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Learning Differences Conference 2013
Student Affairs -  COUNSELING

Elementary School Counseling
(Sax, 2011)

Transitioning between grade levels, schools and between developmental periods is not only an exciting time for young children and adolescents but also a time that is chaotic and stressful (Turner, 2007).  Transitioning can this be defined as passing from one condition, place or activity to another and can be understood as a psychological response to change (Turner, 2007).  Under this premise, it is important that all children and/or adolescents are offered support and guidance from the appropriate school personnel and feel a sense of belonging in the school environment.

It is this sense of being connected, security or feeling safe that is essential for students of all ages to progress emotionally, socially and academically.  As ACS Athens is an international school embracing the American philosophy of education, we must not overlook the uniqueness of our school’s student population as we house over 65 different nationalities world-wide.  Having this is in mind, it is critical to support all new students matriculating for the first time at ACS Athens, in order to ensure a smooth transitional period into the new school environment. 

One way in which we actively support our returning students to be responsible citizens and/or serving others, is by taking part in the Owl-Buddy Program in the Elementary School.  Returning students (our buddies) are assigned to an “Owl” (our new students) by the School Counselor, in order to assist them in adjusting to the new school environment by being a valued peer support system.  The Owl Buddy Program’s mission is to assist new Elementary School students to transition smoothly into an international environment.  Monthly meetings for grades 3-5 (grades PJ-2 are served on a needs basis) are held with the Owls (new students) and School Counselor.  These meetings aim to monitor students’ progress in school and their degree of satisfaction with their buddies via a group discussion between the Counselor and all new students.  The students are also given the opportunity to evaluate the program by giving instrumental feedback to the Counselor and by completing a questionnaire on the Owl-Buddy Program.   Positive school experiences socially, emotionally, academically and stronger school performance, are expected goals to be achieved by implementing the Owl Buddy Program.

In addition to the Owl Buddy Program, ongoing counseling services are provided for emotional and social support to students in grades PJ-5 and psychoeducational programs are offered yearly on friendship and communication skills (grades 2-5), healthy hygiene and habits (grades 3-5), sexual education (grade 5), anti-bullying program (grades 3-5) and  making healthy choices in life (grades JK-5).

In closing, school practices that foster positive adjustment or holistic health (social, emotional, physical and cognitive balance): 1) enhance children’s meaningful connections to others in the school environment, 2) enhance children’s sense of competence as learners and 3) promote a sense of autonomy and self-direction that are associated with positive school attitudes and overall healthy functioning both in school and society (Baker & Dilly, 2003).