Log in
  • 14 Jul 2023 11:26 PM | Anonymous

    By Nemanja Arandelovic, Middle School Counselor, American International School of Vienna (Austria), ISCA Taskforce Member

    When the Covid-19 pandemic started, as a school counselor I tried to support my school community by doing psychoeducation around relevant topics such as trauma, anxiety, and resilience. We are almost two years into the pandemic, and I figured out that we all need something more to help us go through this period. As Austrian psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” I discovered a relatively new theory that helped me to stay optimistic and hopeful that psychological growth from the pandemic will occur in the future.

    Post-traumatic growth

    Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is a theory that was developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun in the mid-1990s.  Their premise holds that people who endure psychological struggle following adversity can often see positive growth afterward. "People develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have, and a better understanding of how to live life," says Tedeschi.

    Five areas of growth

    To evaluate whether and to what extent someone has achieved growth after a trauma, psychologists use a variety of self-report scales. Tedeschi and Calhoun developed one of these scales, and named it Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) (Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1996). It looks for positive responses in five areas:

    1. Appreciation of life.

    2. Relationships with others.

    3. New possibilities in life.

    4. Personal strength.

    5. Spiritual change.

    PTG Vs. Resilience

    Resilience is a well-known term that is often discussed in different SEL programs and counseling curriculum lessons. It involves the ability to more easily rebound from trauma and quickly return to one's normal state of being. PTG, on the other hand, goes above and beyond resilience. It explains what happens when someone experiences a traumatic event and then ultimately finds a sense of personal growth.

    Transformation of Communities

    PTG can happen to individuals, as well as to groups and communities. When a crisis occurs in a community, people often react by becoming more interconnected. People feel a common sense of purpose, and a spirit of cooperation begins to replace normal competitiveness. For the community, this often equates to a kind of PTG. One study showed evidence of collective PTG after natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. In these situations, people developed communal coping strategies.

    Curriculum can help students to achieve PTG

    As educators, we can help the young people in our lives achieve growth from our collective experience. Curriculums that incorporate opportunities for children to write about and discuss what it was like to live through this time, acts of kindness they witnessed, new skills they learned, or what they are most looking forward to doing as a class in the future can help children think about how the world is working together as one community to help people everywhere.

    Promoting PTG in counseling sessions

    The most basic conditions for PTG to occur include making sure basic safety and survival needs are met. During our one-on-one session, as school counselors, we should take care to meet students in their current mindset and avoid minimizing their suffering. However, the concepts of PTG can gradually be introduced by helping students reflect on insights from their experience. We can help students see that positive outcomes such as these are true for them:

    • I discovered that I’m stronger than I thought I was.

    • I know how to better handle difficulties in life.

    • I have been able to change my priorities about what is important in life.

    At the very least, we can help students understand that PTG is a normal process that can be a possibility for them to achieve. 

    As counselors, it is important for us to help our students understand that it is not good for them to try to avoid negative feelings because it prevents them from living fully. We are the ones in the best position to help students increase their “psychological flexibility” so they can face the world with openness and exploration.


    Another common pitfall is that students, and everyone generally, have the belief that stress is harmful. This assumption can create an additional burden of “stress about stress.” We should help students change their mindset to focus their attention on the opportunities for growth that accompany stress.


    My hope is that PTG will be one of the aftereffects of the Coronavirus pandemic. With all the information and research available about this theory, we as school counselors and educators can all try to help our students and ourselves to develop a heightened sense of appreciation, more authentic relationships, and a new sense of resilience and self-confidence.


    Collier, L. (2016, November). Growth after trauma. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/11/growth-trauma

    Ferlazzo, L. (2021, October). Helping Our Students Achieve 'Post-Traumatic Growth'. https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-helping-our-students-achieve-post-traumatic-growth/2021/10

    5 Domains of Post-Traumatic Growth [Photograph]. (2019, April). https://complextraumahealing.wordpress.com/2019/04/08/5-domains-of-post-traumatic-growth/

    Hagan, E. (2019, April). Posttraumatic Growth. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/surviving-thriving/201904/posttraumatic-growth

    Kaufman, S. B. (2020, April). Post-Traumatic Growth: Finding Meaning and Creativity in Adversity. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/post-traumatic-growth-finding-meaning-and-creativity-in-adversity/

    Post-Traumatic Growth. (2021). https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/post-traumatic-growth

    Taylor, S. (2020, April). The Coronavirus and Post-Traumatic Growth. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-coronavirus-and-post-traumatic-growth/

  • 14 Jul 2023 11:24 PM | Anonymous

    Shelly Maldonando, ISCA Taskforce member, Elementary School Counselor, International School of Kenya

    It seems like every week when I read educational journals and news there is at least one article that talks about more and more teachers burning out and leaving the profession. It made me think about counselors.  If teachers are burned out, what does that mean for counselors?  Not only are we tackling the social, emotional, and academic deficits in our school communities, we are often tasked or feel responsible for trying to uphold the teachers and administrators who are burning out at our schools.  Who is taking care of us?  

    To be completely honest, after 15 years as a school counselor, I thought about leaving the profession last year.  I felt like I was working endlessly and, at times, fruitlessly, for months on end and asked myself, “Can I sustain this amount of stress and continue to be a school counselor for 10 more years?”  The answer to this question was relatively simple.  NO if I continued to work and live the way I was, and YES if I took better care of myself.

    So, fellow counselors, I have made some pretty big changes that have helped me to find some balance and more happiness as a counselor and in life.  Here are some things I have tried that I hope can help you too.

    Take things off your plate that are less important and get in the way of being successful.

    I was on at least three committees, advising a student group, coaching a sport, and helping multiple grade levels with initiatives.  I realized it was too much. I wrote down everything that I was committed to and made myself think about what I could let go of and when to say “No”.  In one article, the author talks about the power of un-committing yourself to tasks (Littlefield, 2019).  It may be time to re-evaluate your goals and commitments to see if they are fulfilling you or even feasible.  Also, it may be more beneficial to delegate so there is less pressure for you to accomplish the task (Rockwell, n.d.).

    Find time to do Mindfulness or Meditation

    This is probably the greatest decision I made when realizing my life was feeling out of my control.  Daily mindfulness, for 5 to 10 minutes, has changed my life.  I have found that I am more patient, feel more in control, and live more in the moment than I was before.  I choose to do mindfulness before coming to work every day. There are many apps that are recommended for mindfulness, and most of them are free (Develop Good Habits, 2021), you can find many within the ISCA resources pages.  I love finding mindfulness sites on Youtube that are easy to use and can vary from one to thirty minute practices (Calzadilla, 2021).  Mindfulness has been proven to increase focus and improve sleep for people who have daily practice. 

    Last week during International School Counselor Week, ISCA celebrated counselors ability to model self care. There are some useful resources on the ISCW website, including an 11-minute mindfulness practice by Lina Paumgarten, an ISCA Taskforce member and Wellness Coordinator. 

    Get active and get fresh air

    When feeling quite stressed or overwhelmed during the work day, I gave myself 5 minutes to leave my office and go outside.  I will take five to ten minute walks around campus to get my mind off of emails, meetings, and responsibilities.  After taking these brief breaks, I am better able to focus on and accomplish tasks.  I also find time in my day to move my body. I now have a standing desk, which helps me feel healthier and alert and I find time to take walks, swim, or do yoga at least a few times a week.  If you have never done yoga or do not know where to start, I recommend Yoga with Adriene on Youtube.  It is free and she offers many 30 day yoga challenges that are great for beginners and more advanced yogis.  I recommend starting with the 30-day BREATH series.

    If you still do not know where to start…

    Many people have been exploring more ways to find balance and wellness in their lives.  For those of us who are more social and like to work with partners or teams, try to find a wellness accountability partner (Heath, 2020).  This will help you stick to your goals towards wellness and finding balance and you can help someone do the same. If you like to stay organized and are task-oriented, you may want to create a weekly self-care checklist to keep yourself accountable (Pangilinan, 2020).  You can determine the things that are most important for your well-being and try to do these daily.  

    We will always have a big to-do list and be busy as school counselors, but we have the ability to make some small changes that can help us feel healthy and more in control of our lives.  Give yourself a chance and stay healthy.


    Calzadilla, S. (2021, March 25).  15 Best Meditation Youtube Channels for 2021. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/meditation-youtube-channels/

    Centerstone. (n.d.) How to get your life back into balance, https://centerstone.org/our-resources/health-wellness/life-balance/

    Develop Good Habits (2021, December 15). 15 Best Meditation and Mindfulness Apps for 2022. https://www.developgoodhabits.com/best-mindfulness-apps/

    Heath, E. (2020, August 4). Skipped your workout — again? An accountability partner can help you meet your fitness goals. The Washington Post.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/skipped-your-workout--again-an-accountability-partner-can-help-you-meet-your-fitness-goals/2020/08/03/a1b15202-d109-11ea-9038-af089b63ac21_story.html

    Littlefield, C. (2019, February 8). The Power of Un-Committing: How to take things off your plate.  Thrive Global.https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-power-of-un-committing-how-to-take-things-off-your-plate/

    Pangilinan, J. (2020, August 25). 11 Self Care Checklists to Take Care of Your Daily Needs. Happier Human.https://www.happierhuman.com/self-care-checklist/

    Rockwell, D. (n.d.). 9 Ways to get stuff off your plate. Leadership Freak. https://leadershipfreak.blog/2014/05/17/9-ways-to-get-stuff-off-your-plate/

    Scuderi, R. (n.d.) 10 Simple ways to find balance and get your life back. Lifehack. https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/10-simple-ways-to-find-balance-and-get-your-life-back.html

    Tanjeloff, J. (n.d.)    How to create a balanced life: 9 ways to feel calm and grounded. Tinybuddha.https://tinybuddha.com/blog/9-tips-to-create-a-balanced-life/

  • 14 Jul 2023 11:22 PM | Anonymous

    Shannon Leoni, High School Counselor, International School Bangkok and ISCA Taskforce Member

    “Today is the day they’re going to realize that I don’t know what I’m doing.” 

    This is a real-life thought I had in September 2020 when I started at my current school and had to give a presentation on a topic I was unfamiliar with. I was so nervous and ruminated on how ill-prepared I was to give such a presentation, and perhaps ill-suited for my job as a school counselor as well. This feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt is often known as Imposter Syndrome and is not unique to the counseling profession. Many teachers and mental health professionals struggle at times with not feeling confident in themselves or their abilities, and often being unable to reflect upon their successes.  Here are a few helpful approaches to help recognize imposter syndrome. These can guide reflection, boost confidence and reduce fears of failure. 

    Being aware of your inner critic

    One of the best ways to combat these feelings of inadequacy is to recognize that these thoughts are occurring in the first place and to approach them with a feeling of curiosity instead of judgment. Why might these thoughts be coming up right now? Checking to see if all basic needs are being met helps with exploring these thoughts. Sometimes all we need is more sleep, or some food, to think more clearly and rationally.Coupling this moment of curiosity with positive self-talk can help to combat such feelings of self-doubt. This process might be cyclical until it becomes second nature.

    Notice what works, and repeat it

    Once I led a workshop and facilitated a slightly childlike group activity that was such a hit with the school faculty, I repeated it the next year. And the next year. And in so doing, I felt completely confident as I facilitated the activity and discussion afterward. One of the best ways to combat imposter syndrome is to find what works, and keep doing it. With counseling, this can mean using a therapeutic approach that works well with students, even though a one-size-fits-all approach might not work for everyone. Finding a system that works builds confidence. An example of this might be how a counselor facilitates an intake with a new student and uses the same set of questions to guide the conversation, thus boosting confidence along the way. 

    You are not expected to know everything

    For those who are newer to the counseling profession, there can sometimes be pressure to ‘know everything’ before feeling competent in the role. However, the students we work with don’t expect us to know everything; what they expect is that we will do what is best for them, and sometimes that involves asking others or doing more research. 

    Be gentle with yourself

    One of the most important aspects to navigating imposter syndrome is to be gentle with yourself through the process of exploring it, and how to minimize its negative impacts. Know that you are not alone, and we can support one another to recognize each other’s successes and strengths. 


    Clark, P., Holden, C., Russell, M., & Downs, H. (2021). The Impostor Phenomenon in Mental Health Professionals: Relationships Among Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, and Compassion Satisfaction. Contemporary Family Therapy, 44(2), 185–197. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10591-021-09580-y

    Mason, J. (2022, March 26). Dealing With Imposter Syndrome as a Teacher. We Are Teachers. https://www.weareteachers.com/teacher-imposter-syndrome/

    9 ways to cope with imposter syndrome. (n.d.). [Illustration]. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/impostor-syndrome-tips

  • 14 Jul 2023 11:20 PM | Anonymous

    By Shelbie Ely, Events Committee Task Force Member, American School of Milan, Middle School Counselor

    BALANCE. This is a main theme and key word I use often with middle school students and parents when discussing transitions into and out of middle school. Balance with school life and home life. Balance with extracurricular activities and school work. Balance with friendships and social time, and with time for ourselves to rest and recharge. 

    Oftentimes we get so busy with our everyday agendas and our desire to help others, that we forget to pause and take moments for ourselves so we can enjoy life and do our work in the first place. When we lose sight of our own life balance, we may find ourselves exhausted and approaching, or deep in the middle of, burnout. 

    As counselors it is important for us to pause, reflect, and reset throughout our school year to keep a healthy balance and be able to model this for our students, families, and others we work with. What better time to place intentionality on this for ourselves and our students than at the start of the new year!

    Key identifiers of imbalance

    According to an article shared by the resource Verywell Mind, some key identifiers such as becoming emotionally distant from others, physically or emotionally exhausted, change in mood, and unpleasant physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches can signal us that things are off-balance (Maintaining Balance in Life, 2022). 

    The article continues to share ways to prevent or rid burnout that are good reminders as we continue to work within a helping profession. In short, Dr. Elizabeth Scott mentions: 

    • taking a break, 

    • saying ‘no’, 

    • setting boundaries, 

    • asking for help, 

    • learning ways to cope with stress, 

    • taking care of your physical health, 

    • and doing things you enjoy as just a few ways to keep a healthy life balance (Maintaining Balance in Life, 2022).

    Ideas for how to maintain balance

    Another article written by Amy Rees Anderson for Forbes titled “The Importance of Having Balance in our Lives” shares many ideas for how to maintain this balance, most of which we know as self-care practices (2016). This is my 12th year as a school counselor and I have found that reflecting and resetting throughout the year and being intentional with self-care is crucial to my stamina at work, living a well-balanced life, and my overall wellbeing. I try my best to maintain a healthy balance throughout the year, but I am also realistic in knowing that I am human and far from perfect at doing this. 

    I have found that being intentional with times to pause and reflect on what is working or not working for me is most helpful.

    Times to pause, reflect and reset

    Some main “pause, reflect, and reset” times for me are before the school year begins, during the longer holiday breaks, and as the school year comes to an end. At each of these periods I take time to: 

    • Write out an intentional self-care plan that includes lists of activities or moments that bring me joy, help me to grow in knowledge, get me moving, or allow me to rest and reflect

    • Look at my lists of ideas and identify at least one thing I can do each day. It may be a new hobby, reading a good book, or going for a run

    • Create a daily routine with “self-care” time embedded into it

    • Plan out my entire week and put certain things in consistently, like yoga before bed 

    I find that when I am intentional about taking care of myself and filling my soul with joyful things and moments, I am more energized and better equipped to do my job well.

    How you can help students practice self-care

    Each year I bring focus with my students on the importance of balance and self-care, while juggling all there is to being a student. 

    At the start of the year in September, we focus on time management and organization, as most school-aged students need continual reminders and practice with their executive functioning skills, which can help in creating balance. 

    As the year progresses, we have lessons and activities focused on self-care practices and mental health awareness. I’ll use these times to teach some experiential self-care practices (such as mindfulness techniques, meditation, guided imagery, etc.) and encourage students to create their own balanced self-care plans. 

    This year, we have a self-care bingo challenge over the long winter break. I am looking forward to hearing what practices my students found helpful for them that they hope to consistently add to their everyday routines.

    Continue practicing

    Below and linked are a few additional resources and lesson plans I hope will be helpful for you as you continue in your own self-care journey and in teaching and modeling it for others!


    Anderson, A. R. (2016, May 31). The Importance Of Having Balance In Our Lives. Forbes.https://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2016/05/31/the-importance-of-having-balance-in-our-lives/?sh=25401ee52a93

    Scott, E. (2022, June 15). Maintaining Balance in Life. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/maintaining-balance-in-your-lifestyle-3144738

    For additional resources for self-care practices for counselors and students, please click here.

  • 14 Jul 2023 11:18 PM | Anonymous

    By Andrea Fleming, High School Counselor, United Nations International School Hanoi, ISCA Taskforce member

    Packing for university 30 years ago, I have a vivid memory of my mother walking into the room and tossing a book at me as she exclaimed, “I’ve been meaning to give this to you for a long time.” She hurried out as I turned to spy What Every Girl Should Know About Her Body lying forlornly upon my bed. Ugh, really? I scoffed with embarrassment. Looking back now, as a mother myself and a counselor who has worked with countless international families over the years, I have much more sympathy for this bittersweet, confusing and emotional phase of parenting where very little guidance is provided yet much is needed. Many school counselors create successful letting-go programmes or lessons that include learning how to do laundry or change a tire. But let’s be real – many university students send their laundry out to be done and most don’t own a car. Besides life skills, counselors need to prepare families for ensuring their pre-college teens embody the values and attitudes reflective of their individual culture and family. This is what should guide the teaching and learning of both hard skills and soft skills as we prepare students to embark on their post-high school life. What does responsibility look like in different families? Respect? Spirituality? Stewardship? Wellness? School counselors would be wise to refer to the idea of letting-go as a running metaphor throughout the high school years, and not wait until the months before graduation to start a formal programme. Try the following three steps to get you started on using family values to prepare parents and teens for post-high school plans:

    1. Start each year of high school with a parent meeting dedicated to the topic of life after high school through the lens family values; encourage both (if applicable) parents/guardians to attend. During this meeting, ask parents to generate a list of basic life values. You can have words pre-written for them or ask the audience to offer ideas; try using digital tools like Menti or if you prefer more movement during your parent sessions, participants can write individual ideas on sticky notes and post them to flip chart paper around the room. Encourage sharing and conversation at tables. Have parents then choose from the ideas and create their individual family set of values. Ask them to reflect just how well their children already embody these attitudes and which ones need more work and development. Documenting this is important as parents should share this list with their children and refer to it throughout the school year. The Center for Parenting Education reminds us that values change over time: “Values can and do change with time, age and experience,” which is why this exercise is valuable to repeat every year. Their article, Values Matter: Using Your Values to Raise Caring, Responsible, Resilient Children is a great resource to support this initial parent session and encourages parents to delve deeper into the activity of exploring family values.

    2. Have parents collate their list of values with the important life skills needed after graduation. Again, you can have parents generate a list during this meeting or use this one offered in Grown and Flown: 100 Essential Life Skills Teens Needs to Learn at Home. #47 Decide between a doctor’s appointment, urgent care and the ER; #35 Correctly use over-the-counter medications; and #13 Make, change, or cancel an appointment are all actions parents probably do now for their children. These could fall under the family value of Health & Wellness or Responsibility and are actionable items that can and should be taught to teens before they leave home. Again, these ideas should be documented so both parents and students have a checklist of which skills they would like to focus on throughout the year, and which family values the skills fall under so teens are reminded of the significance and purpose of their learning. Ask parents to map out which value to hone in on each month (or one value could cover two months). Then parents can teach those associated life skills during that time frame. Encourage parents to have family meetings in order to plan when the skills should be taught as well as to reflect upon the process. Teen buy-in is going to be of primary importance! Parents could also complete this step at home as a family.

    3. Refer to the values meeting throughout the school year in planning your student activities, parent workshops, and school-home communication.
    • Covering a lesson on refusal skills? Communicate with parents that this skill could fall under their family value of Respect or Responsibility and warrant a further discussion at home. 
    • Fire drill at school? Remind parents that teaching children how to maintain and turn off a smoke alarm could be covered now (if it is on their list of life skills). 
    • Holidays coming up? Parents can use this opportunity to educate their children how to make a budget and plan their travels. 

    Counselors are encouraged to host a set of parent education sessions during the school year supporting parents in navigating how to teach these salient life skills to their children.

    Liz Kozodoy from the International School of Amsterdam and Kristen Belka Rosenfield from Luanda International School did a brilliant presentation at the recent ISCA Collaborative in November 2022: Letting Go & Learning to Fly: University Transition for Students and Parents/Guardians (check the Whova app for their slides and resources). They recommend specific lessons and presentation resources for preparing students and parents for this major life transition. They highlight “Activities to Do in Snippets”: one idea per paper placed into a glass jar parents and students can pull from every week. For example, write a letter to your child telling them how much faith you have in them or imagine and discuss holidays when your child is away at university. For students, cook 3-4 meals with confidence and attend a CPR class and learn basic first aid. They even have scenarios with guiding questions that school counselors can use at a parent coffee morning. For example, it’s October and all the friendships your child made in the first few months are not really working out. They sound miserable and say they don’t like the people there. What do you/can you do? Throughout their presentation, Kozodoy and Rosenfield refer to excellent resources for both parents and counselors, especially The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition by Tina Quick and The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen. 

    Any letting-go programme and sessions created by school counselors will obviously dovetail perfectly with this yearly endeavor of highlighting family values and the important life skills that align. As outlined above, these considerable and vital topics can be addressed throughout Grades 9 to 12 at home and at school and can bring valuable insight and connections to families, preparing both parents and students for the daunting yet exciting transition to preparing for life after high school.

  • 30 Apr 2023 10:22 PM | Anonymous

    By Alicia Brown, High School Counselor, Colegio Roosevelt, The American School of Lima and ISCA Taskforce Member

    Many of us are likely in the throes of transitions which can include leaving and staying families as well as those important transitions from elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school.  Counselors play a pivotal role in setting up structures to support successful divisional transitions.  Empowering student leaders to participate in this transition can play an important role in building community, leveraging developmental tendencies toward peer first information, and empowering those leaders with the information to be effective communicators and deliver a strong message of support and mentorship.  

    Leadership programs for students 

    At many schools, students in upper grades in their division participate in activities to welcome grade 6 and 9 students in those initial days of middle or high school.  To extend that, there are leadership programs that prepare students to lead both initial welcoming activities and follow up with advisory based lessons on important topics like the importance of communicating with teachers, setting goals, navigating the social scene, and those tricky situations that can come up as teens develop and become more independent.  The opportunity for continued support throughout the first semester, or the year, can make a big difference in students in grade 6 and 9 adjusting to the social and academic expectations of that division.  

    Programs that work

    Here are a few programs that have curriculum and design ways for upper grade leaders to participate in not only the initial welcoming of grade 6 and 9 students but also have follow up sessions to provide continued support. 

    Peer Group Connection

    An evidence-based program called Peer Group Connection-High School (PGC-HS) supports and facilitates students' smooth transition from middle to high school (<i>Peer Group Connection — Center for Supportive Schools</i>, n.d.-b).The program empowers older students to create a welcoming and supportive environment for incoming 9th grade students. Schools can vary in their approach in terms of frequency and generally once per week pairs of grade 11 or 12 peer leaders meet with groups of 10-14 9th graders in outreach sessions designed to strengthen relationships among students across grades. 

    According to Center for Supportive Schools (CSS), “All PGC-HS outreach sessions are strongly connected to the  program objectives as listed below”:  

    • Increase students’ sense of connectedness and attachment to school

    • Improve students’ skills in communicating effectively with peers and adults

    • Increase students’ skills in help-seeking, goal-setting, and decision-making

    • Support/improve students’ positive school-related behavior

    • Increase students’ motivation to complete high school and post-secondary education

    • Improve students’ preparedness for college and/or the world of work

    Link Crew

    Link Crew is another program that empowers student leaders to be positive role models and play a significant role in supporting the grade 9 transition.  Through Link Crew,  Freshmen discover that their success matters to people at school, and leaders gain greater self-worth and develop their character as a whole (<i>The Boomerang Project | Providing Premier High School & Middle School Orientation Programs</i>, n.d.).

    While these resources are more grade 9 centered, both offer middle school versions following a similar premise.  

    Building a positive school climate 

    A potential positive school climate outcome of these programs is a better sense of community. Older students feel empowered and responsible to act as leaders, actively welcoming grade 9/6 students, and hopefully positively influencing their upper class peers to follow their lead. 

    These programs offer important opportunities for student leaders to consider the role of being a leader, how their visibility as leaders may impact weekend decisions and how to support healthy decisions community wide. 

    How to implement 

    While some of these programs require significant resources, it is important to consider what leadership structures you may already have in place. 

    Here are some considerations: 

    • Seek out student government leaders, determine how they can play an active role in not only welcoming grade 9 or 6 students at an initial event, but interacting with them in a structured way to promote a positive school climate.  

    • Consider how students could regularly participate in advisory planning and delivery for grade 9 or 6 students. This will increase student voice in advisory and has the potential to have a positive impact on engagement and contribute to a positive sense of community.  

    Leveraging student leaders to support divisional transitions could enhance your current systems and structures in place and have an overall positive impact on school climate.  Peer Group Connection is an active part of the transition at Colegio Roosevelt, The American School of Lima. Feel free to contact Grade 9 counselor, Alicia Brown,  abrown@amersol.edu.pe with any questions or review her presentation from the ISCA online collaborative. 


    Peer Group Connection — Center for Supportive Schools. (n.d.). Center for Supportive Schools. https://www.supportiveschools.org/peer-group-connection

    The Boomerang Project | Providing Premier High School & Middle School Orientation Programs. (n.d.). https://www.boomerangproject.com/transition-programs/link-crew

  • 23 Apr 2023 10:20 PM | Anonymous

    By Shanna Tempel, Middle and Secondary School Counselor, Tirana International School (QSI), ISCA Task Force Member

    It's that bittersweet time of year again. We are looking forward to graduation and summer vacation, and students and staff from our school communities are wrapping up their time with us and preparing to move to their home country or next posting. It's one of the hardships of international education, the revolving door of humans we have the privilege to know and love. We feel all the things for them; excitement, joy, worry, and fear. We also experience a range of personal emotions associated with the loss. 

    As school counselors, we can assist with these community members' transitions. However, most of us enter international education unprepared to offer this unique support. Below is an approach that school counselors can implement to assist our students in preparing for their transition. 

    Building a R.A.F.T. 

    Pollock et al. (2017) introduced the R.A.F.T. concept in the book Third Culture Kids. Students planning a move are often overwhelmed with all too many thoughts and feelings. Helping them to untangle these and focus on each step of the R.A.F.T.-building process can reduce anxiety and increase their ability to have a healthy transition. This can be done in four sessions using the R.A.F.T. model as the theme. 

    R is for Reconciliation 

    The goal of reconciliation is for students to fight the urge to ignore their feelings about saying goodbye and moving on to the next step in their journey. "Reconciliation includes the need to both forgive and be forgiven" (Pollock et al., 2017, p.241). 

    The psychoeducational component of this meeting includes teaching the student(s), at an age-appropriate level, about the harms of carrying negative feelings and the benefits of resolving any outstanding conflicts. In the session, students can identify any people they need to forgive or ask for forgiveness. The final step is to develop a plan they can implement between meetings. 

    A is for Affirmation 

    Each of the following sessions should begin with a processing opportunity where students can discuss the implementation of the previous week's plan and their emotional response. 

    In the affirmation session, the goal is to help the student(s) recognize that their relationships in this place have had value. "[Affirmation] not only solidifies our relationships for future contact, but in expressing what they have meant to us, we are reminded of what we have gained from living in this place" (Pollock et al., 2017, p. 242).  

    Following the formula from the first session, school counselors can assist students in understanding this concept at an age-appropriate level through a psychoeducational approach. Students often need direct permission to both celebrate the relationships they have formed and to mourn the conclusion of this phase. The practice of affirmation can be modeled in the session by preparing a statement of affirmation from the school counselor to the student(s). Students can create a list of the people, such as staff, students, and outside community members, that have impacted them in this place. Students can identify a time, place, and the words they want to say to each person on their list, then implement this plan between sessions. 

    F is for Farewells 

    Farewells aren't just for the people in the lives of our transitioning student(s). It's also important to recognize the places and possessions that will be left behind. Knowing it's the last time they will see someone or something and saying an intentional goodbye can assist with closure. 

    After teaching the student(s) about the importance of farewells, the student or group should make a list of the most important goodbyes for them to say before they leave. With student consent, this list is a great one to share with parents, as they often hold the power to ensure important places can be visited one last time. Students can develop a plan for saying goodbye to people and possessions, and parents can be invited to partner in developing a schedule for saying goodbye to their special places. 

    T is for Think Destination 

    In this session, the student(s) can be the teacher(s). Students can share and, in a group, ask questions to one another about their destinations. Students can be prompted to share their hopes, fears, thoughts, and feelings about their next home. There are many creative ways school counselors can allow students to inform about the location and share their thoughts and feelings.

    There are many factors involved in designing the final session. While some students may have an exciting opportunity and positive feelings about their destination, others may feel a sense of fear or dread. However, offering students the chance to verbalize these thoughts and feelings in a safe space will ultimately assist in their transition process. 

    Tips for Parents 

    As families prepare for a transition, parents can also use some guidance in assisting their children. Whether it is their first or fifth move, children may respond to the transition differently each time. Offering tips to parents in a newsletter or other format can help them to help their kids.  Here is a sample newsletter entry that you are welcome to use or modify: Tips for Transitioning with Children

    School Counselors and the Gentle Goodbye 

    R.A.F.Ts are for more than just students. Intentionally building your own R.A.F.T. before a personal transition or those of beloved colleagues, friends, and students is an essential part of your self-care. You must also recognize and fulfill your needs to offer your best support to your community. Take care of yourself so you can care for others.


    Pollock, D. C., Van Reken, R. E., & Pollock, M. V. (2017). Third culture kids: Growing up 

    among worlds (3rd ed.). Nicholas Brealey.

  • 20 Feb 2023 9:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Andrea Fleming, High School Counselor, United Nations International School Hanoi

    Recently my 10-year-old daughter asked if she could start listening to the news with me in the mornings as I get ready for school. She told me in class they were studying migration and did I know about the kid who hid in the wheel well of the airplane to get to America and what about the ones from Syria who died when the boat sank? I silently wondered how her teacher was explaining to her and her classmate the inequities in our world today, the violence and crime and war, all whilst racking my brain as to what I should say in that moment. It made me realize that I need to be better prepared to address this issue, not only as a parent, but as a school counselor. 

    Parenting expert, Caroline Knorr, writes: “We know that kids report feeling afraid, angry, or depressed about the news. But in recent years -- prompted by increased terrorist attacks around the world -- researchers are exploring the effects of remote exposure to real violent events. Remote exposure is when kids understand that something traumatic has occurred but haven't experienced it directly. Unsurprisingly, its lingering effects include feelings of grief, trauma, fear, and other mental health concerns. Kids can be deeply affected by images of war-torn countries, bloodied refugee children, and mass graves and need additional help processing them.” She gives great tips on how to explain violence to kids of all ages. For pre-adolescents and pre-teens, besides waiting to see what they know and being honest and direct, she recommends discussing sensationalism in news and media and explaining context and offering perspective, and what gives things meaning and clarity in order to make sense of negative and unpleasant things. For teens she favors assuming they know -- but not assuming their knowledge is complete. She advises to accept their sources, but expand their horizons. And of course to give them hope and to motivate them to contribute to the greater good. 1

    Dr. Hina Talib, an adolescent medicine specialist and pediatrician, says that we need to look out for less obvious signs that kids are nervous about war or violence in the world as some will ask questions but others will worry silently. And Emily W. King, a child psychologist, recommends to take the cues from the child as some will ask out of curiosity not fear. If you are worried that teens are doom-scrolling on a device, encourage them to make smart media choices, Dr. Talib suggested. “Ask them which news sources they are following and why, and what coverage has helped them understand more about the conflict versus made their heart race more.” Point students in the direction of more appropriate news sources such as News-O-Matic and Newsela, as well as sources appropriate for teens, such as NPR and HuffPost Teen. 2

    Amy Morin, an LCSW, has great advice about making sure we adults avoid harmful stereotypes when talking to our students about violence, encourage parents towatch media coverage alongside older kids and teens, and to point out the good people who are helping. 3

    Below are several resources you can use to educate yourself, your teachers, and your parent community regarding how to talk to your students about war, crime, and a violent world. 

  • 28 Sep 2022 1:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Chrystal Kelly, High School Counselor at The American International School of Muscat, Oman and ISCA Taskforce Member

    The loss of a loved one is difficult for a teenage students to deal with. Be it the loss of a close family member, friend or even a pet, grieving is different for everyone. Several factors influencing how people deal with grief include age, culture, religion, support systems, the circumstances of the death, relationship with the individual they have lost, and previous experiences with death. As a school counselor, it is important to understand what the student needs during this difficult time. It is easiest to do that by meeting with the student and asking what you can do to help. Depending on their needs and responses, here are a few things you can do to help students as they grieve.

    Meet With The Grieving Student

    Some students are ready to talk right away after a loss. As a school counselor, take advantage of the opportunity to connect. Talking about death can be difficult, even for counselors. It is important to make sure you have people you can also consult with after tough meetings. Other students may not want to talk immediately after the loss of a loved one. For these students, allowing them their space and privacy can help. Letting them know you are available as a willing resource when they feel ready to talk about their grief is also a big help. Finally, let your staff become aware of a loss and how to best respond to the student. Remember that many students find resources in their teachers or other trusted adults in school. 

    Provide Information

    As school counselors we know how important it is to provide a variety of resources for students. Each student is unique in how they process their grief. Some students want to talk, some want to read, and many others have questions about the confusion that they feel and want to learn more. Providing students with different genres of books, websites, and tips can be helpful. Students are also often helped by the discussion of “what is normal”? Providing information to students that assures them that all the different ways they are reacting to death is normal will help. Remind students to not judge themselves or others and that comparing one person’s loss to another’s is not helpful. Help students see that each person has the right to express their grief in their own way.

    Facilitating a Grief Support Group

    Grief support groups are a great and rewarding way to help students. Small groups of approximately 6-10 students which typically meet six to eight weeks long for forty to fifty minutes (timing can vary) each week. To start, meet with students to explain what a grief group is, find a location that is conducive to good group dynamics. Remember to have a group plan and purpose for each session, along with a check-in and closure/reflection activity. A grief group can help students (especially teenagers) see that there are others dealing with grief and it becomes less isolating. It becomes a support group for not only grief but other issues and concerns in a student’s life. 

     Here are some examples of grief group topics for an eight-week session:

    • Group 1: Why are you here? Establishing goals and norms and sharing stories.
    • Group 2: Grief support, education, responses. Who are your resources?
    • Group 3: Sharing memories (pictures, mementos, others).
    • Group 4: Art/music therapy-drawing/writing what our losses look and feel like.
    • Group 5: Secondary losses-how do you cope?
    • Group 6: Spirituality/rituals/ceremonies/cultural differences
    • Group 7: Rose/Balloon Ceremony (activity where students can honor, celebrate or acknowledge the loss)
    • Group 8: Closing lunch and next steps. Set a date for a reunion meeting.
    Create A Book Club

    There are many great resources available to help students and families deal with grief and loss. Books are one such resource. How to Survive the Loss of a Love is a great book for helping students deal with feelings of grief and loss. A book club can also be a great way to facilitate grieving for students and families. Find a time after school to either process chapters or the entire book if it is short. Like a grief group, students often find the support that comes from one another very valuable. 

    Referring to outside resources

     Sometimes students need extra support that a school cannot provide. This is when it is essential to understand what resources are available in the country you are in. Are there hospice centers, grief counselors, and others who specialize in helping students and families with these concerns? Helping students find someone that can listen without being judgmental and accepting them as they are is important. Understanding what cultural or religious expectations a student and family have of an outside counselor or therapist is also critical to how you can support them.

    There are many great resources available to help with so many of the above things. Don’t forget to check out the ISCA member website and learn about these resources. It is important that we work together and share our stories so that we can best help our students, families and staff.

    Are you ready to take your counseling skills to the next level? Do you want to connect with like-minded peers across the world? Join ISCA today!

International School Counselor Associations © 2021, All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use. Website by Nicasio LLC

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software