How can a counselor help me?
The counselor’s role is to help students to understand themselves, accept themselves, and to help them to make decisions that affect their lives. At Brown, the counselor is your point person for setting up meetings, accessing resources, and providing support with academic and social/emotional issues. If the counselor cannot take care of the issue at hand, most of the time they can point you to the right person or resource that can.
Counselors can help monitor academic progress, time management, friendship issues, and a host of other issues. Counselors frequently consult with teachers, the school psychologist, administrators, outside therapists, and community resources. Students utilize our offices frequently. They meet with us individually, in groups, eat lunch with us, or just come by to say hello. Counselors help students with the transition from 5th to 6th grade and from 8th to 9th grade.
To help student’s transition to Brown in 6th grade, counselors run developmental guidance groups with their respective teams, which involve small group meetings throughout the year. The program continues in the 7th grade, involving such topics as respecting others and relationships. Much of the 8th grade program involves the transition to the high school.
Making appointments to see the school counselor
Parents can call to make an appointment to see their child’s counselor at anytime during the school day. The counselors prefer that you call before you come in. Very often, a counselor can see a parent within a reasonable amount of time.
Students can make appointments during the school day by talking to either the guidance secretary or their counselor. While extension time is often the best time to make appointments, counselors can be busy during that time (running groups and having individual appointments). When students make appointments during class time, counselors usually meet with them for half the block so a full class is not missed. Counselors may pull students from classes if/when needed.
A word about meetings
Parent/ teacher meetings are set up a bit differently at Brown. Teachers have upwards of 90 students on their caseloads, so traditional monthly conferences are not possible. The school sets aside specific days for formal parent/teacher conferences. Team meetings involving the team of teachers are also available for parents and teachers when there are issues in a number of classes. Of course sometimes issues arise when it is not the official conference schedule time. If there are issues you wish to discuss with the team of teachers, you should contact your child's counselor and determine if a meeting should be set or if the counselor can communicate your concerns to the team of teachers. When there is an issue in a particular class, you should try to call or email that teacher directly.
Common Middle School Issues
Friendships in Middle school
If you were to ask most middle schoolers, they would say that their friends mean more to them than almost anything else right now. Middle school is a social place. Negotiating friendships can be difficult for some children, and can be a major factor with regard to the transition to middle school. Because there are four different feeder elementary schools coming together, it is natural that students’ friendships will shift, sometimes dramatically, during this time. This can be somewhat tumultuous for some children. Counselors and teachers are aware of this phenomenon, and are willing to help with this.
Facebook and other social networking sites
Some students use websites such as Facebook or utilize texting to chat with friends. While for older adolescents it can be a great way for kids to communicate with each other, there are obvious pitfalls. It can be a disruption to evening homework, as the phone and television can be. Feuds between kids can also be magnified online. Many kids feel more comfortable confronting each other in cyberspace than they do in person or on the phone. It is important to monitor Internet use as much as possible. There are many ways for kids to avoid talking to kids and people who are not desirable. One way is to “block” others from seeing you online. Your internet provider can explain your options to you. Middle school students often don't have the ability to control their impulses and are not cognitively ready for the responsible use of these modes of communication, they need adult guidance in utilizing these tools.
Teaming at Brown is done very carefully. Teams on the 6th grade level are put together on the basis of gender, feeder school, and individual student needs. There are no teams that are more academically advanced than another. 5th grade teachers meet with counselors to discuss the incoming students. (We do our best to avoid bad combinations stemming from elementary school)
Lunchtime and the Cafeteria
Students get 27 minutes each day for lunch. Our cafeteria has a wide variety of hot and cold foods. $3.50-4 will cover the price for lunch. See Newton Public School Website for more information including how to pre-pay and menus. Many students bring their own lunches from home. Snacks are also available.
Extension time is approximately 50 minutes four to five times a week where students are given an opportunity to do a number of things. The first half hour is devoted to reading. For the second half, students can catch up on missing work, begin homework given that day, meet with teachers with questions about material, make up tests and quizzes, or meet with their counselor. Extension time also is the time electives meet. Electives include chorus, band, orchestra, and Latin. Every student is assigned a place to be during extension time everyday.
Students from our four feeder schools have had different experiences with the level of homework that was expected of them. The amount of homework that is expected in middle school can be an adjustment for some students. Teachers give homework on most nights and most weekends. Often students have an opportunity to start homework during extension time. It is advisable for families to schedule evenings with a block of “homework time” even before school begins.
Middle school presents children with many new challenges. One major challenge is staying organized. Students have upwards of 6-8 different teachers and classes. Learning to negotiate keeping up with assignments and teacher personalities is a learning process throughout middle school. Most 6th graders struggle with organization, especially during the first term. Teachers will frequently run notebook and locker clean outs. It is also advisable to do a backpack clean out periodically as well. (more on backpacks later)
In order to help students keep up with assignments, each child is given an assignment notebook in the beginning of every year in which they are required to write down their daily assignments and map out their long-term assignments. Parents are strongly encouraged to check the assignment notebook and completed homework nightly to check whether it’s getting done! Some students may need help making sure completed work and other materials are getting into the correct place in their notebooks.
Lockers and Backpacks
Each child is assigned a locker near his/her core classrooms. Students are responsible for purchasing a lock for their locker. Backpacks can get very heavy with the various textbooks, notebooks and sundries that middle schoolers like to carry around. Students can use their lockers before school, during the designated locker time, extension/lunchtime, and after school. Students do not need to carry all of their books around all of the time. Teachers will help the kids to plan what books they will need to bring home on a nightly basis. Some textbooks can be either left in the classroom or at home. Be sure to check if last week’s lunch isn’t still in the backpack!
Activities at school
There are various activities available to students at Brown. The triple E program (Exploration, Excellence and Enrichment) is an after school club program open to all Brown students. Most clubs last about a month. Some clubs are yearlong, and some are seasonal. Most do not require students to sign up for them. There are sports teams available for 7th and 8th graders.
Issues with a staff member
If you have a question or a concern about something that is going on in a particular class, it is best to contact that person directly. The head of the particular department can be helpful also. Counselors can help facilitate conversations; administrators supervise all personnel in the building.