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Lower School Counseling Office

Lower School Director of CounselingThe Lower School Counseling Office is staffed by the Director of Counseling K-5, Lisa Richter, LCSW. Lisa can be reached at (415) 258-1990 x1411 and at

The Lower School Counselor supports the classroom teachers and administrators in maintaining the social and emotional well-being of all Lower School students. Her role is not to provide formal psychotherapy to students. Rather, the Counselor is actively involved in student life to enhance the students’ understanding of self-expression, self-concept and self-awareness through one on one exchanges, classroom discussions, role-plays and presentations.

The Counselor is part of the Lower School Student Success Team, which meets weekly to discuss issues pertaining to students, parents and faculty. The Counselor facilitates meetings with classroom teachers, administrators, and parents to support students and their families throughout the process of social and emotional development during Lower School. The Counselor is available to parents to address their child’s developmental needs and to suggest appropriate interventions. The Counselor is similarly available to consult with outside support providers as needed.

The Counselor meets with students both individually and in groups. She frequently visits the Kindergarten morning assemblies and the Lower School classrooms to allow students to feel comfortable and familiar with her. The Counselor also facilitates informal “chats” with students beginning in 1st grade, during which she meets with boys and girls separately to focus on important themes such as Respect and Kindness.

The School Counselor works together with the Administration to provide a supportive network, and collaborate on many issues of student life. These involve social, academic, as well as disciplinary issues. The Counselor's role is never disciplinary, rather it is to provide input to the Asst Division Head and the Division Head regarding the students’ developmental needs. The Counselor is available to all students on a drop-in basis, once students have first checked in with their classroom teacher. The Counselor works closely with teachers throughout the year to ensure that students are supported on all levels, whether academic, social, or emotional.

The Counselor also facilitates grade level parent chats, along with teachers, to address age specific issues around students’ social and emotional development. The Counselors also co-facilitate the Family Life (sexual education) curriculum in 5th grade, meeting with parents and then students, along with the 5th grade teaching team.

The Counselor additionally helps to oversee the Life Skills Program, which begins in 4th grade and continues through Middle School. This program includes presentations from outside speakers, several times during the school year, on topics fundamental to student life. The Counselors also host parent coffees and evenings with the workshop’s featured speakers. The presentations and parent events focus on topics such as substance abuse and prevention, digital citizenship, teasing/name calling, nutrition/positive body image, and stress management.

Parent Education Network (PEN)

Responsive Classrooms in the Lower School

Kindergarten Common Developmental Characteristics (pdf)
1st Grade Common Developmental Characteristics (pdf)
2nd Grade Common Developmental Characteristics (pdf)
3rd Grade Common Developmental Characteristics (pdf)
4th Grade Common Developmental Characteristics (pdf)
5th Grade Common Developmental Characteristics (pdf)

Responsive Classroom is a research and evidenced-based approach to elementary education that began in 1981, which leads to greater teacher effectiveness, higher student achievement, and improved school climate. Responsive Classroom consists of a set of practices that build academic and social-emotional competencies, and that can be used along with many other programs. These practices help educators develop and enhance competencies in three key domains - each of which enables and enriches the others:

Engaging Academics

Teachers create learning tasks that are active, interactive, appropriately challenging, purposeful, and connected to students' interests.

Positive Community

Teachers nurture a sense of belonging, significances, and emotional safety so that students feel comfortable taking risks and working with a variety of peers.

Effective Management

Teachers create a calm, orderly environment that promotes autonomy and allows students to focus on learning.

More on Responsive Classrooms

Responsive Classroom sounds and feels familiar and validating to all that we are already doing as a school community at San Domenico. It beautifully complements our four Dominican pillars, and dovetails perfectly with our existing programs, such as Second Step and No Bully. Many of the Responsive Classroom words, phrases, and strategies mirror, or are versions of, ones in use at our school. In this way, adopting Responsive Classroom gives us the opportunity to improve on our existing excellent model, and allows us to make what we already do more formal and consistent at every grade level.

In October, 2014, our entire Lower School faculty will participate in a one-day professional development training with a Responsive Classroom facilitator. This will pave the way for full adoption of the model over the coming 3-5 years, with the goal of having each faculty member attend a 4-day training during that time-frame.

This school year, all of our classrooms have incorporated aspects of the Responsive Classroom model into their day, including “Morning Meeting,” the language of “Reinforcing, Reminding and Redirecting,” the chime that gently brings students to attention, as well as in-class supports such as “Take-a-Break.” Additionally, we have created a PLC (Professional Learning Community) for Responsive Classroom, which will be chaired by Lisa Richter, and includes teachers from several grade levels. In this way, we will be able to meet monthly to read and explore the various components of Responsive Classroom to see what will be best to implement next in our classrooms.