Social-Emotional Counseling: A Greater Need within the School

Written by: Ms. Ly Nguyen

K-12 School Counsellor

The American School

“Why counseling?” – An honest question that is raised by the curiosity of many whenever I disclose my professional background. Growing up as a Vietnamese American, the concept of choosing a career path that one is intrigued and passionate about is rather foreign. It’s been engrained in the Vietnamese and other Asian cultures for children to follow their parents’ footsteps or endeavor to become successful by adhering to well-recognized jobs that often relate to the business world or medical field. However, my experience of “success” takes place in the school where I become the emotional support and voice of guidance for students as they make their daily choices or long-term decisions that can influence their future.

Throughout my work experience with counseling students from different ages and cultural backgrounds, I’ve found that most of them have dreams and ambitions at a very young age but as they grow older and enter into middle or high school, their motivation to succeed starts to crumble as they encounter certain obstacles. May it be family expectations, tragic accidents, peer conflicts, or competitive academic standards that often result in high stress levels, students struggle to find a healthy balance between enjoying their classes and dreading school. On top of that, fear of failure or fear of being a disappointment can clog their vision of what a successful future may look like. When confronted with internal and external pressures, many of these students can start retracting from their parents and even their teachers, leaving many caring adults perplexed.

When nothing seems to retain students attention in class (even academic counseling and extra tutoring), social-emotional counseling is needed to help re-engage students in their schooling. Students whose mental, social, and emotional states are suffering will most likely struggle academically because these fundamental areas are interconnected. For example, when students have a physical illness, it is absolutely normal for them to go see a school nurse or take time off from school to recover. It would be unrealistic to expect those students to participate in class as though they are well. The same concept applies to a students’ mental and emotional health. If their personal problems go untreated, the symptoms will become evident in their academic performance. Unfortunately, it is unlikely for some students and parents to voluntarily seek counseling for help due to possible stigmas or misconceptions of what the process involves.

The American Counseling Association defines counseling as “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.”  It is a collaborative and transformative process where the counselors assist their clients make necessary changes in how they think, feel, and make decisions (Austin, 2017). One of the many false beliefs about counseling is that it is needed for “extreme” cases only, when in reality counseling is for anyone with mild to moderate problems. Some of the many life issues that counseling addresses can range from depression, self-esteem, adjustment problems (e.g. adjusting to a new school or college life), anxiety, to anger management, stress management, and relationship conflicts. The ultimate goal of social-emotional counseling is to help students from all ages obtain wholeness in many areas of their life by enhancing their ability to cope in a positive manner.

When students’ emotional needs or stress-inducing situations are being dismissed, manageable issues can escalate to problems out of their control leaving students to have anger outbursts, panic attacks, or potentially suicidal thoughts. It has been reported in an articled called “Students Under Pressure” that students who struggle are more likely to give up or drop out of college. Data showed that 48.6% of students who sought counseling in colleges and universities were mental health-related concerns (Novotney, 2014). This percentage reiterates the high need for non-academic counseling support within an educational environment. But why wait for students to enter into college to receive this valuable service? When social-emotional counseling is embedded in the K-12 education system, students can be better equipped in handling difficulties that may arise any given time and any given situation.

With both academic and social-emotional counseling available at The American School, parents and students can receive an in-depth and more holistic support. The benefit of receiving counseling on school campus is that students personal and urgent needs can be identified immediately. Students’ who feel emotionally, socially, intellectually, and mentally supported will find more motivation to excel academically. In return, parents, teachers, principals, and school counselors can witness the students’ personal growth and their academic endeavors drawing them closer to their future goals.


TAS – Heartbeat Vietnam Week 2017

This is the 5th year that TAS has worked with Heartbeat VN to help raise money for children with congenital heart defects.

Over the years, the TAS community has raised over $30,000 USD, saving over 30 lives. The students, staff, and parents at TAS came together to create t-shirts, booths, games and more to not only reach our goal of $7,200, but to blow past it and raise an amazing $8,800!

While this was our big fundraising week for HBVN there will still be smaller activities and events throughout the year to help this great charity. It is important to us, here in the TAS community, to not just talk about how to can be altruistic but to show it.

TAS swimmers at SISAC Swimming Championships November 22/23 2017 at SSIS

First of all, in the “A” meet Vincent Huang and Khang Nguyen represented TAS very respectably. Vincent came away with 5th, 6th, 7th and 12th placings in 13 & 14 boys 100-meter breaststroke, 50-meter butterfly, 200-meter Individual medley and 100-meter freestyle respectively, While Khang placed 3rd, 5th and 7th in the 100-meter breaststroke, 50-meter freestyle, and 50-meter butterfly respectively.

The competition was tough, but the boys worked hard and succeeded in bettering all of their personal best times!

Meanwhile in the “B” and “C” meets Jenny Dang, and Nicolas Dao represented TAS in the 11 & 12 age group. Jenny swimming in the “C” division places first in the 100-meter Individual medley, 4th in the 50-meter breaststroke, 8th in the 50-meter freestyle and got a speeding ticket for going so fast in the 50-meter backstroke. She managed to place 3rd overall in points for the “C” division. Nicolas swam in the “B” division and placed 2nd, 4th and 14th in the 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter breaststroke, and 50-meter freestyle, respectively.

Representing TAS in the “C” division of the 13 & 14 age group was, Koa (Ben) Hang, Steve (Javi) Nguyen and Mario Hoang.

Ben placed 1st, 14th, in the 100-meter Freestyle and 50-meter freestyle respectively as Steve placed 4th, in both the 50-meter freestyle and backstroke (“C” division). Meanwhile Mario won the “C” division 25-meter butterfly and the 100-meter Individual medley, came 2nd in the 50-meter breaststroke and 3rd in the 50-meter backstroke to win the overall 13 & 14 age group “C” points total.

All in all, it was a very successful two days for TAS swimmers who will look forward to a team pizza party next Wednesday.

My Rhino Story

During TAS’s Monday Assembly for Middle School and High School yesterday, Phan Lê Hạ Long (Peter Phan) – 11th grade- had a very interesting talk regarding the story of the rhino species and its poaching- as well as the horn-consuming crisis.

Peter Phan was one of the 11 students who was selected through the Rhino Competition writing contest hosted by the Wilderness Foundation Africa to witness the rhinos in their natural habitats by undertaking a journey to South Africa in July 2017. A 10-day journey in a distant land including 5 days in the wilderness without electricity, internet, or cellphone service left Peter with an unforgettable experience. Going back home with many thoughts regarding the necessity to save the rhinos, Peter Phan created a short film under the title BREATH- “Hơi Thở” to share his experience from this journey.

Furthermore, Peter reached out and asked the TAS community to join his campaign under the name “My Rhino Story”. Peter hopes that many other students will join this campaign under the united purpose of saving the rhinos in their own unique ways- stories about the rhinos and their crisis through the forms of paintings, photos, clips, and even music.  Together with Peter, let’s join and save the rhinos through storytelling and by creating your own artwork on social media under the hashtag My Rhino Story (#MyRhinoStory)! The first 50 posts will be shared by Peter to the Wilderness Foundation Africa organization during their Vietnam visit at the end of this month.

Now, let’s watch Peter’s story:

Happy Halloween!

The Halloween Carnival 2017 has been held at The American School (TAS) on the afternoon of October 31. The event involved a multitude of booths, activities, games, and a dance performance.

Today the ECC and ES students dressed up in their favorite costumes and attended the event with their teachers and parents. From 8:30am, all ECC students went to ES campus to trick or treat and joined interesting activities such as watching a scary movie, coloring and listening to storytelling. All of the ECC & ES students looked fairy tale characters dressed as little princesses, princes, or even cute little mummies.

For MSHS students, this is one of the most anticipated festivals of the year because they can express their creativity. A lot of fun activities from the booths which were planned and run by MSHS students such as musical chairs, apple fishing, eyeball Toss and the devil’s café among others.

The Haunted house especially attracted the curiosity of the students. At the end of the program, many exciting gifts were awarded for the best costume & best booth. Check out some photos!

Wishing you a fun and spooky Halloween!

TAS- Have A Heart, Save A Heart

Over the past 4 years, The American School has been working with Heartbeat Vietnam, a local charity, in a fundraising effort to assist in providing heart surgeries for disadvantaged children who suffer from congenital heart defects. Each year TAS holds a school-wide, week long fundraiser in which the students team up to sell drinks and food as well as offer games to play for a small donation. There is also a t-shirt design competition where the winning design is put on the t-shirt that is sold during the week. The middle school high school students participate in basketball, dodge ball, and Frisbee games to raise money. Each year staff and students visit Tam Duc Heart Hospital to see the recipients of the TAS fundraising efforts. This is a great way for the students to see how their donations and fundraising efforts have helped children in need. At TAS we want to teach our students to empathize with people who are going through difficulties. Heartbeat Vietnam has become very dear to the TAS Family and this year will continue our fundraising efforts in November to help save more lives.

Rhinos: Rights to growing, Noes to poaching

On Thursday, September 21, U.S Consulate General HCMC hosted the event “Rhinos: Rights to growing, Noes to poaching” with the participation of more than 100 students from international schools in HCMC.

In this event, high-school student ambassadors shared their stories about the field trip to South Africa last summer. Our student, Phan Le Ha Long (Peter Phan), grade 11 was one of the participants and he brought to the event a touching movie that he made about Rhino protection. We are so proud of Peter!

Long will also be sharing this movie as well as the project he is planning with the entire school.

We look forward to his presentation at TAS!

TAS Parents are welcomed at annual open house 2017 – 2018

Last week, on August. 24, 2017, The American School (TAS) was happy to welcome parents to the Open House – a first meeting between parents and teachers.

From 2:45pm, parents came to school to pick up their children and stayed to participate in the event. Parents visited each classroom to meet and talk with teachers about schedules and the specific curriculum of each subject. In the bustling atmosphere of a new school year, many parents of students, from nursery to high school, wanted to spend time discussing their child’s individual learning needs.

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A Visit To Tas New Campus

On August. 24, 2017, the school board had a chance to visit the new campus of The American School (TAS).

Located in District 2’s An Phu neighborhood, the sprawling campus is just a 15-minute drive away from the Central Business District.  The new site can accommodate over 1400 students from pre-nursery to high school. Having started construction toward the end of 2016, the work is now entering its final stages.

With an area of over 30,000m2, the state-of-the-art campus includes 2 libraries, 106 classrooms, Biology, Physics, and Chemistry Labs for scientific inquiry, MAC and PC labs for ICT instruction, sound-proofed music studios, and a 420-seat theater.

Furthermore, the new campus is equipped with a competitive indoor basketball court & gym for 1,000 people, regulation-size 7-person soccer field, mini golf course and driving range, 25-meter, six-lane pool, rooftop tennis courts, and an open-air cafeteria.

The new campus will come into operation for the 2018-2019 academic year.

TAS Student named “AP Scholar with Honors”

The American School is proud to announce that one of its own, Yen Khe Nguyen, has achieved the distinction of AP Scholar with Honors. Yen Khe has long been a high achiever. In 2016, Yen Khe was named National Merit Scholarship semifinalist for her strong scores on the PSAT/NMSQT in grades 10 and 11. Yen Khe scored in the 96th percentile, or the top 16.000 of the 1.5 million students worldwide. To add to this achievement, Yen Khe was also named AP Scholar in 2016. This award is presented to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three AP exams. But, she did not stop there. In 2017 Yen Khe was bestowed with the AP Scholar Award with Honors, meaning the average of all AP tests she took was over 3.25 and she scored a 3 or higher on three or more of these exams—a truly amazing accomplishment. Yen Khe Nguyen will matriculate at Cornell University this fall, an Ivy-League institution in Ithaca, New York, founded in 1865 and currently ranked 15 of over 4000 nationally-ranked colleges and universities.