Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ways to get kids talking about their day

One of the concerns from parents that I hear year after year is, "I never know what is going on in school!  My child never tells me about their day!" As a parent, I can understand their concern-why aren't they talking?  Do they hate school?  Are things too hard?  Are they not happy?

As a school psychologist, I've been there.  There is nothing like a "so how's your day going?" at the beginning of my session to elicit a "horrible" or "I don't know" response, that can affect the rest of our session.  So, I try to pass along this wisdom to those parents, and remind myself in these instances, that there are lots of ways to find out about your child and student's day, without really asking them.  What are your favorites?

Here are mine:

  1. What's the best thing that happened today?  The worst?
  2. What did you play at recess?
  3. Tell me about something funny that happened today.
  4. If you could design the perfect school day, what would I look like?
  5. If you got to be the teacher/principal tomorrow, what would you change in class/school?
  6. Tell me one book you read (or your teacher)
  7. How was lunch?
  8. Tell me one thing that made you feel happy/sad/mad today.
  9. Was anything at school really hard today?
  10. What do you hope to do in school tomorrow?
Other things I like to tell parents:
  • Model sharing about their day around the dinner table.  Take turns talking about the best part of their day, something silly that happened, etc.  Even if the child can' think of anything at first, hearing examples from others is a valuable tool.
  • The Rose and Thorn:  One of my coworkers told me this analogy and it stuck.  I always tell my kids we all have a million things that happen throughout the day, so we can always think of some small good and bad thing that happened.  Sharing these and modeling is also a great conversation starter...This morning, I spilled my coffee, but I got to leave work on time and play with the babe for a little longer!
  • Relate it to what they know.  Do I spend my free time playing Minecraft?  No, but I know what a creeper is.  Have I ever sat down to watch any of the Star Wars movies in full?  No, but I do "Yoda" meditation with one of my students every week.  Use what kids are passion about to get them talking, and let the conversation flow from there!  Anytime a kid is talking, you are doing good.
What are your favorite ways to get conversation flowing?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

How I became a school psychologist

I love chatting with people who are interested in becoming school psychologists, who are eager to know exactly how I became a school psychologist, so I thought I would share my experience here!  I'd love to chat more with anyone thinking about becoming a school psych in the future.

My Undergraduate Years:  What to study?
I went into college with a completely different area of study:  pre-law!  I liked it, but ended up taking my first psychology course as a core course (an introductory course), and I just loved learning about it.  I definitely believe, first and foremost, that you need to have a passion about psychology, education and children to do this work

During my time in college, I enjoyed almost every single psychology class I took.  I was fortunate to be able to participate in number of activities in the field.  My first was a developmental psychology course, where we volunteered for a number of weeks in a Head Start program.  Later, there was a course on aging where we volunteered in a convalescent home.  My first experience with a school psychologist was shadowing one for a day.  It was an inner city school, and for the first time, had a taste that this might just be something I would like to do.  

During my senior year in college, I thought that I was moving toward the clinical side of psychology.  My first semester, I interned at a partical day hospitalization program at a mental health hospital near my school.  It was challenging, to say the least, but I knew it was important work.  As it ended, I learned that there was a therapeutic day school on campus, and spent my last semester there.  The head of the program was a school psychologist, who was amazingly inspiring, and was so great with the students.  I enjoyed the balance of her role in education and mental health.  When it was time to graduate, my primary goal was to find a job, and I ended up working in the field of social worker, as a Therapeutic Foster Care case manager.

The Real World Experience
You guys, if I could give one piece of advice to anyone thinking of graduate school, it would be to get   a few years of real world experience under your belt before going back to school.  Especially in a field where your job is to work with a challenging population, the more experiences you can bring in, the better.  I worked for 3 years (in Boston and Connecticut) in Therapeutic Foster Care before I decided on any career, and it was the best thing for me.  Working in the social work field gave me a glimpse into all kinds of careers I was considering:  therapy, education, social work, and ultimately, I really felt like the work that the school staff was doing impacted the kids I had in a positive way.  I did some research and found out that I could take up to 2 classes in a nearby school psychology program before matriculating, so I signed myself up!

Back to School
I love learning and education, and as a budding school psychologist, you probably should do.  After taking my first class in school psychology, during which we interviewed and shadowed various school psychs, I knew it was the career for me.  I applied, and was accepted!  The school psych program at my school was 3 years:  1 for your masters, and 2 for your 6th year, including a full time internship.  I continued to work full time in social work for the first 2 years.  It wasn't easy, but it was 100% worth it.  Because the programs in school psychology are small, I really enjoyed the other women in my cohort, and we still talk today!

An internship for a school psychologist is a big deal;  it's a huge learning experience, and helps set the tone of who you will become as a school psychologist.  When considering where to intern, I knew that there were a few chosen districts I had in mind, and I applied to intern in those.  I really considered the district over the school psych I was matched with.  In the end, my internship year was rough, as I don't think we matched personalities too well, but I learned SO MUCH, and it gave me great experience.

The Job Hunt
My classmates and I all had different goals when we were searching for our first jobs.  For some, they just wanted a job, so they applied to every school psychologist posting that came up in the state.  I took another approach, and really wanted to work in only a few certain districts.  There were probably about 8-10 towns I wanted to work in, and as a result, I waited and waited for positions in those to pop up.  Of course, as many postings do, they did right before the school year, and I was offered a position in the district I interned in!

Now in my 5th year of working, in my second district, I feel like my time in graduate school was so long ago!  To now be entering a position where I'm being as to take on an intern is crazy to me, but I can't wait to help someone else on this journey.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my journey to becoming a school psychologist, and please, let me know any questions you might have!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Enemy Pie is delicious!

I use the book Enemy Pie several times throughout the school year, but about once a year, I use the worksheets provided on this blog to turn the book into several weekly lessons.  It's such a cute story and friendship problems are something all kids can related to in some capacity.

A few years ago, I made actual enemy pie with some of my social skills summer campers.  Okay okay, it wasn't actually enemy pie from the book, it was primarily chocolate, but it was delicious!

I did it recently again with a girls group I have to celebrate the end of our friendship unit and it was so much fun!

We started off crushing up some delicious Oreos,

We put some "mud" (aka Chocolate pudding), in our cups...

And topped them with with "dirt" (the Oreos) and worms (gummy ones!!).  I've also used rock candies in previous years.

Before we weren't allowed to really have "outside" snack parties in school, I would use this activity for my students to invite a friend to group for a fun activity.  It's still great though, and I think I have as much fun as the kids do!