Rachel George: Extending Support to Every Corner
The importance of holistic student support cannot be underestimated. As well as leading the academic development of our students, all teachers play a role in supporting students as they develop socially and emotionally. Overseeing this holistic programme is Rachel George, Head of Student Support and School Counsellor at Yew Chung International School of Beijing.
Please introduce yourself
I’m Rachel from Houston, Texas. I have been in education for 16 years now. During that time I have taught 5th – 8th Grade students, I’ve been Assistant Principal and, for 10 of those years, I’ve been in counselling.
I have done all kinds of counselling since I gained my professional qualifications. Much of my experience has come from working in Title I Districts in the States. These are places where students are living at or below the poverty line. As a Juvenile Counsellor I worked with children who were in trouble with the law, whose parents have addictions, are absent, or are in jail. It might sound different to the environment at YCIS Beijing but, no matter what the background, kids are kids and they all need to be encouraged, understood and loved.
Is this your first time in Beijing?
Yes. I’ve never been to China before and I’ve never lived outside of the United States. I left my family, 14 year old dog, and boyfriend back home. I miss them but I also feel like the universe sent me Beijing… so I’m excited to fulfil my role!
Why did you choose YCIS Beijing?
I was very attracted to the school mission statement. One line in particular resonated with me:
We believe that each child is unique, with innate talents and gifts that should be nurtured to the fullest potential.
This is absolutely my philosophy. I really wanted to work in a school that nurtures students as individuals, seeks out their talents and interests and encourages them to be their wonderful selves.
Please explain your role as Head of Student Support / School Counsellor
As School Counsellor, I listen to and support children, families, parents and staff. Sometimes people will just walk into my room, sit down and start talking. Sometimes teachers will put me in touch with a child who they think needs extra support. Sometimes I arrange mediations between parents and children who are struggling to communicate with each other. I’ve done all of these things already this term – it’s been busy!
As Head of Student support, I work with support staff in EAL, learning support, our University Guidance Counsellor, our School Chaplain and the wider teaching staff to ensure that we are aligned in an all-encompassing support programme.
Do you have any plans or visions for the year ahead?
Yes, I have four goals for the year ahead:
Firstly, to connect with people across the school community, including our ayis, bus drivers and non-academic staff. I want to make sure that we are communicating with everyone who interacts with our children on a daily basis, and extend our support network throughout the school.
Secondly, I want to build on the teamwork between student support and teaching staff. Teachers are also part of the student support team and we need to work collaboratively to deliver great support for our students.
Thirdly, I want to empower our teachers to open up dialogues with their students, integrating counselling into the classroom where needed. The best way to help a student is implement support in and out of class.
Finally, I want to generate total transparency so that everyone knows what we do in student support. This starts with my open door policy. I welcome anyone in to come by and chat or ask questions.
Please explain some of the workshops you will be running this year
In my survey for new parents, the two workshops that parents asked for most were building confidence, and managing emotions. I also hope to run workshops on transitions, establishing routines and setting boundaries.
I would also like to run some workshops for ayis and bus drivers too.
Do you have any advice for parents to help their children with the transition to a new school and country?
The most important thing is to talk about it. Go beyond “how was your day?” and ask your child to open up about what they found hard.
I also encourage parents to open up when they have found something hard. If mums and dads can be honest with their children about all the challenges of moving, families can feel like they’re going through something together.
I also suggest families keep on celebrating old traditions – I’m going to be doing a proper Thanksgiving dinner in November. At the same time, combine the family traditions with something new – to get excited about your new home. I loved learning about mooncakes and Mid-Autumn festival!
Finally, you can come to me. My door is always open if you need to talk.
We warmly welcome Rachel to the YCIS Beijing family and are looking forward to seeing how her outstanding experience in counselling impacts our student support programme.