Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Stall at ASCA 2013

Friday, July 26th, 2013
American School Counselor's Association Conference 2013 Philadelphia, PA

American School Counselor Association Conference 2013 Philadelphia, PA

Independent Book Review

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

In this current era, teenagers in the fourteen and fifteen year old range, have constant and instant access to information and media content. They’re bombarded with information and misinformation in abridgments in the form of sound-bytes, sight-bytes, and thought-bytes. Due to this instant access, they take in enormous amount of bits and pieces of information at a rapid pace and all at once, which shortens their attention spans. Rather then mulling over and thinking through the big picture, they expect immediate answers to questions that require contemplation and careful consideration.
Today’s teens garner their information more from the media, Internet, social networks and their peers than they do from schools and families. An adolescent’s brain grows at an unprecedented rate while their hormones play havoc with their emotions and they do not always have the emotional or mental maturity to discern fact from fluff. The majority are more concerned with what is “cool” than what is right. The image that they project and their relationships with their peers, take priority over everything else. All of those factors and more are only normal steps of adolescence evolving into adulthood. It is crucial that, fourteen and fifteen year old children are allowed to learn from their mistakes. Their understanding of the world is limited and they need guidance and direction, but not regimentation. When it comes to a program designed to promote building self-esteem, racial and gender equality and tolerance; as well as addressing social issues, like cyber-bullying, abuse, addiction, suicide, etc; adolescents do not want to be lectured nor have their intelligence insulted. Instead, they should be given the intellectual and emotional tools to self-advocate. Vanessa Lee’s book, Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness Ages 14-15, aptly addresses these issues. In the preface to her book she states, “The Smile Inside philosophy is based on a very simple concept: people thrive when they’re emotionally balanced, self-aware and authentic with themselves and others.”
The Smile Inside plan is derived from David A. Kolb’s and Ralph Fry’s “experiential learning cycle.” and Kolb’s book,Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, which is a revision and enhancement of Kolb’s methodology based directly on philosophies of John Dewey, a founder and herald of Progressive Education. Experiential Learning gives everyone a chance to grow through experience. Students are rallied to participate in certain structured activities and have discourse and make inferences from the results of the said activities. From there, they take what they’ve gleaned from the experience of the previous activities and participate in more structured activities. Hence, what they’ve learned from their collective experiences, after further discourse, emendation and apperception, is applied across the board during more structured activities, to where eventually Experiential Learning is implemented unconsciously into all aspects of the student’s life. Lee writes, “…this teaching method causes participants to revise their prior understandings as they encounter new information in order to deepen their comprehension of themselves, others and the world.”
Smile Inside is designed for up sixteen students. It consists of eleven modules with a specific title that reflects the goal of each module. The modules are broken down into sections that contain activities that pertain to the subject matter implied by the title. For example, Module One is titled, Icebreakers. All of the activities in this section deal with ‘breaking the ice.’ The first activity is called:THE NAME GAME: “Remembering names and expressing characteristics.” Next is, The M&M GAME: “Opening lines of communication through sharing.” And then, an activity called CLUMP: “Discovering common bonds with peers.” This type of step by step chronology is consistent throughout all the modules, from “Icebreakers” to the final module, the appropriately titled “Culmination.” The structure of the modules and the activities within each module fit together like cogs in a perpetual experiential learning machine. Its operation moves as fast or slow as the required needs and abilities of each student. This promotes an atmosphere of true individual experiential and inquiry learning. Lee’s holistic approach with Smile Inside, encompasses all aspects of a child’s life besides scholastic, including such topics as; self-esteem, proper diet and exercise; methods of meditation; real life problem solving; appropriate socialization; working as team and building leadership skills. Throughout the modules, there are inspirational quotes from famous philosophers, intellectuals, inventors, titans of business and industry, writers and artists like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Ford, Marcel Proust, Anis Nin and Maya Angelou. The quotes reiterate and enhance the subject mater of each module and the eleven modules in Smile Inside are experienced as a whole.
Overall, Lee’s Smile Inside gives teens the tools, like self-esteem, self-discipline and empathy through experiential learning to become productive and humane citizens of the world.

-Lindy K. Gooden and Lee Gooden

The Dr. A Show – Radio Interview on Bullying

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Tune in to The Dr. A Show as Dr. Will Aguila interviews Vanessa Lee, program developer of Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness Ages 14-15.

  • WSAR 1480AM and in Fall River-New Bedford, MA Thursday March 21st at 11:00am ET
  • WCKY Cincinnati’s ESPN 1530 or Saturday March 23rd at 10:00am ET
  • WTKF 107.1FM & WJNC 1240AM in Eastern North Carolina Sunday March 24th 1:00pm & 6:00pm ET

Listen Online: Vanessa Lee’s March 21st interview

Teen Bullying Can Be Stopped!

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

( – Staunton, VA… With bullying being such an issue in schools and gaining momentum in the media due to suicides and violent acts of lashing out, programs that provide positive solutions can help prevent events such as these. Just released Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness Ages 14-15 provides an underlying anti-bullying theme but also looks at the question, “Who am I?” As a personal development resource, Smile Inside is a prevention program which provides interactive and introspective experiences and a guide for developing a more successful life journey.

Author Vanessa Lee asks, “Imagine what the world would be like if all individuals based their actions on reasons of empathy rather than fear of consequences? So how can we best prepare today’s youth for today’s society? We must give them opportunities to gain insight about themselves: their behavior, their feelings, their minds, and their motivations. We must help them acquire a healthy self-concept and cater to their social and emotional needs. We must support them in developing the skills and awareness that are imperative in preventing problems like depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders, addiction, and abuse which are prevalent today. We must be dedicated to the well-being of youth. It is our responsibility.” Vanessa is passionate about making a difference with teens today, “They are our future!”

Vanessa Lee is a lifelong educator who has devoted her professional career to the fields of student well-being, welfare, and personal development. With a Bachelors of Science degree in education Vanessa has worked for the Kansas City, Missouri School District and helped to develop the curriculum at an Applied Learning Magnet school. She has also worked at Mackillop Family Services with at-risk youth, and delivered professional development workshops at the Victorian Music Conference in Melbourne. Vanessa is a trained yoga instructor and has years of experience working in the fields of welfare and well-being for schools and community agencies. She is currently a member of the Victorian Institute of Teaching and works with various schools near Melbourne.

Review from Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

This book was developed from a prevention program initiated by Vanessa Lee to counteract bullying and to facilitate personal growth in teenagers. It is a handbook containing activities that allow 14- to 15-year-olds to ‘explore their identities, feelings, thoughts and behaviors’, and at the same time brings them to have an understanding of themselves and their relationship with the world. Among the topics covered are: empathy and respect; self-talk, emotions and coping; and goal setting.

-Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies

Youth Field XPress Newsletter (pdf download)

New program addresses problems, issues in teenage community

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

Vanessa Lee creates an educational resource in “Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness Ages 14-15” for youth workers to connect with teenagers

 (PR NewsChannel) / November 20, 2012 / MELBOURNE, Australia


Smile Inside

“Smile Inside” by Vanessa Lee

Vanessa Lee shares a program of activities, some from memory, for those who work with 14- and 15-year-olds in “Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness Ages 14-15” (ISBN 1456596772) in order for teachers and youth workers to better reach them. With one out of every five students admitting to bullying, Lee designs a program aimed to counteract bullying, self-destructive behaviors and much more.

Freshmen Advisory Program Teacher Ron White said, “The lessons and projects in the packets…were so great for the needs of the first year of the Freshman Advisory. [They] helped the freshman in our eclectic community to more quickly and qualitatively correspond on tough issues.”

“After my amazing experiences at camp and in two different elective courses in high school, I’ve always felt that every teen should be given the opportunity to explore their identity, feelings, thoughts and behaviors in a supportive environment to assist them in living to their fullest potential,” Lee says.

She covers a multitude of topics in “Smile Inside,” including empathy, problem solving, self-awareness, communication, setting goals and much more. The activities she covers can also be used in intervention programs for at-risk youth. Lee hopes that her work becomes a powerful tool in helping teenagers realize how to live a healthy, happy and meaningful life.

“Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness Ages 14-15” is available for sale online at and other channels.

About the Author: Vanessa Lee has a bachelor’s from Ohio University and has taught in classrooms in the United States and Australia. She has spent the past 20 years collecting and developing activities to share in this book. Lee is also a trained yoga instructor and has years of experience working in the fields of welfare and well-being for schools and community agencies. She currently is a member of the Victorian Institute of Teaching and works with various schools near Melbourne.

Vanessa Lee
Phone:              0422-802-570



Direct link:


Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

My interview with Amandah Blackwell which is also posted on her website:

The following is an interview with Vanessa Lee, owner of Smile Inside, a personal development organization that advocates for the wellbeing and personal development of youth.

Vanessa Lee graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education from Ohio University and was selected for an advanced program that provided extensive experience and training in innovative methods of teaching. She has over 300 hours of professional development along with additional training that has contributed to her knowledge in the field of personal development. 

Ms. Lee developed and co-facilitated a mentoring program and developed and facilitated a grade 7 girls program at Debney Park Secondary College. She also worked with students and groups at The Grange Primary, Newport Gardens Primary, and Derrimut Primary and continued working for Mackillop Family Services on a freelance basis with individuals on social, emotional, and academic levels.

Vanessa’s experiences inspired her to develop and provide resources for professionals who work with youth as well as for parents and their children ages 5-12. Visit Smile Inside to learn more. 

Interview Questions

 1. How did you come up with the idea for Smile Inside? What was the inspiration for it? 

I started out teaching in Kansas City, Missouri and saw how social problems affected families which had an impact on learning in the classroom. I wanted to contribute to the world and thought if young people had all the tools they needed to deal with life then the social problems wouldn’t be so bad, families wouldn’t fall apart as much, and kids would embrace learning and follow their dreams. I believed that an ideal way to do this is through education in schools, but was disappointed when I learned over the years that the things I thought should be considered priorities were shoved to the side to make way for test preparation. How can a child be expected to learn if they are struggling emotionally? Another huge hindrance is that teachers just don’t have enough time, support or resources to manage to the best of their ability.

I was really inspired by the courses and camps that taught me about myself and made such a huge difference in my life in middle school and high school. I was disappointed to learn that these sorts of experiences weren’t accessible to everyone and that it just wasn’t a priority in the school curriculum. I feel it is in everyone’s best interest to have access to these types of programs and activities.

Smile Inside is about advocating for personal development in schools and providing the services and resources that schools’ and those who work with youth deserve and need.

2. What do you think about the increase in bullying among today’s youth? Does Smile Inside educate youth about bullying? What about educating parents and educators about the short and long term effects of bullying? How can bullying be avoided in the future?

I find bullying heartbreaking, especially among young people. I was a student welfare coordinator in a 7-12 high school in Australia for 3 years (similar to a counselor) which gave me a greater insight on how bullying affects lives. Victims need support and coping strategies which is a part of Smile Inside’s method, but this is only a band-aid approach. There is a disturbing lack of empathy in bullies, but there are also emotional issues which cause their behavior. One of my intentions in developing the Smile Inside programs and resources was to eliminate bullying behaviors. There are a number of reasons why bullies act out and they, along with everyone else, can benefit from support, guidance and positive attention. Some of the activities emphasize that everyone deserves respect by focusing on the development of empathy. Participants are also given the opportunity to express themselves, explore their self-talk, and learn coping skills. Other activities give individuals the confidence they need to battle insecurity which is often a cause of bullying.

I would hope that all parents and educators understand the importance of dealing with the bullying issue, but this is not always the case. In schools, most teachers do their best to stamp it out but again, lack of time, support and resources work against them. Parents sometimes get involved but they can go about it in the wrong way. Smile Inside’s main aim is to educate youth, but the anti-bullying strategies are communicated to teachers, and parents in most cases.

I think a reasonable way to abolish bullying is through focused detection and intervention efforts using a Restorative Justice approach. I also think a prevention/intervention effort using a “heal the bully” approach is effective. These kids are hurting so much on the inside that causing others suffering is one way they cope with what’s going on internally. One activity I do with youth is called, “The Problem with Villains”. It gets participants working out how to rationalize bullies’ behaviors and brainstorming solutions to solve the problem in a group situation where bullies are present, but not targeted. Once bullies realize their behavior may be coming from a problem in their life they are more likely to soften and be open to help and healing. This indirect approach is more effective than the confrontational, negative attention they receive when they ‘get in trouble.’ Schools need more support and resources to tackle this issue properly. This could be done with more government funding and by creating strong partnerships with organizations that specialize in this area.

3. According to the website, “Smile Inside trains Educators, Student Welfare Coordinators, Youth Workers, Camp Counselors, Secondary School Nurses, and Chaplains to increase their effectiveness when working with groups of youth via peer observation.” What benefits have youth received as a result from Smile Inside working with people in the above fields?

Professional development is a never-ending process to become the best we can be in our field. Gaining inspiration and new ideas from fresh approaches helps these professionals to hone their skills and try new things. The youth benefit because the ones they trust are enhancing the style of their interactions with them. A new tactic just may work with a child who before, they had problems reaching.

4. How does Smile Inside help young people be true to themselves when parents, peers, society, etc. want them to be something they’re not? 

The Smile Inside philosophy maintains that an individual with an authentic sense of self, social skills, and resilience will be well-equipped to face life’s challenges and find success in all aspects of life. In other words, if they know and feel confident in who they are, they can remain true to their convictions and stand up to adversity when it comes their way whether that be in the form of a parent, a peer or an employer.

The soon to be independently-published resource, Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness, Ages 14-15 specifically gives youth the space to develop their sense of self. It helps them to explore their mind, needs, values, morals, perception of self, emotions, abilities, interactions with others and interests through activities, reflection, and discussion.

5. Is it easier for youths to master their behaviors and minds versus adults? What can adults learn from today’s youth in this area?

This is a difficult question to answer as everyone is unique. I am not so sure that age is a factor; some are more ready than others depending on many conditions. I do believe if young people are given access to techniques that will support their ability to master their behaviors and minds they have a definite advantage in succeeding in life.

Adults can learn so much in all areas from youth if they are willing to listen. Young people have a lot to offer and there is much to gain from their perspective. As far as learning to slow down, focus and follow our hearts, let’s hope we can be inspired by whoever is doing so, child, teen or adult.

6. What is your ‘personal philosophy’ for life? 

Love, peace, and happiness. :)

7. Anything you’d like to add? 

I am very excited to finally be publishing two resources that I have been working on since the age of 14. I have been collecting all the activities that have made a positive impact on me and have been testing, revising and creating even more since. They are in the form of handbooks for those who work with youth titled, Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness Ages 12-14 and Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness Ages 14-15. I am also in the process of trialing a resource for parents which is a positive reinforcement system for children, ages 5-12.

How Can Vanessa Lee and Smile Inside Help?

I’m a kid coach: In primary schools I get to see them in action in the classroom and work with them in and outside of the classroom on academics, social skills and self awareness. In the past, I have also worked with middle school aged students in relatively the same manner. At the present, I am also being contracted to work with individuals, mostly young people who are having academic, social, and emotional difficulties. Quite a few of them are in foster care or residential units.

Counseling: When I work one-on-one with young people in an academic setting whether it be at a school or private tutoring, I find that part of the job is counseling. I like to empower young people with skills that help them become who they truly want to be. If their goal is negative, I strive to steer them towards a more positive outcome through a variety of methods. Having individuals looking at their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual (if appropriate) levels of self is a wonderful base to help them realize their potential.

Meditation and Yoga: I trained as a yoga instructor and I use what I have learned to help others. Silencing the mind, using a mantra to focus, slowing the breath, creative visualization and using balancing poses to focus are all techniques that I incorporate into helping youth to learn self-awareness.

Visit Smile Inside to learn more about Vanessa Lee and her organization.


Newsletter Issue 5

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

‘Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.’

Native American Proverb


Highlighted Practice ~ Instilling Empathy

For some it comes naturally, but others have to experience many cycles of anger, disappointment or pain before they really get it.  Helping youth understand empathy goes a long way in increasing their capacity for respecting others and having meaningful and successful relationships.  Getting them to think about and discuss it isn’t nearly as effective as putting them in a situation where they can experience something in order to understand it more deeply.  One example of this experiential learning approach is to ask a young person who is critical of their teacher in a classroom setting the chance to plan and instruct a lesson.  Afterwards, ask them questions that will help them compare and process their experience.  They will discover what it is like to stand in their teacher’s shoes and gain some newfound respect for him or her.   This same approach applies to other situations where a young person is being critical of someone.  Allow them the time and space to see what it is like so they can have a new level of awareness.


 Activity of the Month ~ Now I See!

Description:  The participants will experience a physical impairment or disability through role play.  They will discuss the difficulties they faced and their feelings about the experience.  They will relate their experience to those who have physical impairments or disabilities, if such a guest is able to visit.

Duration:  40 minutes minimum including preparation, the experience and processing time

Materials:  blindfolds, ribbons, earplugs, canes or walking sticks

  1. Ask participants to find a partner.  Assign each pair an impairment or disability or have pairs pick from a hat.  The following are suggestions:
  • vision-impaired, blindfold the participant (the partner will act as his/her seeing-eye dog)
  • physically-disabled, have one or both hands tied back with ribbons
  • hearing-impaired, plug ears with earplugs
  • elderly person, assign physical difficulties (back, hip, leg) and use a cane or crutches
  • speech-impaired, unable to speak
  1. Have one member of the pair ‘experience’ the impairment/disability for 10 minutes or longer then have them switch roles.  Have participants go for a walk, get a drink or assign them some tasks.  If in a school setting, encourage the pairs to honestly experience recess or lunch with their impairments/disabilities switching roles halfway through.
  1. After the pairs have had an adequate amount of time in their roles, discuss the difficulties and feelings everyone experienced or have the participants each make a list and share it with the group.
  1. If possible, invite someone with an impairment/disability to share with the group the difficulties they face each day.
  1. Ask the group:
  • How do you think you would do if you had to experience that impairment/disability all day, every day?
  • Does anyone know anyone with any of these impairments/disabilities?  Have they shared any of their frustrations with you?  What kinds of difficulties do they face?
  • What insight or knowledge do you now have about people with these impairments/disabilities after experiencing it for yourself?


Newsletter Issue 4

Friday, August 19th, 2011

‘I know you believe you understand what you think I said,

but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.’

Robert McCloskey

Highlighted Practice ~ Enhancing Listening Skills

Listening well does not come naturally to all children.  Some really need to learn to focus and then consciously practice listening skills.  The activity below, ‘Which Way’ will allow ages 7-13 to have fun while working on their listening ability.   It may also uncover some problems.  If 5% of children in schools are affected by auditory processing disorder, there is a good chance that a young person you know may be learning to cope with this disorder with or without support. Those with APD find it most difficult when trying to comprehend complex directions or information in a noisy environment.  The problem is not with their hearing, it is how their brain processes speech.


  • normal hearing and intelligence with the following:
    • not paying attention
    • unable to follow a sequence of instructions
    • not remembering information presented orally
    • poor academic progress and behaviour

Strategies for Parents:

Strategies for the Classroom:


Activity of the Month ~ Which Way?

Description:  The participants will give and receive verbal instructions without eye contact or the use of questions and then with eye contact and the use of questions.  They will compare the difference between the tasks and draw conclusions about what makes listening easier.

Duration: 40 minutes

Materials: folders for all participants that contain 6 shapes (i.e. circle, square, triangle, rectangle, star, oval)

  1. Pair participants up back to back giving each one an identical folder.
  1. Have the pairs decide who will be the speaker and who will be the listener.
  1. Instruct the speaker to place their 6 shapes into an arrangement on the folder and then proceed to verbalize their picture to their partner.
  1. Tell the listener to place the shapes of his/her folder into an arrangement according to the instructions of their speaker.  Tell the listener (s)he may not ask any questions or look at the speaker’s arrangement.
  1. After about 5 minutes, announce that time is up and they may look at each others’ shape arrangements.  Ask the following:

*        Did anyone’s pictures match perfectly?  How did you manage it?

*        What were your frustrations (listeners, speakers)?

*        What could have made this process easier?

  1. Ask the speaker and listener to switch roles and allow the process to take place again with the use of questions.  Examine and reflect upon the results.
  1. Repeat the process once more, this time with the use of eye contact using the folders to shield the arrangements.
  1. Ask the group:

*        What do you think this activity is meant to teach you?

*        What listening skills are necessary for the highest degree of success?

*        Are there any other discoveries you would like to share?


  1. Set up a partition and use objects instead of shapes to allow the group to observe two participants complete the task.
  2. Using paper and partitions have participants attempt to duplicate their partner’s drawing by only listening to their instructions.


Newsletter Issue 3

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

‘I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Leonardo da Vinci

Highlighted Practice ~ Balancing for Focus

’Aaron’s’ attention was darting all over the place.  I frequently had to bring his focus back to the assignment we were working on by saying his name aloud and speaking to him very slowly and calmly.  ‘Sarah’ would get stuck on the same multiplication facts during timed tests even though I knew she knew the answers.  I used the same focusing technique with both students; I asked them to successfully stand on one leg and then the other.  It only took a minute and had great results.

Encountering young people who ‘have their head in the clouds’ or who are ‘off with the fairies’ when it is time to focus is quite common, even in adults.  The ability to be able to fully focus on what is being said or presented is influenced by how grounded or present one can be.  In my yoga training, I quickly learned that I could not have success with balancing postures unless I was fully present from the feet up.  Sport, martial arts, dance and other physical activities all play an important role in helping youth develop these skills, but some individuals, especially ones who spend most of their spare time at the computer, watching television or playing video games, are just not getting the practice they need.

There are some great programs out there such as Bluearth ( and Brain Gym ( and which have exercises that support the development of this essential skill.  Balancing postures in yoga, many of which are outlined in the teacher resource centre on the Bluearth website, are very effective in helping youth achieve physical stability and ultimately, develop a stronger capacity for focus.

Activity of the Month ~ People to People

Description:   The participants will follow commands to connect parts of the body with a partner while maintaining balance.

Duration:  10 minutes

Materials:  floor space

1.  Pair the participants into temporary groups of two.

2.  Explain to them that their task is to follow the commands.  The parts of the body said aloud are to be connected physically by the partners.

3.  Start by calling out body parts to connect in the following manner:

*hand to hand

*knee to knee

*elbow to elbow

4.  The partners should connect the parts of their bodies however they can manage.  They must work together to keep their balance.

5.  When it is impossible for the pair to connect any more parts, say, ‘People to People!’ which indicates that they need to find a new partner.

6.  To make things more challenging, have them decide who will use the first part of the body given and who will use the second.  The following is a suggestion:

*right shoulder to left elbow

*right finger to neck

*left foot to left knee

7.  Again, when their balance is threatened, say, ‘People to People!’ so they can find a new partner and start fresh.  Join the game and allow a student to be the leader.