Policy Matters Blog

The Tradition of Being Grateful

"Tradition!" claims the character Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. He is affirming (and reaffirming) the value of passing on commonly held beliefs and customs to future generations. At this time of year, as we head towards Thanksgiving, we harken to the age-old tradition of taking time to be GRATEFUL for all that we have experienced over the past year.

Some time ago, my wife gifted me with a Wine-of-the-Month Club membership to a regional restaurant/winery which started in Chicago and has franchised its way through my state of Ohio and others in the Midwest, all the way to Washington, DC and Florida at present. Membership includes monthly wine tastings, which afforded me the opportunity to learn about wine without too much embarrassment. Full disclosure, I am a white wine drinker and make no apologies about that to all the red wine snobs out there. For the past 3 years, for November, this winery has offered a white wine blend which they call Grateful. I look forward to it each year and usually take home a case of this wine, which is only available during November. I find it both delicious and a good reminder to be grateful each time I open a bottle.

In keeping with this tradition, permit me to be extremely grateful, even in the midst of rising anxiety regarding our current state of affairs and the looming concerns for the future. We are still recovering from a once-in-a-century global pandemic which has healthcare, economic, political, and social fallout, in addition to educational consequences, of which we are still learning the severity, and that require attention and action. To believe that we can turn back the hands of time to what life was like before COVID-19 is neither feasible nor recommended for adequately dealing with daily life. Nor is the idea that catching up to make up for lost (instructional) time is imminently achievable with harder effort. Political gamesmanship brings scary potential harm to many children and forces us to revisit battles we thought we had already won. The pressures on school psychologists and our colleagues to continue their best efforts seems even more intense, and sometimes advocacy is a sacrifice.

So how is it I'm grateful? Well, I'm grateful to belong to a profession that emphasizes being data driven and evidence based for its best practices. We understand fun with numbers, and we often serve as data whisperers to translate information into actionable recommendations. We constantly struggle with how to do this well and keep an eye on the consequences, both short and long term, of our actions. But we are most often sought out to understand reports with collected data, to help make sense of what it means.

I'm grateful to be part of both national and state associations that facilitate communication with members and beyond. We are seen as a clearing house, if you will, for information and recommendations to all those who agree with our mission of helping children thrive, in school, at home, and throughout life. Often, we are sought out for both data and positions on a variety of concerns that parents and policy makers struggle with when seeking a better action and response moving forward. Our organizations know that in speaking for the many, our voice will be better heard, and they make sure that we are consistent in our messaging and our counsel. The recent passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in June is an excellent example of how NASP works. NASP was successful in helping get this historic bill passed into law and securing an unprecedented $1 billion to address shortages.

I am grateful to be part of a group who knows the power and the importance of advocacy. If we agree with a definition of a disenfranchised population as, "A group of persons without a home or political voice, who live at the whims of a host," then we can readily apply this to children. But their inclusion in this status is time limited as they age out of the category. Try as many parents might to resist, our children do grow up. And the most common shared experience for children is going to school, where they meet us, either as diagnosticians or as interventionists. We advocate for equity, inclusion, and mental health, often for those who not only struggle in their own right, but also face disproportionate hurdles and roadblocks on their passage to adulthood, or at least independence. And we do this work at the local, state, and national levels with the backing of our associations and colleagues.

Finally, I'm grateful to be part of a profession that has consistently promoted social justice and its benefits not just for some, but for all of us. When forces try to single out smaller groups, "thinning the herd," they are focusing their discrimination on those they believe will not be able to fight against their actions. But our profession, through social justice practices, stands for all minoritized and targeted children to safeguard the promises of inclusion and the rights of participation for all. Social justice and inclusion strengthen and benefit not only those who are targeted, but the larger community as well (read: all of us). We continue to be a voice for many despite the social and political attacks aimed at children.

So, as you experience this season of being grateful, I hope you find contentment and enjoyment in recounting all the things you appreciate and find worthy of your time and talents. Cheers, y'all.