Guidance and Counseling
Why are school counselors important?
Today’s young people are living in an exciting time, with an increasingly diverse society, new technologies, and expanding opportunities. To help ensure that they are prepared to become the next generation of parents, workers, leaders, and citizens, every student needs support, guidance, and opportunities during adolescence, a time of rapid growth and change. Early adolescents face unique and diverse challenges, both personally and developmentally, that have an impact on academic achievement.
- American School Counselor Association
ISPS has three school counselors, One in each division of the school.
The Elementary School counseling department believes that its most important mission is to help all students feel connected, cared about, safe and respected so that they grow into confident and successful learners. Thus, the Pre K-5 counselor works with students in the classroom, individually, and in small groups with a focus on four areas of development – personal/social, academic, career and an added Global Perspective domain to address the unique needs of International School students.
Programs: Well-researched and evidence-based
The Second Step curriculum is fun, interactive and developmentally sequenced to address such topics as skills for learning, emotion management, empathy and problem-solving strategies.
The Steps to Respect bully prevention program is designed to decrease bullying at school while nurturing friendships and fostering more supportive and respectful relationships among students.
The Conscious Discipline program addresses the impact of internal emotional states on behaviour and integrates classroom management and social-emotional learning to help students develop effective self-regulation skills.
Here are some of the ways in which the ES counsellor helps students, families, and teachers:
- Drop-in Sessions: students visit the counselor for help in solving common problems such as friendship issues or playground conflicts to share good news!
- Small-group: 4-6 structured sessions for students needing additional support with a particular issue, for example study skills, anger management, working in a group. Teachers may also refer students for support if needed. Parent consent is required.
- Individual sessions: short-term to help students work through personal issues that are interfering with learning, such as anxiety, grief/loss, and self-control issues. Parent permission is required. If the student is in need of additional counseling, a community referral will be recommended
- Crisis Intervention: support and counseling in individual and school crisis situations.
- Student Intervention Team (SIT) meeting: Based on teacher referral to address academic/behavioral/social/emotional concerns that may be chronically interfering with a student’s learning. The meeting involves relevant teachers, the principal, the counselor the parent and the student and focuses on the student’s strengths to help create an appropriate and personally meaningful intervention to move the student forward. The intervention is monitored by the counselor and class teacher.
- Transition Education and Activities: Despite the joy and excitement of meeting new people and learning new cultures, international school students may have to grapple with many losses – of relationships, lifestyles, familiarity, identity, possessions, language. The counselor helps to address these issues by coordinating the Student Ambassador program, monitoring and providing on-going support for students throughout the year and running grade-level transition groups at the end of the year for both parents and students.
- Test Coordinator – coordinates standardized testing (MAP & ERB) throughout the school year and also conducts new students’ academic screenings. He/she consults with teachers and parents regarding score interpretation, testing procedures, test anxiety etc.
- Student Advocacy – the counsellor, in collaboration with the MS and HS counsellors, participates in school improvement initiatives and advocates for individual students as needed.
- Resources: The counselor provides resources for parents via newsletter articles, books, links, websites, and other sources of valuable information on issues which may affect learning and development. Additionally, he/she holds regularly scheduled Parent Forums on a variety of topical issues such as School Anxieties, Responding to Bullying, Screen time – challenges and benefits.
- Parents and teachers may also access a community resource list for psychoeducational assessment and additional counseling support.
- Consultation - the counselor collaborates and consults with teachers, parents, administrators, student support services, the school nurse, the MS and HS counsellors, and community resources to ensure that the Guidance and Counseling program remains a coordinated and integral part of your child’s total experience at ISPS.
- And finally, a note on confidentiality:
- Counseling sessions are confidential to help students share their thoughts and feelings and explore ways to address their concerns and challenges in safety.
- However, the following limits to confidentiality must be noted: (Source: https://goo.gl/dJPu6f)
- “By law, the school counselor must report any case of abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities.”
- “School counselors inform parents/guardians or appropriate authorities when a student’s condition indicates a clear and imminent danger to the student or others. This is done after careful deliberation and, where possible, after consulting with other counseling professionals. The school counselor will attempt to minimize the threat to a student and may choose to: 1) inform the student of actions to be taken, 2) involve the student in a three-way communication with parents/guardians when breaching confidentiality or 3) allow the student to have input as to how and to whom the breach will be made.”
What are the developmental needs of middle school students?
Middle school is an exciting, yet challenging time for students, their parents and teachers. During this passage from childhood to adolescence, middle school students are characterized by a need to explore a variety of interests, connecting their learning in the classroom to its practical application in life and work; high levels of activity coupled with frequent fatigue due to rapid growth; a search for their own unique identity as they begin turning more frequently to peers rather than parents for ideas and affirmation; extreme sensitivity to the comments from others; and heavy reliance on friends to provide comfort, understanding and approval. - American School Counselor Association
ISPS Middle School Counseling Program Overview
Our Middle School Counselor provides a proactive and collaborative program that promotes the overall well-being of each student, as they work towards creating a learning environment which is safe, healthy, and supportive.
The middle school counselor implements the School Counseling Program, which may include the following:
School Guidance Curriculum is aligned with the ATL’s of the MYP and tailored to the needs of the students expressed by the student themselves, their parents and the teachers. Topics may include:
- Academic skills support
- Organizational, study and test-taking skills
- Education in understanding self and others
- Coping strategies
- Peer relationships and effective social skills
- Collaboration and Communication, problem-solving, decision-making and conflict resolution
- Career awareness, exploration and planning
- Multicultural/diversity awareness
- Individual Student Planning
- Academic planning/ Goal-setting
- Education in understanding of self, including strengths and weaknesses
- Transition planning
- Child Protection
- Personal Safety
- Substance Awareness/Prevention
- Individual and small group counselling
- Individual/family/school crisis intervention
- Peer facilitation
- Community Referrals
- Professional development
- Consultation, collaboration and teaming
- Program management and operation
- Test coordination
The Middle School Counselor Collaborates with:
- Parent information night
- Academic planning programs
- Parent and family education
- One-on-one parent conferencing
- Assessment results interpretation
- Resource referrals
- Career exploration
- Assistance with students’ academic plans
- Classroom guidance activities
- Academic support, learning style assessment and education to help students succeed academically
- At-risk student identification and implementation of interventions to enhance success
- Parent communication/education
- School climate
- Behavioural management plans
- School-wide needs assessment
- Curriculum planning
- Student data and results
- Student assistance team
- Peer education
- Peer support
- Academic support
- School climate
- Leadership development
- Community Involvement
- Service learning
- Crisis interventions
The life of a typical High School student is one of uncertainty and self-discovery.
High school students are often looking for a place to belong. They rely heavily on their peer groups to learn what types of behaviors are rewarded with reactions they feel to be positive, often at the expense of reason and good judgement.
As emphasized in the American School Counseling Association (ASCA) national standards, high school counseling and guidance services are meant to address the barriers students have to learning, both educational learning and life-long learning.
In keeping with our Mission, the High School Counseling Program seeks to support students as they strive for excellence and to assist in their development as caring, collaborative global citizens of integrity.
The Guidance Program is comprehensive in scope, preventative in design and developmental in nature (ASCA) and is driven by data and based on standards in:
School counselors provide services to students, parents, school staff and the community in the following areas:
Direct Student Services Direct services are in-person interactions between school counselors and students and include the following:
- School counseling core curriculum: This curriculum consists of structured lessons designed to help students attain the desired competencies and to provide all students with the knowledge, attitudes and skills appropriate for their developmental level. Students in high school will have one guidance period per week in ensure the proper delivery of the guidance curriculum.
- Responsive Services. Responsive services are activities designed to meet students’ immediate needs and concerns. Responsive services may include counseling in individual or small-group settings or crisis response.
- Individual academic planning and scheduling
- Individual and small group counselling
Indirect Services include:
- Referrals for additional assistance, consultation and collaboration with parents, teachers, other educators and community organizations.
- Counselors are also a part of the Student Support Team and the Child Protection Team.
College Guidance is a separate component of the guidance program in the high school.
At the International School of Port of Spain (ISPS), we strive to prepare our students and their families for the challenges that they will face in the future. Our High School Program is a college preparatory program, therefore, it is only natural that we assist our students in the transition to college/university.
It is important to emphasize that the College Guidance Program at ISPS is exactly that, one of Guidance, as opposed to Placement. It is one in which the lead is taken by students and parents with the Counselor facilitating the process. This process includes:
Completing the application
Ultimately, the key to being happy and succeeding in college is finding the right “MATCH” between the student and the institution. We believe that once the environment is right (academically, socially, culturally etc.) then students will thrive and blossom there.
ISPS promotes the concept of a well-rounded applicant. We believe students should display their talents and interests to these institutions in a variety of ways such as sports, fine arts, and community service.
Early College Preparation: The High School Career
While it’s true that the majority of the college search process can take place during the junior and senior years, the actual preparation process begins as soon as the student begins high school, even before.
The three main areas of early college preparation are:
When it comes to academic work the important point is that students need to challenge themselves appropriately by taking the number and type of courses that suits them. At ISPS this usually means the AP courses. Keep in mind, that the more you can accomplish the better prepared you will be.
Read, read, read! The development of language proficiency cannot be overstated.
The start of high school is also a perfect time to consolidate/develop appropriate academic skills and attitudes. Our guidance program aims to facilitate this.
Please remember that starting in ninth grade every grade matters. The high school transcript is the single most important document in the application!
There are a number of reasons why participation in activities is highly regarded by college admission personnel.
Overall development and growth
And the list goes on!
The result of being involved both directly and indirectly supports a student’s application.
When it comes to community service, a recent “Do Something” survey revealed that a student’s commitment to one cause over a long period of time is a significant aspect of the college application. Do Something, an organization that encourages young people to volunteer and contribute to their communities, surveyed admissions officers from 32 of the top universities in the country, ranked by US News & World Report. Seventy percent of those queried said they prefer to see a student who sticks with one cause, not one who dabbles in a laundry list of volunteer opportunities.
“It is clear that passion and commitment to something bigger play a key role in their decisions,” the authors of the survey noted. “Taking the lead to bring about change in a community will help set a student apart from his or her peers, but communicating depth in that experience is also a determining factor for admissions’ officers.”
The high school offers students a number of service opportunities including:
Reach Out (Tutoring)
National Honor Society
Turtle Tagging and Beach Clean-up
However, students are encouraged to get involved in any community service activity in or out of school.