Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lessons from my first year

On the eve of my second first day of school I pulled out my journal from last year. It has only one entry, which I wanted to share. It is me in an extremelt vulnerable, anxious, and distraught place (I know...on the first day of school?!). I wanted to share it because I remember thinking "how will things get better?" They weren't always better, but they weren't always bad. I wanted the first years out there to know they are not alone and remind the seasoned professionals the same. I enter my second year tomorrow and I am having PTSD-lile flashbacks. I am optimistic for the best and prepared for the not so great.

August 29, 2013

First day of school. Excited. Confident. Long to do list to get prepared.

8:00 Starbucks--There's always time
8:30 Greet as many teachers as I can and wish them a great first day. Positive climate and relationships.
9:00 up to your eyeballs in kindergartners.

By 10 you're working 1:1 to alleviate behavioral aggression. PE teacher was hit. Principal too.

Mimicker arises. Almost worse by the end of the day. Running after a bolter. Trying to grasp what comes next.

Meet parents who were "waiting for the call." Feels like meeting is happening around me. To do list grows. Social stories. Token boards. PPT in two days. SPED laws you don't know yet. You barely know your caseload.

Stressed. Overwhelmed. Defeated. 

What do I so? Do I really know anything? In over my head. How do I ask for help without seeming incompetent? 

Schedule 15+ meetings. 2 initial evals. All by the end of September. 

In over my head. 
Sob at home. Sob in shower.
Anxiety attack.
Negative self talk.
Easily irritated.
Need space.

Stressed about tomorrow. What do I do first?

Exhausted and only mildly hopeful...

This journal entry sums up what it felt like to be me on that first day. I didn't want to go back but I did. The tears didn't end there. The anxiety didn't subside until summer. Kids came and went. Others flared up. Its all part of our job. Tomorrow new kids will arrive and I may not be any more ready for it than last year. That's okay. I will do my best. 

I never wrote any more in my journal. I decided to challenge myself this year and write one positive each (school) day to try and help me reframe the bad days and celebrate the good. My first entry is tonight. It involves a tough kiddo who I spoke to today. I called dad to share a major curveball for tomorrow. Dad put the student on to say hi, which shocked me. He said he had lots of his original comic book stories to tell me (94 to be exact) and said he had just done the ice bucket challenge! I was shocked that he even got on the phone period, but to share two things (and subconsciously indicate he was excited to see me) is major step! I hope it lasts, but recognize his current affections are fleeting. But for today it is my positive and I'm excited to see what other moments I appreciate along the way. 

Until next thyme, 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Comic Challenge

I was nominated by a fellow member of CASP to complete the Comic Challenge. The Comic Challenge aims to to raise awareness and use humor to begin conversations surrounding mental health and decrease stigma. I nominated CASP's President, Tom; a long-time friend and school psychologist, Anna; and SkoolPsychMo of the Burgeoning School Psychologist!

Until next thyme,

P.S. Is this considered a "vlog"? 

P.P.S. I haven't posted in far too long. Perhaps I'll be better at it this school year....

Sunday, April 20, 2014

RIP April Vacation

I have no words knowing tomorrow is Monday and I will no longer be on vacation.
No more late nights, attending happy hour on a Wednesday, or sleeping until the late hours of the morning. Only 45 more school days until summer!

...wait, that's a full initial timeline. Who shall I refer tomorrow!?

Until next thyme, 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Lighthouse Award

My first blog post was way back in June 2010. I had just graduated from Saint Michael's and was looking for a way to chronicle post-grad life. I was going to graduate school for school psychologist, but also had a passion for food. In my early posts I tried to morph my adventures in school psychology with those in the kitchen. Posts highlighting my experiences in the profession were mixed with various recipes and restaurants I tried. I was really trying to use the kitchen as my self-care outlet. However, as grad school wore on, my recipe posts became far and few between. The only constant remained my work as a school psychologist. 

After some spring cleaning in the fall to make my blog focus strictly school psychology, I have "officially" published 60 posts (61 if you count this!). I have plenty in my drafts that remain unfinished, but I hope to publish one day (re: when I have time). Posts have focused on the ups and downs in my journey as a student learning to be a school psychologist and my feelings of "fake it 'til you make it" as I struggled through my first year as an elementary school psychologist. If for nothing else, my blog has been an outlet to vent my feelings on education and the ridiculousness that can be school psychology; the positives and negatives. It is an added bonus to know that people actually read it! I'm amazed, honored, flattered, and humbled to report that I have 28,279 all time page views! Are you kidding?! 

My top posts include:

  • Praxis Exam for School Psychologists (2, 458 views)
  • Importance of Recess (895 views)
  • Book Review: School Psychologists Survival Guide (745 views)

The reason for my reflection and nostalgia is because I have been nominated for the Lighthouse Award by The Burgeoning School Psychologist. @SkoolPsychMo was one of my first blogger/Twitter friends. She has "watched" (aka read) my journey. She has been a supporter, advocate, and confidant. I LOVE when I see her posts come through in my email, so I can be sure to read about her adventures. @SkoolPsychMo always helps to build me up when I am feeling my lowest. This nomination came at the perfect time as I, once again, am feeling defeat in this first year. @SkoolPsychMo described me as: "a juggernaut disguised as a burgeoning school psychologist. She's incredibly knowledgeable, capable and awesome!" Thanks for that pick-me-up!!

The rules of the nomination are: 
  1. Display the Award certificate on your blog.
  2. Write a post and link back to the blogger that nominated you.
  3. Inform your nominees of their award nominations
  4. Share three ways that you like to help other people.
  5. There is no limit to the number of people that you can nominate.
  6.  HAVE FUN!

Three ways that I like to help aspiring and veteran school psychologists include:

  • Sharing my successes and downfalls in order to demonstrate that while we are "all-knowing" we don't know all. I have to keep this in the forefront of my mind constantly in order to get through the year/month/week/day/meeting. We have a lot of knowledge in our brains to share, BUT we can also learn more and empower others to learn along with us.
  • I like to post about things people want to know or need. We all run into that time or case when we need to put our finger on something to support those in our building(s). I work to compile resources for others whenever I have run into a case that I do some research. I hope that in compiling these lists, I take some burden off other school psychs looking for information on the exact same topic. My lists are not always perfect, but they are a starting point. 
  • Piggybacking on reason 2, I love connecting with other school psychs on the web; they are my family who actually get what I do! I can process with my co-workers, fiance, and family about the major struggs I encounter on the job. Just like with TEVAL observations, we need someone who gets what we do in order to problem-solve and regain some sanity. 

Now for the moment you have all been waiting for! Many of my favorite school psych blogs have already been nominated by @SkoolPsychMo, so I am going to highlight those that did not make her list that I think are awesome resources. My nominations are: 

Notes from a School Psychologist: Dr. Branstetter was the first blog I read about school psychology. I loved the idea of blogging about my travels in order to connect with others in the biz. She is an incredible school psychologist and is not afraid to wave her nerd flag! (@StudentsGrow)

Psyched About School: Sarah is a colleague in CT and an amazing school psychologist! She has lots of posts about resources available for families in CT, which I love! In person, she is a funny and dedicated member of the profession, and is always looking for a way to advocate for students. A must follow for those in CT (@PsychdAbtSchool)

The Wright Psych: Jason is an excellent resource of all things school psych and special education. His site is chock full of resources ranging from legal issues to getting help for your child to RtI. Be sure to check him out on Twitter (@TheSchoolPsych).

Rationales, not rules: This blog is by Lauren, an intern and third year student at Tufts. I love reading her blog as it keeps me focused on best practices. She has some great posts about advocacy, interventions, and interesting research. Be sure to follow her on Twitter for some great articles (@LaurenRosenbaum).

Elementary School Counseling: I know this is not a school psych blog, but I really love following school counselor pages as they have some GREAT ideas for groups and individual counseling. Marissa shares product reviews, intervention materials, lesson plans, and videos. Be sure to check out her page and other school counselor blogs! (@ESCorg)


I don't know about you, but this week has been crazy busy! I have had meetings, testing, consults, phone calls, emails, and crises out to the wazoo! Not to mention all that other "stuff" I/we do as the building school psychologist. I also developed a cold Thursday of this week; fourth one of the year. Just that little way for the school psych gods to let me know they are still watching and scheming to make this the toughest first year on record!

Anyway, I came across two memes this morning and I couldn't help but share. They exemplify how I am feeling as of late and made me smile knowing that I am not the only feeling like a looney bird!

Shared by School Psychology Tools

Shared by Sincerely, School Psychologist

Happy report writing weekend!

Until next thyme, 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Data, Data, DATA!

The number of parent referrals for special education make me think that someone has written my email on the bathroom stall of every single establishment within the ten mile radius of my school. Better yet, there may have been a mailing or TV commercial.

As our latest cycle of SRBI interventions has begun, report cards are around the corner, and the 100th day of school came and went, I have had an influx of teacher requests for meetings to discuss testing. Often these students are behind academically and do present with some concerns. However, how do we triage to meet the needs of students in our building and on our caseload?! How do you "pick" which child gets tested first?!

My team is working to ensure that we have data to back up a referral, especially when you review eligibility guidelines (!), but often what teachers say is: 
They have been in Tier 3 since October and haven't made much progress!

This raises some red flags: (1) are they being provided with intensive, individualized instruction with fidelity?, (2) October was 4 months ago and since then we have had two vacations and 7 snow days, (3) what is "much progress?" how much? what's the trendline? do you have graphs (!), (4) have we changed up the intervention if they are not making expected gains to ensure we are pinpointing the correct skills?

My school leans towards two measures of progress monitoring data: DIBELS ORF and Cloze Maze. I have concerns with this. Interventions are not always targeting student needs. Not all teachers are doing Tier 1 probes beyond the Fountas and Pinnell and rely heavily on the ORF and Cloze Maze to track progress. What about the Core Phonics Survey? Developmental Spelling Assessment? ANY OTHER CBM MEASURE!!??

Please check out this resource from Elmbrook Schools on progress monitoring: here

After you have done your diligence to collect some data, these kids are often trumped by parent requests that come through. I am required to schedule a Planning and Placement Team meeting within a reasonable time (i.e., 5 days). This may bump kids down the list until our staff is more available to be able to meet testing demands. However, as we enter into Annual Review season, I do not forsee my schedule freeing up any time soon. #lesigh

So...what's a first year school psych to do? 

This young professional has been seeking supervision and attempting to keep her supervisor apprised of all the referrals coming through and where our testing load is at. However, this is not necessarily a building-based issue; our entire department is struggling. 

I really feel that there is a systemic change that needs to occur, even if in our building alone. I have been probing to start the conversation about examining our tiered supports and see if we need to strengthen Tier 1, as well as our Tiers 2 and 3. We also need to educate staff and parents about the types of data we need to collect and to ensure that the interventions we provide are targeting skills. Moving between tiers should be based on DATA not on the length of time spent in an intervention, especially when jumping to special ed. Some kids might just need tiered levels of support; doesn't make them special ed!

Does anyone have any advice to share about how to deal with this issue or the system you have in your schools?

Until next thyme,