Monday, November 29, 2010

Dove Makes Kids Touchy-Feely

There's a new phenomenon going on in my school: students are obsessed with my hair. Yes, you read that right. My hair.

Ever since the beginning of the year, I've had kids randomly start touching my hair, commenting on how soft it is. Now, my hair is nothing special. Brown, straight, past my shoulders... rather ordinary. What compels the children to stroke it?

It's not just the wee ones, either. Sure, there was the kindergartner that snuck up behind me and began petting the nape of my neck while I was crouched down talking to another student and the first grader that assaulted me on gym duty to stroke my hair and hands (which are also, apparently, quite soft). But when a fourth grade boy, P, who came down at the end of the day for a behavior check-in started to caress my tresses from behind as I sat at my desk, I couldn't believe the fascination (P is also one of the gentlemen who thinks Boyfriend drives a Nascar... see "Ask a Question"). In P's case, I took the opportunity to have a quick talk on keeping one's hands to oneself, appropriate touches, and asking permission. Ever since, P has always asked very politely for permission before touching my hair.

I can't deny them, the whole situation is just too amusing. It never gets old hearing a child exclaim, "Miss, your hair so soft!!" But understand it? Nope!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Streaking Towards the Future

This week, I had the fortunate pleasure of escorting eleven 4th, 5th, and 6th graders to a local college for a field trip. Undergraduate education majors from this college have been visiting every week to tutor our students in reading and math skills. As a thank you to the students, the college students invited their elementary buddies to their college for a visit. The college is close enough to school that we were able to walk, and when we arrived, the kids were given a royal welcome. The college students' professor was there, the Dean of the School of Education, and the college mascot! Each person personally welcomed and thanked the students for being there (minus the mascot, who just fist pumped), and their excitement of having our students there was so clear. After the welcoming, our students went on a tour of campus and had lunch at the college dining hall. Let me tell you, there's nothing more thrilling for an 11-year-old boy than unlimited all you can eat pizza and cookies. After lunch, the students were given drawstring backpacks with the college's name on them, and two reserved seat tickets to a basketball game on campus.

In a large urban city, particularly in a school building that is predominantly minority, low socioeconomic status, and in a bad part of town, you have to wonder how many of those kids actually have college in their future. Granted, not everyone needs to go to college to have a successful career, but we push students in our building hard to plan for higher education. By 8th grade, when they're picking out which high schools to apply to, it may be too late to start thinking about college, so we're starting to discuss college beginning in 4th grade. (Maybe it's for the best, since one of the students who went didn't know there were any colleges in our city. There are about 10.) Sure, to most of the kids who went on the field trip, the great lunch was the highlight. But maybe, for a select few, it was a first look into their futures.

As long as that future doesn't include this, I'm game.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The New James Dean

A fourth grader came into my office today to report on the great day he had. D has had off and on behavior problems throughout the last few weeks, many of them resulting from verbal altercations with the music teacher first period, which throws the whole rest of his day off. D proudly declared that he was "done being bad." Why, I asked?

"Because it's not cool."

You heard it here first, folks.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today is a Good Day to...

This week was School Psychology Awareness Week, and the theme this year was “Today is a Good Day to… SHINE.” I emailed my psychologist colleagues a few weeks ago to see if anyone was doing something in their buildings to commemorate. After all, we have secretary’s day, teacher’s day, etc, why not a whole week to help educate and celebrate our profession and the awesome kids we work with?! Unfortunately, my colleagues were not inspired. One psychologist replied to my mass email (yep, I’m spamming your inbox) by saying that “people know [him] by the work [he] does every day.” True story.

I put up the “SHINE” poster that the National Association of School Psychologists sent out on a bulletin board in our hall, but am not doing anything special this year. Maybe next year I’ll be able to plan something.  In the meantime, I want to “shine” some light on the good/cute things going on in my building by writing a few blurbs for some of the ways NASP encourages students to “SHINE”: 

See my blog post about my student and homeroom of the month duties.  

A. often comes down to my office right before lunch and at the end of the day to check-in. On his behavior plan, if he has had a good morning, he is rewarded with a positive call home at those times. Unfortunately, A.’s mom’s cell phone was recently disconnected, so he was unable to make his phone call home one day. He was about ready to blow his top, but I offered to teach him to play Uno as his reward instead. He loved it, and we played four or so games before he had to head back to his class. It was a wonderful break for me to get to play games (awesome), and helped him to hold it together! 

As a member of my building’s Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) team, we are often called on to teach and refresh the faculty on how PBIS works in our building and how to handle behavior problems. Last night, I stayed after school with the team to film skits showing a major offense (student having a weapon) and a minor offense (horseplay in the halls). Let me tell you, there is nothing funnier than 7 adults hamming it up pretending to be rowdy kids. I can’t wait until we show the videos at our faculty meeting next week! 

Ask a Question
On my desk is a picture of Boyfriend and I on our vacation to Cedar Point Amusement Park this past June. The picture was taken after we rode Top Thrill Dragster, a massive “strata-coaster” with a racing theme.  Behind us is a drag racing car. Virtually every male student that has come into my office this year, after seeing the photo, has excitedly blurted out, “IS THAT HIS CAR?!” Yes, children, he drives a hot rod to the office every day… and gets excellent gas mileage to boot! 

Say “Thank You”
Every morning, I have an AM duty. There is a girl in 1st grade that has narcolepsy, and she has an aide for personal safety. Because her aide is has a different duty during breakfast, I take her to breakfast and stay with her until her teacher picks her up at the start of the day. There are four classes of 1st graders in the breakfast room in the morning, which you can imagine gets a little crazy! This morning, I saw one of the best displays of manners by a 6-year-old ever (or maybe, since they are still learning, I was just blown away that this gentleman had it down). A little boy came up to me, waited until I was available, then politely said, “Excuse me, would you please open my juice?” When I did, he said “thank you,” and I praised him from here to Sunday for his excellent manners.  

Be Proud
I’m feeling more and more confident in my job every day! 

Make a Friend
One of the students who “checks-in” with me twice a day for behavior came to the office one day before lunch with an office write-up and tears in her eyes. A. had been having difficulty with a girl in her class, K., with some relational aggression and general not niceness. I called both the girls down for a peer mediation, and it turns out that K.’s way of joking around was more aggressive than A. was expecting, which she took to mean that K. didn’t like her or want to be her friend. Once it was all out on the table, and K. understood why A. was upset, the two agreed they wanted to be friends. Earlier this week I passed them in the hall smiling and laughing with one another. Put another tally mark in my column!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

School Psychology Awareness Week

Happy School Psychology Awareness Week! Let the party begin... no one outside of the profession will know what is going on!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This One's For the Girls

I was very lucky to have a close group of girls that comprised my cohort in grad school. We were 10 Masters/Advanced Certificate students (plus 5 PhD that we had some classes with) all about the same age. We spent so much time together for three years that it was easy to make some good friendships. When we went on internship, our cohort was unique in that almost all of us stayed in the Western NY area, and even more specifically, the same city/suburbs. The majority of us still live here, which is fantastic.

When graduation hit and we were thrust out of "going to class" and into "looking for a job" mode, life became a little more difficult. Instead of seeing each other every day or week, it turned into once a month. Towards the end of the summer, we got together to celebrate engagements and new hirings and vowed that we had to have monthly get-togethers. Tonight, I had dinner with a few of the girls to celebrate one of them getting hired for a short-term position. It was great to catch up and hear how their jobs have been going, trade stories and frustrations, laugh about grad school days and crazy colleagues, and just be "the cohort" again.

So gals, since we're big kids now, here's to wedding planning, turning 30 ("What? She's 30?!"), getting a job that's less than 40 minutes from home, and getting to do what we were trained to do. And damnit, we're good at it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Average" Part Deux

In my entry about B, I referred to him as having average IQ. But, what is considered "average"? Brace yourselves, I'm about to get bust out some Super School Psychologist Lingo.

The above graph is a bell curve showing a normal distribution of IQ scores. When I describe a student's IQ, I use terms such as Very Superior, Superior, High Average, Average, Low Average, Borderline, and Extremely Low ("Mentally Deficient" has gone out of style). An IQ score of 100 is considered Average. There's a 15 point leeway on either side of 100, getting us to Low Average or High Average. From there, we either work up or down by 15 points to reach the other descriptors. 

Kids that are considered Gifted and Talented typically fall at 130 or above (to Very Superior, and beyond!). Students who could be described as mentally retarded are a bit more tricky to pin down. A classification of "Mental Retardation" typically requires an IQ of below 65-70 (varies on what you consult), achievement in reading, writing, and math below 65-70, and delayed adaptive behavior. Adaptive behavior refers to skills needed for independent living, such as feeding and dressing one's self, communicating effectively, and appropriate social skills. There are varying degrees of mental retardation: mild, moderate, severe, and profound. Individuals with moderate, severe, or profound mental retardation are likely to have adaptive behavior too low to live independently.

Fun (yet horrifying) Fact: In the early 1900s, the terms mild, moderate, severe, and profound were not used to describe mental retardation. Instead, moron, imbecile, and idiot were used. Classy.