Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best Musings of 2012

Well, it's that time of the year again... time for visits with family, relaxing and recharging over winter break, and eating so much that we dig for the baggiest dress pants/skirt come January 2nd. It's also time to revisit my best musings from the past year! 2012 was a big year for me, both personally and professionally--I got married, spent a killer week in the Dominican Republic, and became more involved within the field (1,000+ Facebook friends and being "published" can't be wrong). Here are the highlights from my bloggy year, as measured by most viewed, most comments, or my personal favorite:

January-- An uber mondo list of non-tangible reinforcement ideas, perfect for those kids you just really shouldn't be giving candy or sweet treats to... you know exactly who I mean. 

February-- A hard-edged, tough look at the challenges faced by professionals working in an urban education setting. This was written in response to a reader's question about commonly faced issues and necessary skill sets needed to work in urban education. Although it's not warm and fuzzy, this is one of my favorite posts because of how passionate I felt for my job when I was writing it. It's the heart of what I do. 

March-- A post about my school's monthly attendance breakfast, a school-wide incentive to increase overall attendance. Months later, I am a master pancake maker, worthy of song and world renown.

April--  An impressive collection of "Musings on Survival from School Psychologists," organized into categories. This post was compiled from entries to my giveaway of Dr. Rebecca Branstetter's book, "The School Psychologist's Survival Guide." This continues to be one of my most viewed posts, and with all the incredible advice and quips from readers and fans, how could it not be?

May-- My "a day in the life" series was a big hit, especially among grad students or new professionals in the field. I will definitely be continuing this... you know, when I have time during the day to make notes on my goings-on!

June-- An interesting case student on a preschooler I completed the transition reevaluation for to prepare him for kindergarten. He's a hearing child of two deaf parents who's native language was American Sign Language. Pair that with a lack of exposure to schooling and significant academic and language delays, and you've got one unique kiddo!

July-- A post where I reviewed my entire insane Committee on Special Education meeting list and assessment schedule from the year, and I realized two things--1) I accomplished an insane amount during the year and 2) It hadn't made me sprout gray hairs. I reiterate: I am psychologist. Hear me roar.

August-- no posts... I was too busy doing Zumba and wedding planning.

September-- My first day back to school for the 2012-2013 school year, where I was graciously gifted with a new nickname. It, thankfully, has gone by the wayside in the time since. 

October-- The compilation of the emotions/anger management small counseling group that I led in our first grade 6:1+1 Special Class, where we played with balloons, said adorable comments, learned "soup breathing," and tried not to make it 50 shades of cray.

November-- An informative post about families experiencing homelessness, and how the McKinney-Vento Act can provide services to them. 

December-- A large gathering of resources relating to grief, loss, crisis, and tragedy response that was posted in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings in Newton, CT. Not a pleasant topic or event to remember, but the information continues to be relevant.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Grief, Crisis, and Tragedy Resources

There are no words to explain or rationalize what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14th, 2012. It is truly a tragedy, and moving forward, we must focus on the impact that it may have on the students we work with. As school psychologists, we need to continue the job that our fallen Sandy Hook colleague, Mary Sherlach, lost her life doing: helping our students. 

Below is a list of resources to help students and families cope with crisis and tragedies, and the feelings and fears that may arise from such events. This is by no means exhaustive--PLEASE share further resources that have been helpful to you in your practice.

Tips for Teachers and Parents Following School and Community Violence (PowerPoint; NASP)
School Shootings: How to Empower Kids in the Face of Armed School Violence (KidPower)
15 Ways to Help Your Child Through Crisis (KidsPeace)
Talking With Kids About News: Age-by-Age Insight (PBS Parents)
Helping Kids Cope: When the Unthinkable Happens in Your Backyard (NYU Child Study Center)
Caring For Kids After a School Shooting (Child Mind Institute)
Tips for School Administrators for Reinforcing School Safety (NASP)
The 12 Core Concepts: Concepts for Understanding Traumatic Stress Responses in Children and Families (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
Crisis or Trauma Reactions (NASP)
Talking With Children About Difficult Subjects: Illness, Death, Violence, and Disaster (NYU Child Study Center)
Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers (NASP)
A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope (NASP)
Kids May Ask Questions About the Newtown Shooting. Be Frank and Reassuring, Psychologist Says (WFPL)
How to Help Children Cope with a Crisis (Save the Children)
How to Talk to Your Kids About the Conn. Shootings (NPR)
Helping Youth and Children Recover From Traumatic Events (multiple links; Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools)
Talking with Students in Response to the Sandy Hook Shootings (School Counseling by Heart)
Tragedy and Disaster Response Resources (multiple links; School Counselor Blog)

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Awkward Conversations at School, Part 1

(because you know there will be more)

I love when I have experiences that are totally off the wall at work and give me gleeful bouts of laughter when I reflect on them. Yesterday, I got called down to have a conference with a student and the substitute principal, Mr. G. The student, who has never been a behavior problem and who I've never even seen before, was poking kids with a paper clip and pulled a chair out from under another student. Dangerous behaviors, and uncharacteristic, so we tried to figure out what was up. The student was tight-lipped, noncompliant, and full of crocodile tears, so it didn't go anywhere. The fun part came after the conference, when Mr. G said that he had a story to tell me. It went a little something like this (somewhat abbreviated for clarity and amusement):

Mr. G: "When I was the principal at XX Elementary, one of my kindergarten teachers brought a student into my office because the girl had punched the teacher in the stomach. I kept the girl in my office with me, talked to her, and sent her back to class after a half an hour. Not fifteen minutes later, the teacher was back because the girl had punched her again. Well, I knew this couldn't continue, so I had to suspend her. A kindergartener! When we were at the hearing for her suspension, I noticed she was acting strangely. Her eyes were looking up at the ceiling as she slouched and slid up and down in her chair. Now, I was a music teacher before I was a principal, and this girl was speaking in a voice that no child of her age and gender could naturally make. She kept groaning, 'I hate you, Miss Ray... I hate you, Miss Ray.' .... Now, I have to ask you... as a psychologist, do you believe in possession?"

Me: 0_o "Um."

Mr. G: "No, really. Do you believe in possession, do you have that faith? Because there's something wrong with that girl." [the one we had just conferenced with, who had thankfully left the room]

Ah... awkward, inappropriate conversations in the workplace. Needless to say, I booked it out of there before he started explaining any other uncomfortable and outlandish viewpoints that his music teacher expertise may have given him about behavior and mental health.

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