Monday, 31 December 2012

Our Giving Tree

After reading, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein my fourth graders came up with a great idea.  They decided that they wanted to make a lower school giving tree.  Student Council Officers read this beautiful story to the entire lower school at an assembly.  They followed the story with a conversation about the importance of both giving and appreciating.  Students shared ideas about different ways we can give to others.  Our giving tree is a great way for students and staff to show their appreciation for these acts of kindness.  If someone goes above and beyond and does something kind for you, you can write or draw on a leaf to recognize them.  Leaves will be presented at each of our assemblies and students will be able to add them to our giving tree.  Our goal is to fill the tree with as many leaves as we can by the end of the year.

Student Council helped to create our giving tree by drawing pictures of ways to spread kindness.  Their pictures fit together to make our tree, which is now hanging outside of the lower school office.  It is very quickly filling up with leaves!  Students love to surprise others by writing a leaf to show their appreciation and the students that are being recognized couldn't be prouder to pick their special spot on the giving tree to place their leaf for all to see.  Parents and students are always stopping to admire the pictures and leaves on their way in and out of the lower school office.   Here is our giving tree at the very beginning.

This has been a great way to recognize and appreciate others.  Anyone can give a leaf and anyone can receive a leaf.  I love that the purpose of the giving tree connects to our lower school rules: Respect yourself, Respect others, Respect the environment.  I am so excited to watch the kindess spread as our giving tree grows with more and more leaves.  Stay tuned for more pictures...

Friday, 14 December 2012


I was recently asked to write about celebrating different cultures.   Our school does a great job at this so I was happy to share some ideas and advice.  They wanted me to specifically touch on difficulties during the holiday season.  My article was just published in Re:locate magazine.  Take a look, I am excited about my very first publication!!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Skype Interview + Change!

I was recently asked to do an interview for Marissa Rex, creator of  When Marissa got in touch with me I was so excited since I regularly read her blog.  Marissa shares TONS of great ideas, resources, videos, etc. so be sure to take a look.  You can check out my skype interview here!  I had a great time answering questions and sharing my story and I am now looking forward to collaborating with Marissa and her students in Ohio!  We will keep you posted on what we decide to do from across the pond.

Sharing my journey with others has really got me thinking...  Ten, five or even two years ago if you had asked me if I saw myself moving to Europe my answer would have been, "no way!"  I never in a million years thought I would be blogging about my life and job in  London.  I am really (really) close with my family and have never seen myself as much of a risk taker.  Like many of you out there, I was always so comfortable in my routine and never thought much about change.  Sometimes I feel like I am dreaming and have to remind myself that this is all real.

Well, one and a half years later I am sitting here at my flat in London and as I reflect I couldn't be more grateful for this opportunity and I am so thankful that we decided to make this change in our lives.  I have to be honest and can't take all of the credit for the big move we made, that can mostly go to my husband who planted this seed many, many times.  I am just so glad that I finally warmed up to the idea and gave it a shot.  Having family and friends visit us has helped lots.  We hope to have many more visitors in the months to come!  ;)


If I had to pick one word to best describe my responsibilities as an international school counsellor it would have to be, transitions.  I work with a very transient community and spend so much of my time every single day working with families through their transitions.  Students are constantly coming and going.  At the start of this school year I welcomed 100 new families starting pre-k to grade 5!  Throughout the school year many more students will join us and many will leave us.  

When I spoke to the pervious school counsellor at my school she suggested I purchase a book to read before my arrival.  The book she recommended was, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken.  Here is an image of the book cover:

I immediately began reading and I am so glad that I did.  The term Third Culture Kids started being used over ten years ago but was something I didn't know anything about.  So many of my students were born in one place and moved to another or several other places.  The combination of the cultures of all of these places is where the idea of a third culture comes from.  So many children are growing up among multiple worlds and there is lots to learn about how we can work together to support them.

After attending last years ECIS annual conference in Lisbon, Portugal I connected with other international school counsellors and learned how they were working with their TCK's.  I loved this trailer for the TCK film and can't wait for it to be released.  Have a look!

I went to a workshop presented by Laura Cowan, Middle School Counsellor at Shanghai American School and loved her documentary on Third Culture Kids.  Laura asked some of her TCK students some basic questions about both the challenges and rewards of being a TCK.  She also asked students how educators and parents can best support them through their transitions.  What they shared was so insightful.  We can learn so much about TCK's if we just take the time to listen to them.  Take a few minutes to listen to her student's perspectives on things!

Laura let me borrow her video to share with the parents at my school.  I used this prezi at a PIM (parent information meeting) on TCK's.  Last year I filmed my students that were moving on to new schools and other TCK's to create my own documentary about their experiences living among different cultures.  I am still working on piecing everything together (it is my first documentary) and look forward to sharing the final product with you soon!  

Every time there is a new student I am amazed at how helpful our students are.  They do everything they can to make the new student feel welcome and they are so great at helping them to fit right in.  New students get paired with a buddy and lots of times they will email with their buddy before they even arrive!   I always meet the student on their first day at school and usually have a student that already knows me well introduce me to them by explaining what I do at our school.   After they have had a few days to settle in I have a welcome lunch bunch group.  Students invite a few friends to join them and in a relaxed setting we get to know one another a little better.  I have a large map in my room that we use to share with one another where we were born and where else we have lived.  I just wrote a grant for a large velcro world map and a magnetic one, we would definitely put them to use.  Lots of times students feel relieved when they find out that other students in the group have also lived in a few different places.  They will naturally start to ask one another questions about their old friends and previous schools and they offer one another advice.   This year new students received a 'new student survival kit' with lots of symbolic items in it.  They have been a hit!  Lots of parents have called or stopped me  to let me know how much their child appreciated it and how cute they thought it was.  I will attach the letters that go in the survival kit as well as the objects and their meaning as soon as I get on my work computer.

Students that are getting ready to move on to a new school are always invited to a goodbye lunch bunch.  Each classroom teacher also has a special tradition for saying goodbye.  Last year I invited students that were leaving to help me create a special book.  They had the opportunity to leave something behind that would be helpful for new students joining us in the years to come.  The cover of the book says, "While you are at ACS Hillingdon be sure to..." and each student decorated a page.   Each page was unique and my new students this year have LOVED reading the advice that was left for them.  I plan to continue this tradition and make a new book each year.  When a new family comes to visit I'd love to be able to send a book home for them to borrow.  I like the idea of the family reading it together before they actually start at our school.  Some advice left was to make as many friends as you can, try the cookies in the cafeteria, go to the London Eye and Big Ben, travel as much as you can, eat at Pizza Express and Wagamama, keep calm and carry on, be yourself, if you have a problem talk to Mrs. Seaberg, keep in touch with your friends and family that you left and go to Legoland.  I give lots of advice to students but there is just something special about students helping other students!

In general, when I meet someone for the first time we often get to know one another better by asking some basic questions; What's your name?  Where are you from?  What do you do for work?  I quickly learned not to ask anyone I meet where they are from.  I learned that lots of people can't answer that question because they have lived in several different countries or they were born in one place and only lived there for a short time and have lived in several other places since.  Lots of my students don't have a place they call home. 

So, if you are thinking about working as a school counsellor in an international school my advice is to do some research on Third Culture Kids and don't ask your students where they are from.  Just ask where they were born and where else they have lived!  I hope to pick up some new ideas on ways I can support my families and students that are transitioning at the upcoming ECIS conference.  If there is anything you do to help your TCK's please comment below and share!



ECIS (European Council of International Schools) is an organization that has incredible professional development opportunities, especially for those of us working in international schools.  I was lucky enough to attend the annual conference last November in Lisbon, Portugal and I am looking forward to attending this years annual conference in just a few days in Nice, France!

I am wondering if any other school counsellors out there are also planning to attend?!  Let me know...
This year I will be participating in the 'Introducing Mindfulness Into International Schools' pre-conference with Chris Cullen, Co-Founder of the Mindfulness in Schools Project.  Here is what it's all about (stay tuned for more):

Mindfulness is 'present moment awareness', and there's now considerable and 
compelling evidence that training in mindfulness is a very effective way of alleviating 
stress, anxiety and depression as well as promoting well-being and flourishing. This 
experiential workshop will provide an introduction to the theory and the practice of 
mindfulness, and will consider the growing evidence base for benefits that it offers for 
teachers and pupils. There will also be an introduction to the '.b' ['Stop & Breathe'] 
mindfulness curriculum for secondary schools that has been developed by the UK-based 
Mindfulness in Schools Project, in collaboration with Cambridge, Oxford and Exeter 

I look forward to learning more about the International Model for School Counselling, which is based on the ASCA National Model.  I hope to take some ideas back to my school to continue to develop our international school counselling program.  I will also be at the interest group for guidance and counseling and some of the following workshops:
Students in Transition, Neither Here Nor There- A Third Culture Kid Documentary for the Classroom and Beyond, Exploring Student Transition in the Context of the Corporate Overseas Assignment, The Fine Line Between Counseling and Special Education: Towards Closer Collaboration Part I and II and maybe an iPad class or two among many others.  

I can't wait to share with you all the things I take away from the ECIS conference!   Stay tuned for more!!!

Friday, 6 July 2012

International Schools (and how I got in the loop)

It seems to me that working in the international schools circuit, which provides incredible employment opportunities around the world,  is a well-kept secret.  So I’d like to share information with you about how to get in the loop!

While most educators stateside apply for jobs in the spring and summer, you need to start your application process in the fall for international schools.  Although many international schools are independently run, many hire through agencies such as Council of International Schools (CIS) teacher recruitment service and International School Services (ISS).  We registered (for free) through CIS and went to a recruitment fair in Chicago, which was quite the experience.  Since my husband and I were both looking for jobs at the same time (he is an art teacher) we were only willing to make the move if we both got offered positions within an hour of each other.  After several days of non stop interviewing and networking, we were really excited to both get a few offers but they either weren't in the same place or they were in parts of the world we weren't prepared to relocate to.  Because of this we didn't actually find our jobs through CIS, we found them on our own!  We continued our search by emailing principals and heads of schools directly.  The schools that we contacted were all accredited international schools, here is an updated list.  Most schools seemed to be looking for someone with a masters degree and at least two years experience.

So after many emails, even to schools that didn't have counseling/art positions posted on their sites, and a few skype interviews at odd hours because of the time difference things finally fell into place.
I was offered a position at ACS Hillingdon International School and immediately after as luck would have it a position opened for my husband at TASIS The American School in England

I want to give you a better idea of the school that I work at because that is what I know first hand.  For starters here is a picture of what I drive up to each morning!

If you have twelve minutes you have to check out this video that was created this year for all four of the ACS International Schools.  There are two other campuses in the UK and one more that just opened in Doha.  Let me know what you think...

For me, working in an international school is completely different than any of the public schools I have previously worked at.  The first thing that comes to mind is my role and responsibility as a school counsellor (spelled with two L's in the UK).  Where I am now feels like the complete opposite of where I came from.  I will post more about my day to day life at work another time but so much of what I do revolves around the large population of Third Culture Kids (TCK) at my school.  I spend a lot of time welcoming new families, saying goodbye to students and helping the ones that stay that had to say goodbye to their best friends.  My work is all about transitions, which I am now very passionate about and am currently making a documentary on!

Our school is located on the Hillingdon Court estate, a Grade II-listed mansion house!!  The mansion itself is maintained with beautiful period architecture and grounds.  I have to pinch my self some days because it all feels like a dream. There are days where I sit with a lunch bunch group and I realize that every single student sitting at the table is from a different country, or times where I'm sitting in the cafeteria after we return from break talking to students about their holidays to Africa, Greece, Switzerland, Thailand and the US, or when I ask a kindergartener where she has lived and she lists 7 countries and she is only 5!  We celebrate diversity and have a multicultural day every single month, more to come on that later.

If and when you begin researching all of this yourself, you will most likely find that the registration process and the expense that goes into getting registered, flights, and hotels for a recruitment fair, you might feel a bit overwhelmed (we registered through CIS for free so look into a few agencies).  While you may be putting money out at first, the benefits package with most international schools will help even things out.   The formal benefits package varies from school to school, but you will find the following offered by many international schools:
  • Housing or a housing allowance
  • Round trip airfare once a year for you and your dependents
  • Shipping Allowance
  • Move In Allowance
  • International Health Insurance
  • Retirement Benefits
  • Tuition Waiver for Children
  • Funding for professional development and conferences
The informal benefits are life changing and some are difficult to even put into words.  Being exposed to different cultures and getting to experience them first hand has been incredible.  I have also enjoyed the opportunity of getting to know people from all around the world and building connections with them.  The travel opportunities are endless.  We haven't even been here for a full year yet and have already traveled to 7 countries!!!
Romania (This was through my husband's school where we worked with children that were placed in small family homes.  I will definitely do another post on this trip alone!)
Portugal (This was for a European Council of International Schools, ECIS, conference.  As a professional development opportunity this was paid for by my school, another post on this to come!)
...with more trips this summer to southern France, Italy, Switzerland and Scotland!!  It doesn't get much better than that!

All of that being said I miss my family and friends MORE THAN ANYTHING!  Even more than comforts from home that I can't get here.

I wrote this post to share my experiences and opinions so far.  If you have more questions leave a comment or feel free to email me at

Now it's time for a cup of tea before bed.  Cheers!

Thursday, 5 July 2012


I would like to start by saying how appreciative I am of all the school counselors that have been sharing through their blogs, twitter, facebook, and more! I am excited to join the bandwagon and start sharing.

Since this is my 'introduction' post I will tell you a bit about myself.  I was born in New York and ever since a young age I always thought I wanted to teach.  It was while I was getting my undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from SUNY New Paltz that I realized teaching wasn't for me.  I was student teaching my fifth grade class when I had to write out a pass for one of my students to see her school counselor.  She had come into school late that day and in the middle of my lesson she had me step into the hallway to tell me that her grandmother had just passed away.  I knew that I couldn't just write her a pass and get back to teaching my 21 other students.  The teacher I was working with let me to go with her to see the school counselor while she finished the lesson I was teaching.  It was in that moment, while I was sitting with my student and her counselor that I realized I needed to be the counselor for my students, not their teacher.  I shadowed and interviewed my old high school counselor before I enrolled at Long Island University, C.W. Post to get my masters in school counseling.

My first job as a school counselor was in an elementary school in Connecticut.  Next, we moved to North Carolina where I worked as an elementary school counselor for two years.  Budgets were being cut and I was getting worried about the security of my job.  I was told the last two school counselors that were hired were the first two that would be asked to go (I was the second to last hired).  I had already started looking into working internationally and this pushed me to look even harder.  After a few months of interviews, an international job fair and lots of waiting and thinking I accepted a job in an international school outside of London.  I prepared to move my entire life (including my two cats) to the other side of the pond all while planning my wedding!  Well, we got married in May and this past school year we have had the experience of a lifetime working and living in Europe.

I couldn't be happier with the decision I made to make this big move and would love to tell you more about how it has changed my life.  I also look forward to sharing some of my school counseling ideas with you and highlighting some of the great posts that I find from other school counselors.