have good dreams as well.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

DonorsChoose Tips

Common excuses for not applying for a grant:
  • "I don't have the time."
  • "I'll never get funded."
  • "It's too complicated. I'll never figure it out."
  • "I don't want to pay the application fees." 
 Good news!
  • It should take you about 20-45 minutes.
  • 70% of grants get funded. 
  • It's only 1 page. Here's a sample.
  • It's free.

5 tips for your DonorsChoose grant: 

1. Look at other teachers who are requesting the same supplies on that you are seeking. Don't plagiarize, but you can take notes and ideas from their campaigns. You don't have to re-invent the wheel, but don't copy and paste their descriptions either.

2. Photos! If possible, borrow or purchase one of the supplies that you are requesting and take photos of students using it. Get them to comment on how or why it is helpful. Make sure you have their parent's permission if you want to use their face in the photo. You want to make this real for the donors to see how their contributions are going to be used.

3. Think like the Donor. They want to do more than just supply crayons. They want to help make your class fun, engaging, and to truly help your students learn. They want to support your creative endeavors to teach students so their year with your class will be forever embedded in their memory. Like you, Donors want to be part of the solution. Help them have an emotional connection with why you want to provide the resources for your students.

 4. Share your Donor's Choose campaign on your personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on your school website and emails signature. Even if you are 100% sure that your students' parents won't be able to contribute, you never really know if they can and you definitely don't know who their friends, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents would be moved to contribute towards your project. 

Reach out to your community. Send an email to your local churches, day cares, pediatricians, chiropractors, opticians, youth centers, skating rinks, pediatric dentists, and libraries. Simply ask for a $5-10 contribution and ask if they would be willing to share a link to your Donor's Choose page on their social media to help you raise funds. They want to help you and they want to see you succeed. Be sure to give them a thank you note and a photo.

5. Don't wait until you have time. You'll never have "extra time." Just start. Providing needed resources for your students saves your own personal contributions, helps others find out and be a part of your teaching endeavors, you will inspire other teachers to write grants. As well, it shows your current and future principals how you are willing to go above and beyond to help your students find the resources that they need to succeed.

Over 1,400 teachers have gotten their class fully funded so every student could have their own Bouncy Band by using this sample application.

Please add your Donor's Choose tip in the comments below.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Globetrotters provide free Bully Prevention programs

Globetrotters aren't just about smiles and games.

They make a difference.

The Harlem Globetrotters do much more than spinning basketballs and shooting 4-point shots. They have been making a difference since 1926 on and off the court. The Globetrotters introduced Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton as the first African American basketball player to sign a contract with the NBA in 1950. Lynette Woodard was the Globetrotter's first female player in 1985 who won a gold medal in the Olympics and joined the new Cleveland Rockers in 1997 with the WNBA.

As part of giving back to the community on their tours, the Harlem Globetrotters regularly visit schools to promote their "ABC's of Bullying Prevention." In collaboration with the National Campaign to Stop Violence, the Globetrotters teach Action, Bravery and Compassion in their school programs.

You can find the schedule for the Harlem Globetrotters (they have 3 different teams on tour) to request a program for your school in advance. Email:

For more information about the program, visit their website.

 Julian "Zeus" McClurkin recently performed at Greene Elementary School in Greensboro, NC and I was able to interview the NC A & T graduate about his rookie year with the Globetrotters. He shared about his passion for helping children dealing with bullying. He laughed when he shared that kids can't believe that anyone would bully him--since he's 6'8" and 220 pounds. But he shared how bullies can attack any size, shape, or color. His emphasis of coming from a space of compassion is the true solution to bully prevention. It's no surprise that even though he has his MBA, his true passion is his ministry. 

Here's a short video of the performance closing where he involves students and teachers into some fun passing the basketball with the classic "Sweet Georgia Brown" music:

When I showed Zeus a Kindergarten chair with a Bouncy Band, he promptly tried it out and commented, "I wish I had Bouncy Bands when I was in school. Even now, I like to bounce my feet when I sit. I can see a lot of kids who would love these!"

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