I once was forced to go to this professional development for psychologists on “teaching mindfulness,” which is basically the idea that kids (and adults) benefit from being aware and present. I have to say, I was really hoping for the latest brain-based research on the mind-body connection, because I love me some data. Instead, it was hours of us practicing out own mindfulness. During the busiest time of the year, we were taken through a series of activities such as breathing like rainbows, with arms outstretched in a slooooooow arc, and mindful walking. That’s right. Mindful walking. We all had to walk super sloooooooow and be really aware of how our foot felt touching the ground and whatnot. Let me tell you, I was mindfully texting the whole time, because I had a to-do list a mile long.
I’m afraid mindfulness is not for me. I find yoga too slow (next pose! next pose!) and I quit Tae Kwon Do after the first month because I just wanted to kick in some things and Master Kang insisted on a slow process where you have to have patience and stuff. And I certainly couldn’t relate to the presenter when she said, “I am so mindful, that when I put down the dish soap, I really feel it. It’s amazing.”
I have channeled all of my energy into my life and work, and school psychology appears to be a good match for me. Every day is different, there are tons of deadlines, crises, and things that have to be done right away. I go! go! go! All day long. There is no time for rainbows and walking super slow, thank you very much.
Well dang it if sometimes, the things we are resistant to actually end up being just what we need.* The very thing I rolled my eyes at at the "professional development" became pretty useful last night when I was in traffic on the San Francisco Bay Bridge trying to get home, with 8 hojillion people. After an hour, I had made it exactly one half mile towards my home. Every time I inched forward, a car would cut me off and I’d be in the same friggin’ spot. Then, a small snail surpassed me (in my mind) and I found myself getting increasingly annoyed. There was only crappy music on, and NPR had a lame guest. Then, I generously let this guy in my lane, in an effort to pay it forward and whatnot, and there was no “thank you” wave. RUDE. But, instead of getting even more upset, I took a breath, and started trying the mindfulness crap. I started by generating reasons for his rudeness, mindfully.
1) Perhaps his wife is in labor and he is trying to get to the hospital and is so distracted by his joy and anticipation that he is going to be a dad that he failed to notice my generosity.
2) Perhaps he lost his peripheral vision in his left eye in the Gulf War and did not see that I was so generous to let him in. A clear war hero deserves to get home .4 seconds before I do.
This went on and on in my head, and then I found myself laughing. On a roll, I started thinking of all the positive things I could think of in that moment, like the fact that I am in this car in a commute because I have a job in a recession. I was suddenly also mindful of being in my warm, toasty, comfy car. I became aware that a fabulous song had just came on the radio.** My mood lifted. I started singing and dancing to myself, and when I hit my crescendo, I suddenly became mindful that the people in the cars around me were staring at my erm…performance… and they were smiling. A guy gave me a thumbs up and laughed, and a motorcycle dude gave me a fist pump of approval. Mindfulness worked.
But I’m still not going to be mindful of the dishwashing soap as I clean up after Thanksgiving dinner. Old habits die hard, what can I say?
*Example: When my best friend tried to get me to join Facebook, I rolled my eyes and thought, “Why would I need to join that?” I stand corrected, Kendra. I love Facebook now. Especially the lively discussions that have ensued on the blog fan page recently. I will be sure to give thanks tomorrow on Thanksgiving if you stop by and become a fan!
**It wasn’t Air Supply’s classic ballad, “Making Love out of Nothing At All” if that’s what you’re getting at.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
It is Friday the 13th. And it marks the end of School Psychology Awareness Week, which I totally forgot was this week, just like last year, and the year before. Gah! Every year! But I suppose today is technically still part of the week, so here you go with a post about what I do all day.
And just to be clear, my job description is NOT, as a janitor described to a kid inquiring who I was: “She works with ‘dem crazy kids.” That will NOT be next year’s theme for School Psychologist Awareness Week. I certainly don’t want to see a poster of that. School Psychologists: We work with ‘dem crazy kids. Bad PR.
So, in the spirit of awareness, I give to you:
Top 10 Things I Do All Day as a School Psychologist
(In decending order of how much time I spend doing it)
10) Tracking down the yoots*, aka poking my head into classrooms and trying not to be disruptive while children yell, “Take me! I need therapy!” or “I a’int no f*ing special ed! No!!!”
9) Tracking down teachers to talk about the yoots, trying to get information from them while they are desperately trying to prepare for having 20-30 little friends come in for some more learning.
8) Tracking down administration to ask about a particular yoot/situation/political issue/bureaucratic hoop.
7) Tracking down parents to get information or give them feedback about their yoot (carefully using caller ID blocking so they answer)
6) Group counseling. Trying to promote positive social skills and not accidentally forming a gang.
5) Individual counseling. Topics include: “What were you thinking about when you drew this/said that/did that/brought that,” family problems, peer problems, learning problems, check-ins about traumatic situations, and my favorite: giving positive adult attention and conducting play therapy to process situations.
4) Testing or observing the yoots for every possible reason on Earth that they are having a hard time learning—social, emotional, behavioral, processing, intelligence, situational, inter-personal, historical—everything.
3) Writing reports about yoots that no one reads, but are really informative if you can get past the technical stuff.
2) Attending meetings about yoots to share results of testing in a way everyone can understand to develop interventions.
1) Lovin’ working with ‘dem crazy kids.
Happy School Psychologist Awareness Week!
If I were fancier, I would have some sort of animation that made little confetti fall down over this entry. Maybe next year…if I don’t forget.
* Yoots (noun). Slang for “youth” derived from obscure reference to the classic film, “My Cousin Vinny.” The two yoots were seen fleeing the scene.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Many of my posts are about the glamorous side of being a school psych, the fun n’ games dealing with bureaucracy monsters*, and the general tomfoolery of working in public education. I thought it was high time I offered up something actually useful for those of you in the trenches along with me, who sit in intervention meetings and everyone turns to you for the good suggestion.
For those who read for the cute stories and/or have a morbid curiosity about 10 year olds who pack heat in their backpacks (true story), we’ll see you next post!
For the hard core intervention peeps who believe in having a huge arsenal of weapons of mass instruction,** I give you:
Strategies for Students with Reading Comprehension Problems
Here’s a little side lesson about roots and suffixes before we begin.
Dys = abnormal or difficult
Lexia = word
So "Dys-lexia" is a reading disability that affects students at the word-level of reading. These are the kids who struggled with phonics in elementary, can’t decode multi-syllabic words easily in middle school, and laugh in high school when you ask, “do you ever read for fun?” because it is so laborious to try and decode every single word you come across. Their reading fluency is impaired and they lose the meaning. I tell my yoots: reading is like riding a bicycle—if you go too slow, you fall off. These students "fall off" in terms of comprehension because they are spending all their mental energy on decoding the individual words.
But there are other kinds of reading disabilities. There are the kids who can decode, but haven’t a clue what they just read. It is not unlike when you “read” a whole page in a book and then realize you didn’t really read it. The eyes were moving across the page, and the words were being "read," but there wasn’t any comprehension. These kids are typically really smart and they can articulate thoughts in class, but have a surprisingly low level of understanding what they read, given their intellect.
These kids (and all kids, really) benefit from a number of strategies for reading comprehension. Some of the strategies I pulled together from watching great teachers, some are "classics", and a few are from the New Teacher Project. Enjoy!
• Rapid reviewing improves both reading comprehension and memory
• After reading a section of text, students write down everything they can remember without looking back at the text.
• If they can’t remember at least 80% of the key points, they have read too much material before reviewing.
• They then reread the material and repeat the process until the key points can be recalled
• Students analyze their own thought processes in a journal, in which a page is divided into two columns separately titled: “What I learned,” and “How I came to learn it.” They record their thinking during and/or after reading
• The format can be modified with other prompts as well, such as “Passage/Text,” “What I think it means” and “Thoughts/Questions/Connections I had to the text”
The Insert Process/Marking the text
• Readers remain active while using symbols to represent their thoughts as they read, such as, “!” when you agree with the author, “?” for questions and “*” for new learning. Students can use sticky notes (Post-it notes) if they are unable to mark in the text.
• These markings should be revisited for further reflection/clarification after reading.
• A chart of possible symbols can be downloaded at http://www.readwritethink.org/lesson_images/lesson230/insert.pdf.
Questioning the Text/Author
• As readers notice the breakdown of meaning, they come up with questions to ask the author about the book for clarification and understanding.
• The questions are intended to help the reader better understand any confusing areas, and assists the reader in targeting appropriate strategies to repair meaning.
• Graphic organizers are visual representations that show how key concepts are related and/or organized. They are important because they help readers visualize connections between ideas within the text and organize the new information.
• The visual representation and organization of information helps students build their text base and make sense of the text.
• Examples include problem/solution, statement/ support, sequence, cause/effect, compare/contrast, and argument.
In this strategy, students use a graphic organizer to establish:
• K- what they already know about the topic;
• W- what they want to know or learn about the topic;
• L- what they have learned after reading.
There are two popular modifications of the KWL teaching strategy:
• KWWL- what I know, what I want to know, where can I find the information, what I have learned
• KWLH- what I know, what I want to know, what I have learned, how I learned it
This strategy is an acronym for the five steps that comprise the strategy:
• S-Survey - students survey the reading material to develop an idea of its contents.
• Q-Question - students formulate questions about the text. These questions become their purpose for reading.
• R-Read - students read the text to answer the questions they formulated.
• R-Recite - students either jot notes about the text or discuss with a partner.
• R-Review - students review what they have learned by discussing their process with a partner and reviewing their notes. Finally, they answer their questions
• This strategy calls for students to keep a running record of connections made as they read. Students are given a chart with three columns labeled for each of the different types of connection (text-to-self, text-to-world, text-to-text). As students read, they record their connections on sticky notes and place them in the appropriate column.
Using Social Networking for Character Analysis
• Students create a mock “Facebook” or “Myspace” page for a character in a book, a historical figure, or a current political figure.
• Students “characters” can interact, depending on if they would have been “friends” or not.
• This technique allows students to put themselves in the shoes of the characters and understand the underlying motivations, behaviors, etc.
*e.g. I called HR nine times yesterday to find out a simple thing. Nine times. No answer. Really? No voicemail there either? I guess they like the “While You Were Out” 1980s pink notes as much as my schools do. Which would be fine if they answered the phone to take a message. I’m gonna have to drive to the ‘hood tomorrow to ask a question, I just know it.
**Trenches and weapon metaphors in an education post? I guess it's my feeble attempt to make this post relevant to Veteran’s Day.
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