A PROACTIVE MODEL FOR SUPPORTING STUDENTS
“Primarily my role is to be available for students in preschool through twelfth grade to come in and talk about whatever they want,” Rueger says. “The role of a school counselor has changed a lot over the last ten years. Kids aren’t sent to counselors’ offices for discipline anymore. My role at Barstow is much more proactive.”
Rueger visits each lower school classroom monthly to lead discussions about acceptance, respect, community and character. From kindergarten to third grade, she reads stories and leads activities based on character development. Grades 4 and 5 are discussion-based with group problem-solving activities.
“Barstow teachers do a lot of character education on a daily basis through modeling and activities, but when I come into a classroom I feel like the kids are excited to have the opportunity to talk about issues more directly. Hands go up and they share examples and that warms my heart. I love to see that excitement.”
COMFORT AND COMMUNITY IN MIDDLE SCHOOL
Rueger’s interactions with middle school students become more personalized to reflect the changes in their lives during early adolescence.
“I kick off the year with an introduction talking about my role and what are the things that you can talk about with me. I get a lot of students just coming in on their own, feeling overwhelmed, stressed or navigating friendship issues.
“Sometimes they have these waves of pressure coming at them and they’re still developing the skills of how to cope with that. That's part of growing up. I give them strategies for managing stress and uncomfortable or overwhelming feelings.”
She also helps middle school students develop a Caring Communities pledge, a contract that sets behavior expectations and an agreement about how their community should function to ensure middle school is a positive experience for all students.
STRENGTHS-BASED APPROACH FOR EVERY STUDENT
In upper school, Rueger says students develop close relationships with teachers, deans and advisors who do such an outstanding job of listening that they know when it’s time to suggest a visit to the counselor.
“Especially at Barstow, we have such a wonderful, but also advanced curriculum that’s really intense. A majority of upper school students I talk with want to learn how to manage stress or overcome mistakes. I let them know that making mistakes is actually a positive thing. I frame it as, ‘you’re still learning how to be you. Not everything is meant to be perfect, organized and wonderful. That’s how we learn.’ ”
“Counseling at the upper school level is a very positive, strengths-based approach. I say, ‘you’re already the best version of yourself, so let’s talk about what you need to really highlight those strengths.’”
Rueger believes one of the values of a Barstow education is that each student in every division is known and valued for their individual strengths.
“No two people are exactly alike. Being able to tap into a child’s strengths and highlighting those helps them develop into someone successful. Barstow does a great job at that.”