Thursday, October 21, 2010


I'm currently working on a reevaluation of a young man's special education program to see if it is still the right fit for him. B's in a 6:1+1 classroom, which has 6 students, 1 teacher, and 1 aide, but he actually goes to a general education classroom that has a special education teacher helping in it for most of the day and does very well academically. B has average IQ and reading, writing, and math scores.

B came down to my office this morning for testing and was such a peach to work with! He was polite and well-mannered, cooperative, attentive, and put forth great effort. As much as I love the "problem children" that have difficulty in school and working with them to help them learn more effectively, it's such a treat to work with an "average" student. It puts things back in perspective, and B really started the day off on a lovely note. After we finished our "yay, you finished 1.5hr of IQ testing!" celebratory game of Uno and B went back to his classroom with his new Spiderman pencil as a reward, I happily went on with my day. Of course, I was almost immediately called to go deal with a student who was running the building, so it was downhill from there. Blargh. But hey, I'll take what I can get.

Monday, October 18, 2010

PBIS: Putting Smiling Faces in Your Hallways

Our school has a Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) system in place. The first step of PBIS is to set universal rules and expectations that all students are to follow, like wearing uniforms, specific voice levels in specific parts of the building, hands and feet to self, etc. These universal rules, if done right, are to keep the whole school environment safe and successful. Of course, if Tyreke is a repeat offender at kicking Marco in reading group, obviously the universal rules aren't working for him, and we need to try another behavior intervention with him. But, that's another ball of wax!

At the beginning of the school year, my principal emailed asking the staff for a volunteer to be in charge of the students and homerooms of the month program, which rewards students for following the universal rules of our PBIS program. Since I'm part of the building's PBIS Team, I thought it would be a great way to recognize the kids that are "doing the right thing," instead of dwelling on the ones who are having trouble keeping it together. Plus, how often do I get to see the "good kids"? Our administration team chooses the homerooms of the month, and teachers nominate a student from their class to be a student of the month. They also get the option to nominate a "most improved" student, which I think is fantastic and rewarding for kids who may have hit a rough patch, but were able to get it back together.

As for my responsibilities, I am in charge of collecting names from all the teachers for their students of the month, announcing the names of the homerooms and students on the morning annoucements at the end of the month, handing out certificates and taking pictures of the winning students, and doing two bulletin boards with those pictures. The payoff is seeing all those happy teachers and students passing by the bulletin boards, pointing at pictures of themselves, their friends, or students, and realizing that their hard work is paying off.

Or at least that's how my glass-half-full mind looks at it. :)

Your Check Engine Light is On

So often teachers and other school personnel get wrapped up in what a student isn't doing or a goal they aren't reaching, rather than what they are doing. I'll make a personal example that is not school related. Ever since I went away to college, my dad has made a valiant effort to get me to take an interest in the inner workings of my car. He taught me how to check my oil, how to fill my windshield washer fluid, when to add this fluid and get that filter changed, how to check my tire pressure and where it should be at each time of the year, etc. Now, being an only daughter, it was my understanding that these things were my daddy's job, and as such I took no interest in such matters (sorry Dad!). But, as I've gotten older, I've taken more responsibility for how my car is running (or passed any issues off to Boyfriend... mwahaha). I won't ever be a car whiz kid, and I certainly won't meet my dad's car standards, but my windshield washer is always full!

Teachers and school staff need to reward students for the small milestones they reach. If Desire has difficulty working independently, reward her for having her pencil out or putting her name on her paper. So what if Frankie wanders the classroom aimlessly? Reward him for just sitting in his seat! Help Monique learn to raise her hand rather than yell out by praising the heck out of her the few times she does remember to put her hand up. Small steps can add up to real behavior changes, and it reminds students of the great little things they do every day (and it reminds the teachers too, which might be more important!).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

CSE Meetings: Not Just an Excuse for a Third Cup of Coffee

So my last entry was all about feeling hopeless and useless at my job, but this entry is not… hooray!

This week, we had our first day of Committee on Special Education (CSE) meetings of the school year. Two of the meetings were for initial referrals for special education that were sent in over the summer and two of them were three-year reevaluations. CSE meetings are a forum to get input from the school psychologist, social worker, educational evaluator, teacher, parent, and sometimes the student, about how a student is doing academically. If things are not working in the special education program a student is in, changes can be made to better suit the child’s needs. Ultimately, it is the CSE’s job to ensure that a student’s educational needs are being met so the student can be successful (no pressure).

The day before our CSE meetings, the social worker, the CSE chair/educational evaluator, and I sat down to discuss the cases we were meeting on. We got to bring all our evaluations and data to the table and get a whole picture of each student. It’s like fitting puzzle pieces together in anticipation of the final product. The social worker discussed developmental milestones and family life, the chair/educational evaluator talked about strengths and weaknesses in reading, written language, and math, and as the psychologist, I brought learning styles and cognitive skills to the table. It helped us all get on the “same page” about where the students were coming from and where they are going.

After our discussion, I felt great… totally comfortable and empowered with my career choice. I knew my stuff and did my best to explain it to those who are not psychologist-savvy so that they understand our students, too (and as Boyfriend can attest after many a rambling conversation about MR, ED, LD, VCI, PRI, and FSIQ, this is not always easy to do). I realized not only can I “talk the talk,” I can “walk the walk” as a school psychologist. I’m finally feeling like I can swim rather than sink in my district, which, you know, is a pretty good thing.

Of course, we spent Friday afternoon planning out and scheduling our next three days of CSE meetings, which made me realize the uber amounts of work I have to do before then. But, that can wait til Monday.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hopelessly Hopeful

My apologies for the delay in entries (to those few who are reading ;) )—I have been without Internet at my humble abode for the majority of the week.

Dealing with students in crisis can make you feel completely hopeless at your job. Earlier this week, I was called by administration because a first grader had said he wanted to hurt himself. This student, XX, is in special education and has a history of behavior problems, particularly inattention and noncompliance. While a lot of his problems come from wanting peer and adult attention, he also completely lacks self-control over his actions. He also may have underlying mental health issues that haven’t been discovered yet. I’ve been working with XX’s teacher all year regarding his behavior, and the Committee of Special Education (CSE) is also going to meet soon to reevaluate his needs.

During a threat assessment with a social worker in our building, XX was out of his seat, destroying the room, running from the room (I had to block the door and got barreled down a few times when he would try to escape), and crying/screaming. XX repeatedly said that he wanted to hurt himself because it was “funny” and that he would run out of the building and get hit by a car. While we didn’t feel XX had the true means and intent to harm himself (though when I got him from his class, he was slamming himself in the bathroom door, to the delight of his peers…argh), we were concerned about his well-being and feared that he would truly leave the school building. As such, administration called his mom and he went home.

Through this whole ordeal, I felt like I had no grip on the situation. How do you deal with a student who is so unfocused and defiant that you can get nothing done? How do you handle students like this when their behavior is the same, day in and day out? How can I give teachers suggestions on how to handle students like XX when I can’t handle him myself one-on-one, and am not a classroom teacher myself, despite whatever behavioral training I have? Hopefully I’ll be closer to answering these questions as the year goes on and I gain experience, because it is no fun dealing with a 6-year old who can’t deal.