Policy Matters Blog

The New Normal

Last month, my colleague Dr. Peter Faustino posted a blog about the “new normal” and our call of duty as school psychologists. As we navigate a global pandemic, hybrid learning, an insurrection on Capitol Hill, and racial injustice, we are all still striving to maintain our mental health and support the mental health needs of our students.

Towards the end of January, through the Justice as a Praxis in Education: A Call-to-Action Conference, I had the opportunity to attend a lunch lecture with guest speaker Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings. Her topic, “Justice Matters: Reclaiming a Fundamental Right,” still resonates with me as we talked about justice related to the pandemic, the U.S. economy, social issues, the environment, and education.

Of course, I am here to talk about the education component of the lecture. However, I would be remiss if I did not say that all of the topics covered have an impact on our education system and the students we serve. Dr. Ladson-Billings explained that the point of education during times such as this, is an opportunity to reset—reset education. She said, “I don’t want to go to back to normal,” referring to our previous education system where students were failing and showing inadequate growth, “I want to reset education.”

Before you stop reading, hear me out. We all want things to go back to “normal” when we think about hybrid learning, wearing masks, working from home, virtual assessments, etc. It has been difficult, and everyone is doing their best. However, this pandemic has helped to enlighten us, and as Dr. Ladson-Billing states, “moves us toward justice.” The pandemic has forced us to rethink how we do assessments, provide online learning, and think about access, among other things. It has also put a spotlight on the dire need for a robust system around social–emotional learning and the mental health needs of students and education professionals.

Our new normal requires that we embrace change as an opportunity to think outside of the box, get creative, and take action. Speaking of the new normal, the current Biden–Harris Administration has talked about the need for robust mental health services and supports, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In his plan for educators, students, and our future, which you can read here, President Biden states that he will “double the number of psychologists, counselors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals in our schools so our kids get the mental health care they need.” We have been put on the forefront!

Embracing the new normal extends to how we advocate for the profession and students. It can provide virtual access to stakeholders that previously may not have existed. Legislators may be easier to reach via phone or email because of the decrease in face-to-face visits. For example, in his blog post, Dr. Faustino shared his surprise at the quick response he received after leaving a voicemail for a state legislator. In 2018 NASP began Virtual Hill Day, an opportunity for school psychologists to send letters, develop activities, and a host of other activities in the name of advocacy. Virtual Hill Day has developed into Advocacy Action Week, where we increase awareness of school psychology by sending letters, creating videos, and using social media platforms to amplify our voices. Check out the Advocacy Action Week page here where you can get more information on how to get involved with advocacy including tips in the resource guide, NASP Policy Playbook, webinars, and information on critical issues. NASP has you covered!

Take a moment, take in a deep breath, exhale, and embrace some of the positive things our new normal brings. As Jon Stewart once said, “I know change can be painful. But from change comes growth.”