School Psychology Awareness Week: Connect the Dots and THRIVE!
Volume 44 Issue 1
By Amy Glazer
Welcome back to the start of an exciting new school year! The return to school is filled with new initiatives, new goals, and fresh perspectives. This is a time when school psychologists begin to plan schedules, review caseloads, outline professional development plans, and design a plan to highlight and celebrate the work we do during the annual School Psychology Awareness Week (November 9-13). This year's theme, Connect the Dots and THRIVE!, builds on last year's popular theme of helping all children thrive in school, at home, and throughout life. It also supports NASP President Todd Savage's theme, "School Climate: #ConnectTheDots" (see page 2).
Promoting connectedness and the ability to identify strengths in our students helps build positive relationships, improve social-emotional well-being, and foster their capacity to grow and to thrive. The theme of School Psychology Awareness Week (SPAW) is closely aligned with school district initiatives across the country to improve school climate and foster connectedness among students, staff, and the community. At a time in which positive behavior supports and the social-emotional needs of all learners has been given the curricular attention it deserves, this theme highlights the need for identifying the key factors (the dots, if you will) that help students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally, and for connecting them to improve outcomes.
You can begin to explore what the adults and students in your school building need in order to thrive right now. When considering what students need to thrive, and what school psychologists and other adults can do to help them to connect the dots to get there, consider what is needed not only at school but also in the community at large. To help you get started, there are several resources available to support the work that we do during this extraordinary week and throughout the school year.
Connect the Dot Resources
The SPAW poster will arrive with your October Communiqué. A PDF version and suggested poster activities are available online at http://www.nasponline.org/SPAW2015. The suggestions can be implemented with staff members, students, and the community to integrate the theme into counseling and learning activities. Many of these activities are geared toward our students and are relevant across grade levels and ability ranges. They can be used individually with students or as part of a larger class or whole school initiative. There also is an adaptable letter to school administrators to promote your efforts, and a sample parent newsletter article. The parent article can be sent out to parents or included in a principal or PTA newsletter to help engage families and provide them valuable suggestions to implement "dot" strategies at home in order to help their children and their family to thrive.
In order to expand our outreach beyond just our school communities, a sample press release and proclamation can be found online as well. The press release is an adaptable tool for letting local media and stakeholder organizations know about your School Psychology Awareness Week efforts. The proclamation can be used as is or personalized to your district or state, then submitted to your local legislators to highlight the importance of schools working to help all students thrive.
In addition, NASP has three ongoing programs (Gratitude Works, the Student POWER Award, and the Possibilities in Action Partner Program), that can be easily adapted to reflect this year's theme and promote thriving among children and adults across the school community.
Fostering a positive school climate and integrating positive behavioral supports is critical within any school community. Comprehensive character education programs should include a focus on the concept of gratitude. Gratitude allows individuals to be appreciative to those who help and acknowledge their contribution in helping us to thrive. The Gratitude Works program has been popular over the last several years and provides some terrific activities that reinforce connectedness and thriving within our communities. The Gratitude Works program is simple, flexible, and adaptable to all ages and school environments. This program seeks to help teachers instill the virtue of gratitude in their students. School psychologists and teachers are asked to organize groups of students, classrooms, or grade levels to write letters of gratitude to individuals who have made a difference in their lives or in the lives of others. Helping students and schools focus on strengthening positive relationships and increasing positive experiences is beneficial to students' well-being, which ultimately increases students' capacity to grow and to thrive. Positive experiences with peers and adults contribute to children's feelings of connectedness and enhance their capacity to withstand personal challenges.
As school psychologists, we can play a part in promoting the goodness of gratitude in the students with whom we work. Consider how you can coordinate a Gratitude Works outreach effort where students will identify someone to whom they are grateful and thank them. Some Gratitude Works activities include a gratitude club, gratitude journals, gratitude letters, gratitude assemblies, and daily gratitude actions. These activities, facilitated by teachers, administrators, or school psychologists, will encourage children to express why they are grateful and who they may be grateful for in their lives.
GRATITUDE WORKS. THRIVE! bracelets were a great success last year and are back again this year. The bracelets celebrate the power of gratitude and serve as a visible reminder of how important it is to be connected and THRIVE! There will be an online template found within the School Psychology Awareness Week materials on which students can write and share their ideas on how teachers help them to thrive or what they do for themselves in order to thrive. This is an easy-to-use resource and the completed templates can be displayed throughout the school.
Materials and additional resources including the Gratitude Works description and guidelines, press release, sample letters, and tips for parents are available online (http://www.nasponline.org/communications/spaw/2015/gratitude-works.aspx).
Student Power Award
The Student POWER Award recognizes students of any age who, through the support of others and their own efforts, have thrived and made a difference in their lives and the lives of others. This award identifies students who have strived to achieve their goals, demonstrate growth, and thrive due to their dedication to others and their eagerness to work hard. Many of these qualities align with this year's theme, such as working hard, being resilient, and connecting the dots to improve your well-being and THRIVE. Think about the many students you know who have strived to achieve their goals (academic, social, or community). Acknowledge their growth, appreciate their ability to thrive, and recognize them with the Student Power Award. Another possibility is to nominate students who strive to help others while creating a socially positive and accepting school climate. Visit the NASP website in order to make a submission. Program details, selection guidelines, parent/administrator letters, and Student Power Award certificates can be accessed online (http://www.nasponline.org/communications/spaw/2015/student-power.aspx).
How Do You #ConnectTheDots?
Watch for a NASP social media campaign closely aligned with our School Psychology Awareness Week theme as the year continues. #ConnectTheDots links to NASP President Todd Savage's theme related to school climate. The goal is for school psychologists and educators to connect with each other and share their stories and examples of how they connect the dots to create school climates in which all students can THRIVE!
Critical components include an emphasis on social-emotional learning, connectedness within the school building, connectedness in the community and across resources, cultural competence and sensitivity, positive behavior interventions and supports, mental health supports, and supports for vulnerable populations like LGBTQ students.Share your story at #ConnectTheDots @nasponline.org
Possibilities in Action Partner Program
Be mindful that adults matter too! In the Possibilities in Action Program, NASP members can identify colleagues who, either through their own efforts or by encouraging the efforts of others, help children to thrive. These adults make an exceptional difference in the lives of students and families by supporting the possibilities within each student and helping them to thrive. Recognize teachers, administrators, coaches, community providers, parents, mentors, or any other individuals who stand out in your mind as going above and beyond to help students thrive and achieve their best. The program provides public recognition for their contributions to students' positive outcomes, highlights the importance of meeting the needs of the whole child, and fosters continued collaboration and advocacy on behalf of students. Resources including the Possibilities in Action Partner program description, selection guidelines, press release, and Possibilities in Action Partner certificates are available online (http://www.nasponline.org/communications/spaw/2015/possibilities-in-action.aspx).
Let us know what you did for School Psychology Awareness Week by submitting your ideas online, and do not forget to upload that names of your award recipients on the website. Questions or comments can be sent to NASP Director of Communications, Kathy Cowan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Amy Glazer, PhD NCSP, is a school psychologist in Westport, Connecticut, and a member of the NASP Communications committee