Counselor Conversations: Focus on Social Emotional Learning at ISP

To start off the school year ISP's counseling team worked together to organize the screening of Angst the Movie. Parents and students had the opportunity to watch at school and engage in meaningful conversations. We were also able to provide a pay per view link of the movie for those who missed it. Following the screening, we sat down to speak to some of our counselors.


Why did we bring Angst the Movie to ISP?


Samir Jamal (HS Counselor): We have been seeing an increase in students struggling with anxiety. It kept coming up in meetings with students and families. Our HS Principal Mr. Monson's sister had seen this movie and suggested we use it after it was well-received at the school she works at.


David Letique (HS Counselor): I think we noticed that a very popular word is stress. Everyone is stressed it is all you hear about. That trickles down to parents and teachers. In the Counseling Offices we recognize there is stress, some is very natural, but the talk was becoming so prevalent that it made it feel like it is an issue we want to address together. We brought the movie to help show the distinctions between normal stress and stress that may cause anxiety. Stress that motivates us is natural and healthy. However, there are folks that move into the area where it becomes problematic and it becomes a full-blown anxiety disorder. So we needed to educate the community and start the conversation. This movie is a great way to start that conversation.


Jenny Tassell (HS Counselor): This is not something unique to ISP. That is our community feeling anxious. I saw this at the school I was at before. This is an important issue that is beginning to garner much more attention in all areas of work. It applies to all students and people and not just in the areas of academics, there is also social stress. There is so much connection through social media we are always connected and our inability to disconnect keeps our minds in an active state where we feel threatened. This, of course, increases our stress and anxiety. This is a relevant topic for students and parents who are feeling some of these emotions and may want to reach out.


How did having both parent and student sessions add value to the experience?Why is involving parents important?


Samir: Two of our sessions involved parents directly. We had them write down questions and we responded to them in a panel session after the screening. Then in the high school, we had the students encouraged and empowered to share their stories and insights on stress and anxiety which we then affirmed or better informed.


Jennifer Restrepo (MS Counselor): Creating awareness and normalizing anxiety is important for us as a community.  It’s preventive because having open conversations help us take away the stigma around mental health opens the door for students and parents to share struggles and seek support. Our kids are so blessed to learn this at an early age.


David: I personally think it was important to have parents in to educate them not necessarily because they are doing anything wrong, but they might also need to make some tweaks to their parenting. Parenting has changed so much over the past 20 years. Like for example, our parents all with good intent will structure their children's lives from an early age, with after school activities and horseback riding classes and archery classes on Saturday and then totally fill up their time, and kids don't have just downtime to play.

Although they understand the value of getting students exposed to different activities, that ongoing structuring of a student's life might result in them feeling like they are not capable of organizing their life, and a valuable learning opportunity is missed.


When their student comes home and talks about being stressed or anxious, parents move into helping mode, automatically trying to solve the problem. Understandably, they don't want to see their children suffer, they want to jump in, and try to fix it and relieve their child's stress. When in fact one of the best antidotes to stress and anxiety is to sit and listen and help your child process all the mixed emotions going on stress sadness anxiety. I think the movie was good in helping parents hit the pause button, maybe listen and learn some new information so they can maybe adjust their parenting style.


What is something that surprised you? Being able to have a panel


Jenny: I don't know that we were surprised, many of the questions we answered we were prepared and could provide parents with the information they needed. I think basically for them being able to look at themselves in the mirror is always a good practice for a lot of the students dealing with anxiety. In the movie, they ask who else in your family is dealing with stress or anxiety. In most of the cases, the student can identify at least one family member who is also dealing with these emotions.


The implication of the movie is we mirror behaviors. So while you can't avoid what happens to you, it is possible to gain control over our reactions to stressors. We want parents and students to ask themselves what kind of coping mechanisms they are using to cope with the stress and anxiety? How can they model that for their children so they can also find better ways of dealing with their stressors?


Samir: We reinforced that parents are modeling behaviors whether they realize it or not. Creating self-awareness around that is a strong message for families to consider exploring ways of managing stress and anxiety together.


Sounds like this was a good way to get the school year started. What is next?


Jenny: This time, of course, brings a lot of pressure and that makes us anxious too. We need to make sure students are ready to meet applications deadlines. Sometimes students feel overstressed because of this pressure, and others aren't stressed at all, and they should be so that they are motivated to meet the deadlines. For seniors, they are coming up on the only time in their life when they will have to choose where to go, a new place most likely, and choose what to study. This is understandably overwhelming, but the key is good planning and being prepared with positive coping techniques for when the going gets tough.


Samir: For our community especially many parents who did not attend universities in Europe or North America, there are a lot of unknowns that result in apprehension stress and anxiety. As counselors, it is interesting to see how these emotions affect students. For example, students that are excellent writers might struggle with their college essay, just because it implies a different type of pressure and expectation. So this was definitely a good means of setting the stage for a positive year of dealing with these emotions and successfully completing the last year of their learning adventure at ISP.


Why focus on Social-Emotional Learning?


David: This year awe are focusing on social-emotional learning (SEL). I like to put this starting conversation of Angst into that context. If you look at trends in education ( and this is David Letique speaking),  not necessarily research. We have seen such a focus on subject-specific content, a lot of buzz around math and science and STEM. Schools put a lot of time and intention into planning curriculum and this feels like the boomerang effect of this focus. We forgot about the human being in front of us and that is the whole purpose of social-emotional learning because it is supposed to be very specific and targeted skill-building where we teach kids how to self regulate and that regulates any emotion whether that is stress, anxiety, depression, anger, what have you. It is great that ISP is focusing on SEL because it certainly has been a little lost during the last decade of education.


Jenny: If parents want to continue this conversation, they can ask their kids about how they felt while watching the movie. Parents and students can also visit

There they can have access to many different resources, students can also download apps to their devices like Calm and others to monitor the use of social media as this is a trigger for anxiety and stress.


Parents can also arrange times to meet with counselors as needed. Please join us for our next Counselors Coffe K-12 coffee, we will have a guest speaker discussing. Stress Healthy Habits and Coping, ES Conference Room. Check the school calendar for further details.


Samir: We want to continue having this conversation and check-in with parents and students. Our doors are open and we are here to support you. Source: Angst The Movie