Archive for the 'Counseling and Human Services' Category

Public Education- An Endangered Endeavor?

save our tudentsBy Dhanya Nair

Education, one of the most basic services that should be made available to children and youth by society, is often the cause of much debate and controversy. Providing quality public education is challenging, even in developed nations like the United States. However, the benefits of free k-12 education are immense and are often reflected in the quality-of-life of a nation’s citizenry. Political leadership has a direct influence on public education through funding and curricula. Having grown up in a nation where public schools lack funds and quality teachers, and where warring political parties propagate their viewpoints by altering textbooks, I feel strongly about the need for citizen-participation in matters of education.

Public education is meant to provide a level-playing field for children from different racial, socioeconomic and social class backgrounds. Education should be an equalizer, not the fiefdom of a select few. If the people making decisions about public education in this country or any other are not committed to achieving its actual goals, there is cause for concern. As a mental health professional, I interact to some extent with the urban school system in this city and within the scope of my limited interaction, the disparities between urban and suburban schools are clear to me. Inequalities are meted out regularly to those children who come from minority, low socioeconomic and low social class backgrounds. Common sense dictates that the achievement gap can be narrowed largely by affording equal opportunities to children cross this nation. However, it remains to be seen if new educational policies will bow to political ideologies or the best interests of students.

Dr. Bob Fox Honored at Community Engagement Symposium



Dr. Bob Fox and Penfield Children’s Center were honored at the first Community Engagement Symposium held on Marquette University’s campus on November 15, 2016. The award for the Community Engaged Partnership Award recognizes a “faculty/community organization partnership that demonstrates excellence in respectful, bidirectional collaboration; makes a positive difference in the community; and enhances knowledge.”

Since 2003, the Behavior Clinic has served inner-city families with young children with developmental disabilities. Offering mental health services for children who are experiencing significant behavior and emotional problems, the Clinic also offers specialized training and supervised clinical experiences for graduate students. In addition, research in the clinic contributes regularly to the field of pediatric mental health.

Congratulations to the Behavior Clinic and Dr. Bob Fox, making a difference in the lives of Milwaukee’s youngest children.


What It Takes to be Smart

nerd-23752_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

Question: Who is the smartest person out of the list below?

  • The President of the United States, Barack Obama
  •  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
  • Astronaut Sally Ride (the first female astronaut)
  • Minecraft creator Markus Persson
  • World champion chess player Bobby Fischer

Thoughts?  I’ll be honest, I was torn between a couple of people. I always think people who play chess, like Bobby Fischer, must be intelligent. They plan out their moves carefully and well in advance. Then again, Markus Persson created an entirely new world on the computer. The President must be smart, because he has to make decisions that affect the entire nation. Astronauts have to be smart; think of all the calculations and data they must acquire! And think of all the routes, plays, and passes Aaron Rodgers has to memorize!

So who is the smartest?

I teach a lesson about multiple intelligences to my students every year in Career Pathways class, and it’s one of my favorites. I’ve learned that through the years, my students acquire a definition in their minds as to what it means to be smart. They then compare themselves to that definition. Some of my students are proud that when they compare themselves to their definition, they are smart. And some think about their definition, compare themselves to it, and conclude that because they are unable to do x, y, or z, they are “dumb.”

This is where the theory of multiple intelligences come in. It shows that there are several different ways that people can be smart. In Career Pathways class, we name eight specific intelligences:

–          Body smart (kinesthetic) – people who express themselves through movement; often have a good sense of balance and hand-eye coordination

–          Music Smart – may produce and appreciate music; often think in sounds, rhythms, and patterns

–          Nature Smart (naturalistic) – appreciate and are knowledge able about the natural environment; often have interests in animals, plants, and being outdoors

–          Number/logic Smart – people who use reason, logic, and numbers; often think logically and make connections between pieces of information

–          People Smart (interpersonal) – people who are able to relate to and understand others; often try to maintain peace and encourage cooperation

–          Picture Smart (visual spatial) – people who tend to think in pictures and enjoy creating visual images; often read maps, charts, and diagrams

–          Self Smart (intrapersonal) – people who try to understand their inner feelings, goals, strengths, weaknesses, and relationships with others

–          Word Smart (linguistic) – people who have highly developed listening skills and are generally good speakers; often enjoy reading and writing

We then have students take a mini quiz to find out which “smart” they are strongest in and discuss what that means. We talk about how we can use our smarts to our advantage and how that can help guide us down a career path that we are interested in.

It’s most refreshing to see my students who initially believed that they were “dumb” realize that they have definite strengths in certain areas. One student of mine, who always declared that she was “dumb” because she couldn’t do math well, felt better after realizing that her strength in art was considered a smart. My students who struggle with reading or writing suddenly have a new appreciation for their athletic and musical ability. Even I felt better after realizing that my ability to listen to and empathize with others is considered a smart, even if I struggled with math.

I encourage all of my students, and all of their parents, to check out what their “smart” is! It is not only a great self-esteem booster, but it helps everyone appreciate how we are each unique, different, and smart in every way!

To check out what “smart” you have, go to this link: Once you finish answering the questions, it will bring up a chart with how you rank in the 8 different categories. Enjoy!


Trickle-down Privilege

bulldozer-1357600_960_720By Dhanya Nair

As I turned around a corner, I saw a lone seagull landing momentarily in the middle of an empty road, poised to take flight again. I also noticed a speeding car through the corner of my eye, and hoped the driver would slow down, as there was no traffic. But, to my immense horror, the driver crushed the bird and sped on. I paused and looked at that poor creature, it had no inkling its life would be snuffed out quite so suddenly. Roadkill is so common that we don’t spare a second thought for it. However, the dead seagull got me thinking about hierarchies in the world. As a mere bird, the poor gull had no moral authority over a human driving purposefully to some end. Its life was disposable and the motorist had exercised her/his human privilege by killing it.

Our ascendancy as humans over other species in this world is also a mark of our collective arrogance. The firm, unflinching belief that we matter the most. “Survival of the fittest” explains why we became the most dominant species, and we have used that theory to justify pseudo-meritocracies, colonialism, slavery, and pretty much any kind of exploitation and manipulation. As humans, we have decided who among our own gets the most and least amount of privilege; for instance, a citizen of a “First World” nation should have more privilege than a citizen of “Third World” nation. To me, it seems like the unwritten rule is for privilege to be trickle-down in nature. As humans, we are trained to conceptualize the world around us in the form of hierarchies and structures. It probably helps us navigate this immensely complex world in a relatively simple manner. Hence, the driver who killed the seagull was able to get to her/his destination without pausing to spare the bird’s life as she/he was secure in the knowledge that her/his moral right as a human was superior to the bird’s. The consequences of such automatic thinking make me shudder. Are we as humans condemned to bulldoze our way through the lives of some or the other creature or our fellow human beings?

How to be a Hero

superhero-296963_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

Confession: I love football season. I don’t know if it’s because football usually means fall (my favorite season) or if my dad’s zealous attitude towards football has rubbed off on me. Maybe it’s a combination of both! Either way, I look forward to it. To me, a perfect fall day consists of football on TV, paninis on the stove, and a fire in the fireplace.

In addition to loving the sport of football, I love hearing some of the wonderful things football players do in their free time. I’m sure most people have seen JJ Watt on commercials for American Family Insurance, or have heard about DeAndre Hopkins donating school supplies to students in his hometown. For me though, the best thing I heard was about Florida State University football player Travis Rudolph.

If you haven’t heard the story, several FSU football players were visiting a middle school in Tallahassee. During the visit, Rudolph noticed a child eating by himself in the lunchroom. After grabbing food, Rudolph asked if he could sit with the student, who said yes. Someone snapped the photo of the two, and sent it to the boy’s mother.

Her Facebook post is inspirational and definitely tugs at the heartstrings. She started by saying:

Several times lately I have tried to remember my time in middle school, did I like all my teachers, do I even remember them? Did I have many friends? Did I sit with anyone at lunch? Just how mean were kids really?

She then talks about how her son is autistic. She said that while it can be overwhelming and scary to have him in middle school, she is sometimes “grateful” for his autism because it protects him from how harsh middle school can be.

He doesn’t seem to notice when people stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn’t seem to notice that he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn’t seem to mind if he eats lunch alone. It’s one of my daily questions for him. Was there a time today you felt sad? Who did you eat lunch with today? Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it’s nobody. Those are the days I feel sad for him, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

Finally, she talked about how she felt when she heard about Travis Rudolph eating lunch with her son.

A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption “Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son” I replied “who is that?” He said “FSU football player,” then I had tears streaming down my face. Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my son’s school today. I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.

This made me smile for so many reasons. For the past few years, my school has been working on providing resources for students who are autistic. I have been working a little more closely with my students who have autism, and it has really opened my eyes to the struggles they have on a daily basis. Some students who have autism miss social cues. Some do not understand how to enter a conversation, or struggle to maintain a conversation. It breaks my heart when middle school students make comments or tease them, not knowing how hard it can be for them.

But it also made me smile because it showed how powerful one person can be. Just by sitting and eating pizza with a young boy, Travis Rudolph showed the world that he is a hero for more than just playing football. He is a hero for showing a little love and compassion to another human being. He is a hero for remembering what it’s like to be in middle school, and how harsh it can feel to not have anyone sitting with you.

So today, go sit with someone who is sitting alone. Reach out to someone who may not have a lot of friends. Do the right thing, and you can be a hero just like Travis Rudolph!


Teachers to the rescue

nairBy Dhanya Nair

This Labor Day weekend was all about being a couch potato for me. My husband and I binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix though I was occasionally troubled by guilt pangs about impending readings for school. Stranger Things is set in the 1980’s and revolves around four pre-teen nerdy boys who love playing dungeons and dragons. One of the four boys goes missing one evening, and the plot quickly thickens with secret government spy-operations, teen romances, an alternate dimension (the upside down), and a blood-thirsty creature which reaches through walls.

The show harks back to simpler times when children had to rely on board games for entertainment, books for edification and flights of fantasy, and teachers–not google–to understand constructs. In their quest for their lost missing friend, the three boys are aided by a girl with psychic powers, a dedicated police officer, and concerned family members; but, for me, the star of the whole operation was Mr. Clarke, the boys’ science teacher. The boys accost him at a funeral for understanding how an alternate dimension can exist and be accessed, use the audio-visual equipment he furnishes their school with, and even call him on a weekend night to build a sensory deprivation chamber! Phew! Mr. Clarke! Of course, the boys were logically sound and hence were able to understand and execute their teacher’s instructions flawlessly. The only time I ever called my science teacher was when I tried to make soap at home in an aluminum container and realized science could never be my calling!

Mr. Clarke was the unsung hero of the show for me because he simplified theories for his students, encouraged curiosity, made himself available to his students even during his time off, was compassionate towards his students’ developmental tasks, and reinforced faith in the power of science. Having said all this, Mr. Clarke’s depiction in the show did seem simplistic to me. However, I do wish I had a science teacher like him. Maybe, I am doing a disservice to all my teachers by wishing this. My teachers have helped me fight all sorts of Demogorgon, I have relied heavily on them in the past for understanding the world around me, and still rely on them to correct my grammar, equip me with ideas, bolster me with kindness, and provide me with words of wisdom. If knowledge is power, then all those teachers who consider teaching their true calling are superheroes, my kind anyway!

#tbt: Highlights from the past six years

College of EducationBy Sabrina Bartels

During this week, about six years ago, I began my journey towards becoming a school counselor. It’s been amusing looking through my Facebook memories from the past few weeks and reading my 2011 statuses.

“Can’t believe I start grad school tomorrow! First time in four years that I am on Marquette’s campus and not going to Johnston Hall for a class.”

“First grad school class, check!”

“First week and I’m already procrastinating. Yikes!”

And then my statuses continue throughout the next few years. Here are just a few highlights from the past six years:

  1. Getting through the first semester of grad school. I always think the first semester is one of the hardest. You are still trying to get your feet under you, trying to figure out what kind of counselor you want to be, who your teachers are, and what they expect. It was such a comfort to know the campus already, but that can also make for quite a stressful first semester!
  2. Passing the Praxis (because let’s be honest, that was probably the hardest thing about grad school! I still have nightmares about that exam …)
  3. Finishing my internships. I had so much fun on my internships. I really think that doing the internships is one of the most beneficial things you can do when studying to be a school counselor. I would recommend participating in internships in a wide range of ages (elementary, middle, and high school) since each experience is very unique. Many elementary schools have school counselors teaching social and emotional learning (SEL), so you can help shape young minds with this curriculum. At a middle school, you’ll get experience with mediating conflict, the importance of self-esteem, and bullying. When you intern with high school, you get to dabble with writing recommendations, helping with college applications, and getting swept up in the world of financial aid.
  4. Graduating! At the end of two years, it was so much fun being able to celebrate with my friends and family. It was a tough road, but one that was definitely worth it!
  5. Getting a job. Fun fact: my school district called me the Monday morning after my graduation to offer me a job. I remember thinking that I was still dreaming! Never in my life did I expect things would happen so quickly.
  6. Enjoying my first three years as a counselor. I have had a lot of adventures the past two years. In addition to all the great things I’ve been able to experience involving my education and career, I’ve also been able to celebrate a lot of personal accomplishments: getting married, buying a house, learning how to cook without burning whatever I was trying to make, and drafting my first fantasy football team. But out of all of these great milestones in my life, I have to say that my favorite memories from the past six years involve my days as a counselor. I have learned a lot. I’ve grown a lot. I’ve made some mistakes; I’ve had some triumphs. Each day has taught me something new about human nature, about the education system, about love and loss and perseverance. I would never trade these experiences. I am so excited for year 4 and all of the wonderful adventures it has to offer!

This will also mark my sixth year of blogging! This has been such an incredible experience, to track my journey from when I first started grad school to being a full-fledged counselor. I am so thankful for everyone who has gone on this journey with me.

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