Connecting the Dots During School Psychology Awareness Week
By Samuel Harrison
Volume 44 Issue 5
By Samuel Harrison
Thanks to the efforts of school psychologists around the country, NASP celebrated another successful School Psychology Awareness Week (SPAW) on November 9–13, 2015. The theme for the week, Connect the Dots and THRIVE! focused on making connections between the positive behaviors and attitudes that help students succeed academically and socially, as well as highlighting your role in helping students and schools make the kinds of connections that can create a truly thriving school community. NASP members from all walks of the profession have shared great examples of the fun, creative ways in which they incorporated the theme into their activities and outreach, as well as stories of the impact these activities have had.
Thank you to all the incredible NASP members who were able to take part in such a great advocacy activity on behalf of the profession. Below are a few highlights from this year's celebration. Keep in mind that these creative ideas can be effective any time of the year. If you did not have a chance to participate in SPAW this year, consider doing an activity this spring, perhaps during Mental Health Awareness Month in May. Also, don't forget about the Student POWER Award, Possibilities in Action Partner Award, and Gratitude Works programs, which offer effective, easy ways to highlight the positive connections students and staff are making in your schools.
Going Inside Out
Often, interactions between students, parents, and school psychologists are limited to formal settings such as IEP meetings, testing and counseling sessions, or interventions, but it is important that the school community get to know the school psychologist in other settings that allow for positive interactions. From Wyoming, Minnesota, school psychologist Jill Krautremer planned a showing of Pixar's Inside Out, using the opportunity to introduce herself and teach a lesson on emotional well-being. She incorporated her school's PBIS acknowledgement system to recognize the positive behavior of those in attendance. After the event, Jill distributed coloring sheets and encouraged the students to share lessons they learned about emotions from the film. The results were incorporated into a display in the lobby reinforcing the positive impact of the event. The majority of her school's students showed up to the event, and many of her fellow staff members volunteered to help out, helping to build connections that are essential to a strong school community. Jill reported that students continued to have conversations among themselves about their emotions, and has received great feedback from the event from all sides.
One of the goals of school psychology awareness week was to raise the profile of the profession. School psychologists often operate under the radar, and their impact on schools is often not explicitly visible to many teachers, parents, and administrators. To celebrate the week at her school, NASP member Jane Sturgell of Fraser, Michigan, carried out a variety of activities to connect her services with the needs of her community. In advance of her outreach, she surveyed teachers at her school as to the main topics in which they were interested. During the week, she e-mailed information and guidance on the top five topics in that survey, reinforcing her role as a resource to the staff. In addition, Jane wrote letters to stakeholders and posted to social media multiple times a day. To wrap up the week, she distributed treats to her fellow staff member's mailboxes with a note of gratitude for their work. This kind of outreach connects school psychologists to their schools as a source of information, expertise, and support as key members of the team.
School psychologists’ roles can look very different from one school to the next depending on the districts’ sizes, funding levels, location as an urban or rural district, and many other facts. Whatever their situation, however, school psychologists are consistently a crucial resource for their school community and leaders in connecting the dots. Brittany Johnstone of the Colorado Department of Education wanted to highlight the great diversity of school psychologists’ contributions to student success in her state, and she came up with an amazing activity to do so. Brittany created a customizable poster and asked school psychologists around the state to complete the sentence “I'm a school psychologist; I connect the dots by.…” The responses she received were fantastic, with a wide range of answers such as:
“… bridging two cultures, advocating for ELLs, providing professional development.”
“… developing interventions and implementing behavior interventions.”
“… building capacity for classroom teachers.”
“… helping students transition to college with academic and emotional support.”
“… building relationships and loving the tough kids.”
To increase the impact of these messages, Brittany had practitioners pose with their posters at the Colorado Society of School Psychologists Annual Conference and upload them to their personal social media accounts. The enthusiastic response served as an incredible way to spread the word on the many ways school psychologists can help their schools thrive.
Finally, one of the most crucial challenges facing the profession is the shortage of school psychologists to fill the growing demand for their services. The outreach to those considering a career in school psychology is some of the most important advocacy work that members can engage in. Once again, this year's school psychology graduate groups went above and beyond in reaching out to undergraduate students on their campuses to raise interest in the profession and all the exciting opportunities it can present. Micah Tilley of McGill University sent in a great example this kind of outreach, where she and other students created an information session featuring resources on the profession and their program.
These are just a few examples of the many ways that members used NASP resources, as well as their own ingenuity and creativity, to promote the profession and services they provide, and to help children connect the dots to create thriving schools. You can see more highlights from this School Psychology Awareness Week 2015 at http://www.nasponline.org/spaw-highlights. We would like to thank those who were able to take part in the celebration and encourage all members to continue to reach out to parents, teachers, administrators, and the public at large to create a wider understanding of your crucial contributions to student success. Anne Burrows from Pacifica, California echoed what is often a common theme in discussions with school psychologists in the field:
So much education is needed for other specialists and staff members about what we can do. Given how completely spread thin we are, though, we also need to advocate with policy makers and administrators to raise awareness about the extent of what we can do when the right framework for services is in place and our ratios are improved.
The challenges Anne raises can only be addressed by sustained, effective advocacy. We hope the contributions of our incredible members, such as those highlighted above, inspire you to continue to advocate for yourself, your students, and the profession at large. Not only during School Psychology Awareness Week, but throughout the year, you can have a huge impact on how any stakeholders in your school community perceive you and make sure they understand how you can help them help students Connect the Dots and THRIVE!
Samuel Harrison is NASP Manager of Communications and Public Relations