I remember my first days as an International School Counselor. I had finished my Masters’ degree in California, and had interned as a counselor to students of school and college age before spending two years in England as a high school counselor. When I discovered that there was a network of international schools worldwide, and that most of them had counselors, I was incredibly excited. I went to a recruitment fair and landed my first international school counseling job.
I arrived at my new school, a large International Baccalaureate (IB) school in the Middle East. It was exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure. As the Middle School Counselor, I needed to jump in to my new role and to understand both the academic program and the socio-emotional development needs of my students. And the truth was, I didn’t know anything about the IB. I frantically did as much reading as I could, but I felt lost when people would talk about “the Exhibition” or “the Learner Profile.”
It was clear that I would need to know about these things and to be able to talk knowledgeably about them, but I arrived without the knowledge or context to be able to make sense of them. I even researched IB training for non-teachers. I couldn’t find anything. So I decided that I needed to do all I could to learn about these areas on my own. I had the support of our fabulous Middle Years Program Coordinator and a great IB coordinator, and I learned what I needed to in order to best support my students and the school as a whole. I found ways of integrating the Learner Profile into my guidance work, and I worked hard to make sure the Middle School counseling program was visible and accessible.
When I arrived at my IB school, I had never heard of “Third Culture Kids.” I would hear colleagues talking about TCKs and the research about how to help them. I felt that there were some teacher colleagues of mine who knew more about this complex area than I did, and again, I found myself on the back foot as I tried to learn as much as I could to help this unique worldwide population.
Having been through that, I realise now that it didn’t need to be so difficult. I could have arrived at my first international school job with the knowledge necessary to hit the ground running. My dear friend and colleague, Kathy Swords, and I have written a Certificate in International School Counseling program. This is a comprehensive eight-module course designed specifically for the international school population. It will help not only new international school counselors, but also experienced international school counselors looking to enhance their knowledge and skills base, as well as having a qualification that will make them stand out when recruiting.
In our course, Kathy and I first explore the Expatriate Profile, examining the most up to date research. We look at how counselors can support expats through transitions, and offer practical counseling applications of this unique experience. We also explore the history and current state of international schools, and the types of international schools (British, American, and International Baccalaureate) that counselors are most likely to work in. We explore the curricula of these systems, and look at how counselors can integrate their program into the school life of each system. Our intention is also that counselors are prepared to understand the different systems and to identify where knowledge gaps can show up for students who transfer between systems, and how counselors can help when this happens. We look at situations in international schools that can bring specific challenges to the work of a counselor, and offer an ethical decision-making model from which to work. We spend some time exploring the use of mediation in international schools. We conclude the course by integrating cutting-edge research around wellbeing and neuroscience into the international school counseling program.
In addition to providing targeted professional development in international school counselling, part of our aim in creating this certificate course is to help international school counselors to stand out in the recruitment process; to give international school counselors enough knowledge of the different systems out there (IB, American, and British) that they can move into a different system feeling prepared and knowledgeable; and to make international school counseling the best it can be.
We realise there is a shortage of professional development specific to international school counseling, and we aim to provide something of real value to the world of international school counseling. We have designed our Certificate course to be completed entirely online, making it accessible to counselors the world over. This also makes it an affordable training option, removing the burden to individuals and schools of costly flights, hotels, and other expenses.
We are here to support you as you make your way through the course. Each participant will have either Kathy or me as a course facilitator, helping and encouraging you along the way.
It is our sincere hope that this course makes transitioning into and between international schools seamless. I hope you are more prepared when stepping into your international school counseling position than I was!
In order to sign up for this course, please click here.