The Concordia Publishing House Podcast

Unsung Heroes: School Counselors with Jessica Brashear

September 09, 2020 Concordia Publishing House Season 1 Episode 21
The Concordia Publishing House Podcast
Unsung Heroes: School Counselors with Jessica Brashear
Show Notes Transcript

In person learning, virtual learning, hybrid learning. This school year comes with a lot of big questions, big feelings, and big challenges for parents, educators, and students.  The unsung heroes in all of this may just be the school counselors. 

Our guest today is Professor Jessica Brashear. Jessica is the director for the Master of Arts in School Counseling program at Concordia University, Nebraska. She also works at the school counselor for St. John Lutheran School in Seward, Ne.

To find out more about Concordia Nebraska's School Counseling Program click here.

Elizabeth Pittman (11s):
In-person learning virtual learning or hybrid learning. The school year comes with a lot of big questions, big feelings, and big challenges for parents, educators, and students, the unsung heroes, and all of this may just be our school counselors. Our guest today is professor Jessica Brashear.
Jessica is the director of the Master of Arts in School Counseling program at Concordia University in Nebraska. She also works as a school counselor for St. John Lutheran School in Seward, Nebraska. Welcome, Jessica.

Jessica Brashear  (55s):
Hi, thanks for having me fun to be with you. It's going to be fun. I think this is a very timely conversation that we're having. Absolutely. Yes. So our real life we're living it right now. It's getting in and day out. We are definitely living it. So it definitely is a timely topic.

Elizabeth Pittman  (1m 13s):
But before we jump into the heart of the conversation, the program that you've developed for counseling at Concordia is relatively new, but from everything I've seen, it is taking off like gangbusters. Can you give me a little bit of an overview?

Jessica Brashear  (1m 25s):
Yes. And I can say that is only because of the Lord working through that. I was just telling someone this morning, I was out for a walk with the dog and she mentioned that she said, it looks like your program is doing well. And I said it is. And you know, I think two years ago when they approached me and wanted to know if I'd be interested in developing the program, I was still at that time home with a preschooler, two kids, the oldest two were in school at st. John here in Seward and the preschooler was still at home and I was still sort of thinking like, Lord, what's going to come next for me.

Jessica Brashear  (2m 1s):
I saw, you know, I saw kindergarten for the youngest on the horizon and I wondered how it was all gonna play out. And they really did have a yearning to go back to my career as a school counselor. And then boom, here it is. The Lord says, okay, so let's put a school counseling program at Concordia. And I was really honored that they asked me and I started the development of that two years ago. We pretty much had the course, the development, you know, development, done, approvals, everything approved. And we received the checkoff from the Nebraska department of education and our higher learning commission, accreditation body.

   (2m 36s):
And then I said, okay, Lord, we did it. So bring us the students. And man is he, he is just bringing them in from all over the country, which is really fun to just sort of pop in on some of these classes and cause it's all online, which is nice. So students can fit it in, you know, with their busy schedules and work on it. When it, when it fits each course is eight weeks. And we've had, we have students entering practicum right now, which actually I am teaching. And that's an exciting time because this is the hands on for them.

Jessica Brashear  (3m 11s):
And so, yeah, so the program is growing and we're, we really need school counselors right now. We need them in our public schools for sure, which is they've been there for a long time, but more than anything, we need them in our, our Lutheran schools. And so I, my prayers that the Lord will continue to let us use this as a platform for educating our Lutheran schools and our leadership and our churches on the value of a school counselor in these buildings and what they can provide and how they can help support what teachers and principals are doing and our families.

Elizabeth Pittman  (3m 45s):
We absolutely need them. And I was sharing with you a little bit before we got going. We had a situation happen in our family last weekend. I'm not COVID related, not anything that directly injured one of us, but we witnessed something that was rather traumatic, not just for the kids, but for all five of us. And my husband shot a note to the team at the local high school where my oldest is a freshman. And I was so impressed with how not only the counseling staff, but the campus pastor acted with intentionality and care towards my husband and I, but absolutely towards my son.

Elizabeth Pittman (4m 26s):
And it made that, that experience earlier in the week and throughout the week has made every penny of tuition worth its weight in gold, because I know they wouldn't necessarily have that at other places. So our counselors are critical to coming alongside our students and our families.

Jessica Brashear  (4m 43s):
Yes. And, and it really is a ministry. And, you know, before we had kids, I was a school counselor in a large public school district at a high school at the high school level. And you know, and when you're in the public school, you do, you have to sort of follow the guidelines of what you can and cannot say. And I have to say the greatest joy that I have had being at St. John is the ability to pray with my students and with the families I had, you know, I had some students in my office yesterday and we were problem-solving together and they were having a little bit of conflict with another classmate.

Jessica Brashear  (5m 20s):
And we talked through the appropriate ways to handle that conflict, you know, scripturally based and how to, how to problem solve that. And then at the end, we prayed together. I said you know what, let's pray about this conflict that you're in. And let's pray about this friend that's causing you frustration right now. And they left my office. And I just thought, man, how powerful is that, that I couldn't have had had that opportunity previously and my, my other job. And so, yeah, it is, it is a ministry and it's an important one.

Elizabeth Pittman (5m 49s):
It is. And it's the example that the kids are seeing and learning from is priceless. What are some of the biggest questions hearing from the students this year?

Jessica Brashear  (5m 58s):
So I think honestly, we're still in the honeymoon phase right now. My principal and I were talking about that. They're all just so excited to be back. So I do go over to the child development center and I do work with the preschoolers just one time a month. I pop in and do a little lesson. So primarily I'm working day-to-day with the kindergartners through eighth-graders. And so you can imagine there's a wide variety. You know, I'm always at the beginning of the school with the kindergarteners, that man, it's just such a rough year for them to start.

Jessica Brashear  (6m 31s):
What, what a not fun time to start kindergarten. So it's just, you know, reassuring the littler ones that this is, this is fun and we're going to have fun together. And, and for some of those younger grades that have experienced school, school looks a lot different for us. Right now. We are wearing masks at school. We are social distancing, different protocols are in place. And so reassuring them that this isn't going to last forever. They'd like to know when it's going to end.

Jessica Brashear (7m 2s):
And unfortunately, none of us have the answer to that. So that does as a mental health provider that does create stress for me because I don't have a solid answer for them. And honestly though, the middle schoolers, I mean, they're just middle schoolers. They're so happy, happy to be back in school, you know, and I think it is a nice reflection piece for them that, Hey, I realize maybe it was school is not so bad, you know, that I really do like it.

Jessica Brashear (7m 33s):
And I have great teachers and I have this fellowship and community of great friends at school. And so we're having fun right now. There haven't been a whole lot of concerns. There has been a little bit of, of anxiety about, you know, somebody coughs or somebody sneezes, you know, Oh, they have COVID or, Oh, we're all going to get sick. And so just reminding kids that, Hey, you know, look at the ways that we are taking care of one another, we are wearing our masks and we are washing our hands and we are doing our part.

Jessica Brashear (8m 9s):
And so really trying to help them understand that we're, we're taking the right steps that the experts are telling us to do. And we're going to have faith that God's gonna cover the rest of it.

Elizabeth Pittman
Do you think some of these kids are picking up the anxiety of their parents or other adults that they may come into contact with?

Jessica Brashear 
I absolutely do. Yeah, I absolutely do. I have seen that and I mean, I've seen it in my own children, right. When I, when I start to feel like I need control, I think that this all boils down for all of us, that when we feel out of control, that's when our anxiety spikes.

Jessica Brashear  (8m 50s):
And my thing is, I keep telling myself this, like Jessica, you're not in control, who is, you know, the Lord is he is in control. And then I can lay down that anxiety because I do, I do. And I control my day to day life and what I can control, but I can't, there's so much that is out of my control, but he knows. And he knows, he knows what I need. And I think the only thing that I can do, and I encourage others to do is to spend intentional time with him, you know, to spend time in the word that you get those truths every day, because I often talk about how we lay our anxieties down at the foot of the cross.

Jessica Brashear  (9m 27s):
And then the next morning I got to go pick them back up and no, no, no, that's not the that's not the set it on and leave it there, you know, but it's so hard cause I want to control. And so my kids are seeing me do that. I definitely have seen kids where, you know, our kids are resilient and I was, I really think what I'm seeing at school is just a lot of resilience in kids, excited to be back there have been a couple of incidents, you know, incidents where definitely I do think that the anxiety and the frustration from parents is impacting the kids.

Jessica Brashear  (10m 4s):
And so my encouragement on that is we always have to be aware of what we're modeling and how are we handling this really uncertain time in our own homes and in front of our children and how are we handling the conflict and the disagreements that we're having as adults. And how am I, how is my reaction to what is happening differently than because I'm a Christian? How is it different than what, how the world would tell me is the right way or an appropriate way or a validated way to respond?

Jessica Brashear  (10m 41s):
You know?

Elizabeth Pittman: 
So we have an amazing opportunity right now to really model for our children and teach them that Jesus doesn't change. The world may be changing by the minute, but our Lord does not change. And that is the one thing that they can hang onto with absolute confidence for their entire lives.

Jessica Brashear:
Yes. And that that's been the message we were giving our kids last spring. When we at st. John went to remote learning overnight, that was the message.

Jessica Brashear  (11m 12s):
We just, you know, we knew that they, a lot of the academic stuff was gonna go by the wayside and it needed to at that time because we needed to pour into them into that social, emotional, and that spiritual piece that we're going to just trust. And we're in this together, it's that sense of community that you're not alone. And we don't walk this uncertain path without a Savior who's leading us and lighting our way. And, and that continues to be the message we send them this year. Our theme verse for the year is, you know, in Christ I am, and I that's been, that's been what I keep reminding kids.

  (11m 48s):
And it's been like, Oh man, that was perfect, that's the perfect theme for us because all of the world is telling us all these other things, but we can always come back to who Christ says we are, and that is redeemed and forgiven and saved and loved and cherished. And because of that, we can, we can focus on our faith and not on the fear of it.

Elizabeth Pittman
Our kids, the theme verse comes from Hebrews and it's Something Better. And it's just really keeping their eyes focused on what, what really is out there.

  (12m 20s):
That's so much better than what we have here on earth. I like that one too. Yeah, that was, that's a good one. So we've got kids and families that are in so many different situations for our in-person kids who are, as you said, so happy just to be back with their friends and they're navigating new restrictions and they have to, they can't have their desks put together in pairs and they have to have their masks all the time. And I tell you, my kids will never forget their water bottle after they've done it once they are not going to make that mistake again, how can they kind of take all of this and still figure out how to, you know, be friends without the contact cause kids touch.

Jessica Brashear  (13m 5s):
I mean, they're, they're rough and tumble. They're like in each other's faces, you know, all day long, but without that kind of contact and being able to see each other's smiles throughout the day, how can they work on developing their friendships? That has been something that I have been working really hard with the teachers in my building and in our students. So I always say we want to focus on the cans instead of the cans. So there's a lot of cans right now, and it's easy to go down that dark path of negativity, so to focus on, okay, but what, what can we do?

Jessica Brashear  (13m 40s):
So I found these great little graphics from, for our younger grades. You know, how we can give greetings in the morning. And I showed them to the K three teachers and they loved them. And it's these little cartoon characters, you know, giving virtual high fives or elbow bumps, or they had the cute little elbow or hip bop hit bumps or foot bumps. And I've seen some third graders on the playground, you know, touch and feet bumping feet kind of reminds me of the like Kid in Play dance from the nineties

3 (14m 12s):
Channeling and

Jessica Brashear  (14m 17s):
Are they're finding ways they are. And I also, when I was in the classrooms for the very first time this year, I, I, we, we, I did an experiment with the kids and I said, I know you can't see me from the nose down. So I gonna try something and I smiled really big. And I said, am I smiling at you? And they knew they knew I was because they can tell in the eyes. Right? So I feel like teaching their kids really helping our kids learn how to pay attention to the other cues that we can give. What's my tone of voice. What are my eyes doing?

  (14m 48s):
What are my eyebrows doing? And what's my body language. My body language is showing you that I care about you and I'm giving you a five or when you're walking up to school today, I'm so excited to see you when I do jazz hands, you know, just be excited about that. And for those kiddos that are home and those schools that are still there, you know, they're either at high hybrid, which bless them. I that's gotta be just so hard for all those families and those who are at home full time.

  (15m 21s):
I mean, I'm not gonna lie. It's hard. There's no easy way to say, Oh yeah, this is great. You know, it's not great. It's not, it's not how, how we like to do school for educators either. So I just say I'm my, my advice on that would be again, intentionality. Where can you build into the schedule for your kids time to connect with friends? So maybe it's on Monday. You know, Jimmy, Jimmy knows on Mondays, I get to call Matthew after I finished my math and I'm in a zoom or we're going to play video games together and you know, Minecraft together.

Jessica Brashear  (15m 55s):
And that's part of the schedule so that they have those things to look forward to another, another idea I had that we, we did last spring with some of our students is pen pals. Can they, can we connect? Maybe can we connect an older grade to a younger, younger grade? And they can write notes back and forth to each other and make a little gifts. Or we also saw a lot of door dashing in the spring, which was so fun. And it brought so much story. You could go out to your mailbox and there's a little surprise in your mailbox from a friend.

Jessica Brashear  (16m 27s):
My son loves Pokemon. And so he and his little buddy, they were, you know, they would get on FaceTime and they would talk about their cards. And then they like to trade cards. And so they would ride bikes. Or if we were going to run an errand, we would drop the cards. They were going to trade in the mailbox. And then he dropped the cards in our mailbox. And, you know, just finding ways that they can still do the things that they enjoy. And while the weather's nice, let them go for a bike ride. Can they meet outside? Can they kick the ball back and forth?

Elizabeth Pittman  (16m 58s):
What, just looking for those ways to connect. It's so important. It is. And it's, it's hard. I mean, I, from doing virtual learning back in the spring, that was rough and you're absolutely right. It was tough on all of us. My two older sons I'm grateful our school had, they had a set schedule. They had their zoom times and they have their routine. I don't ever want to relive first grade again, because that was more hands on my first grader. And I shared the office space and it was there, there were a couple of days where we had to email the teacher and say first grade and bless her heart.

  (17m 36s):
She understood. But we did see the value of, as you said, letting the kids play together over video games. Cause they were talking to each other and they were having that interaction. And I, that really helped my older boys not feel bad about not being out and about because they were talking to their friends. And so it's so it's, it's tough. And I'm seeing my, my sister's kids are home right now. So she has a second, second grader and a fourth grader, virtual learning all day long every day.

  (18m 9s):
And it's, it's hard because that's, you, you would much rather sit six or 10 feet away from your friends and stay socially distant than sit by yourself and you're in your bedroom watching a screen or yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's just, it's not a good situation. And yeah, my hearts go out to those schools that are having to do that and those teachers and those families, because managing just what we did in the spring, managing your own career from home. And I had a kindergartener, same thing last year, you know, kindergarten didn't happen lots of days or week, half of kindergarten happened.

  (18m 44s):
And the other half we had to just let it go. And God bless those teachers that understand, they know they're, you know, they're trying to do it to, from home with their own kids. Well, they do. And they're wearing so many hats right now. And I know some of her teachers, even those that are in the classroom, they may have some kids that are zooming in virtually and you can't teach in talking with my son's second grade teacher. She was very adamant. You don't teach the same to a video camera as you do with the kids in the classroom.

Elizabeth Pittman  (19m 17s):
So how can we, what kind of pressure are teachers facing and how can we come alongside them question so much, so much pressure?

Jessica Brashear
You know, I, they are, I they're taking temperature. I mean, at our school, you know, the kids are coming in and we had to make adjustments to the time we started in the morning too, because we can't have kids congregating where we usually do before school. And so to have teachers coming in early and staying late to accommodate, you know, parents who need to drop their kids off and then get to work.

Jessica Brashear  (19m 50s):
And you know, there's, there's hand sanitizer everywhere and they're taking temperatures and they're sanitizing. Every time a kid touches something, you know, I have in my office, I have, I have a little, I need a bath bin. So after toys get played with, they go in the, I need a bath. And then I sanitize them at the end of the day. And I put all the Legos and individual baggies. Cause the boys that come see me love to do Legos. So, you know, I felt bad for this second grader. The other day he looked at me like, this is BearShare. Why do I only get one bag of Legos? I'm like, Oh, you can have two, you get two bags of Lego's and then that was fine, you know, but they're used to just a big bucket and that's just so different.

Jessica Brashear  (20m 29s):
So anyway, I digress back to the teachers. So my advice to them and teachers are naturally good at this. They are prepared all the time, you know? So to be being prepared, I always feel like when I feel prepared like I'm over-prepared, I know that whatever happens, whatever wrench gets thrown into to the day that I'm going to have a backup plan. So I think that's another thing is anticipating things will go wrong. We've said that at our school, just we know we're going to make mistakes.

Jessica Brashear  (21m 0s):
We know that this is not going to go like it normally does. So we're going to plan, but that's going to happen when it does. We're going to acknowledge it and say, yep, that didn't work the way we thought. And then we're going to forgive ourselves and move on. We can't sit in that and beat ourselves up. The teachers cannot do that because there's, it doesn't get us anywhere. It doesn't help. And then the other thing, the biggest thing for teachers, teachers love to be creative. You know, lots of teachers do. And I was just thinking, you know, maybe there's these teachers who, every year they're, they're the ones with the rock star bulletin boards and the cute little newsletters that go home and the arts and crafts and all of these things.

  (21m 41s):
And for teachers, for the teachers to recognize this year, if those things don't happen because you need to say stain, or you need some time with your family, or you need a weekend off, don't do those things. Like we don't need a bulletin board. They don't need the cutesy newsletter, you know, get the facts to the parents, send them an email and be done. You don't need it to be all cutesy. So to let those things go, this is not a normal year. So what you always do is not what you always can do this year and to just acknowledge and let it go.

Elizabeth Pittman  (22m 13s):
And I think in that same spirit for parents, like encouraging parents to not have the same goals for the school year that we might've had in previous years for this year and to understand it's a whole new game.

Jessica Brashear
Yes. Yeah. Parents, you know, parents just walk alongside with grace and forgiveness and encouragement. I mean, that's what, that's what teachers need right now. They need to know that they're not on this Island by themselves. And that every decision they're making a million decisions a day and they're doing the very best they can.

  (22m 48s):
So, and our administrators are too, right. So schools are doing the best, making the best decisions they can with the information they have at the time. And they, we all want what's best for our students. So, and I think, you know, so many parents are doing that. I see so many, so many ways that our parents are supporting us in our building and it, it makes a huge difference. And it just, it makes the hard days, a little bit easier to know. We have support specifically talking to administrators who not only have a lot of hats, but have pressure and questions unlike they've probably ever had before and they want to do well because they do know that this is an opportunity for them where, you know, their, their families and their communities are expecting them to step up.

Jessica Brashear  (23m 37s):
So how can we encourage them and remind them that it's again, it's okay. It's a different year. And some things are going to have to be let go. Yeah. So I'm married to an administrator. And, and so I've seen that from different sides and it is, and

Jessica Brashear  (23m 59s):
You said they are making the best decisions that they can with the information. And so how do we walk alongside with them? I think it comes down to how are we responding to the decisions that they're making, everybody's entitled to their opinion. And there are lots of different opinions on how we are doing school this year, how we're doing life right now in general as Americans. So I think it comes back to that question of how, how is how I'm responding to my disdain or my, I don't like how this is going.

Jessica Brashear  (24m 37s):
This is not going the way that I want it to go. How am I responding to that? Am I responding to it in a Matthew 18 sort of way, where I'm going to come to you and share my frustrations or ask for clarification rather than, you know, retaliating or stirring up inks or jumping to social media. I think, you know, that's happening a lot all over the country, but everyone loves to jump onto social media. And, and so really that doesn't help the administrators.

  (25m 8s):
I don't, I just don't feel like it does. They need, they want to know that I really feel like administrators, the ones I know have a very open-door policy come in, they would rather you bring your concerns and frustrations or your, you know, your need for clarification to them directly and have the conversation and do it in a Christlike way. I think that's all that they're asking for really, I think that's the best way to handle it.

Elizabeth Pittman
We had a chance to talk with one of your colleagues there at Concordia, Nebraska earlier in the week, Dr.

  (25m 41s):
David Coe. And he brought up the danger that we run into when we confuse Matthew 18 with Matthew 10:27. And let's make sure that we are shouting the gospel and the good news from the cops and from social media, as opposed to, you know, airing all of our grievances online when we should be going privately to our neighbor. So that was, and I think that's going to be important this year as everything he up the fires on, isn't it, the fire is definitely on.

  (26m 16s):
And so our kids are seeing this. They're seeing everything happening with election season, with the different viewpoints that are being shared about how we, our communities are handling the COVID situation. How can we make sure that we're talking about this with them in a way that they understand that our view is Christians is not the way of the world. And because they're going to be confused if they're seeing with what they're seeing, and we want to make sure that they know that certain behavior is not the right way to address challenges, and that certainly starts in the home.

Jessica Brashear  (26m 55s):
Right? So, yeah, I think you have to, you have to address it from a developmentally appropriate level. So for those younger kids, I O and even for your teenagers, I just think you're always, we are as a family, always looking for those natural opportunities to have the conversation. So one of the things I love to do with students, especially the younger grades is use books. Using books to start the dialogue is just such a great way to engage them and draw them in.

  (27m 29s):
And you can use the characters from the book and the pictures to really, you know, ask questions about what are we seeing here and what do you, what do you notice about this? You know, if it comes to racial issues or things of that nature. So to open up the dialogue, and when things happen in day to day life, where you can point out now, kids, how are we going to respond to this? Because we're Christian, you know, how are we, how is this going to look different for us? So I have a personal example of my, husband's probably not going to be happy.

  (28m 2s):
I'm sharing this summer. We were coming back from vacation and you know, this was right in the midst of, well it's, the whole summer has been the riots and the racial unjust, you know, the the social injustice and, and the conversation nationally, we're having about race issues. And we were coming back and we were driving through a very small town in Nebraska. And my husband was slowing down as we were coming into the town, but he was apparently not slowing down quick enough.

  (28m 34s):
And we did get, we got pulled over and, you know, the kids are like, Oh, you know, no, we got pulled over. And I will say that there were two police officers approaching our car. And they approached in what I thought was kind of a gruff, you know, away and told him that my husband had rolled down the windows. And, you know, there are three kids in the backseat, you know, books up to the ceiling, they're watching a movie there's candy everywhere. And, and they're like, well, I think once they saw the kids, they realized, Oh, this is just, you know, a family.

Jessica Brashear  (29m 7s):
And so they went back and we did not get a ticket. In fact, you know, he was kind of a little bit rude to my husband. He's like, I know, you know, why I pulled you over and Kurth, honestly, didn't he didn't. He was like, actually, I don't, you know, I don't know. And so I said, well, you were speeding. And he goes back, runs, runs the license plate or whatever he did. And then came back with stickers for the kids. You don't have a great date. So these little police badges,

4 (29m 34s):
And I,

Jessica Brashear  (29m 36s):
I felt this rage coming up inside me, you know, my natural instinct of wanting to protect my husband, because I know he's a good guy. And then also thinking about how that could have gone down for other families. And we, I, I said that out loud and it gave, it gave my husband and I an opportunity to have the conversation, you know, and, and our oldest daughter was like, what are you talking about that could have gone differently? And I said, you know how we've been watching these things? Cause they, the older kids had seen some of that on the media.

Jessica Brashear  (30m 8s):
You know, you've been watching some of these, these protests and people are upset and a lot of people are angry. And we had an opportunity to talk about how in this country, when people get pulled over, they're not all treated the same. And if we had been a family of color, how could that have gone differently? What, what might it have looked like? Does that mean it would have absolutely not, but could it have, and is that what some people are upset about? And, you know, we as Christians, how do we act?

Jessica Brashear  (30m 39s):
How do we respond? And we really are called to love, to love all people. And does that mean, we always agree with what they do or the decisions that they make? No, but in our family, we, we are trying to teach our kids that Micah six, eight, right? Do justice love mercy and walk humbly with your God. And I, I have that in my office. Like, that's one of my favorite verses, because I think that encapsulate, that encapsulates what we're supposed to do, what a great opportunity that was to teach a lesson about authority and respect.

Elizabeth Pittman  (31m 19s):
And just how you treat people in a very real-life example for your kids. We talked about that with our kids this past weekend, this was what I was referencing at the beginning of the episode, we were on the road heading to visit my parents at a stoplight coming off the intersection and over to our right less than a hundred yards away, we witnessed a live shooting in process. It was terrifying. And we couldn't, we were boxed in at the stoplight and we couldn't go anywhere.

Elizabeth Pittman  (31m 49s):
And all my kids and my sister were with us in the car and we're watching this go down and we were all numb when it was over. We got to the house safely. Thank goodness, nobody as best I can tell from news reports, no one was injured, but throughout the days that have followed, since we've had a lot of conversations about, it's so important to one respect that God made each and every one of us, we are all precious in his eyes.

Elizabeth Pittman  (32m 20s):
And we need to treat other people as these special, you know, gifts of God, everyone was created for a purpose. And we can't forget that because that affects everything from how we talk to each other, to how we treat each other, like in physical situations too, it affects everything.

Elizabeth Pittman (32m 41s):
And that has led to a lot of ongoing conversations with all three of them at different ages. And so it's, it's, we do have a lot of real-life examples, hopefully, none as in your face, that one was for most people, but like your situation and others, it's, it's not hard to find real-life examples to help teach our children how God wants us to act.

Jessica Brashear  (33m 6s):
Right. And I love that. How traumatic for your family though? Goodness. I know you have some older boys too. And so that the idea with the teenagers, I, I liked that. You said that because I feel like with the little ones, it is sometimes harder because you don't, you don't want to get into such deep conversations. It's just too much for their little brains. Right. But those teenagers, they are really starting to understand and experience the world. And so I think the best thing with that is talk to your teenagers, ask them they, they want to share their experiences with you and they want, they want to connect it to their real life.

Jessica Brashear  (33m 47s):
So ask them, you know, how, how are these things, these issues that we're experiencing as Americans, how's it impacting you at school? How is it impacting your friends? Where are you seeing it? Where are you seeing racial injustice? Have you, have you ever been with a friend and you've watched it happen or are you experiencing it yourself? How is it impacting you? Ask them those questions. And then this is the important part is to listen without judgment because those that's, that'll shut them down, you know? And I, I'm a parent and have a preteen and man, it's so hard and I know I've made mistakes so many times with her too.

Jessica Brashear  (34m 24s):
Like she wants me to listen to her without, you know, giving my 2 cents or like, Oh, well maybe you should think about it this way. And she'll tell me, man, don't be a school counselor right now. Just, you know, just listen to me. I don't want to see it from different perspectives. I just want you to hear me out. And it's especially,

Elizabeth Pittman (34m 40s):
Especially with teenagers, part of the trick too is getting them in that environment or that moment where they are ready to talk. And that isn't always the same from day-to-day. And I've noticed that I noticed that with my 14-year-old, where sometimes, you know, he'll come in and he'll sit down and he'll, he'll start going. And other times, Nope, it's not happening right now, but they want you to still be present and, and, and listen without chiming in.

Jessica Brashear  (35m 11s):
Yeah. So it's when they give you those little nuggets of opportunity, right? You just soak it all in. Like they do want to be with me. They do like me. I'm not the horrible person they think I am every minute of the day.

Elizabeth Pittman (35m 25s):
I was so thrilled when I heard my son tell me this, the conversations he's had at school with, with the counselor and the campus pastor, you know, he didn't come out and say it, but he, you could tell he was happy that they

  (35m 38s):
Had, they reached out to him and it could have very easily been, Oh, I can't believe they did that. But it wasn't that at all. And he, he voluntarily recounted the conversation and we prayed. And so it's, it's such a, it's, it's good to know that there are people there that our kids can talk to. Even when we may not be around, they can, they can talk to them. Yeah. And I love that because it is, we, we, I always tell kids this too, you know, they know that I'm a resource for them in the school building, but I always tell them your moms and dads.

Jessica Brashear  (36m 11s):
Well, we start with God. I say, who do we talk to first? And it's always the Lord. We always take it to the Lord. But then at right after that, it's mom and dad, it's your family. And they are the biggest supporters for you and the people. You should take those things too. But I, I tell kids I'm their biggest cheerleader at school. And during the day, if during the day you're here and you know, something's going on and you just need somebody to listen to you. It is nice to know that they have don't. We want that for our kids. We want to know that there are other Christ-following, likeminded, faithful adults in our children's lives, impacting them when we're not there in positive ways and pointing them back to Jesus.

Elizabeth Pittman  (36m 54s):
Yeah, absolutely. That is, one of the best things we can give our kids is just around them with people like that. So our teachers and our administrators, and probably even a lot of our parents are going to run into burnout this year and probably faster than in years past. Usually for me as a parent burnout hits in, Oh, April, I suspect it might come sooner this year. Yeah. How can we one recognize when burnout hits and how to care for ourselves and care for our, our teachers and our, the parents in our communities.

Jessica Brashear  (37m 34s):
Right. So I always say too, so there's kind of four steps to that. I guess if you're looking for some practical thing, so I'll give you the four steps and then we'll come back to a few of those. So the first thing is it's important for us to all know and watch for the signs of stress and burnout. So what does that look like in my life? Okay. And then the second is to identify the source of it. So where is it coming from? And what's causing the, this, this burnout and stress. The third is then to, to set goals and make specific intentional plans on how to address it.

Jessica Brashear  (38m 10s):
And then the fourth would be to find an accountability partner, cause it's easy to set those goals. And then just say, just kinda, you're really good the first week. And then by week two, they were at what happened to them. So, so knowing and watching for the signs of stress and burnout. So I, I had, I did some professional development with the teachers in our building before classes started. And we really spent some time looking that, and we did a lot of laughing too, but you know, to recognize those behaviors that are suggesting to you, that your stress load is high.

Jessica Brashear  (38m 44s):
So let me give you some examples. So we're E I'm easily agitated, more so than normal. I'm, I'm becoming obsessed with something and I cannot, you know, get over it. I have a hard time concentrating. I'm I'm eating a lot of unhealthy foods. I'm this is the one I do. I excessively clean. I had another teacher. She was like, yes, I do it. So we were laughing just the other week. We're both had a really rough day and I'm like, well, I'm gonna go home and clean. And she said, yeah, me too.

Jessica Brashear  (39m 16s):
You know? So my husband even knows. He'll come home and if I'm scrubbing pots and pans or scrubbing the toilets, he knows, okay, what's going on, something's bothering you. So I also say you pay attention to those cues in your body, you know, frequent headaches, stomach aches, heart, rapid heartbeat, sweat. Are you sweating more than you normally do? That is a sign that your body is constantly in this fight or flight mode. And that toxic stress is causing these physical reactions in your body.

Jessica Brashear  (39m 48s):
So are you drinking more alcohol than you normally do? Okay. So what, how are you, how, how is stress manifesting in your life? Okay, so then, so then you know this yup. It appears I have some stress that I'm reaching burnout. So then you need to look for where is it coming from? Is it, is it coming from within? Is it something that is going on inside of me? You know, I'm concerned, concerned about a conflict diamond with somebody else.

  Jessica Brashear(40m 20s):
I'm unsure about the future. I'm feeling isolated and lonely because I'm stuck at home and I'm trying to work from home. And that is causing me stress. Is it, is it a social stressor that I, I don't have a lot of personal space right now. Like maybe you're working from home and your kids are home too, and there's not a real delineation right now for a lot of people of work and home life. And so balance feels out of whack, you know, just trying to identify that, that source of stress.

Jessica Brashear  (40m 51s):
So then once you know where it's coming from and you know what it is, and you know how it's impacting you then to set some goals and make some specific plans. So, and I, and I really want people, I mean, for me too, and I actually set a goal for myself yesterday, that from now until the end of first quarter, I am going to, I have this new app it's called first five. And it's just, you know, quick little devotions in the morning before my heat used to be that I would wake up, my alarm goes off and I check my email.

Jessica Brashear  (41m 27s):
I mean, how many of us do that? Right? Or we end our day that way. And I thought, that's not helping me start today. So today was day one. I'll let you know how it's going next week. Awesome. But before I did any of that, before my feet hit the floor, I just, I did that. I spent that time in Romans one and reading through my devotion and starting the day that way. And that is, that's a goal. I set that by the end of force from now, till the end of first quarter, every morning, I'm going to start that way Monday through Friday, I'm going to start every day that way.

Jessica Brashear (41m 59s):
And how can that not be helpful? Right. And then find an accountability partner. So once you've set those goals, who's going to walk alongside you and say, Hey, how's that going? Or I need to tweak something. Or, you know, I'm disappointed that I didn't do what I thought I was going to do. And that partner can say, Hey, you know what? You're doing the best. You can try again, next week, start over, just keep going. We need each other right now. We're all stressed. We're all burned out.

Jessica Brashear  (42m 30s):
And you know, and that impacts every little thing we're doing. It impacts our entire life. It impacts our work life, our home life, it bleeds over onto our kids and the dog. I mean, we're all feeling it. So the community we need, we need our, our brothers and sisters in Christ to walk alongside us right now and say, I'm in it with you. We're in the same boat and we're not going to drown because God's, God's got the stern, but we're, we're in it together.

Elizabeth Pittman  (43m 1s):
And to just remind each other that lay those fears and anxieties at his cross. And remember we have, we have grace and grace for each other and grace from God, which is so helpful when we feel like everything is spiraling out of control with all the big questions as we start to wrap up, what encouragement do you have for our school counselors as they wait into this year of everything?

Jessica Brashear  (43m 32s):
Yeah. I'm with you, I'm with you. I, my, I have had a lot of anxiety starting the school year and you know, a lot of our teachers and our school counselors and our administrators that can't be lost on us either. They didn't have a break there. We, we went from crisis mode and March through the summer of planning mode. Okay. And all the possible scenarios, how are we going to, how are we going to fix this? How are we going to get this, this train on track?

Jessica Brashear (44m 5s):
And from, for the school counselors as a sort of school, counselors are really the frontline, the frontline for mental health in our schools. So, you know, we don't do the longterm therapy. That's not, that's not our role, but our job is to be that frontline and that kind of, that gatekeeper of mental health for our staff and for our kids and their families. And so that has been that's hard. So I just want to acknowledge any school counselors listening.

Jessica Brashear  (44m 37s):
I wanted to acknowledge that we are in a really tricky spot right now because of the uncertainty of this pandemic and any uncertainty of the election and all of the things going on right now. And we are called to help and love and encourage that's that's our role, but it can feel hard to do when we don't really, we've never done this before. You know, if, if a kid comes in and a kid is grieving because the dog died over the weekend, I know how to, I know how to help that kid in that place, but I've never done a pandemic before.

Jessica Brashear  (45m 18s):
And again, it there's no, there's no real end in sight. And so it makes it really tricky. So school counselors, just one day at a time, that's what I'm telling myself. I'm going to, I'm going to pray that the Lord equips me for today and I'm gonna start. I don't want to get emotional. I'm going to pray that he equips me for today. And I know that he is going to hand me things. He wants me to, to be his hands and feet for, and that he'll give me the tools I need. And that he'll forgive me when my human error makes a mistake.

  (45m 51s):
And that he'll equip me again tomorrow,

Elizabeth Pittman
You have shared so many helpful tips and encouragements for all of our listeners today. Be they counselors, parents, teachers just interested adults. So we thank you for that. If any of our listeners wanted to learn more about the count master's of counseling program at Concordia, where should they go?

Jessica Brashear  (46m 21s):
Yes, they should visit our website. So Concordia, gosh, and I should, I should have it memorized, but if they just put in Concordia university and we're here in Nebraska, Concordia university, Nebraska, the Master of Arts in School Counseling, it will pop up and the website has some really great information on, you know, the role of a school counselor and what makes our program special. There's a lot of online programs. Everyone's sort of looking at that model right now. There are a lot of programs and a lot of great choices out there, but I would argue that ours, ours is unique because we are able to pull scripture into our coursework.

  (46m 57s):
And we really do wrestle with the, you know, how are we salt and light in this place? And how do we use this role as school counselor to impact his kingdom for the better, no matter what, what school we're serving. And so that makes, that makes it special. So check us out.

Elizabeth Pittman
We'll add the link to the show notes so that listeners can get to it from there as well.  Jessica, thank you so much. This has been fantastic for me as a parent, and I hope it has been a benefit for our listeners.

Jessica Brashear  (47m 29s):
Thank you so much for the time. I appreciate it.