Counseling & Adolescent Development
Adolescent Development at Thayer Academy
The adolescent experience has changed in the last generation, and outwardly, it seems more complex. That combination of an ever-evolving culture and the things that always make adolescence challenging are accentuated in the school experience. Thayer Academy offers counseling services at both the middle and upper school to help students manage this transitional time. Mr. Wyche (Middle School) and Ms. Matzkin (Upper School) are accessible every day, and their main goal is to advocate for the students and ensure that they each have a successful school experience. Mr. Wyche and Ms. Matzkin work with students individually, in small groups, and within the classroom setting to support and assist them with their academic, social/emotional, behavioral, and personal development. They also work collaboratively with students, parents, teachers, advisors, and other professionals in order to identify and minimize any barriers that stand in the way of student success. In addition, they serve as an important source of information, resources, and referrals. Some of the areas in which the Middle School and Upper School counselors offer support include:
- Encouraging self awareness and acceptance
- Assisting with coping strategies and problem solving
- Fostering positive relationships
- Providing communication and conflict resolution skills
- Reinforcing academic support skills
- Providing crisis intervention for students
- Acting as a liaison between school and outside mental health providers
Thayer Academy has a strong and collaborative Health & Wellness program that is directed by Ms. Happ. The health and wellness faculty, the athletic trainers, and the nurses in the Health Office all work together to educate our students on the importance of overall health and well-being. Furthermore, Thayer Academy sponsors a variety of educational events and guest speakers to support the program’s mission.
This fall, both 8th and 9th grade students learned about mindfulness in health classes. Students discussed and reflected on the impact of stress and how the mind plays a significant role in our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. By practicing mindfulness, students can become more aware of negative thoughts and feelings that may enter their minds and will be able to make sound decisions rather than being ruled by emotions. Students learned about different exercises that help to root the mind in the present moment rather than being led on auto-pilot by emotions. Some of these exercises included meditation, breathing, observation, practicing gratitude, and reducing multi-tasking. By practicing mindfulness, our hope is that students will be able to have better decision-making skills, improved concentration, and reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. We encourage you to discuss the practice of mindfulness with your children at home and explore some of these additional tools and resources.
Apps to learn more about meditation practice:
-A selection of guided meditations based on how you are feeling
-Meditation designed especially for teens
-Guided meditations to train your mind to quiet
An article from the Atlantic that discusses the value of incorporating mindfulness into the classroom: When Mindfulness Meets the Classroom
A book for adolescents on practicing mindfulness: The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress One Moment at a Time
Winter is often the most difficult time of year for our adolescents -- especially if they don’t get enough time outside. Often referred to as the the February blues, this time of year is linked with increased emotional struggles. These links are a reminder of the importance of getting outside even during these colder days. Undeniably, most of our students are active, we just need to make sure they are active in the great outdoors. Shoveling, sledding, building snowmen, skiing, and walking around the campus are all beneficial. Get outside and play!
An article from National Geographic that discusses the importance of spending time outdoors to rest and calm the brain: This Is Your Brain on Nature
An article from the New York Times that describes how time in nature positively impacts mental health: How Walking in Nature Changes the BrainA book by Richard Louv that links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation--he calls it nature-deficit--to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression: Last Child in the Woods
Thank you to the TAPA for sponsoring the excellent presentation by Jessica Lahey on April 5th. Her book The Gift of Failure is an informative and thought-provoking book that we highly recommend. (If you want the key takeaways from her talk you can follow this link.)
Recommended summer reading:
- American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers
- Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Other Interesting articles:
UPPER SCHOOL CURRICULUM
Health -- Freshman Year
- Injury prevention/ Head Injury/ Impact Program
- Total Health (Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Spiritual, Social).
- Risky behavior
- Depression/ Mental health
- Stress/ Relaxation techniques/ Mindfulness
- Self esteem/body image. How does one define beauty?
- Steroids/Eating Disorders
- Rx/ OTC drugs/ Illegal substances/ Marijuana
- Tobacco (smoking and smokeless), Hookahs, E-cigs and Vaping
- Alcohol/Binge Drinking
- Sun Safety Program
- Consent, “No” means No
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Gender roles/diversity/ sexual orientation
- Sexual harassment and flirting.
- Protection methods
- Unhealthy and healthy relationships
Nutrition- Sophomore Year
- Major nutrients
- My plate, portion control
- Fast Food menus and healthy choices
- Food labels - What does it all mean?
- Sugar intake
- Digestive System
- Basal Metabolic Rate, Intake vs Expenditure
- Food log / calculations of carbs, protein, fat.
- Group presentations. (ie: Food allergies, Performance enhancing supplements, energy drinks, fad diets, organic/gmo, diabetes, caloric intake for athletes, probiotics, quick healthy breakfast ideas, vegetarian)
Decisions - Junior Year
The objective of the course is twofold: 1) To prepare the juniors for the college process. They will meet with their college counselors in the spring during scheduled class time. And 2) to provide them with critical information so they can better anticipate consequences, evaluate risk, and make informed decisions. At the end of the junior year, each student will hopefully have a better understanding of his/her self -- on both a personal level and within the constructs of our society.
- Mindfulness: learning to elicit the relaxation response.
- Bullying/Harassment policies
- Consent: legal definition
- Sexual Assault: (“The Hunting Ground”), bystander intervention.
- Healthy vs. unhealthy relationships: characteristics, warning signs, cycle of abuse, support
- Constructions of gender and sexual identity
- Distractology: the dangers of distracted driving.
- Sex Ed: STD’s, pregnancy, risk factors (speaker)
- Alcohol Poisoning (“HAZE”)
- Drugs: heroin, prescription drugs ("Heroin: Cape Cod, USA").
Many other topics will be addressed by programs or by outside speakers during morning meetings or advisor blocks. Also, there is an assembly that reviews the bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, and hazing policies at Thayer. Students are required to attend and are expected to acknowledge their understanding of the policies.
MIDDLE SCHOOL CURRICULUM
6th Grade Health
In this class, students learn about the importance of developing habits and skills to enhance overall health and well-being. Students will study age-appropriate health topics and practice skills to develop healthy habits and make the best choices for themselves now and in the future. By increasing healthy habits and reducing risk behaviors, we will work to promote strong bonds between students and among all members of the Thayer community.
- Health triangle--Introduction and discussion of social, physical, and mental health with an emphasis on personal responsibility
- Family discussion and activity
- Friendship discussion and activity
- Communication skills/activities
- Introduction to the Food Plate
- Introduction to good hygiene
- Saying “No”/Group role play
- Stress management
- Choices and accountability
7th Grade Decisions
In this class, students spend the year exploring a number of issues that concern them as a citizen of the world, as a 7th grader at Thayer Academy, as a member of their family, and as a friend to their peers. The goal of this class is to help students develop skills around making decisions in all aspects of life, including peer pressure, personal health, relationships, and leadership. Activities and discussions in class will serve as a framework for learning about making decisions and talking about different issues. Decisions class is an opportunity to participate in meaningful conversations about what students are thinking, what concerns them, and what they will encounter in the future.
- Good kids/bad decisions
- Who influences our decisions?
- How do decisions change with every new situation?
- Six steps to making a decision
- What does technology mean to you?
- How important is technology to you?
- Internet safety
- Digital citizenship
- Social networking
- Technology tips for teens
- Cliques and Stereotypes
- Community service
- Bullying in Schools
- Teenage drinking
- Teen drinking and driving
- Diversity, Discrimination, and Tolerance
*Throughout the year, we further reinforce and/or revisit many of these topics through the MS Advisory program in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.
Schoolwide Middle School Programming
- Annual FCD (Freedom from Chemical Dependency) Week
FCD Prevention Work is the leading international nonprofit provider of school-based substance abuse prevention services. For decades, FCD has worked worldwide to provide students and the adults who care for them with the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to make intelligent, healthy choices about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. (http://www.fcd.org) FCD partners annually with Thayer Academy for a one-week educational program involving students, teachers, and families.
- SALSA (Students Advocating Life without Substance Abuse) Mentoring Program
SALSA is FCD’s peer leadership substance abuse prevention program for students in the Upper School who choose not to use alcohol and other drugs. Members of SALSA facilitate a program with discussion and activities as drug-free role models to Middle School students.
- Sun Safety Program (SunAWARE)
The SunAWARE Children's Program is designed to teach children and their caretakers about skin cancer prevention and sun protection. Foundation educators visit the Thayer Middle School students annually and present an interactive, standard-based, cross-curricular program. (http://www.melanomaprevention.org/)