Creating Access: Collaboration
By Sally A. Baas
A recent advertisement flashed across the TV screen: “Life is better when we are together” and a variety of thoughts about teamwork came to mind. Teaming has always been an important part of a school psychologist's life. Years ago the concept was highlighted in the NASP president's theme, T.E.A.M. (Together Each Achieves More). It recognized how important being part of and facilitating effective teams are to improving outcomes for students. Today, the idea of teaming has morphed into talking more about collaboration. Teamwork is how we manage collaboration to better help students, staff, schools, families, and communities to be successful. Collaboration, according to Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.; 2001) is “to work jointly with others or together, esp. in an intellectual endeavor.”
As I write this column, I am wrapping up the 10th year of a cross-cultural program that I initiated with six women I barely knew. It has only been successful through earning each other's trust and facilitating deep relationships which have been developed across years of working hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder. We listened to needs in the community and responded by fostering collaboration with a specific focus: preserving culture and ethnic identity, enhancing student achievement, and planting the seeds of higher education in the lives of immigrant and refugee K–12 students. Working to understand what equity means and struggling to create materials to teach a language that has only been written for about 50 years has been challenging, energizing, and sometimes very frustrating. Collaboration made it possible.
I have no corner on all the best ideas or the most creative energy. I can imagine that as you are reading this, you are thinking about all you have done or are doing this year to help students access the services and academic support that they need to be successful. I hope you also will think about how to collaborate with other professionals, perhaps to focus on a few students whom you haven't gotten to know previously. Not only can this expand your own resources, but you also can enable new students to learn about how you approach teamwork, knowledge chasing, and setting goals for your own success.
It seems appropriate that our 2013 School Psychology Awareness Week theme highlights the importance of teamwork. We're all in! Teams Work. is set to help us celebrate what we do individually and collaboratively. Kathy Cowan, our NASP Director of Communications, has so aptly stated: “Our goal is to expand the idea of a team to its broadest conceptualization, maintain a strengths-based focus, and provide the ability to adapt messaging and activities to students and adults, different age groups, and varying contexts.”
We also want to let key stakeholders know about the importance of teams in school success and our role in helping school teams, in whatever capacity, to be more effective. School Psychology Awareness Week is a great time of the year to do this by weaving teamwork and collaboration into the examples you share about how you help students more access the services from which they can benefit. I encourage you to make an appointment at your local parent–teacher organization, school board meeting, or a local mental health agency to share your story. It is a powerful way to advocate for all with whom you work and, importantly, to advocate for our school psychology profession.
Similarly, while we are at the NASP convention in Washington, DC in February, we will be in a perfect place to tell the stories about how we change students' lives to legislators who are eager to hear how we are helping students beat the odds of poverty, hunger, obesity, and mental health problems. We all have so much to share.
As an example, this summer at the NASP Public Policy Institute, I had the opportunity to be on the Hill visiting Senator Al Franken's (MN) office with a colleague. I described how helping children read in their heritage language was impacting how they perform in English literacy and how I saw the gleam in a little girl's eyes when she read her first words in English from a text I had helped write and publish in two languages. Is this typical for a school psychologist's practice? Maybe not, but it is the story of my work in an ethnically specific urban school where children are beating the odds because professionals are collaborating together with the focus on helping children break the cycle of poverty.
So, what are the stories you might share with your members of Congress? How can you share them with other stakeholders? I hope you will come to the convention in time to attend the Advocacy in Action: Grassroots Strategies for Effective Advocacy on Tuesday, February 18 and then head to the Hill to share your stories. I want to hear your stories, too. Post them on the NASP Facebook page or in the NASP Communities during School Psychology Awareness Week.
Together we will create access for students' success by collaborating together purposefully … TEAM NASP achieving more. We're all in! Teams work.
Sally A. Baas, EdD, is on the faculty of Concordia University—St. Paul (MN) and is president of the National Association of School Psychologists