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Why Counseling, You Ask?

By Mary Russman
Why Counseling, You Ask?

Jacqui graduated from Harare International School (HIS) ten years ago and, as the then principal at HIS, I was lucky enough to hand Jacqui her High School diploma.
Recently we sat in a coffee shop in London and I listened, bursting with pride, as she explained why she was going to pursue a degree in counseling. Two years from now, with a degree, certification, Third Culture Kid background, and all kinds of social work professional development under her belt, she will be applying for a position as a counselor at an international school. You will be able to read her blog, visit her website, and Skype her for an interview; and if you are wise, you will hire her immediately.
Things were very different for me 29 years ago, when I began serving as a counselor in an international school. Back then you had to book international calls, and fax machines had just come on the market. At the time I felt isolated, I felt I had no one to bounce issues off of, or to help me create programs that would benefit from wide-ranging collaboration. Several years later I met Bambi Betts who, in her inimitable style, told me to sit down and come up with goals, objectives, standards, and benchmarks for a counseling course—and she would make it happen.
We sat together in a hotel room during a hiring fair and mapped out the first course, “Essential Skills for the International School Counselor” and put together plans for subsequent courses. The Counseling Training Center, or CTC, was born.
In this day and age we are fooling ourselves if we believe counseling and pastoral support are not essential to the success of our students. What happens in Asia, in the Middle East, in the United States—all around the world, affects every single member of our communities. Our students are constantly being supported and/or pushed to be more, to do more, to achieve more.
For students to achieve personal excellence, they need our help in figuring out who they are, and how to find their place in the world. Every school needs a good transition program to help its staff, students and parents arrive, stay, and leave well. Schools with successful transition and advisory/pastoral programs predictably report fewer disciplinary issues and lower levels of stress on the part of students and teachers. And you need a talented, well-prepared counselor to lead all of this.
The CTC courses provide hands on training, ideas, strategies, and programs that translate from the course to the participant’s campus. We share ideas, and challenge each other to articulate what we do and why we do it. Perhaps most importantly, we create a network of colleagues around the world who can provide essential support when a counselor needs it the most. A few summers, ago a participant new to counseling said, “ I thought I knew what I was doing. With the help of everyone else in the course, now I know what needs to be done… and I know how to get it done.” You cannot ask for better PD than that.
When I became an administrator later in my career, I thought that would mean I would stop being a counselor. Actually, I find my counseling background helps me be an even better administrator. In fact over the years we have had administrators take CTC courses, so they can gain insight on how best to provide guidance and support for their staff and students.
If you or your colleagues are interested in learning more, please feel free to contact the PTC office or me. And note in your agendas to hire Jacqui two years from now.
In addition to serving as a CTC Trainer, Ms. Russman is currently Director of the International School of Latvia.

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05/29/2014 - Lou
I was a middle and high school counselor in California, and at an international school in Asia before returning to the U.S. Moving up the ladder so to speak I eventually became a high school principal (3000 students), and director of alternative education in California prior to my retirement. My counseling experiences were invaluable to my successes not only in education, but throughout life itself. My wife and I still keep in touch with many of our students. We just attended a wedding in Honolulu. A former international student got married and she invited us. What a joy to be part of her special day!
05/28/2014 - Joe
I agree that my counseling experience helped me much more than any leadership classes ever did. The communication skills were essential.