That is right y’all – I am back and rearing to blog!

The last 30 days have gone by in a flash – though some days longer than others (read: those 12 hour traveling days…).  I feel like I am a bit late to the gate on the “this was my ASCA 2013 experience”, but I wanted to share some of the meaningful things that I got from the breakout sessions and time networking with some new and alll my digital friends.

Hands down my favorite part of ASCA 13 was getting to meet many of my fellow bloggers and many Twitter/Facebook friends. I am not going to go into a long review of each breakout session I went to because if you are on Twitter, you got a live tweet of almost all of the breakout sessions throughout the conference on #ASCA13.

However, I did want to relay a few thoughts that have stuck with me through my month abroad that I will be bringing back to my high school site in a few weeks. Chef Jeff Henderson was the kick off speaker, and having heard him speak/cook at a non-educational venue, he impressed me with the level of commitment to the nation’s “at-promise” (I will get to this…) youth. I left the main session thinking to myself, why is it so difficult for me, at times, to connect to youth living in these challenging situations? I realized that I have never lived in their life situations and, growing up in a middle class family, never found myself wondering where my next meal would come from or worrying about having to work two jobs while in high school to give the money to my family. It made me think of the true meaning of empathy, to experience the student’s feelings in the place they are at, and not necessarily putting myself there too. Empathy does not call us to live the same lives as our students, but to see them for who they are exactly where they are at. Getting connected with some of these teens has barriers that look like “what do you know, you are <insert color, economic status, or religion here>“, “you have never been where I am”, and “this is not important to me” and instead of trying to convince students why you do know, simply agreeing and telling them we do not know, but that we care about them and would like to know more about it.
Jumping back a few sentences, I wrote “at-promise” youth. Typically, schools use “at-risk” to define students who may not be where they are “supposed” to be. A newly engaged couple presenting on their advisory programs used the at-promise term and I really liked it. It is a very simple, but very intentional and powerful change of language that is uplifting rather than demeaning to students. What would you rather hear: You are in danger of failing your class or you have an opportunity to pass this class if you work hard. I prefer the second? We, as counselors or educators, are giving students the benefit of the doubt and not starting a self fulfilling prophecy. I will begin using this term and advocating for others at my site to do the same.
Our #scchat tweetup and blogger meet and greet was a lot of fun and I look forward to meeting many of the new bloggers/twitterers that jumped on board at ASCA 2013 in Orlando next summer. I will leave off my ASCA re-cap at this point.

 TCG – Where have you been??

Immediately following ASCA 13, my wife and I took a nice and needed vacation. We headed to Europe to travel and got back yesterday evening. We made stops in Lisbon, Northern Italy, Oslo, Belfast, Dublin, and Boston. It was very neat to see the history, experience the culinary traditions, and meet the locals of each place we went. Our time in Italy and the small towns like San Giovanni in Marignano and Montepulciano had to be the highlight of the trip.
One website that I can highly suggest using when you travel: AirBnb.com – booking some of our stays on Airbnb made our trip. You get to meet locals, get suggestions on the best places to eat and visit, as well as meet new friends. Very highly suggested!

The blog author, Jeffrey Ream M.S, PPS, writes for The Counseling Geek. Connect with Jeff via email, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.

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