In addition to the host of physical changes that will soon spring to life on our campus, beginning with the 2018-19 school year, we will be changing the model by which our school receives psychological services for students, families, and faculty. Up to this time, we have been very ably served by Dr. Laurie Lewis, our consulting school psychologist. Laurie was at first with us one day a week. Teachers, administrators, students, and parents “saved up” issues for discussion. Laurie also provided some classes for students and parent groups that focused on various issues related to social and emotional learning. In addition, she offered professional development for faculty, observations of students, appropriate referrals to outside evaluators or therapists, and special services when challenging events occurred in the news or in the school.
About a year ago, Laurie, Kitty, Wilson, and I began discussing an alternative model for making psychological services available. As Laurie’s outside professional practice grew, she decided to help us chart a new course that would then be implemented by a new staff member.
Beginning in September 2018, we will roll out that new model. Dr. Kelly Lane will assume the role of school counselor at that time. She is a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist with over 15 years experience in counseling students and parents in both educational and private settings. Kelly earned her bachelor’s degree from Washington College, her M.S. Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania, and her Doctor of Psychology degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She will be with us 3 days per week and will come to school with her daughter Annabelle, who is entering Kindergarten. Kelly will continue many of the same services that Dr. Lewis has provided. However, we will also be taking an increasingly proactive stance in promoting positive mental health. Further, we will have the capacity to address matters in real time, as they emerge.
Dr. Lane will help various grades on an ongoing basis address many of the issues that we know are developmentally appropriate and that perennially appear. As an example, teachers and parents know that, for various reasons, the 7th grade year usually presents new challenges for girls. Their relationships with each other tend to change and become more complicated; they are in the midst of physical and emotional transitions; and their relationships with their parents can be quite challenging as adolescents move towards greater independence. Dr. Lane will formulate sessions to help our girls know what to expect and how to be better equipped to face these hurdles. We do not expect problems to become non-existent. We expect to furnish the girls with a framework for handling conflicts, upsets, and the changes in friendships, relationships, and responsibilities that they may encounter.
Eventually we will be targeting these issues proactively, earlier than they usually occur and before the concerns rear their heads so kids at least recognize some of the challenges they will experience and have a better sense of how to deal with them with less anxiety and tumult. We also plan for Dr. Lane to host regular get togethers for parents at different grade levels so that people can share parenting challenges, compare notes on what works, and stay abreast of “what’s up” with the kids. We know, to return to my earlier example, that mothers of 7th grade girls often find it helpful to talk to one another about the issues they are facing with their daughters, so Dr. Lane will host an ongoing forum for them. But 7th grade girls won’t be the only ones getting this kind of attention.
It is also my hope that Dr. Lane will be able to provide groups for students, for example, who are experiencing social difficulties, or who have difficulty with impulse control, or who need organizational (executive functioning) assistance, or who need pointers in how to manage stress or inattention or divorce or loss. We also plan to partner with others in the community to interject mindfulness and other kinds of wellness training into our students’ daily habits. In fact, we plan to integrate social and emotional instruction in some way in every grade, with the overall goal of increasing our students’ social and emotional intelligence and enhancing their learning, mental health, and ability to navigate life’s challenges.
We will keep parents informed as we initiate these programs, and, of course, Dr. Lane will only be working with individuals with parental consent. It will be important for her to assess and get acclimated to our school culture so she can discern what might be most needed and most effective. So although we won’t be rolling all of this out at the start of school, Dr. Lane and I are excited by the possibilities these kinds of resources can provide for our children. We are grateful to Dr. Lewis for her assistance in helping pave the way for important new directions for the benefit of our children. Our school counseling program will be yet another way The Country School delivers important added value for life as it exists in 2018 and beyond.