Thursday, April 20, 2017

"13 Reasons Why", the Netflix Series Your Teen or Even Pre-Teen May Be Watching. And Why You Need to Know if They are or Not

   As a Netflix subscriber with little free time on my hands, I tend to keep track of the newest and best shows on Netflix and bookmark them for some summer downtime when I finally get a little more free time. I came across a show called "13 Reasons Why" two or three weeks ago and it was getting great reviews. And the content interested me as it was about a teenager who died of suicide but may have been bullied or harassed before she died. As I read more, I read about the topics it covers: bullying, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, relationships, sexting, rape, drugs/alcohol, and teenage dilemmas. As a counselor, even though this show was fiction, I thought this is definitely something I should watch since the reviews said this will really make young people think about their actions. So, I marked it.
    In the two weeks since, it has become a huge topic of discussion among students, parents, counselors, and mental health experts due to the content and how it is portrayed. So, I began watching it. I am not finished (that whole free time thing again), but I am several episodes in. It is very, very good. But I can also see where the controversy is and where the ending of this show will lead to more controversy. Here is my advice to parents and teens, along with several great resources with advice from experts on suicide and other experts who generally know way more than me!

    The basis of this best-selling book and now Netflix show is that a student dies of suicide but leaves behind 13 tapes. These tapes each talk about 1 student who was part of the cause of her suicide. And these students have to listen to these tapes in hopes they never do this to anyone again. Well, controversy #1 is the idea that others cause suicide. Suicide is an act caused by the person who is doing the act and that person only. Controversy #2 is that mental health issues, usually unaddressed or not addressed enough or quickly enough, is by far the biggest factor in a suicide attempt. Bullying is not considered to be a main factor in most suicide attempts by a young person. While there are many other pieces suicide experts and groups take issue with, these are two of the biggest. The other issue is that the actual suicide (remember, this is fiction though), is shown in the final episode and from what I have read, shown in detail. Many have said they have had to turn away during this very long and emotional scene and it is one of the lasting images our young people see in this show. Suicide experts and groups pleaded with the show producers not to show the actual suicide as there has been a long-standing agreement to not report suicides in the news (unless high profile case such as the recent suicide of a former NFL player in prison) or show it in any form of media. The producers felt it still needed to be shown despite these pleas and research that shows reports of suicide or visuals of suicide can actually do more harm to others than good. It can actually increase the risk of suicidal behavior in others who are exposed to this. So that is a pretty huge controversy about this show as well.
    But the show has a lot of good pieces as well. As a counselor, I'm impressed by how realistic they show teenage drama and issues that affect our teens in today's world. The show addresses sexual harassment, treatment and exploitation of girls, bullying, cyberbullying, and several other teenage relationship and teen dynamics issues. You really feel what it feels like to be the victim and target and at times, you feel what it feels like to be the bully or the accidental bully. And you see the damage it causes all the way around. Obviously, I do not like the way they portray school counselors or school officials, but I get that they are using that to drive another piece of the storyline.
   Here's the bottom line....if you choose to let your child/teen watch this show, watch it with them. Better yet, watch it before they watch it. And then discuss each episode and it's meaning and what that means in their life. Ask them about how they feel about what they just watched. Ask them about their school experience and friend experience. Maybe this show will even make you think about how your child uses technology and why they use technology. And you will have to decide if you let them watch the final suicide scene (also, I have heard there is a rape scene in an episode as well that can be troubling for many). And if you are not sure what to talk to them about or how to process, take a look at a few of the resources below as they are great for parents. I always love CommonSenseMedia for the way they break down a show or movie. And note that even the review by kids say it is for age 14 and up. The Talking Points is an excellent resource too by those who are advocating for Suicide Awareness and Victims and trying to save the lives of our young people. And of course, feel free to contact me anytime if you have questions/concerns.

Common Sense Media thoughts on 13 Reasons Why

Talking points on 13 Reasons Why from Experts!

7 Things You Need to Know Before Your Child Watches....

And maybe the most important resource we all need to know about is the suicide hotline number. I not only share this number with people on social media, I encourage people to program it into their phone. You never know who may need that number and when, but if you have it in your phone and ready to go, you may save a life someday!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Why Knowing More About Human Trafficking is Important to the Carlisle Community

   Kim Flagor and I attended a workshop on Human Trafficking at our annual counseling conference back in November. We were really moved by the terrible and sad information we learned. It stuck with us. Just this week, I had the chance to go to another presentation on Human Trafficking by a local group that works to help young women get their lives back after being rescued from trafficking. Again....I was deeply moved. Soon, our counseling staff will hear from a third group, this time a group that helps get the message out to our teens and students as to what Human Trafficking is and why it matters to them. In other words, Human Trafficking is a big deal. But why? And why in little ol' Carlisle? Well, here are a few main reasons (in no particular order...they are all important!)

First of all, what is Human Trafficking?
 Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It also happens to be the 2nd most profitable crime in the world, only trailing drug trafficking (although it could someday overtake that based on the rate it is growing)

 So, now that we know what it is, why does it matter to us?

 1. Iowa has the 5th highest rate of human trafficking in the country. That means only 4 states have a larger trafficking issue than us. This is likely due to the intersection of I35 and I80...too interstate systems that criss-cross the entire country. Our mental health facilities (or lack of) is another key reason. And a final reason is drug trafficking in our state which typically goes hand in hand with human trafficking. Dorothy's House presentation noted that heroin is on a major rise in our state because it is cheap and addictive and this is one of the drugs key to the trafficking issue.

 2. But we are not just talking about our young girls (and often boys as well) being stolen or abducted and taken out of state. Up to 80% of human trafficking is "Familial Trafficking". This means a majority of trafficking of our young people is done by their own family. Their mothers, fathers, step-parents, foster parents, older siblings, etc. They are selling their own child's body multiple times a day for money to pay rent or for a drug habit.

 3. According to Dorothy's House, guess who is the most popular victim to traffic? A 12-14 year old girl that is tall, skinny, and blond and right from the Des Moines area. We aren't talking 18 year olds and 20 year olds. We aren't talking kids from Chicago or LA. We are talking our kids. Our pre-teens and teenagers. As a father of 5....that matters to me!

 4. 1 in 3 teens on the street will be lured by a trafficker within 48 hours. We have runaways in our school district from time to time. It is scary to think of several of these students being approached by a trafficker. Many of these young people who are approached will accept the "help" they get and soon be into a trafficking situation they cannot escape from.

 5. The average age of a child victim in human trafficking and prostitution is 13-14 years old. In our district, we have roughly 300 students at that age level.

 6. Speaking of the average victim....the average victim may be forced to have sex up to 20-48 times a day. Young girls and women who happen to survive and make it out of these situations many times need reconstructive surgery, immediate and long-term mental health therapy, and addiction treatment. Even if everything works extremely well, it is tough for these girls and boys to live a normal life due to the intense and long-term trauma they were surviving through.

 7. Most common way a girl gets into trafficking? They are "boyfriended" in. In other words, a "nice" boy slowly gets to know a girl in that age 11-15 range (sometimes older) and grooms the girl. This is many times done online. The girl thinks the boy is her age or thinks he is really wanting to be a boyfriend. Many times the boy is much older, usually a man well past his teenage years. They arrange a meeting and the rest is a very sad, sad situation. The girls typically never see it coming......

 .....But her friends do. Her family does. Her teachers do. Her neighbors do. If.....if they are involved in her life and being supportive and caring and not letting her get down this path. This is why it matters to us here in little ol' Carlisle. We have a chance to not let our girls and boys be a part of these sick statistics. We have a chance to save the lives of some of our young people. But we must be willing to ask questions and not accept "fine" or "okay" for an answer. We must be on social media and checking on our kids. We must know our kids' friends and who our kids think are their friends. We must get in their business....because their business matters to us because we love them. And we must educate ourselves on this issue which has been around forever, but is rapidly increasing due to social media making it easier to "buy and sell" young people, our transportation system making it easier to traffic young people quickly and easily, and our drug and mental health issues on the rise making young girls and boys more vulnerable to being lured into the world of trafficking. We cannot look the other way because this topic is too gruesome, too ugly, too tough to read and hear about. We must turn towards it and towards the solutions because of these things.

 Please click on some of the links below to learn more. I did not know much about this issue 6-12 months ago, but I am glad I am learning now. As a counselor, I have dealt with many students "talking" to a stranger online and many times the conversations have stopped before it got too far. My worry is what if it didn't. What would happen. I want to educate myself and others so we can all help each other and all watch over each other

The Polaris Project

Recognize the Signs

Iowa Networkd Against Human Trafficking

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

HS Course Registration Survey

Click on this link and fill out this survey.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

8th Grade Bully/Harassment Survey 2016

Please take a moment to take the following survey. Do not start the survey until Mr. Barry is done explaining the survey. Thank you and have a great weekend! (Maybe the last warm weekend of 2016!)

Monday, October 24, 2016

2016 6th Grade Bully/Harassment Fall Survey

Students, please take a moment to take this very important 10-question survey you see listed below. Thank you!

Friday, September 9, 2016

6th Grade Needs Assessment

8th Graders, please take the following survey by marking "Agree" or "Disagree" for each question. If you would like more information or help with a certain area, mark agree. Ms. Flagor and Mr. Barry will be setting up groups for certain areas and in other areas may just be meeting with you individually. Bottom line, if you would like help in a  certain area, mark "Agree" and feel free to come see either of us in our offices anytime you are in need. Thank you!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

8th Grade Needs Assessment 2016

8th Graders, please take the following survey by marking "Agree" or "Disagree" for each question. If you would like more information or help with a certain area, mark agree. Ms. Flagor and Mr. Barry will be setting up groups for certain areas and in other areas may just be meeting with you individually. Bottom line, if you would like help in a  certain area, mark "Agree" and feel free to come see either of us in our offices anytime you are in need. Thank you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2016 Minute Meetings with 6th Grade!

   Welcome to CMS 6th Graders. Today, Mr. Barry is going to introduce himself to you, show you where his office is, and have you answer the following four questions all in under 1 minute! Awesome! Please click the response that best fits your answer. Thank you!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

College Visit 2016 Next Month!!

8th Graders:
   Next month, all of you get a chance to tour a college campus. The classrooms, the dorm rooms, the buildings, the sports facilities, and much more! You will get a chance to hear from college students about their experience. get to do this all during the school day and it is FREE! This is our 2nd annual 8th Grade College Tour and it will take place on Wednesday, March 30th. Please take the survey below so we know which college you would like to tour. About 40 students will go on each trip and we will try our best to get you into your 1st or 2nd choice.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Fastest (or Slowest) Three Weeks in a School Year!

         With the Thanksgiving Holiday now officially over and the next holiday break not too far in our future, now is the BEST time to be focused on grades and school work. Even when I taught at the high school, I always thought the time between the two holiday breaks is the most important time for a student’s educational year outside the month of May. At the high school, it is almost the end of the a long semester and a chance to move each grade up just a notch before the all-important semester exams. With our middle school doing trimesters, it isn’t the end of a grading period, but it is right smack in the middle and that is just as important. And with winter sports in full swing and the excitement of the upcoming break and holiday, middle school students don’t always focus so well during this time period. This is why these 3+ weeks are so important. Grades are just starting to come in for the trimester and good grades over this time period can really set them up for a good 2016. By the time we hit the holiday break, our trimester is basically half over and it is much easier to have our hard work show positive results in the first half of the trimester than in the second half of the trimester.  So, while I know times are busy and hectic and there is a lot going on not only in the lives of our students, but in the lives of their families as well, please take some time each day to discuss the school day and keep the focus on your child’s education. 

Did you know?? We now have more “days off” than “days of school” left before January 4th.  Want to know the math? We have 17 days left of school in 2015, but if you count weekends and our entire Winter Break, we have 18 days of break. So….just another reason to work hard every day….your child gets plenty of time to rest and relax in the upcoming month!

Other tips to keep your child focused during this time.....

*Have a routine. Pick a time and place each night to do homework or simply check to make sure homework is done. Be a part of this process. Don't just send your child to their room for an hour, make homework an activity that you are involved with and help where you can. If your child says they have "no homework", have a discussion about their day and look up their grades together on Infinite Campus to review how they have done.

*Use "Growth Mindset" vocabulary with your child. Your child will be hearing about Growth Mindsets during Advisory this month and learning that failure and mistakes are okay, the goal is to learn from these. Don't praise your child on their outcomes, but on their process. Say things like "I like how hard you worked on your homework!" or "Keep practicing, keep trying. Effort is the key." or "Our goal is to do better than the last assignment....not perfection." Growth Mindsets and the language of growth mindsets have been proven to keep students motivated, on-task, and wanting to do more and to keep trying on their work.

*Small and frequent rewards. Find some little things you can do with your child, for your child, or possibly even get for your child for little rewards along the way. This could be extra technology time, game activities, their favorite snack or dinner, or even some items from the dollar bin at Target or the dollar store. Doesn't have to be much, but little fun things to reward their focus and hard work. Make learning and focus fun!

*Calendar/Chart. I am not a big fan of "Countdown Charts", but these can work and can keep your child motivated. It might help them keep track of their busy schedule both at school and outside of school. Middle School students like routine and like to know what is coming next, so a calendar or chart can really help.

*Be supportive. Even if you don't do any of the things listed above, being supportive is so important. Your child thrives on positive energy and feedback. While the holidays can bring stress, this stress gets easily transferred onto your child if they sense that you are stressed. It is what makes middle school so interesting....students feed off of the emotions of others. Your child feeds off of your emotion, so stay calm and be supportive and you will be amazed at how this can change the attitude of your child.

  Good luck and let me know if I can be of any help in this process. Have a great December!!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Breaking the Technology Addiction.....How??

     I will be the first to admit it, I might be addicted to technology. This coming from a guy who once said he would never own a cell phone and only finally agreed to get a phone (but not use it!) because his pregnant wife said he needed one  just in case she went into labor. Fast-forward 10 years and 5 kids later, and I have my cell phone by me 24 hours a day. But what really worries me is when my 5-year old son says his best friend is "the IPad" and when asked what he is thankful for, his answer is "IPad!". Um...we have a problem. Fortunately, all problems can be solved or at least worked on. And fortunately, a radio DJ this weekend had several solutions we, as parents, can try. So, if your kids are like mine (or better or worse), here is a list of things you can try.

1. Sit down and have a conversation with them about technology use. And write up some expectations (rules, contract....whatever you want to call it). This doesn't make you bad parents for not laying down the law. Kids will buy into the expectations more if they have some input. They may surprise you with what their limits should be. This conversation should include all types of technology, not just phones or IPads, but game systems, E-readers, etc. But get the expectations in writing so everyone can agree upon it and review it from time to time and maybe update it.

2. Create Tech-Free zones. The dinner table, after 9 p.m., during homework time, church, etc. This can be part of your family discussion. But technology should not interrupt family time or other important times. As for late night technology use, screens are not good just before bedtime. It affects all of us and our ability to fall asleep quickly and have good, sound sleep. Pre-teens and teens don't really need technology in their room, but if they do, make sure it isn't keeping them up at night. Believe it or not, I have several students who wake up in the middle of the night (some even set their alarms!) and play on their phones or watch Netflix from 2-5 a.m.!! Technology is supposed to be useful and fun, not limit our family time or hurt our bodies. These Tech-Free zones might help us all get our families, and our sleep, back!

3. Discuss what Technology we are all using and why? Reading a book on an E-Reader or playing Cool Math Games online....not a bad choice for technology. Playing Call of Duty and killing video-humans or zombies for hours on end....probably not the best choice. Playing candy crush on a smart phone all through dinner versus texting back and forth with a friend who just moved away and had a rough first day at his new school.....pretty easy choice as to which is good and which is bad. Again, technology is meant to help us, not make us into mindless drones. It is no secret that the most popular games have endless levels and give extra lives and powerups. Remember the good ol' days when you have 3 PacMan lives and if you died 3 times you went back to your seat at Pizza Hut and enjoyed your family and good pizza. Well, technology creators have solved this problem by making sure kids and teens can play over and over and over and never quit if they want. A little mindless fun is okay every now and then, but if it is consuming their time and causing other things to not get done (homework, chores), then it is a problem. Not to mention what games, apps, social networking sites are appropriate vs. non-appropriate for certain ages.

4. Be there with your child when they are using technology as much as possible. Not only can you monitor their time, but you can monitor what they are doing with that time. Safe and appropriate use is key as they are learning and consuming technology. We wouldn't let our children drive a car without going through many steps and having us along their side and we wouldn't allow them to work a job without some training and a boss and co-workers supporting their learning, so why would we let them use technology without our help, support, and monitoring?

5. Last, but not least.....reflect on your technology use. I will admit it, my kids use technology a lot because I do. But I am getting better at modeling how I use technology so my kids see this and hopefully follow my lead. This means no phone or tablet at the dinner table, no texting and driving, no violent or pointless video games, and other expectations I want my kids to follow. I do have the urge to do these things sometimes, but I push that urge aside not just for me, but for my kids. Learning by example and observation is what kids do best, so no matter what rules and things you try to do, if you can't stick to them, your kids likely will not be able to either.

   I will leave you with this video which I have seen before, but I saw it on a few sites as I researched for this blog. It is a good reminder why we should not be glued to our screens.