On Wednesday, February 4th the counselors across all divisions gathered on the Pretoria Campus for a panel discussion with a group of Pretoria parents.
The purpose of the panel was to allow the counselors to elaborate on their roles and responsibilities at each division, stress their areas of expertise and interest, and to allow parents to express their questions and/or concerns. The event last for approximately one hour and forty five minutes, as parents had many relevant questions and interesting comments to share with the counselors.
Ann Ireland, one of two of the High School Counselors was the first to start off. Ann explained that she and Melissa Johnson-Schnyder divide up the alphabet to determine their caseloads. Both Ann and Melissa focus on pastoral care for students, as well college counseling. Ann really enjoys the one-on-one aspect of working so closely with students, and getting to know their specific academic and emotional needs. Melissa is passionate about college counselling, and loves guiding students on their journey to find their best University placement and discussing their future aspirations and career goals.
Kendel Leet, the Middle School Counselor on the JHB campus stressed that although the chronological age range for middle school is three years (grades 6, 7 and 8) the emotional and developmental range can be around 5 to 6 years, as the students are all going through puberty at a different rate. This can be challenging, but it is also exciting to see them change so dramatically through the years. Kendel’s area of interest this year and next will be on moving the Advisory Program forward in a way that addresses these varied emotional, social and academic needs of middle school students.
Lee Cassidy, is the Counselor on the Elementary JHB campus. Lee has the largest group of students under her care, and thus works very closely with elementary teachers to implement a clear Guidance Curriculum for each grade level. She makes sure to be in each classroom every few weeks, and this allows her to get to know all of the students in the Elementary school. Lee tries to do small group work, as well as to address conflict resolution issues, and helping students set realistic behavioural goals for themselves.
Joe Rauschenbach works as the Counselor on the PTA campus, and thus has the largest age range of students, from pre-K to 8th grade. Joe has to wear many “counseling hats” to address the varied issues of small children up to teenagers. Much of his time and focus goes towards addressing conflict resolution and anti-bullying education. He is also working on improving the Middle School Advisory program.
Once the counselors had presented themselves, it was time for parents to ask their questions. Most parents wanted to know, “What are the most common issues/problems that you see at each division?”
I the younger ages, a lot of time is spent navigating the children through social issues. Thus the emphasis on Conflict Resolution, as mentioned above.
In the Middle School, most of the issues revolve around organization; study skills, stress management, and some friendship issues, especially with the girls.
In High School, time management, organization and stress continue to be an area of focus that counselors spend a lot of time working on with students.
Parent comments and suggestions:
-Many families come from schools and countries where it is not a common practice to have a counselor within the school setting. It is a pleasant surprise to know that there is so much support on all divisions, but maybe there are many parents who do not know that they can use you as a resource.
It was suggested that counselors make themselves more visible to the international parent population.
There was also a concern that students might not know that they can come to the counselors. All the counselors at each division stated that they do have to be creative about how to become familiar to the students and gain their trust, so that they will feel comfortable approaching the counselor if and when they need help. Counselors can achieve this by:
- Orientating all new students
- Addressing students at the start of the year
- Attending field trips
- Going on Classroom Without Walls school trips
- Participating in classes in different ways
- Having lunch with students
- Being present when the buses arrive and depart campus
- Going to Advisory groups
Parents also suggested that they could play a bigger role in helping counselors meet the needs of students and parents. More opportunities could be created where parents share their experiences as parents: “what worked for me when my kid…”
Our parent population also have vast levels of expertise in many different areas, and it was suggested that many would be willing and excited to share that with students. Counselors and Principals could help to foster this partnership and create opportunities for this to happen.
All in all, the counselors felt like the panel was time well spent, and hopefully the parents did as well.
Lastly, we leave you with the final thought that the counselor’s job in the end, is to make sure that your child is happy and health here at school J
If you would like to contact the counselor for your child’s division, please see below:
Ann Ireland, JHB-HS Counselor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Melissa Johnson-Schneider, JHB-HS Counselor: email@example.com
Kendel Leet, JHB-MS Counselor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lee Cassidy, JHB-ES Counselor: email@example.com
Joe Rauschenbach, Pretoria Counselor: firstname.lastname@example.org