Counselors’ Corner – Fall 2020

One of the greatest things about Brookstone is the multiple layers of support our students have. From teachers, to advisors, to grade chairs, to coaches, to counselors – our students are surrounded by amazing faculty and staff pouring into their lives and cheering them on. They are invested in the well-being of our students – not just as students, but as people. And as a parent, I am so very grateful.

We have robust counseling department here at Brookstone – Kenneth Hoats and Deedee Gordon in the Lower and Intermediate Schools and Jenni Lowell and Jacob Crowder in the Middle and Upper Schools. They are rock stars in my book. As parents and colleagues, we are grateful for the work they do and the intentionality with which it’s done.

So I wanted to share with you some of what our school counselors have been working on with our students this fall. Enjoy these email excerpts below.

From the MS and US Counselors:

Hello Brookstone families.

We are off to a great start to the school year despite the major stressors of COVID. Our students, our families, and our faculty members have demonstrated such great flexibility, kindness, resilience, and hope. Brookstone is a wonderful example of collaboration, trust, and perseverance; we are truly blessed. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with your children. They are so eager and willing to learn. You are raising strong, kind, polite, hardworking, and respectful youth.

Together with the Upper School, the Middle school will be learning and exploring a variety of topics such as Mental Health, Self Awareness, Decision Making, Academic Advising, Relationships, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on a weekly basis. It is a desire that we will be able to reach the youth and address these important topics for their overall health and well-being.

In August, we explored the importance of and difficulties in communication while wearing masks. The struggle is real! Adolescents and teens thrive on and need relationships; however, wearing masks can create barriers, which can become stressful. Sometimes a joke or a statement is missed because our smiles are covered and our words muffled. Students have learned or are learning to be aware, be patient with oneself and others, be mindful of others and surroundings, confirm statements, and be careful listeners. I am positive that as we continue wearing masks our students will continue to adapt and persevere through the challenges.

In September, we began the bimodal work of addressing Mental Health along with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in our advising sessions. Right now perhaps more than ever, taking care of our own mental health and self awareness is key to navigating these unique times.  Being aware of our feelings and being able to identify when we need to take time to talk with someone or engage in an activity to help deal with stress and anxiety are all important strategies in caring for ourselves. In DEI education, it is a continuous goal of Brookstone and our community to create and foster an environment of understanding, empathy, and respect for all. The goal is for the students to see that they have connections with each other despite their gender, race, disability, socioeconomic status, religion, and background. It is our hope that the students will begin to recognize the similarities in one another rather than their differences. It is human nature to see the differences and the negatives about one another. However, we need to encourage ourselves and our youth to put off that natural tendency and to look deeper within ourselves and others. We are building bridges to harmony.

Although we have had a strong start of the school year, we must be mindful and aware of the stressors in our lives. With new expectations layered on top of fears and anxieties about a global pandemic, the need for social emotional learning (SEL) skills is all the more evident. Adolescents and teens need those vital, foundational self awareness and self management skills both to recognize and manage their own feelings. They need responsible decision-making awareness, social awareness, and relationship skills to help them understand the importance of staying home and how they can connect with others. Below is a strategy to help your youth to boost their social emotional learning.

Being able to accurately notice, identify, and then manage feelings effectively is a huge need during this time (and also a big ask for kids!). We can help normalize this by first being open about our own feelings. It’s okay to tell kids when we feel frustrated or overwhelmed! We can use this opportunity to model effective strategies for coping. Here’s an example: “Wow, it’s really tough to work from home! I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by what I need to get done for my job. I think I’ll make a list to help myself feel a little more organized and then I can try to accomplish 2-3 things each day.” Just giving kids permission to feel big feelings can be so freeing! Work together with your child to practice and find some calming strategies or self-management strategies they can use at home when needed. You can even build this into your family routine by beginning your day with a practice or designating a time after lunch or before bed to practice 2-3 coping skills or calming strategies.

If you ever have any questions or concerns throughout the year, please feel free to reach out to either of us.  We are so thankful and blessed to be a part of your student’s journey here at Brookstone School.

Jenni Lowell – Middle/Upper School Counselor and Jacob Crowder – Director of Student Counseling

From our LS and IS Counselors:

Greetings Brookstone LS and IS Parents,

The holiday season is upon us. It does seem as though it comes a little more quickly with each passing year…..or maybe it just seems that way to me!

With that in mind, Coach Deedee and I will be introducing our new character words which are appropriate for the upcoming holidays. Our character words thus far have been kindness, perseverance, humility, and awareness. As we have shared with the children, our character words are all related. Kindness requires humility and vice versa. The struggle associated with perseverance is necessary to develop resilience and strength. Awareness is a prerequisite for all behaviors which exhibit good character. So our work with your children requires that we continually introduce new character words and continue to revisit those we have discussed in the past.

I will restate here that a primary responsibility of Brookstone School is not only to give your children a solid foundation in academics but also to teach and encourage those behaviors which will result in their becoming “good people.” That is the sole purpose of the SEL (social emotional learning) part of their education here at Brookstone. That part of your child’s education is something all of our teachers take very seriously, but Coach Deedee and I are particularly interested. 

Having said that, our character word for the month of November is gratitude. We will be doing activities which will encourage developing an “attitude of gratitude.” We will share with the children the importance of not only being grateful but expressing that gratitude to others. We will talk with the children about the fact that individuals who live a life based on gratitude tend to create a sense of wellbeing in their lives. Through our Servant Leadership program, headed by Meghan Blackmon, our children are given opportunities to express their “attitude of gratitude” in our community. The Servant Leadership program gives us numerous opportunities to put our character words into action, and we are thankful for all that Mrs. Blackmon does.

What can parents do at home to reinforce SEL? First and foremost (as has been stated previously) model the behaviors you want your children to emulate. Obviously parents have a profound influence on their children’s behavior. While speaking with your children about the behaviors you desire is certainly helpful, your behavior, on the other hand, speaks volumes. Be careful of the saying, “Do as I say, not as I do” because more than likely the opposite will be true. Let your children see you practicing awareness. Allow them to see you struggle with difficult situations that don’t have easy answers. Give them opportunities to express their gratitude to other family members, as they have seen you do the same.

When the messages they are getting here concerning character are reinforced at home, that is a powerful teaching experience for our kids. Who knows; perhaps your children might share a thing or two with you concerning what they are learning about being people of good character!

Let us know if we can help.

Kenneth Hoats & Deedee Gordon

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