An intellectually ambitious and diverse community, BFS strives to provide – through direct service to students, general programming, consultation with faculty and families, or connections to other providers outside of the school – the learning and social emotional support that is sometimes necessary for students to thrive in our community.
As our Quaker values remind us that there is a light in each of the learners at our school, Guidance staff support students with a range of social, emotional, and learning needs. Our guidance teams are multidisciplinary and use information from many areas of each student’s life to build support plans that respond to the needs of the whole child. Guidance staff also work proactively with students and teachers to help create and sustain a supportive learning environment. The programming and support we offer can prevent problems, help foster growth, and maintain gains.
We recognize and embrace the fact that our student body is diverse in many ways. Using the three-pronged (Comprehensive, Inclusive, Power and Privilege) approach created by our school’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, Guidance staff work to ensure that appropriate supports are available for each child and that those supports are tailored to promote the healthy development of each child as a unique member of our community.
As we work with students, we are also mindful of the importance of building each child’s confidence in their own abilities. Though learning and social and emotional difficulties often take time to address appropriately, we focus on helping students develop strategies to cope with their challenges so that they will need less external support over time.
We seek to support all students, but there are limitations to the types of academic and therapeutic support that can be offered appropriately by our faculty and staff. In all cases, we work to put the students’ well-being first as we make recommendations about what each student needs and whether or not those services can be provided at BFS.
In each division, there is a guidance team that includes staff trained to provide support for students with learning, social, emotional, and/or behavioral needs. The structure of these teams varies depending on the staff needed to support students at each particular developmental level, but most include some combination of psychologists, counselors, learning specialists, or other developmental specialists along with the divisional administrator(s). These teams meet regularly to discuss student needs and function primarily as the divisional leaders responsible for the planning, implementation, and monitoring of individualized support for students. Team members are also responsible for helping to organize any preventative or skill-building programming provided for students or faculty in their division.
At the all-school level, the Guidance Committee exists to link the guidance staff from all divisions so that a comprehensive and cohesive support system can be maintained. Meeting regularly, the group reviews, discusses, and refines school policies and procedures on a wide variety of issues, such as tutoring and academic support, evaluation and accommodations for learning issues and special needs, social emotional learning, and more. The work of the group and the communication it fosters across divisions and among staff with widely varying areas of focus and expertise helps strengthen our identity as one school and provides for continuity in policies and practices across divisions.
The process for assessing need for intervention differs depending on the division. Most often, students are referred for support by teachers or advisors who notice patterns in functioning (academic performance, social/emotional, or behavior) that are not meeting expectations of typical performance for a BFS student. When a member of the faculty believes that a student is in need of support, he or she shares that information with the appropriate specialist in the division. Members of the guidance staff are central to the process of developing, sharing, and monitoring the success of a learning or counseling plan. In collaboration with divisional administrators, teachers, parents, outside support providers, and the students themselves, specialists gather information and give feedback throughout the process to ensure that appropriate services are provided.
It is our goal to work in partnership with families to support our students. Family members are a key source of information about a child’s functioning and are encouraged to participate actively as partners in supporting their children. When they notice a pattern of difficulty at home, we ask that they communicate directly to the school about their concern either through the support staff, a child’s advisor, or their dean. Families are also asked to be as transparent and forthcoming as possible by sharing their observations and any outside documentation that may be helpful, such as neuropsychological evaluation or pertinent counseling or tutoring history. This kind of information can be critical to the process of putting the right supports in place for our students.
Sometimes, as we work with students, it is determined that they could benefit from a service that is not provided by the school, such as tutoring, speech or occupational therapy, or psychotherapy. We encourage families to explore these options if we believe that they could ultimately be helpful in supporting the child. To support families in this process, it is our practice to explain why we feel a recommendation for outside support could be helpful, to make referrals when possible, and to collaborate through authorized communication with those providers when it is reasonable and appropriate to do so.