Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Guest Post! - A Positive Approach to Professional Transitions

Eliane Hack, a fellow member of the NY Association of School Psychologist Executive Board (NYASP; representing Chapter F) and school psychologist in the Queensbury Union Free School District, graciously offered to share this article she wrote for the New York School Psychologist newsletter as a guest post! This article is the perfect positive pick-me-up and revitalizer as we school psychologists go through March Madness and the last push to finish all those evals before June hits. Thank you, Eliane! :) If you would like to contact Eliane, drop her a line at

A Positive Approach to Professional Transitions

It is an unceremonious transition, and one that happens at different times for different people, but one transition that cannot be overlooked is that of the budding, energetic, newly-hired school psychologist to the tired, underappreciated, and frustrated professional. In my case, this shift happened somewhere between my fourth and fifth year on the job. I had secured my tenure position and established myself as a trusted person in my building, but I found that the daily hurdles and sentiments of wanting to “vote someone off the island" made me question my ability to envision myself in this career through the year 2038 (when I am first eligible for retirement). It may be inevitable that this happens to you, or possibly already has. Here are the bits of advice I have found essential in staying positive and sticking with the career for which I know I was meant.
  • Surround yourself with “balcony people” (those who encourage us, rather than “basement people”, who seek to hold us down with negativity). If you spend your time around perpetual cynics it is going to be hard to remain an eternal optimist, or even a realist. Negativity breeds negativity and the surefire way to make a bad situation worse is to harp on it without envisioning the solutions. I can thank my consultation coursework at Marist College for the solution-focused push on that one. It is also just as important to pass along compliments about others to others. Be a balcony person, a bucket-filler, and a genuine encourager wherever you can. The favor will gladly be returned.
  • Create a "smile file". It may be corny, but it helps. Keep all of those nice notes from students, parents, fellow staff members, supervisors, and administrators. Look them over from time to time, to remind yourself that on that day, you made a difference to someone.
  • Keep in touch with other graduates from your training program. You build strong bonds when you are in school together, and it will be important to share opinions and trade stories once you are employed. It is incredible how differently districts operate across the state and country. Trading stories also helps to keep perspective in that your "issues" might not be that bad! If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we would likely grab ours back.
  • Find an activity that recharges your batteries - a quick activity that gives you a short break from the rat race, and keeps you grounded in the reasons you became a school psychologist in the first place. This may be something different for everyone, but for me, it is taking a few short minutes to visit one of my school's kindergarten self-contained classrooms. I feel like a rock star as I walk in to bear hugs and exclamations of, "Ms. Hack is BACK!" And, at five years old, they often say the funniest things. It's a guarantee that I will smile when I visit that room.
  • Of course it helps to work with a solid group of school psychologists within your district. I am lucky to work with four other school psychologists in a district of about 3,700 students. As you have probably realized, being a school psychologist can be a lonely position, often being the sole psychologist in your building. Arrange monthly or quarterly meetings with your fellow school psychologists. It helps in terms of consistency across the district, as well as camaraderie and communication on some tough issues. Some of you may be the only psychologist in the entire district. This is where it helps to stay connected with others in your field, but more on that later. 
  • Professional development should be about more than accruing credits for NCSP or district requirements. Find trainings that speak to your interests. I find that for many school psychologists, it is not only our job but our hobby. A friend who works in the computer industry could not believe that I wanted to go to a work-related conference on my own time and that I would drive several hours to get to it. I get excited about big name speakers in “our world” and related fields, such as George McCloskey, Jim Wright, Ross Greene, and Michelle Garcia Winner. I stop just short of asking for autographs.
  • Speaking of professional development, I think it is important to take opportunities to deliver your own professional development. School psychologists are often looked to as experts on topics such as learning styles, behavior, mental health and disabilities, just to name a few. If you can present information to your colleagues that will ultimately help them to be more successful educators, they will be thankful, and you will feel useful! Feeling useful is one of the biggest motivators that keep me going each day. Another way to help others help themselves is to catalog the books in your office to establish a lending library. I compiled a list of over 200 books available for staff to borrow as needed, which I “advertised” throughout my building at various points throughout the school year. Of course this will not completely eliminate the need to be called on to put out fires, but it can help better equip others.
  • My last bit of advice is something you have already heeded since you are reading this article. Stay involved in your state and national associations. Being current with the goings on of your field is a necessary step in staying fresh and being re-inspired to carry on!

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  1. This was especially timely for me as, after reading this article, I realize that I have hit that transition this school year. I have gone from excited and motivated to tired and beaten down. Thank you not only for the thoughts and recommendations, but for the reassurance that I am not alone in experiencing this phenomenon.

    1. I'm glad Eliane's post was helpful for you, JMF! You are definitely not alone, and it will not last forever--just gotta find that re-motivator!


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