Category Archives: Guidance

Reflecting on Progress (and some resources…)

As we end this school year and transition to “summer mode,” it can be helpful to take advantage of the slower-pace to reflect on the year. Students have grown in so many domains – intellectual, physical, self-awareness, decision-making, and so much more. It can be helpful to ask your children in what ways they recognize their own growth and development. Likewise, parents and guardians may want to share your own observations with your students.

We have a tendency to hyper-focus on the academic domain, but it is so important look at engagement and connectedness in other areas as well. Has she spent the year involved in activities that were satisfying? Does he want to branch out to new activities next year or continue what he has started, therefore developing more depth and skill? Have they found a healthy balance between academic and extracurricular pursuits? Reflecting on these, or similar, questions can help students identify which of their involvements have brought them joy and which may no longer be satisfying.

It is also important to acknowledge that the end of the school year can represent the loss of consistency, structure, and routine. For some students, it may be difficult to initiate contact with peers or to engage in preferred activities. If you develop concerns about your child’s emotional health or see concerning behavioral changes, please know that the City of Newton has compiled this list of community based counseling agencies, consultative services, support groups, and helplines.

I will be spending a portion of my summer enjoying a free online course on “The Science of Well-Being”, based upon a popular Yale University course recently developed. I hope to expand my professional knowledge base and also learn some practical tips for putting that knowledge into practice. Perhaps you and/or your child might find this resource to be a useful tool to incorporate the principles of positive psychology into your lives.

Best wishes to all for a restful and rejuvenating summer!

Dan Rubin

Director of Guidance

Fall News from the Guidance Department

Dear Parents, Guardians, and NSHS community members,

As I reflect on the first two months of the school year, I am struck by how quickly the weeks have passed. It’s hard to believe that the end of the first quarter is nearly upon us, fall sports are coming to a close, and the holidays are right around the corner.

The guidance staff has been extremely pleased with the start of the school year, as we have begun building relationships with our newest students and reconnected with returning students. Through individual interactions and group guidance seminars, our aim is to strengthen relationships between students and their counselors, help students to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges they and their peers face, and reinforce the value of self-assessment and reflection as all of our students develop as young women and men.

Individual meetings and group guidance seminars are just two of the ways our counselors will work with your child and your family. One of our goals for this year is to help you better understand the many ways in which your child’s counselor can serve as a resource. Counselors routinely serve the following roles:

Academic Counseling

Counselors work with students to identify their abilities, interests, and achievements. Counselors work with students to understand their learning and to develop effective study habits and time-management skills. Through attention to course selections, grades, and other activities, counselors help students to prepare for their academic futures.

Personal/Social Counseling

Counselors help students at South through acute or crisis situations. Counselors work with students to assess the issues, consult with parents, staff and other providers, and make referrals or bring in other resources when appropriate.

Post-Secondary Counseling

Counselors assist students in developing their educational and/or career plans. Counselors provide information and expertise to aid students in decision-making based on interests, skills, and values.


Counselors work closely with parents, teachers, housemasters, adjustment counselors, psychologists, school nurses, and school resource officers to provide information and to gain insight into student development.


Counselors serve to facilitate difficult conversations between students and parents, students and teachers, and parents and teachers. Counselors can serve as a sounding board and liaison to work toward having cooperative and productive interactions.

I hope you find this information helpful as your child navigates Newton South High School. Please do not hesitate to contact your child’s counselor should you have any questions or concerns.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving,

Dan Rubin

Director of Guidance

Detailed news by class:

The Guidance Department is on Twitter!

If you are a twitter user, please follow us for information about events at South as well as relevant re-tweets.

Winter News from the Guidance Department

Dear Parents, Guardians, and NSHS community members,

If there is one overarching message I have been thinking about in recent weeks, it is the importance of viewing adolescent development for what it is: a time of rapid growth across multiple domains. Our kids are individuating from their families, expanding their capacity to think abstractly, and developing into independent, self-advocating young adults. When we are able to “zoom out” and look at the big picture the transformation is remarkable. Too often, however, external forces nudge us to experience the journey through high school as a strategic, rather than a developmental, process. When this happens, students become susceptible to imbalance in their holistic development.

Over and again, I tell students and families that no single course, grade, activity, or honor will be the factor that makes or breaks admission to a specific college. Too often I see students making life decisions using a sort of mental calculus designed to maximize the odds of gaining entry to the most selective college possible. Make no mistake, aspiring for entry to elite colleges is not inherently bad, but I worry that this kind of strategizing is sucking much of the joy out of learning and compromising the development of critical social-emotional skills.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) offers a thorough definition of social emotional learning:

SEL is a process for helping children and even adults develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. SEL teaches the skills we all need to handle ourselves, our relationships, and our work, effectively and ethically. These skills include recognizing and managing our emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically. They are the skills that allow children to calm themselves when angry, make friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices.

It is important we maintain our focus on how we approach the learning process at least as much as we focus on the end result. When our focus shifts too far toward a specific result or outcome, we turn struggle and failure into catastrophes to be avoided rather than expected steps in the learning process. We risk systematically creating highly fragile and/or disengaged students.

Our fragile students often fear that any misstep negates all of their hard work, and feel paralyzed by the pressure to be mistake-free. In short, they fall prey to all-or-nothing thinking and other perfectionistic tendencies. Our disengaged students tend to cede ownership of their learning. For some, that leads to failure to complete assignments, truancy, or even dropping out of school. For others, it’s copying a friend’s homework, cheating on a test, or otherwise short-circuiting learning in an effort to achieve a particular outcome. In either case, students miss out on opportunities for growth and development.

Together, by keeping the emphasis on healthy growth and development, we can model balance and perspective. We can validate that not all progress is linear and that we will often stumble along the way to our goals. Most of all, we can consistently reinforce the message that one’s worth is not solely a function of their accomplishments, but rather, an amalgamation of their character, their relationships, their successes, and yes, even their failures.

There are no simple solutions or quick fixes to alleviate the pressure students feel. Open and honest exchanges that challenge the status quo are a start. I hope you will consider attending the upcoming presentation (Monday, Feb 8th, 7:00 pm, Cutler Commons) from the AWARE club, our student organization focusing on mental/emotional health issues, to hear directly from students about how they are experiencing Newton South. Perhaps you will leave feeling better prepared to engage in these conversations with your own child.


Dan Rubin

Director of Guidance

Detailed news by class:

In Case You Missed It

Please complete the linked survey to help the Guidance Department gather feedback to guide our efforts to continually improve our services and programming. Thank you!

Upcoming Events

  • February 8th, AWARE Club Parent Presentation, 7:00 pm, Cutler Commons
  • February 8th, Program of Studies available online
  • February 9th, Sophomore Parent Night, 7:00 pm, Seasholes Auditorium @ NSHS
  • February 12th, Senior Local Scholarship Application Due
  • February 24th, Ninth Grade Parent Night, 7:00 pm, Seasholes Auditorium @ NSHS

On the Horizon

  • March 9th, Eighth Grade Parent Night, 7:00 pm, NSHS Field House
  • March 17th, AP Exam Registration Deadline (Total Registration)

Monday Evening Meet-up with Students from the AWARE Club

Several years ago, a group of Newton South students founded AWARE, an emotional wellness initiative and student-run club. The students from AWARE work to help increase awareness about mental health issues, identify and advocate to decrease sources of unhealthy stress among teens, and help Newton South become a supportive, understanding, and emotionally healthy community. AWARE works to provide information about positive and healthy activities for students, while creating a community of respect and interest in those from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and emotional experiences.

On Monday, February 8th at 7:00 pm in the Cutler Commons, a student panel from the AWARE leadership group will host a conversation for parents to help them better understand and support their high school students. AWARE students will present perspectives on managing academic, social and emotional challenges and sources of stress, and discuss the power of communication and collaborative relationships.

We hope you’ll join AWARE for a dynamic and informative evening!

Dan Rubin, Director of Guidance

Beth Pinals, AWARE Advisor

Guidance Survey Reminder

Hello again, with a follow up reminder regarding the Guidance Department survey. Many thanks to those who have already responded. The Guidance Advisory Council, seeks your input on Guidance and Counseling services at Newton South High School. We ask that you please take a moment to complete the survey found at the following link:
Results from this survey will help guide our program development moving forward. We greatly appreciate your willingness to provide feedback.
Dan Rubin
Director of Guidance

New from Guidance: Evening Appointments Available

Extended Monday Evening Hours for Parents/Guardians

We’re pleased to announce that beginning Monday, October 19, Shelly Borg, Cutler and Wheeler House counselor and former Director of Guidance will be available to meet with parents from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the College and Career Center. The extended hours are intended to provide additional time for parents/guardians who are unable or unavailable to schedule a meeting with their child’s counselor during regular school hours. The evening appointments can be used for college consultation, but are in no way limited to it.

Once this program is underway, and after receiving parent feedback and interest, we hope to set aside one Monday each month for more focused group seminars on topics of interest.

To assess parent interest in future Monday evening speakers and programming, please complete the attached short survey.

To schedule an evening appointment you can visit:


Dan Rubin, Director of Guidance & Shelly Borg, Counselor

Urgent Correction for Ninth Grade/New-to-South Parent Night

Dear Parents/Guardians –

This evening’s parent program for families of ninth graders and other students who have entered South for the first time will be held in the Auditorium, not the Field House as previously published. We apologize for the confusion.

Thank you!

Dan Rubin

Guidance Department Head

Follow NSHS Guidance on Twitter

The NSHS Guidance Department is now on Twitter! Follow us for timely Guidance & Counseling information and links to thought provoking parent and student resources. Found a relevant article or commentary? Send it to us and we will RT for “mass consumption.”


Spring 2013 Guidance Newsletter

Now that the temperature has finally topped 50 degrees, it feels safe to say we’re in the clear to welcome spring and look forward to the end of the school year. May and June will be full of school-wide and grade specific activities, culminating in review week and final exams. Due to our 6 snow days, the last day of school for seniors (checkout) is June 3rd. June 26th is the last day for all other students.

Check out our new and improved website!

Summer Make-up Exam Information

We understand that the late(r) ending of school has created scheduling conflicts for many students’ summer activities. It is the policy at Newton South to not allow students to take exams before the regularly scheduled exam time. To accommodate those students who must miss exams, we have developed a make-up schedule. Please note that more than one exam can be taken in the same day.

Summer Make-up Exam Schedule
Tuesday, June 25 – 6PM
Tuesday, July 2 – 9AM
Tuesday, July 9 – 9AM
Wednesday, August 21 – 9AM
Monday, August 26 – 9AM

To schedule a make-up exam, students leaving early for summer activities who will be missing some exams must contact their Housemaster and provide a written request from a parent/guardian with the dates of and reason for the absences. Students also need inform Housemasters and/or Department Heads of the date they will make up exams. Students are also expected to inform their teacher(s) that they will be missing the exam.

Regardless of when exams are taken, I’d like to offer some advice:
o Develop a schedule to begin studying early and often to avoid “cramming” and keep to the schedule
o Organize notes before Review Week and do practice problems
o Ask for help if needed, including the use of J blocks
o Mimic a test-taking environment, particularly if testing makes a student anxious
o Review past tests and quizzes taken in the class
o Use a study group and come prepared with questions to keep the group on task (compare notes, quiz each other)

o Eat dinner and get enough sleep

o Eat breakfast and arrive early