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  • 20 May 2020 1:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Jen Hammonds, Middle School Counselor, American School of Doha & Task Force Member


    We are experiencing mixed emotions as the end of the virtual school year draws nearer and we consider the summer months ahead.  For most, summer plans will need to be adapted due to COVID-19.  Whether you are continuing to “shelter in place” or you plan to travel, all of us will need to remain flexible and open to changes as they develop.  Now perhaps more than ever before, we will need the summer to relax, to rest, to reflect and to restore.  


    This article is an attempt to make suggestions for ways to enjoy summer and to take care of yourself and others intellectually (head), emotionally (heart), and physically (hands).  Hopefully, the resources will help you to “thrive” not just “survive” during this challenging time.  We need to continue to help and to encourage one another through this time.  We need to engage our heads, hearts, and hands this summer in order to heal and to keep hope alive.


    Head - Engaging the Mind

    School is where we often think learning takes place, but actually learning is something we engage in throughout our lives and that we can do anywhere, anytime we choose.  Summer is an ideal time to develop new areas of interest and passions.  The key is to stay curious and to be open to trying new things.  You can extend yourself academically, artistically, athletically or in any area of your choice.  Summer learning can be fun and challenging at the same time. By making a summer plan and igniting a passion for learning, you can build confidence and competence as a student and as a life-long learner.  Inspiring programs for engaging your mind….

    • Sunrise Movement - At Sunrise school they are seizing this moment to develop the leaders the world needs. An online community building the skills and power needed to confront the global crises currently facing the world. 

    • TedEd - Stay curious.  The makers of TedTalks have created a website where you can learn, discover and create at your own pace and in areas of interest to you.

    • New York Times Learning Board - A menu of 10 activities - including telling a story, analyzing a photo, watching a short film and more. For students 13 and up. Click on each box to complete the activity of your choice.

    • Scholastic Learn at Home - Day by day projects to keep you reading, thinking & growing over the summer.

    • Wide Open School - Schools are closed, minds are wide open.  A site developed by Common Sense Media to offer a range of curiosity projects for learners of all ages. 

    NOTE:  Remember that one of the essential ways to keep your mind engaged and healthy is to practice self-care in terms of maintaining good sleep, exercise, hydration & nutrition (Keeping Your Table Stable)

    100 Ways to Engage & Empower Kids

    More Resources for Engaging Your Mind:

    Heart - Nurturing the Soul

    At school, we develop social emotional learning (SEL) in and out of the classroom. We work on developing self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making through direct and indirect instruction and through the interactions and relationships we build with peers, teachers, coaches, family, and community.  During the summer, there are creative ways you can continue to build these skills and also foster close connections with friends, family, and community.  In addition, by practicing self-care daily, you can ensure that summer is a time for healing and hope.  Inspiring programs for nurturing the soul….

    • We Well Being Playbook - a hands-on guide filled with everyday tools, actions and tactics to nurture your own mental well-being and the well-being of others. 

    • Global Game Changers - COVID-19 page for parents and educators to have quick access to fun, engaging, and educational lessons, activities, and videos. A place to empower students of all ages to stay calm, stay positive, and stay active.  

    • Newsela - provides social emotional learning activities through articles, videos, art extensions, journaling, and discussion in a variety of areas like establishing routines, handling change, helping family, helping the community, keeping up with friends, handling stress & anxiety, staying healthy.

    • Smiling Mind Thrive Inside - to help you remain inspired, stay connected and foster good mental habits during the Coronavirus crisis. Thrive Inside is a special initiative to help you stay calm and healthy in the physical constraints of your home, while remaining calm and healthy inside your mind.

    • Moodgym - an interactive program designed to help you to identify whether you are having problems with emotions like anxiety and depression.  Learn skills that can help you cope with these emotions.  Moodgym is based on two approaches which are successful in preventing and treating depression and anxiety. These are Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy.  There is broad evidence supporting the effectiveness of moodgym in improving wellbeing and reducing depression and anxiety symptoms.

    NOTE:  Remember that one of the essential ways to nurture your soul is to practice self-care in terms of maintaining good sleep, exercise, hydration & nutrition (Keeping Your Table Stable)

    100+ Social Emotional Learning Resources for Parents, Educators & School Communities Related to COVID-19


    More Resources for Nurturing the Soul: 


    Hands - Activating the Body

    While the brain is the control center for the body, the body also directly impacts the functionality and health of the brain. Engaging in exercise both indoors and outdoors is critical during this challenging time. Moving the body literally boosts the brain (head) and lifts the mood (heart).  

    Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.

    Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes a habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about yourself inside and out, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.

    Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.

    More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise per day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized.

    Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to unhealthy behaviors that ultimately only make things worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.

    NOTE: above section was adapted from HelpGuide: The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

    During the summer, there are creative ways you can continue to exercise both indoors and outdoors.  In addition, by getting some movement daily, you can ensure that summer is a time for improving health and happiness.  Inspiring programs for activating the body….

    • BOKS - Games and activities to keep kids active and happy during this difficult time. We know that anxiety is at an all-time high and one of the best ways to reduce stress in kids and adults is to get your daily dose of endorphins – so we want to provide you with as many free and accessible resources as possible.

    • SPIDERfit Kids- At SPIDERfit Kids, we believe that personal trainers, teachers, parents, coaches and therapists all have a tremendous opportunity to inspire children to a life of fitness and physical literacy with the power of play.  Our online resources are designed to give you the research, knowledge, and activities to make youth fitness programs fun and effective for ALL children.

    • Les Mills for Kids - classes featuring music and moves for kids and teens, BORN TO MOVE™ combines fun and fitness in a way that children love. Free trial offered.

    • Yoga with Adriene - Adriene hosts the popular YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene, an online community of over 7 million viewers. Yoga with Adriene provides high quality practices on yoga and mindfulness at no cost to inspire people of all ages, shapes and sizes.

    20+ Creative Alternatives for Fitness During COVID-19


    More Resources for Activating the Body:


    Clear Heads, Calm Hearts & Clean Hands

    My hope is that reading this article inspired you and helped you to take a moment to remember how important it is to take care of your mind, body and soul this summer. During this challenging time, we all find it more difficult to stay positive, to maintain our well-being,  and to communicate and stay connected with one another.  Remember to breathe and to take a moment each day to practice gratitude.  List 3 things you are grateful for each day.  Share your thoughts with a loved one, a friend, a classmate, a teacher, a neighbor, a community member and watch as your ability to overcome this challenge grows stronger, as you practice gratitude daily!


  • 18 May 2020 1:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Heather DeVore, High School Counselor, Jakarta Intercultural School & Task Force Member


    It was the first warm day since we’d arrived in the states in mid-March. Our family left our home and jobs in Indonesia when our school moved to virtual learning and the State Department recommended a return to home country. We had spent five weeks packing and unpacking suitcases in the guestrooms of various family members and were finally in our own home. Our family is lucky enough to own a place in the U.S. and our seasonal tenant had just moved out. Our toddlers don’t remember the place from last summer, but they seem to have a sense of something different, moving from room to room with some independence. But on this warm day, as my son ran in and out of their playhouse, my daughter was clingy. She crawled into my lap and looked up at me “I just want to go home.”

    “Inside?” I asked, pointing at the house.

    “No,” she shook her head. “Home.”


    At one and a half, it’s doubtful she has very deep a definition of the word. But she has a sense of the feeling, the feeling we all hold right now, the need to go back to our normal. I can’t speculate on when or if that will happen, but I can say that as a parent, a human, and an educator, the desperation to give her some sense of that normal, while finding my own, and helping to create the same for my students, is, it turns out, an impossible challenge. 


    We chose careers in education, many of us, because of an inclination to serve, a tendency to nurture and to mentor. For those of us who are parents, many had to reevaluate our capacity to give of ourselves to our students when we had children of our own. And if you are anything like me, you had just begun to settle into comfort with both roles. And suddenly, the world turned on its head, and you were asked to be a full time educator and parent (not to mention partner, daughter or son… we won’t get into that now). There was no longer a separation in space or time. You now needed to give your all to all of it all of the time. 


    Although this time is unprecedented, the internet is full of advice. We try to seek out expertise and make it fit. Our family was no different. We started with a routine. Set an alarm. Make sure to take showers, set times to do work, play, eat, clean… we followed advice and tried our routine. We followed advice and stayed flexible in our routine. We followed advice and tried to be kind to ourselves. But our instincts clawed at us. We should be doing more-- getting our own kids outside, getting our own kids off screens, getting our students to engage, getting our students to feel less pressure, getting ourselves to exercise more, eat less, getting our selves and everyone off screens. When screens are essential- they are the way we work, the way we connect, the way we entertain. We need even to re-consider what we think about screens. We need to re-consider what we think is ok to be ok as working parents.


    “Believing in one’s own abilities makes parenting during a crisis easier, which bolsters a sense of self-worth and strength—suddenly, your other problems feel lighter. If you’ve been a parent for any length of time, no doubt you’ve proved yourself able to change in ways you never thought possible before you had kids,” observed Mary Katharine Ham in her article for The Atlantic last month (It’s Okay to Be a Different Kind of Parent During the Pandemic; The Atlantic. April 8, 2020) Ham’s expertise on parenting in a crisis comes from having lost her husband while pregnant with their second child. Ham’s crisis was devastating, personal, her own. The crisis in which we are parenting now is at once deeply personal and universal. There is a wildly confusing blend of camaraderie and isolation in what we are doing.


    A few days ago, I had perhaps my perfect day in Quarantine. I had been up all night with our daughter, both kids wailed through breakfast, my husband had back to back meetings. I decided, somewhere around 7:30 am, that I was not going to try. I dressed the kids but stayed in my pajamas. We watched a lot of Mickey Mouse. We did Cosmic Kids Yoga but spent most of the time lying on our backs. We ate cookies. Before I knew it, it was time for dinner. I hadn’t cried or yelled once. 


    That day won’t work every day. That day may not work for you. But it was the day I needed. Something in my head, something in the details, all aligned to let me have that day. In my student check-ins this week, my single piece of advice has been to “let yourself have the day you need”. We are all grasping to find the routine that works for us. As parents and educators, the singular struggle is that we are also tasked with helping others find and create that routine for themselves. It is exhausting. 


    As I type this article, my daughter is sitting on my lap. I have to move my head to see the screen over her hair. She is gradually regressing from the independent toddler we celebrated. She clings to our ankles when we cook and sits on our laps while we type. Our son, always the clingy one, is joyfully zoned out on the iPad we’ve enlisted to parent him. This the only way


    So I let each day be a new day. I start as strong as I can and I accomplish what I can, remembering that this family comes first and the job comes second. I also use my resources. My resources are my husband and my tribe; other working parents who are willing to be honest and ready to commiserate. WhatsApp chats, Zoom meetings, FaceTime, middle of the night iMessages… I stay connected. This is where I find the strength and resource I need. We are in isolation in our home but in camaraderie in our experiences-- our strength is in reaching out to each other.



  • 14 May 2020 12:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Shira Fisher, Head of Student Services & Secondary Counselor, Chatsworth International School, Singapore & ISCA Task Force Member


    Crises have different impacts on people, and in these transforming times, it is critical that we are able to take into consideration perspective taking in how we support, respond or react to others. Perspective taking can help ease understanding and provide support during times of transition. 


    Our students, families and coworkers, in many places, are residing in home living conditions where communicating with each other is vital in keeping homeostasis. Perspective taking skills in regards to friendship or parent conflicts can assist when there is initially little understanding or difficulty finding common ground. There is a wide array of how each individual interprets, responds, and reacts to the events unfolding around them, especially those that are out of their own control. During this pandemic it provides great opportunities to teach, model and practice perspective taking in order to build a greater understanding and acceptance of others. 


    Daniel Goleman has discussed that cognitive empathy is the lowest level of empathy. Daniel Goleman looked at 3 types of empathy; Cognitive, emotional and compassionate. Many people will learn cognitive empathy through trying to think about what others are thinking through examining sides in stories, pictures or personal experiences when they are young. Emotional empathy is our traditional way we discuss empathy with kids, in putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to feel how they are feeling. Compassionate empathy is when you can think, and feel with an individual and that can compel you to help, if needed. 


    Whether cognitive perspective taking of understanding others thoughts, or (emotional empathy) affective perspective taking of understanding feelings, perspective taking is in simple terms is one’s ability to consider different points of view. As Brenȇ Browne has emphasized in her short on empathy, she references perspective taking is one of the core elements of empathy, in this case, focusing on an affective model of perspective taking. 


    Being able to use affective perspective taking (emotional or even compassionate empathy), individuals use perspective taking to formulate their thinking and perception. Therefore, it is important that we can discuss and practice perspective taking at this time.


    In conversations with our seniors when talking about emotional well-being and how to help ease their own transition into adulthood and university life, emphasizing the importance of examining their feelings and situations through a variety of lenses can help develop a better understanding of self and the world around them. When we can find meaning it helps us to interpret and acknowledge a more positive and supportive outlook for oneself and others. Based on our own habits on how we respond or balance emotional ups and downs and how we look at each situation and encounter can determine how it impacts our well-being. Having reflective discussions and dialogues with seniors (supported by student worksheets for them to document their own thoughts and feelings on how to use strategies like perspective taking) in senior seminars can help provide seniors the opportunity to reflect on their own thinking and interpretation of themselves and others.


    When working with conflicts with adults, whether colleagues or parents, being able to instill the importance of perspective taking to find common ground is an essential part of coming to some form of agreement or acknowledgement. Being able to highlight how others might think or feel can eliminate or minimize disagreements or resentments that occur and can help in finding balance. 


    When working with students in transition perspective taking can be helpful in looking outward into new destinations or new grade levels to consider what skills, information, or connections might be needed to find success or comfort. Activities that can allow creating various narratives and highlighting positive thinking or ways of looking at new, challenging, or different scenarios can lessen anxiety or tension. 


    There are many great tools and ideas you can implement on reinforcing perspective taking at this time. As we are thinking of transition and returning to schools, or changing how we interact virtually with students, colleagues, and the community at large, this is a great opportunity to promote healthy ways of communication and form understanding and acceptance. 


    Resources: 

    How to Teach Perspective Taking (All ages)

    Social Thinking



  • 30 Apr 2020 2:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Andrew Palmer, Director of Counseling, School Counselor in China and ISCA Task Force Member 


    In what feels like a never ending process of emails, zoom calls, and staring at computer screens, one week seems to blend into the next during the Covid-19 school closures. This worldwide pandemic has affected everyone in some way, and as of this writing the UNESCO website states the following data: 1,575,210,054 affected learners due to school closures; 91.3% of total enrolled learners; 191 country wide closures.


    Many schools around the world have already closed their doors through the remainder of the 19/20 school year. In the USA, Dr. Anthony Fauci cautiously predicted schools would re-open in the Fall. However, there is an understanding of two things 1) we cannot plan a worldwide re-opening date at this stage, 2) we all are going to have to adjust to a new normal. What will that new normal look like? Hopefully some observations from re-opening schools can provide a little context for reflection.


    Working in China, where the pandemic originated, we were the first schools to close our doors. As conditions continue to improve within the country, we are now seeing schools re-opening in various provinces. While many international schools are still waiting for approval to re-open, we are seeing local Chinese schools open in places such as Chengdu, Kunming, Chongqing, Shanghai (Apr 27th) and Beijing (Apr 27th). A couple international schools have re-opened in Suzhou as of April 7th, and here are some notes, considerations, and suggestions from our experiences.



    Preparing for the Return

    Information Sharing

    In times of uncertainty, sharing information can provide a sense of reassurance and safety. Whether a return date is confirmed or not, to calm nerves in the community it is important for the school to share as much information as possible on a regular interval. Once a return date is confirmed, everyone will be excited with the possibility of re-opening, and schools may want to consider adding a re-opening page to their website such as this example in Suzhou. The return to school must be balanced with an understanding that we are going to have to adapt to a new “normal” with different practices and policies.


    A New Normal (Processes and Routines)

    While requirements will be on an individual school / country basis, you might expect to experience some of the following:

    • Mandatory mask wearing

    • Health & temperature Checks throughout the day 

      • Before getting on the school bus - both in the morning and afternoon

      • At lunch

    • Protocols for if someone has a fever/symptoms

    • Handwashing & hygiene requirements / daily disinfection practices of school facilities

    • Staggered re-entry by grade levels

    • Different timing of the school day to allow for staggered lunches

    • Continued social distancing requirements in the classrooms, lunchrooms, and corridors during break-times and lunches.

    • Limited or no onsite extra-curricular activities

    • Entry and exit through one area of the building

    • Extending school year or working holidays

    • Loss of students

      • Withdrawn, transferred, or unable to return to the country to study

    • Blended learning

      • Supporting students in person and continuation of online learning for students unable to return

    Actions for Counselors

    School Counselors should continue general best practice in implementing a comprehensive counseling program, and may consider doing some of the following actions:

    • Gather/Interpret Data - Needs Assessments

    • Individual Student Approach - Students may have had different experiences with online learning, and fall into different categories of need:

      • Want to return to normal classes immediately

      • Need some decompression time with peers/teachers to transition back

      • Preferred online learning

      • Had little to no engagement with online learning during closure

    • Be ready to talk about grief and loss (HBR article).
      • Loss of time, things, events, and possibly people – due to the virus

    • Group & Individual Counseling

      • This may be difficult if you’re the only counsellor (K-12, etc.). Work collaboratively with school leadership, homeroom teachers, advocate for wellbeing being paramount in returning. 

    • Welcome Back Assembly
      • Advocate for time/involvement in this to discuss mental health & wellbeing, and transition.

    • Parents not allowed on campus

      • Counselors to support parent needs through online meetings & coffee sessions, and discuss topics such as:

        • Parents - taking care of your mental health

        • Helping your child dealing with separation anxiety

        • Reassuring your child that school is safe

        • Continuing the use of online learning (What we learned online may evolve our education for the future).

        • Helping their children switch back to classroom instead of online learning.

    • Community engagement/commemoration
      • Consider doing an activity that can bring the entire school together as a community (while following any social distancing protocols)

        • Competitions – cooking, photos, walks for a special purpose

        • School Mural to commemorate experience.

        • Fundraising for medical health professionals or those affected.

    Future considerations

    The Class of 2020

    Will schools re-open in the Fall? Will I be able to get a visa? What should I do about my deposit? Should I defer for a year? Higher education institutions around the globe are still working to determine their practices, policies, and what to recommend to the class of 2020. As counselors, if you work with students in a college advising role, make sure you are staying in close communication with universities and counselors through a variety of platforms (individually, college websites, webinars, and through professional organizations such as ISCA, International ACAC, CIS, etc.). While no one has the answers to all the questions, we can work to help calm the nerves of our students/parents through an ongoing dialogue and continued conversation around the subject.


    Permanent Closures?

    One thing many international schools will need to consider is the lasting worldwide economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many questions remain unanswered, but as some companies are bringing their ex-pat workers home, how will the possible loss of students influence budgetary considerations? Will we see staff cuts, or international schools having to close their doors? Only time will tell around some of these issues, but I believe that as counselors we need to continue to be our strongest advocates for our profession. I recommend that we continue to do all we can to establish that school counselors are essential to the day to day function of our schools. 


    Conclusion

    While we are rightfully excited about schools beginning to re-open in China, it is important to take a measured approach to how we as counselors support our students. Things have greatly improved here, but we also understand that future closures remain a possibility. This period of online learning has required counselors and educators around the world to take a crash course on technology in and out of the classroom. Hopefully, we all continue to learn from these experiences, and will be prepared for a new hybrid learning environment whenever we are able to return to school. For the time being however, I wish you continued strength and endurance in maintaining hope during this indefinite closure.

  • 26 Apr 2020 3:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Yvette Cuenco, Middle School Counselor at GEMS American in Abu Dhabi and ISCA Task Force Member

    When COVID-19 broke out in China, the problem that initially seemed so distant from our everyday routine hit home for many Asians around the world. Stories of hate crimes against Asians and prejudice against Asian businesses in the US, Canada and Europe started making headlines. Moreover, the recent problems African immigrants are facing in Guangzhou/southern China exposed longstanding issues with racism and prejudice non-Asian people of color experience in Asia. Clearly, this is not just a Western problem. It is a problem we all share. 


    As an Asian (Filipino) American international school counselor - this hits close to home for me. I was raised with an awareness of my own intersectionality - Filipino. Asian. American. Female. Daughter of immigrants. First generation college graduate. Woman of color. I was fortunate enough to have learned how to manage these intersecting boundaries either from my parents leading by example or through my own life experience building on the identity I was born with. I celebrate the joy of being all of these things, but I also know the path isn’t always easy. I utilize this knowledge of self all throughout my counseling practice. So when COVID-19 started to become more of a reality for all of us around the world, I began to think about how we can help our students and school communities grapple with these challenges - especially issues of racism, privilege, and intolerance that unfortunately inevitably occur. Our students need us to step out in front of these issues and truly model the international-mindedness we advertise on our schools’ websites.

    Committing to diversity, equity and inclusion

    As international school counselors, it is partly our responsibility to help our schools engage our students/families in understanding their own intersectionality as cross cultural kids and adults. We have to go into these conversations with the knowledge that our students are still developing their own sense of self and will make mistakes along the way. Reactive measures such as disciplining students for making racist comments is appropriate, but there are also proactive steps we can take to ensure our community is a safe space for everyone. These steps will help our students develop a deeper understanding of not only their personal identity, but how they can address issues of racism and intolerance when they come across them.

    1. Equip ourselves with the right tools without reinventing the wheel

    The beauty of our profession is that we are experts at seeking out resources that benefit our students. One of my favorite resources for lessons on racism, tolerance, and diversity is Teaching Tolerance. Lessons are free and run across multiple subjects. You can narrow down the search to specific age groups. Furthermore, they have a section specifically dedicated to the coronavirus with a plethora of articles, tips, and resources. Their 4-step plan in How to Respond to Coronavirus Racism is a great starting point.

    2. Provide training and empower all staff members to be agents of change and positivity

    In order for staff members to have the confidence in confronting racism or bias within their school community, they need to understand the historical context of racism geared towards different groups. According to Teaching Tolerance, pandemics originating from areas that are populated with people of color often get the most scrutiny through the Western gaze. Historically, this has led to laws of exclusion and acts of racism/violence towards people from these regions. More recently we’ve heard disturbing news such as Africans in China being kicked out of their homes or Asian American families being attacked as they shop for groceries. Equipping staff with knowledge and providing them a safe space to ask questions and challenge their assumptions will help educators feel better prepared when addressing these issues with students.


    Organizations like the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, Teaching Tolerance, and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center (host of the #antiracistbookfest) provide a WEALTH of resources from articles, books, and workshops for educators. 

    3. Clear and transparent policies related to racism, bias, and intolerance

    As of this writing, there have not been many organizational statements speaking out against racism and implicit bias related to coronavirus from any of the major international school organizations. The radio silence is deafening. While ISS has put together the Diversity Collaborative, there is potential to do so much more. The Diversity Collaborative has conducted a research study on cultivating diverse leadership as well as sub-committees to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. However this is just a drop in the bucket. We need to do better. 


    On the macro level - counselors need to advocate for our students and push organizations like CIS, ISS, AAIE, etc. to provide clear guidelines on how we as an international community of educators can combat racism and implicit bias. The Association of International Eduators and Leaders of Color has been at the forefront of this push. At the school level - counselors can engage leadership in collaborative conversations. Making a statement and developing clear policies that are made known to our school communities will help us jump ahead of the curve. It provides the structure and transparent boundaries our students need as they grapple with these issues and make choices based on the knowledge and information about diversity, equity, and inclusion that we provide.


    I’ve always seen international schools as beacons of change. At many international schools we have the privilege to work with diverse student bodies and afforded a great amount of resources to support our students. It’s time to turn our attention to this issue and speak up. Our students look to us to ensure schools become safer spaces for everyone.



  • 18 Apr 2020 4:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Elizabeth Mohr, Assistant Director of College Counseling at TASIS England and Task Force Member


    Can having too many choices cause more regret than good? What about for teens who are navigating the process of exploring post-secondary options? Options can be a double-edged sword: it can feel good to have control but what happens when too many options make a decision challenging? 


    As international school counselors, we work with students exploring a range of careers that take them around the globe. We are preparing them for careers that do not even exist yet. So how do we support students in knowing themselves to make the best decision for which path to take after high school? 


    We strive to work with students to help them understand “fit” in terms of which post-secondary options are best for them. But with so many options available, how do we support students in making the best decision for them? As most schools have moved to online learning, how do we remotely support students in understanding “fit” remotely and making decisions about where to go for university?

    As we support students in completing their research, international counselors have a wealth of resources through college counseling conferences, Facebook groups, the ISCA Forum and various networks. As we seek sites to help educate ourselves, students and/or parents to the multitude of options available, it is important to not overlook the psychology behind decision making. 


    Barry Schwartz’s Ted Talk “The Paradox of Choice,” highlights his research into the psychology of happiness and the impact of choices. He provides insight into the paralysis that people experience after making decisions that involved several compelling options. He explores two negative effects from decisions with such options:

    1. “Producing paralysis rather than liberation.” When there are too many options, people struggle making a decision. For instance, Mr. Schwartz discussed a study exploring investment records from 2,000 companies that offered voluntary mutual funds. When the employer offered more than ten funds, the rate of participation went down 2%. When fifty funds were offered, the rate of participation went down 10%. People become paralzed by the quantity of options that it becomes impossible to make a choice. 

    2. Second-guessing your decision leads to regret and dissatisfaction. With more options, our expectations increase. “With perfection, the expectation, the best you can hope for is that stuff is as good as you expect it to be. You will never be pleasantly surprised, because your expectations, my expectations, have gone through the roof…The secret to happiness is: low expectations.”

    In our work with students, having a counselor encourage students to have low expectations would not be positively received. How about we reduce pressure by supporting students in having realistic expectations ? We can continue to work with students to find comfort in not being perfect, rather comfortable and proud of their accomplishments. 


    In his book, The Paradox of Choice, Mr. Schwartz advises we might find more happiness if we learn to limit options so that decisions do not seem so overwhelming. These suggestions can aid us in supporting students in having realistic expectations that align with options that are the best “fit.” Mr. Schwartz suggests the following steps to help in reducing choices:

    1. Figure out your goal or goals

    2. Evaluate the importance of each goal

    3. Array the options

    4. Evaluate how likely each of the options is to meet your goals

    5. Pick the winning option

    6. Modify goals


    So how do we support students in making decisions? We can employ a range of counseling strategies but also keep in mind the “paradox of choice” as we:

    • Talk the student through reducing choices. 

    • Open the conversation that not making a decision can also be a step towards making a decision. Could it be that there are some unresolved fears hiding behind procrastination?

    • Discuss previous decisions. Does the student have a pattern of second guessing the choice(s) made? Explore if the time spent second guessing could have impacted the students enjoying the choice?

    • Could some of the stress or anxiety about this decision be related to family expectations and/or other peer’s decisions? Support the student in making the decision for themselves. 

    • Continue to explore the psychology of happiness, including the ISCA Positive Psychology Resources.

    • Explore the ISCA Career Counseling resources, especially Amy Burke’s 2017 ISCA Conference Presentation on Contemplative Career Counseling and Resources from the 2018 Conference.

    • Once a choice has been made, support the student’s transition to post-secondary life through the articles within ISCA’s Transition Resources.


    As schools have moved to online learning, counselors are working remotely with students to celebrate post-secondary options. In addition to encouraging students to consider Mr. Schwartz’s points, there are a multitude of ways to explore campuses through reaching out to your school’s alumni who are or recently attended a university in the area. Individual universities are also reaching out to admitted students, but students can also request additional information through university representatives. Other virtual options include:

    Informational Webinars with Universities:

    Websites with Virtual Campus Tour and/or Informational Sessions:

    Other Sources:

    • Google sheet of UK, American and Canadian universities with virtual visit options (compiled by a College Counselor in the States with data from Collegeboard)

    • Use the official university Youtube / Instagram / Facebook posts!



  • 15 Apr 2020 3:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Chrystal Kelly, High School Counselor at The American International School of Muscat, Oman and ISCA Task Force Member with Special Thanks to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Grief Counselor and Educator and Ms. Andrea Callaway, Middle School Counselor at The American International School of Muscat, Oman

    Background

    I wrote this article “Helping Students After the Loss of a Loved One” four years ago for the International School Counselor Association because of my passion for supporting people during grief and loss experiences, and especially students after the death of a loved one.  I am now updating the article with a “virtual twist” in order to support school counselors and helping professionals around the world who are experiencing this pandemic of grief.  

    You may ask, what is this pandemic of grief?  Well, I was fortunate to work with the three wonderful children of grief counselor and educator, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, who directs the Center for Loss and Life Transition.  He states, “As human beings, whenever our attachments are threatened, harmed, or severed, we naturally grieve. Grief is everything we think and feel inside of us when this happens. We experience shock and disbelief. We worry, which is a form of fear. We become sad and possibly lonely. We get angry. We feel guilty or regretful. The sum total of all these and any other thoughts and feelings we are experiencing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is our grief.”

    “Our pandemic grief will change from day to day and week to week. This virus is fast. As it sweeps across continents and we collectively take action to “flatten the curve,” new rules and limitations are popping up every day. Restrictions are mounting and growing increasingly severe. As circumstances grow more dire, our grief will change. And as with the virus itself, it will likely get worse before it gets better.”

    In order to help ourselves emotionally, socially, and spiritually, Dr. Wolfelt reminds us that we will feel better if we mourn. He says, “Mourning is being aware of your grief, giving it the attention it needs and deserves, and expressing it outside of yourself.”  This is what we all have to remember for ourselves and for the communities we are helping during this very difficult time.  Self-care is so important and the reminders that Dr. Wolfelt provides are imperative:

    • Acknowledge the reality of the pandemic as well as your grief

    • Honor all your feelings

    • Practice gratitude for the good in your life

    • Be kind to yourself

    • Search for meaning

    • Reach out to others and give and accept support

    That last bullet point is what really helps ground me.  Whether it is through the ISCA network, my school community, my family and friends, or connecting with Dr. Wolfelt, I am stronger when I reach out and both help and ask for help. Dr. Wolfelt may not know this, but he has been a grief and loss mentor for me and his work has helped with my own grief and loss, and in my learning to “mourn well”.  Over the years I have worked with many students individually and in grief support groups and his words have always resonated in those situations. They have once again surfaced now, as I think about how to best support my students and school community with grief and loss virtually, and I am thankful.


    Supporting Students Virtually - Tools

    As school counselors and helping professionals, we know that one of the most difficult things students, and especially teenagers, can deal with in their lives is the death of a loved one.  That loved one could be a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, friend, or even a pet. As international school counselors we understand that grieving can often be different for every student depending on their age, culture, religion, support systems, understanding of the circumstances of the death, relationship with the individual whom they have lost, previous experiences with death, (and now the Coronavirus).  

    In order to help students and families after the death of a loved one it is important to learn more about what a student or family may or may not need during this process.  This is usually facilitated with the help of your School Response Team.  There are many models out there to help with creating grief response teams.  This template is a very basic family response team plan that could be tailored to your school after the death of a student's parent or relative.  If grief impacts your school, a Response Team that includes administrators or coordinators can help shoulder the far reaching impact that loss can have, from a systems perspective, on the school. During a Response Team meeting, the agenda can focus, for example, on who on the team might manage information about the loss/grief, who might communicate with staff, and who might address school logistics, making it possible for you, as counselor, to attend to the needs of the family or student. Delineation of roles and responsibilities can also keep you well as you manage the sometimes emotionally challenging issues that a crisis, within a time of crisis, might present. Finally, a Response Team approach to grief and/or loss within your school system alerts supervisors to what you, as counselor, may need in terms of managing time and consultation needs.Additional resources about creating a crisis or grief response team plan are provided at the end of this article.

    As we are challenged during this time by not being able to connect with students and families in person, we will have to do our best to connect with them through voice calls, video calls, emails, texting, and social media.  Dr. Wolfelt reminds me, “The point is to stay connected as much as possible AND to be open and honest in those communications about whatever it is you are feeling or struggling with at the moment. Your candor will encourage others to be honest as well, creating the opportunity for mutual support and kindness.” For example, sending that email or WhatsApp condolence to the family after a student’s parent dies is the best work we can be doing right now.  Asking them what might be most helpful at this time is important even if we can’t do a whole lot in our social distancing spaces. 

    Depending on how the family responds and what needs they have in regards to their specific grief situation, the list below represents a variety of ways to work virtually to help students as they grieve.  

    1. Meeting individually with the student via GoToMeeting, Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc. 

    Some students are ready to talk right away after a loss and I encourage you as a school counselor to take advantage of these very important times to connect (even if it is online).  Talking about death can be difficult, even for counselors, and it is important to make sure you have colleagues or other individuals you can also consult with after tough meetings. If you are the lone counselor in your school and don’t have a response team, reach out to our ISCA network.  We are in this together! For those students not wanting to talk right away it is important to provide students with space and privacy, and to make sure they know you are a willing resource when they do want to talk. In addition, making sure your staff is aware of a loss and how to respond is very important as many students find resources in their teachers or other trusted adults in your school. 

    2. Providing information virtually.

    In working with students as school counselors we know how important it is to provide a variety of resources for students.  Each student is unique in how they grieve. Some students want to talk, some want to read, and many others simply 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 and easy to send in an email. In addition, I have found that students are often helped by the discussion of “what is normal?”  Being able to either talk or provide 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 therapeutic.  Instead, helping students see that each person has the right to express their grief in their own special way is important. As Dr. David Kessler, grief expert, said with Brené Brown in her podcast on Grief and Finding Meaning, “The worst loss is always your loss.”

    3. Facilitating a grief support group virtually. 

    One of the most rewarding things I have done in my school counseling career is to facilitate small (6-10 students) grief support groups. Now, I have never facilitated a grief support group virtually, so that means I may have to think about things differently.  For example, I may decide to do a group with a student who has lost a parent and include a sibling, friends, or even other family members. Although these groups have typically been six to eight weeks long for forty to fifty minutes (timing can vary) each week, I may decide to try four weeks for 30 minutes. 


    Before I begin a group virtually, I will meet individually with the students in a GoToMeeting and explain what a grief group is and find out about interest. I have always tried to find a location that is conducive to good group dynamics (a room where students can have privacy, sit in a circle, and be comfortable) and I will still encourage that for students in their homes meeting with me online.  


    It is important to still have a group plan and purpose for each session, along with a check-in and closure activity. The power in a grief group is that students (especially teenagers) see that there are others dealing with grief and it becomes less isolating.  It truly becomes a support group for not only grief but other issues and concerns in a student’s life. I have facilitated these groups differently every time I have done them in person, and I will continue to use resources from many different places as I explore virtual groups with students.  Of course, I always like to refer to Dr. Wolfelt and he has a variety of support group ideas for children of all ages in this resource: Companioning the Grieving Child Curriculum Book

    Here are some examples of grief group topics for an eight week session (choose the number of weeks that fits your schedule and the student).  Many of these ideas can still be used virtually when meeting with students.

    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, other).
    Group 4: Art/music therapy-drawing/writing/music to describe 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.


    If you are not comfortable facilitating your own virtual grief group there are virtual support groups that organizations are creating and that you can refer students.  Both the Dougy Center and grief.com have great resources. 

    4. Creating a virtual book club to help with grief.

    There are many great resources available to help students and families deal with grief and loss.  This resource comes from one of our ISCA Task Force members and has some great books to reference. Some of my favorite books and websites are listed on the ISCA website too.  A book club can be a great way to facilitate grieving for students and families. I have shared books with families and then come back together with the family a month or so later to process.  In addition, one of my favorite books for students who are grieving “in general” is How to Survive the Loss of a Love.  This book can help students with death, breakups, moves, and other major transitions. I think it could even be helpful during this pandemic.  Simply find a time virtually (after school with food maybe) to either process chapters or the entire book if it is short. Similar to a grief group, students often find the support that comes from one another very valuable, even when it means being online.           

    5. Referring to online resources in and outside of your country.

    Sometimes students need additional support that a school cannot provide.  This is when it is important to understand what resources are available in the country you are in.  Are their hospice centers, grief counselors, and others who specialize in helping students and families with these concerns?  Some medical offices and clinics in certain countries are offering virtual therapy appointments to support grief, loss, and other mental health concerns. Helping students find someone that can listen to them without being judgmental and accept 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 a major factor. ISCA is lucky to have a strong relationship with the Truman Group.   The Truman Group provides high quality remote psychotherapy and mental health consultation to expatriates living around the world. They work with individuals, couples, families and children in regions of the world that have few local English-speaking resources available for mental health. 


    We can do this! Grief and loss can be a difficult topic but there are many great resources available to help with so many of the above ideas.  Don’t forget to check out the ISCA website and learn about these resources and also connect with the people that you can consult and network with (think about those school/division/city school counselor groups you probably already have in place).  It is so important that we work together and share our stories with each other so that we can best help our students, families and staff by being role models in how to do that.  In the wise words of Brené Brown, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we'll ever do.”


  • 12 Apr 2020 7:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Lynn Koeglman, Middle School Counselor at the International School of Kuala Lumpur and ISCA Task Force Member

    Uncertainty.  It’s the name of the game these days.  No one seems to know what’s coming next, and how tomorrow might be different from today.  Our faculty are on the front lines of this uncertainty. For some, it’s “will school be moving to virtual instruction?”.  For others, it’s “will our virtual learning “end” date be extended?”. And for still others, “will we be able to go back to school on time next year?”.  How do we help support our faculty during these uncertain times?

    Below are a few tips:

    • Normalize/Validate Feelings - It’s ok to be not ok!  That’s the message. What we are experiencing is NOT normal - people are not going to have it all together all the time.  It’s ok to be worried, anxious, lacking the ability to keep it together. We don’t want to live in that feeling space forever, but it is ok if that’s where we are right now.  It’s quite possible nearly everyone in the entire world is having those moments.

    • Grounding in “What do we know to be true - Here is where we focus on the facts - what do we know for sure in the situation we are in right now.  Do we know for sure we will be having virtual school until at least the current lock down date expires? Do we know for sure we have some things we need to accomplish today?  Do we know for sure that we are not in this alone? Help faculty to focus on these things - rather than the “maybes”, and “might bes” and “could bes”.

    • One Step at a Time Planning - What can we control? - Once we can identify what we know to be true, and what we have in front of us for the next day, hour, minute, the focus can shift to “What can I control in these situations?”.  When we focus on the things we CAN control, we are able to move forward. It doesn’t mean those uncontrollable things aren’t still there - but it does mean they take on less weight and importance if we focus on the “Can Control” items.  Anxiety reduces, we can move forward with the things on the “Can” list.

    • Mindfulness - Mindfulness, grounding, focusing on the present moment activities, these bring a sense of calm and order to a situation that is anything but calm and ordered.  Breathwork, object focus, looking for items in the room that begin with every letter of the alphabet, holding ice cubes in your hands are all examples of grounding and mindful activities.  

    • Gap Plan - Finally, Brene Brown talks about a Gap Plan in her newest podcast (Unlocking Us).  Encourage grade level (and other) teams to explore the concept of naming what percentage of energy (ability to deal) they have within them that day.  If the team as a whole is below 100%, what is the plan? Who can the team call on for assistance? What strategies will help the team get through the below 100% time period?  What norms/collaborative agreements will get the team through the time? If some members of the team are high percentages, how can they help those whose percentage is low that day?  Energy percentages will fluctuate in each member, recognizing that is important too.

    References/Resources:


  • 08 Apr 2020 2:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Kathy Manu, Elementary School Counselor, International School of Brussels & Task Force Member

    These are challenging times.  As educators, we are all exhausted. We are all working so hard to make distance learning meaningful for our students, we are all spending hours reaching out to our colleagues and collaborating with and supporting one another. Our students are being offered an incredible education in this new forum, which does not at all come close to the enriching experience they get at school, but is awe-inspiring nonetheless.  But it’s hard. It’s hard for us, it’s hard for them, and it’s also hard for parents. 


    Most parents have been thrust into an uncertain and seemingly endless role of not only parenting through an anxiety-ridden time, but also supporting the teaching and learning of their children during this time as well. Many of them do not feel equipped to answer all of the questions that are thrust their way about technology and/or content, many of them are struggling - yes, struggling - to work from home themselves while supporting the schoolwork and emotional needs of their family members.  Now, perhaps even more than ever, parents need our encouragement and guidance as they navigate new relationships, new routines, and this temporary new normal. 


    While not exhaustive, here are some ideas that will help you in your endeavor to support your parent community: 


    Streamline Communication 

    While it might be tempting to send out emails with articles and resources (like the many available on the ISCA website)that are specifically geared towards supporting parents and children during Covid,, in this era of distance learning, less is more.  Designate one person in your division (most likely the divisional principal/head) to send out counselor communication embedded within the divisional updates sent to parents.  Everyone is bombarded with emails and technology these days. You have a higher chance that your “stuff” will be read if it’s sent from admin/leadership when possible. 


    Maintain a Counselor Support Page

    Many schools are using platforms to host their Distance Learning Programs. Ensure that this platform includes a tab accessible to parents that is called “Counselor Support”. Include resources, weekly letters to parents, whatever lessons you are offering students and contact information for booking appointments on this page.  Advocate that you admin regularly remind parents in his/her communication with families about this page, linking to specific resources. 


    Organize Parent Zoom Meetings 

    This might not be possible or appropriate depending on the nature of your school community or the age of the students you work with, but if possible, offer weekly group Zoom chats for parents. In the Elementary School at the International School of Brussels, this looks like grade-level calls 1x/week at times determined by the counselor. As per above, admin communicates these times to families. Families are not bound to their grade-level and can attend any session. These sessions waver in terms of informal checking-in/providing a space for parents to breathe and talk, to more formal conversations about ideas that are working, establishing routines, etc. Attendance will vary and this is okay - even if just one or two parents come to a given Zoom chat, it is still worthwhile and meaningful. Like other parenting events you offer on campus, you might find that you start having “regulars” and often the regulars in this context are not the same people who come on campus for parent enrichment opportunities. 


    Be Proactive

    There are likely many parents that you have in your hearts and minds during these weeks of Distance Learning because you know...you know they are in volatile relationships, you know they struggle with parenting on a good day, you know that behavioral management is challenging for them, or you know that they have too many things on their plates to be able to function well. Be proactive about reaching out and checking in with these parents. Make a list of who they are, ask teachers if their children are fulfilling their learning assignments and offer yourself for conversation and support and perhaps to recommend outside support professionals as well (like The Truman Group or other practitioners in your city) This unusual time is ripe for parental burnout and we obviously want to help reduce that as much as possible.


    Be Thoughtful About Resources 

    Let’s face it - there is an abundance of things that parents could be reading and looking at online these days. Many of them, like us, are saturated with information. Parents can certainly use ideas for how to talk to kids about this unique moment in our history, but really, what they want and need are ideas for what they are going to do with their kids on the weekends and during vacations when there isn’t Distance Learning to occupy the majority of the day.  Things like a Spring Break Activity Menu, tailored to your specific community and ways to connect with that which is local (for example, the good food delivery options) are just some ways to be practical and useful in your parental support. 


    Involve Others 

    Among other things, this pandemic is teaching us about marathons vs. sprints and encouraging all of us to abandon our egos. You should not and cannot do everything. And the good thing is there are so many people who want to be helpful. Let IT help with the IT issues parents are having. Get in touch with your PTO/PTA equivalent and see if they can organize some social opportunities online and/or activities for families. Reach out to your counseling colleagues near and far if you need ideas and support. Many of us are also parenting while working and can attest to how challenging it all is - use your village and practice compassion to yourself and others. 


    Consider and Plan for Future Possibilities 

    It will be helpful to start thinking about different possible outcomes that might arise in your schools. These range from the serious illness/death of a parent or student in the community to a possible return to school before the end of the school year. Make sure you talk to your leadership teams about plans - how will you support families who are anxious about school starting again? How will you address this experience once everyone is back on campus? What are your crisis response protocols in this “online” setting?  In this time when everything feels so out of control, having plans, even if you don’t end up using them, will serve you well both logistically and in terms of your own mental health. 


    We are all learning through this experience and hopefully when it is all over (and it will be over one day), the energy and effort we have put into supporting our students and families will be tangibly evident, if it isn’t already. 

    We are a community. 

    We are here to support one another. 

    We withhold  judgment in these times of powerful disruption. 

    We help in what ways we can. 

    We ask for help when we need it. 

    We are strong and resilient. 

    We are empathic and vulnerable. 


    YOU CAN DO THIS! 

    YOU ARE GREAT AT YOUR JOB! 

    THE PARENTS AT YOUR SCHOOL VALUE YOU! 

  • 03 Apr 2020 7:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Jen Hammonds, Middle School Counselor, American School of Doha & Task Force Member


    We are all learning so much about resilience during this time of COVID-19.  We are being asked to “bounce back” from unexpected challenges daily, weekly, monthly.  For many of us, not knowing if the end is in sight has made it all that more difficult to adapt to a “new normal”.  We are being challenged in new and unexpected ways to adapt, to be flexible and to live and learn virtually like never before.  It is demanding all of us to dig deep and to wrestle with grief & loss as a collective, as well as individuals. 

    This article is an attempt to make some sense of this experience and to provide some helpful suggestions and resources for how we might continue to “thrive” not just “survive” during this challenging time.  We need to grieve, to transition, to celebrate, to serve, and to practice gratitude. We need to help one another through this time.

    Grief & Loss

    In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness, but many people have generalized them to other types of negative life changes and losses.  The experience of COVID-19 has thrown our world into grief collectively and individually. This is why it is so important to acknowledge your own grief, as well as be aware of the grief & loss that others are experiencing too.  

    Shock and disbelief. Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. The last day of “real” school, before your school went “virtual”.  The shock of being told by your parents, your principal, the government that you would need to “shelter in place”. The shock of not being able to see family and friends face to face.  You may have felt numb and had trouble believing that these changes really happened, or you may have even denied the truth. What has shocked and created disbelief for you?

    Sadness. Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or loneliness. You may also cry or feel emotionally unsettled.  Realizing that you may not go back to school this year, that you may not have a chance to go to prom or graduation, that you and your friends will have to say farewell virtually, and so many other rights of passage that mark the end of a school year, may be creating feelings of sadness and lethargy.  What are your losses? What is making you feel sadness? 

    Guilt. You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings (e.g. feeling relieved that you don’t have to see someone at school anymore).  You may feel guilt about being in a certain country where the cases of COVID-19 are being managed and you have flattened the curve. You may feel guilty for being glad that your parents are not on the frontlines as medical workers.  We, all in times of grief & loss, have feelings of guilt because we compare our situation to someone else’s in order to find a way to better cope with our own reality. What have you been feeling guilty about?  

    Anger. Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lose a loved one or a friend, you may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, or your community for not doing more. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.  If your loss is more abstract, the loss of going to school everyday, participating in extracurricular activities, attending school & community events, awards programs, prom, graduation, you will still feel anger and a loss of control. What are you missing out on in life that is making you angry?  What is making you angry about how the world is responding to COVID-19? You may feel angry that your family, friends, community and the world are not doing enough. You may feel angry that TOO MUCH is being done and it feels unfair and unnecessary. You may feel somewhere in-between or different emotions on different days.  What is making you angry about COVID-19 and the challenges you are facing day to day?

    Fear. A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.  The loss of what you expected your school year to be (ie., going to school, hanging out with friends, celebrating milestones, getting excited about the end of a school year, looking forward to summer, transitioning to college) may trigger you and create feelings of fear and worry.  What are your fears and worries right now?  

    If you are experiencing any of these emotions due to COVID-19, it may help to know that your reaction is natural and that you’ll heal in time.  Being able to name and claim our feelings related to grief & loss, is the first step.  Take some time to talk with someone and/or to journal about your grief.   

    Not everyone who grieves goes through all of these stages—and that’s okay. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to go through each stage in order to heal.  For many of us, grief comes in waves.  Some of the waves, you can “stick it” and withstand the wave on your own, other times the wave overcomes you, and you need to reach out and ask for help and let someone help you.  You can’t avoid a wave in the ocean, you need to let it come and wash over you. This is the same with the emotions related to grief and loss. Let the waves come, feel what you feel, let it wash over you.  You can get back up again on your own or with the help of a trusted friend or loved one. You will be alright. Release, release, peace.

    NOTE:  Remember that one of the essential ways to get through grief & loss is to practice self-care in terms of maintaining good sleep, exercise, hydration & nutrition (Keeping Your Table Stable)

    64 Self-Care Ideas For People Who Are Coping With Grief & Loss

    More Resources for Grief & Loss:

    Transitions & Celebrations

    It is at this time of the academic year that we all begin to think about different transitions that we may experience, such as moving from elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school to college.  We also think about friends that are moving away at the end of the year. In addition, we celebrate in big and small ways all of our achievements from the year in so many different areas of our lives: academics, athletics, music, art, extra-curricular activities, service, leadership, and scholarship.  We celebrate meeting our goals with family, friends, classmates, teammates, teachers, and our communities.  


    Because of COVID-19, we may not be able to support one another through these transitions & celebrations in the traditional ways that we have in the past.  We may need to take our face-to-face transitions & celebrations virtual. What are your traditional ways of supporting students, families, teachers, and your community with transitions & celebrations?  How will you innovate and be creative so that you still provide meaning for yourself & others?


    Virtual Graduation. Use GoToMeeting.  Work with administration, teachers, senior students, senior parents.  Form a committee. Make a plan for how you want to commemorate the Class of 2020.  

    • Create a slideshow for the class.  Use a baby pic from every senior and the senior yearbook photo.  Ask students to submit songs for the background music.

    • Pre-record & videotape the remarks of key speakers.  Shorten the length of time. Compile into one graduation speech.

    • Share out to the community the Open Letter to Seniors from Chris Dier (a teacher of the year, who did not have his own high school graduation due to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in the USA)

    • Encourage students to host a ZOOM graduation party with their friends for the ceremony itself and a celebration afterwards. 

    • Consider ordering a special commemorative item to mark the COVID-19 Class of 2020.  

     


    NOTE:  The steps above for high school graduation can be used at any divisional level or at the classroom level for end of the year transitions & celebrations


    In the Time of Corona: 20 Ways to Celebrate Yourself & Others


    More Resources for Transitions & Celebrations: 


    Giving & Gratitude 

    The stories that we have seen of human triumph, innovation, creativity, and kindness have provided all of us with hope.  It also gives us the strength to carry on, when we see others in even more challenging situations than ourselves finding their way through and helping others too!  


    It’s no coincidence that those who focus on others in need and support their communities, especially during times of crises, tend to be happier and healthier than those who act selfishly. Helping others not only makes a difference to your community—and even to the wider world at this time—it can also support your own mental health and well-being. Much of the anguish accompanying this pandemic stems from feeling powerless. Doing kind and helpful acts for others can help you regain a sense of control over your life—as well as adding meaning and purpose.

    Even when you’re self-isolating or maintaining social distance, there’s still plenty you can do to help others.

    Follow guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus. Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, staying at home, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding contact with others can help save the lives of the most vulnerable in your community and prevent overburdening the healthcare system.

    Reach out to others in need. If you know people in your community who are isolated—particularly the elderly or disabled—you can still offer support. Perhaps an older neighbor needs help with groceries or fulfilling a prescription? You can always leave packages on their doorstep to avoid direct contact. Or maybe they just need to hear a friendly, reassuring voice over the phone. Many local social media groups can help put you in touch with vulnerable people in your area.

    Donate groceries. Panic-buying and hoarding have not only left grocery store shelves stripped bare but have also drastically reduced supplies to underserved populations. You can help older adults, low-income families, and others in need by donating food or cash.

    Be a calming influence. If friends or loved ones are feeling overwhelmed, try to help them gain some perspective on the situation. Instead of scaremongering or giving credence to false rumors, refer them to reputable news sources. Being a positive, uplifting influence in these stressful times can help you feel better about your own situation too.

    Be kind to others. An infectious disease is not connected to any racial or ethnic group, so speak up if you hear negative stereotypes that only promote prejudice. With the right outlook and intentions, we can all ensure that empathy, kindness and charity spread throughout our communities even faster than this virus.

    NOTE: adapted https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/coronavirus-anxiety.htm

    31 Benefits of Gratitude: The Ultimate Science-Backed Guide


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    Clear Heads, Calm Hearts & Clean Hands

    My hope is that reading this article inspired you and helped you to take a moment to remember how important it is to let yourself grieve, to support one another through transitions & celebrations, and to be kind and grateful.  During this challenging time, we all find it more difficult to stay positive, to maintain our well-being, and to communicate and stay connected with one another. Remember to breathe and to take a moment each day to practice gratitude.  List 3 things you are grateful for each day. Share your thoughts with a loved one, a student, a parent and watch as your ability to overcome this challenge grows stronger, as you practice gratitude daily!




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