By Pamela Beeman
Notes From San Francisco
I know it's not possible to get jet lag, let
alone whiplash, traveling from San Francisco
to Chico, but I am definitely entitled
to a little homely culture shock. I
only had a one-day stay at the NASP convention,
and on Thursday morning went
from a very urban coffee and jogging
(Castro to Haight-Ashbury to Golden
Gate Park), to 3+ hours of pedal-to-themetal
driving up Interstate 5, ending
back at my small-town middle school
during lunch period. Within moments
I was awash in all the mini-crises that
being away from the job for a day and a
half can engender. I had 89 e-mail messages
and somehow, as I worked through
them, they multiplied. By 5:00, I had 104.
Help! (Note: stop CC'ing self.)
It's easy to think "Not Worth It"
when there's that much chaos to come
home to, but I'm not going there. If we
can't take the time to stay current in
our field, we're making a big mistake.
And the conference sure was great, although
was anybody else a little overwhelmed?
OK, a lot? There is my usual
topographagnosia, rendering me unable
to find the same elevator I recently got
out of, which was exacerbated by the
towers which didn't seem to connect,
and room names like Ballroom, Grand
Ballroom, and Imperial Ballroom. Don't
these hotel architects figure that most of
the people in the building are going to be
unfamiliar with the surroundings? Editor
John Desrochers suggested a phone
app that would serve as a sort of hotel
GPS that functioned inside any given
hotel. Of course, there may already be
such an app; otherwise, it's just a matter
When I added to that the sheer number
of presentations, papers, symposia,
and other offerings, I really was overwhelmed.
I've seen phone books smaller
than that conference schedule. Between
finding a germane session and then locating
the room, I felt like I should have
been studying ahead for a week or else I
was going to miss some good stuff.
There sure were a lot of us in the
opening general session. Always amazing
to see so many school psychologists
in one place; I feel like such a unique
minority most of the time. And Linda
Darling-Hammond's address was outstanding.
My favorite part was the German study that followed kindergarteners
who played versus kindergarteners
who studied … and how much better
the "players" were doing in all areas
by fourth grade. Yessss! Sobering, how
much work we have to do, though.
Hope everyone got out to play in my
favorite city. The weather could have
been better on Thursday for sure, but it
was not bad enough to keep one from
ambulating to some famous or scenic or
historic or delicious spots.
Already looking forward to 2012!
"My child saw the school psychologist?
Why didn't anybody inform me?"
That's the last thing any of us want to
hear. So I'm really cautious about meeting
with any student without some kind
of permission. But today I came up with
a great solution.
A cute first grader that I tested a
while ago wants to know when she gets
to come see me again. She's asked me
several times, but I currently have no
permission to pull her out of class (plus
I've been crazy busy). But today, after a
long interval of really depressing weather
(gray, fog, freezing: recipe for S.A.D.), the
sun came out and made us proud to be
Californians again. So when Donna asked
when she could see me, I said, "I'll meet
you on the playground at lunch recess."
She came to pick me up from my office
when she was done eating and said
her friends were waiting for us. Wow,
this is a full-on play date! On the way to
the playground I greeted a couple dozen
kids and scored a bunch of hugs; I hadn't
realized that I know so many by name
this year. And gee, we played Princesses
and Witches, Keep Out of the Boiling
Hot Lava (there's a game with inexplicable
but enduring popularity), Mermaids
("Look out for the net!" "OK! I
don't want to end up in a can of tuna!"),
snow angels (right, no snow: the angel is
imprinted in the bark shavings under the
slide; then we spent a while picking the
shavings out of Donna's hair and clothing),
and I pushed the swings and slung
a tetherball. Okay … I just watched a couple
kids play tetherball, but that's more
than I've done in several decades.
The closest I came to doing anything
constructive was when another
first grade friend, Ernie, told me that
Donna was mean to him. Remembering
all the social skills curricula I have
absorbed over the years, I said, "Donna,
Ernie says you were mean to him. Ernie
is my friend, so don't be mean to him,
okay? Shake." They shook.
Other than that, nobody came up
to me to tattle, which is what usually
happens when I make a foray onto the
playground, and the sunshine was fabulous.
Could this possibly be considered
a working lunch?
Pamela Beeman has been a school psychologist
for 30 years and lives in Chico, CA.