The Whole Student

By Sarah Murphy, Director of College Counseling and Student Support

In many larger schools, the role of the school counselor is putting out fires. With so many students under the guidance of just one or two counselors, dealing with the crisis of the week (or “COW” as we refer to it in the field) and managing student schedules precludes counselors from engaging in the work they are best suited for: helping students develop socially and emotionally.

Part of our mission in rethinking school is imagining how we might put into place support and prevention before students reach a point of crisis. I am excited to start my role as Director of Student Support in a school where time and resources are devoted to allowing me to work with all students and focus my time and energy on encouraging healthy habits. One of the ways I plan to do this is by incorporating social emotional learning (SEL) into our school culture and daily routine. (Just ask the faculty about the “mindful minute” that now opens our team meetings!)


Building off our introduction of SEL topics into advisories last spring , this year we have adopted a set of SEL competencies we want to ensure all students have mastered by the time they leave DTS. Adapted from a nationally-developed framework, these guideposts help us focus on offering students a wide range of skills they will need to be happy and successful.

To narrow our efforts, we have chosen to focus on two areas for 2019-2020: self-management and responsible decision making. Throughout the year, weekly advisory lessons will introduce students to topics from how to manage stress and practice self-care to how to reflect on past actions to influence future decision making. These skill sets translate not only into building stronger, more capable students, but also into developing good citizens and flexible future employees.

Our goal is that by next June, each of our students has gained the knowledge and ability to confidently assert the following statements.


Self-care - I manage stress and make time to recharge my non-academic needs and interests. 

Goal-setting - I set and work toward reasonable personal and academic goals and review and evaluate these regularly.

Motivation - I develop strategies that help me gain energy and momentum for learning.

Discipline - I train myself to complete tasks in a way that spreads work out over time and breaks challenges into a series of smaller tasks. 

Impulse control- I successfully regulate my emotions, thoughts and behaviors in different situations. 

Responsible Decision-Making:

Identifying programs - I identify conflict and recognize the infractions of social norms.

Analyzing programs - I generate solutions that consider the well-being of myself and others. 

Solving problems - I make constructive choices about personal behavior based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms.

Evaluating - I evaluate the realistic consequences of various actions. 

Reflecting - I reflect on past actions to improve decision making in future situations.

In addition to the advisory curriculum, all students and families will complete an SEL needs survey this fall to allow us to tailor additional instructional time and support to the particular needs of the community.

I look forward to serving as a resource for students facing the many challenges that come with high school -- whether managing anxiety, discovering a learning difference, or negotiating college choices -- but most of all I am excited about the possibility of helping each and every student build greater well-being into their everyday lives.