This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Counseling Institute, and we plan to celebrate. Our first event is a reception at the NAIS Conference in Philadelphia, on Friday, March 1, from 6–9 pm at the Philadelphia Marriot. We hope to see past participants and newcomers, and we will have our new video ready for prime time. Earlier that day, I hope you join me and Jack Creeden for an experiential workshop, “How Listening to Students in School Builds Community that Embraces Change.” A long-time supporter of the Institute and its mission, Jack was Head of the Fountain Valley School, and is now Chair of the NAIS presidential search committee and President of School Year Abroad.
In the half century of the Institute, much has changed in the world and in your schools. But the core of our mission and our work is the same: we focus on how to listen deeply to students, to understand what they are thinking and feeling, and to provide support during their adolescence as they navigate an increasingly complex world. Whether we are their advisors, their classroom teachers, or we connect with them through deaning, sports, arts, learning support, technology, or health, in the library or dormitories, we find students have a thirst for real relationships with adults who care about them. At the summer Institutes and the in-service workshops we hold at independent schools, we hear from teachers and administrators that taking the time to listen has become increasingly important.
The digital world has simultaneously increased student breadth of contact with friends and others while diminishing depth of contact. Some students feel more awkward in face-to-face relationships, both with their peers and with adults. Only experience and opportunity can change this dynamic. The work of the Institute is designed to help enhance adult confidence and competence in providing students with these experiences.
We feel what we offer is a wonderful and productive time together. Attendees give us their highest rating, consistently talking about the meaningful ways the Institute has changed how they see their role and relationship with students. We encourage you to talk with Institute alumni from your school, as they will be able to share their sense of how attending might be particularly helpful to your work.
I am so proud to be part of this endeavor. This milestone would not have been reached if independent schools didn’t believe that the teacher who can really listen is the teacher who connects. And as you know, when a student feels that connection, a sense of motivation and true belonging to your school community follows.
We look forward to working together.
All my best,
Ellen Porter Honnet, Ed.D.