Anxious About Advocating?

By: Peter Faustino, NASP GPR Committee Member, New York NASP Delegate

Do you remember when you were a student in school and needed to raise your hand to ask a question?  That heart pounding, shortness of breath, anxious feeling you had when the whole class turned their attention to you?  It seemed like time slowed down as you waited to be called on.  And then, how often did you worry about your voice cracking or rushing to get your point across as you asked or answered a question?  Advocacy, as part of your professional role, could be compared to this experience.

Every state has a legislative calendar when elected officials are more accessible.  They hold hearings, schedule issue-focused meetings, or organize community discussions in an attempt to exchange information.  They are interested in eliciting feedback and, during re-election years, earn your vote.  As a school psychologist, it is critical that you take time to advocate at these type of state or local events.  While NASP is continually promoting the profession of school psychology, it is these grassroots efforts that can spark a fire of change.   

Hopefully, you are familiar with NASP's Government and Professionals Relations Committee (GPR).  GPR is one of the advocacy arms of NASP, which is comprised of volunteer representatives across the country.  In my term serving on the GPR Comittee, I have learned that your local voice is just as loud as the national voice of NASP when it comes to enacting reform.

In fact, if you have been following the recent educational reform, ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) is a clear example of NASP's work on your behalf to stimulate some key policy changes that benefit school psychologists after No Child Left Behind.  NASP ensured that School Psychologists were mentioned, defined in law, and linked to key initiatives such as school climate, social emotional learning, assessment, diagnosis and treatment.  And these changes hopefully come with federal funding!

Now ESSA must be reviewed and embraced at the state level.  Here is where EVERY school psychologist can help make an impact by raising a hand to speak.  Your expert advice, your experiences with children and families, and your advocacy will promote change for the better. NASP has developed ESSA Implementation Resources to help.

So what action can you take?  Start by looking around and find out when your elected officials are holding public forums.  Often, they will attend a Board of Education meeting.  Sometimes, they hold a formal meeting at their capital office.  Occasionally, they are in a coffee shop once a month to meet constituents.  And if not, then they are looking for you to organize a meet and greet with caring stakeholders. 

Regardless of the venue, it's important for you to attend!  And what should you say?  Well NASP provides the broad strokes, the big picture items for you to highlight. At these meetings it's critical for you to tell your story about how things can improve.  Provide ideas that create hope, remind others that school psychologists are problem solvers and want to be part of the solutions.  Tell them that when your heart pounds and your voice cracks it's because you care so much about the issues!

As school psychologists, we help children overcome anxiety to perform at their best...professional advocacy is no different.  Put yourself in a group, raise your hand (despite feeling nervous) and speak up on behalf of the children and families you work with.  Mental health matters and so do you.