Ms. Caroline Turner joined Challenge Prep at the Middle School in August of 2016. After finishing her Masters, Turner was ready to begin the work as a School Counselor. A few years before, she was halfway around the world when she discovered she wanted to pursue a career as a School Counselor.
Living and working in Spain as an English-speaking teacher, Turner was teaching Physics, Chemistry and Social Studies in a bilingual school. She began working with an immigrant student from the U.S. who was having trouble with the language and local culture. Through her interactions with the student, Turner realized she loved being an advocate and having the 1-on-1 interactions that were not a constant as a traditional classroom teacher.
Now as a Middle School Counselor, Turner is helping CCMS scholars through some of the toughest years. Because students in middle school are maturing and developing at different rates, as a counselor it can be tough to know where a student falls developmentally.
“I can have a 6th grader come to my office who seems to be going on 30, and then right after that a 7th grader who is being disciplined for playing around like he or she is still in elementary school will walk in. Some of these students are facing very tough things at home, and that affects their learning and behavior in the classroom,” stated Turner.
But no matter what they face, Turner has great hopes for each student. She named two topics that she reinforces with scholars on a regular basis: advocacy and options.
“I want them to advocate for themselves. For instance, I might encourage a student to recognize and identify how he or she can change behavior, or I might say, ‘You have an IEP and you will have to learn how to speak up for yourself about what is in that IEP as you grow older.’ I want them to have options, so I encourage them to do their work now. I talk about keeping the door open to the future. There are so many opportunities out there!”
Turner recognizes the unique location of Challenge Prep, and she hears the strain in scholars who feel so far away geographically from the city. She knows that students need role models from their community, and that they sometimes feel powerless to change their present circumstances.
“I let them know what they can do at their age to try to change their futures. Sometimes showing a scholar that there are little things he or she can do opens up their mind to what is possible,” shared Turner.
Turner identified three tough issues that she believes all middle schoolers face:
Self-respect: this starts with the individual scholar. Sometimes as adults, we assume it is about outward respect, but that type of respect often starts with self-respect. Students need to respect themselves and how their actions will affect their future. By setting short and long term goals, students are able to look back on them and have a better understanding how their behavior is contributing positively (or negatively) to their future.
Let your voice be heard: scholars need to feel like they can speak up and share a good idea. One simple example is the implementation of talking circle during advisory. Students are given the opportunity to speak if they want, and then they must go around and say something they heard. There is cathartic response to feeling you can be heard.
Balanced use of technology: engaging with people 1-on-1 instead of a screen is a major issue. For instance, I see scholars wanting to play basketball on their own versus playing a game with other students. We need to preserve face time and recognize how overuse of technology affects relationships.
Continuing on the topic of technology, Turner observed, “I do see students at this age being more aware of the global world they live in. Often, they even become advocates for world events and issues, but there has to be a balance of spending energy to better themselves as well. I say, ‘Similar to what they tell us on the airplane, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself so you can help someone else and give back from a healthy place.’”
Away from school, Turner loves to run. As a runner, her next major race is the NYC Marathon in the fall of 2017.
“I am into sports. The kids don’t see me as that because of how I’m dressed, but I would love to play basketball with the students after school--after I change clothes of course!”