Leaders Getting Involved
By Amy R. Smith
Since assuming a role in NASP leadership, I have frequently been asked, “How can I get involved in leadership activities?” I always appreciate this question; it's encouraging to talk with professionals seeking ways to offer their skills as leaders. In reality, opportunities for leadership are always available, and not all leadership roles involve an election, a formal title, or extensive commitments of time and energy. You can match your skills, interests, and availability to an opportunity. What follows are suggestions and examples of ways to become involved and learn or share leadership skills.
State associations. If you were to survey our current NASP leadership, I would guess all of them have held a position in their state associations at some point. Consider pursuing a position with your state association and become a local leader. State associations offer an excellent opportunity to become involved in professional activities and to learn and demonstrate leadership skills. If you aren't able to commit to a formal position, there are often opportunities to be involved in specific projects or committees at the local level. Consider volunteering to work on the annual conference or submitting a proposal for a presentation. Seek opportunities to become involved in local advocacy work or contact the editor of the newsletter and offer to contribute an article. Fresh voices and ideas strengthen state associations and strong state associations promote our profession and advance our positions as leaders at the grassroots level.
Collaborate with colleagues. NASP has recently implemented a new way of interacting with other school psychologists. Our online Communities offer a vehicle for professionals to virtually meet and collaborate with colleagues they would not have access to otherwise. The Communities offer each participant control over the level of involvement they want and can commit to at any given time.
The NASP Interest Groups also provide opportunities to be involved in professional collaboration. Currently, NASP offers approximately 30 active Interest Groups on a wide variety of topics. If there is a topic you would like to see added, consider starting and leading a new group. Leading or participating in an Interest Group offers unlimited leadership opportunities. Interacting with professionals with similar interests is a good way to expand and share your skills.
A different type of collaboration and involvement with colleagues is available through volunteer work before and during our annual convention. Explore opportunities to be a mentor for a student or early career professional during the convention, or volunteer to review proposal submissions or be a convention assistant.
Professional development. There are always opportunities to be involved by presenting or organizing professional development events. Share your expertise and experience with colleagues by providing professional development at a local, state, or national level. Consider submitting a proposal to present at the NASP convention. There is always a need for professionals, particularly experienced practitioners, to share their knowledge and experience.
Other ways to contribute to professional development include sharing expertise through written submissions. On the national level, submitting an article to Communiqué, School Psychology Review, or School Psychology Forum for consideration provides an opportunity for leadership. Less formal opportunities to contribute include blogging or other forms of social media that are available at the local and national levels. Get involved by developing or contributing to a local website promoting school psychology and services for students.
Advocacy. Advocacy is something we are all responsible for; in fact, our ethical principles require us to act as advocates for the rights and welfare of our students and other clients. Advocating on other levels, for legislation, district policy, promotion of our profession, and the NASP Practice Model is another type of advocacy. There are endless opportunities to be involved in leadership activities involving advocacy. You can develop your own skills through trainings or a NASP Public Policy Institute and use those skills at the national, state, or local level. Become educated on relevant issues, share the information with others, and respond to requests for action as necessary.
Elected positions. If you are able to commit to a more formal leadership position, consider running for an elected office. Each state association has their own election guidelines; consult with current leadership about available opportunities. If you are interested in NASP elections, visit the website and watch for information in Communiqué. Elected positions will raise your degree of involvement to a whole new level but will also provide rich experiences.
I applaud and encourage anyone interested in being involved in professional leadership activities. My own involvement began years ago when I was invited to attend a meeting. Now I am inviting you to become involved in activities that match your interests and ability to commit. Every contribution made to enhance our profession and the services we offer is an act of leadership and an example of how we are building leaders and how we are being building leaders.
Amy R. Smith is the president of the National Association of School Psychologists.