In the Middle School, a new schedule allowing students to spend longer amounts of time in a smaller number of classes daily means fewer potentially stressful transitions. Morning meetings in Lower School with attendees greeting one another and discussing and practicing social-emotional themes means every day starts on a positive note.
These are just two examples of how OES is proactively putting student wellness at the forefront this fall, with counselors focusing on safety, community, and inclusion, and personally getting to know each students' needs.
"We have so many students joyful and excited to be back in school and in person!" said Lower School Counselor Vickie Soli-Compton. "Students are feeling included and building community in their classrooms with morning meetings. Our Friday Gatherings are also an amazing way to bring together first through fifth grade."
"Many of our students are building stamina for a full school day and re-learning how to play and work with each other," said Soli-Compton. "Students have been trying strategies like 'Extend an Invitation' and 'Ask a Question,' as well as solving small problems with 'Rock-it-Out' [rock, paper, scissors] and Stop-Talk-Walk to advise they feel unsafe.
"We have introduced identifying emotions in self/others, emotional regulation, and regulation tools much earlier than previous years, with supports such as mindfulness, yoga, and breathing throughout the day," she said. "We have been proactive and planful in setting up ways for students to be nurtured, and with continued support from our amazing teachers, staff, parents, and community, our students will continue to thrive and grow."
Relationships in Middle School are key to helping students feel calm and motivated, said that division's counselor, Kathleen Hicks. "The foundation of all that we do in the Middle School is in the relationships that we form with students and that the students form with one another," said Hicks. "Students are getting to know their teachers and learning how to reach out and ask for help with much more ease than having to do so virtually.
"Students also connect with their advisory group each day, offering them a space to connect, get outside, and just be together," she said. "It is when our students feel connected to their community and their learning that they really thrive."
Hicks said she has also been spending a lot of time getting to know students by checking in with them individually, so they feel comfortable approaching her during good—and challenging—times.
"Having that relationship already established helps so that when and if they experience a challenge, students already know me, where to find me, and how to reach out and ask for help," said Hicks.
"Our Middle School-ers excitement to be reunited with friends and to be engaging in their learning with their teachers in the classroom is palpable," she added. "The ease of connecting with teachers and being able to raise a hand or motion for a teacher to come by their desk when they have a question is something our students have missed."
Hicks and Soli-Compton, along with Upper School Counselor Miki Darby connect weekly to collaborate on how best to support students and families.
Photos from a recent yoga session for third graders with Lower School Counselor Vickie Soli-Compton.