Hello friends...I have some exciting news. No, I'm not going on maternity leave. You people are just like the bridal registry peeps at Pottery Barn. When I returned a duplicate gift one month after my wedding, the girl winked and said, "You know you can always use your credit at Pottery Barn KIDS..." Relax, lady.
Before I present my exciting news (no scrolling down to the bold print yet!) I want to give you all a mini-diatribe on my pet peeve of people trying to pass crappy "interventions" as the real deal in an under-resourced school.
Imagine for a moment that you are the parent, teacher, or school psychologist of a child who is struggling in school (probably not hard to imagine, right? I mean, why else would you read this blog? For my fashion tips? ). You have tried all traditional techniques. Teams of people have met and determine the child needs intervention, most likely one-on-one assistance in the area of difficulty. Then, when you get to the “action items” and “who is responsible” part of your plan, there are crickets. Yep, that’s right, schools are wonderful at early detection of difficulties, but without resources for interventions, the next step is often a special education referral, because it’s the only intervention in town. Not all kids with academic and behavioral problems are disabled! We do our kids a real disservice when we don’t provide help and then call them “disabled.”
The main vehicle for trying to prevent student failure is the Student Study Team (SST). For those who don’t know, SSTs are basically elaborate parent-teacher conferences with support staff and the student, where the team problem solves how to help a struggling student. SSTs have a number of different names depending on your school (e.g. Care Team, Student Assistance Program). In anticipation of this post, I have been collecting ridiculous “interventions” that are documented on student study team notes, in order to highlight the joke that is pre-referral “interventions”:
“Carla’s mom will peek in the classroom to see if she is working.” Ah yes, the research-based peeking intervention.
“Mr. J will not touch Eddie’s head because he doesn’t like it.” That’s a sure-fire way to address sensory sensitivities!
And my favorite, “Mateo will do his homework.” WHAT? Why didn’t we think of this sooner? If only we had told Mateo to do his homework!
I have long lamented on the problems with how special education is often set up as a “wait to fail” model, the perils of trying to squeeze in unfunded “research based interventions” for kids who need academic and behavioral interventions, and my feeble attempts at bringing Response to Intervention (RtI) to my school sites. Boo hoo, right? Debbie Downer guest posts again?
Not this time! I’m fired up. Maybe it’s because I had full-caf coffee today instead of my usual half-decaf nonsense, but I’m ready to quit complaining and do something about the disgusting inequity between schools in the very same district.* I mean, at “Stepford Elementary School,” my SST meetings are full of interventions. Why? Because the PTA raises so much money, they can hire intervention specialists, reading coaches, and afterschool services for struggling students. If the PTA can’t afford it, the parents kick in their support. They have a “whatever it takes!” kind of mentality that is contagious (and expensive). When I come to my other school sites in the poorer part of town, we unfortunately don’t have a PTA that can sponsor interventions, so kids get a “whatever we got!” kind of intervention.
So here’s your chance to get involved! For all you newbies applying to grad school, or community members who want to make a difference, I am excited to announce that:
I am starting an Internship Program in my school district!
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have 4-5 hours a week of free time to volunteer, I am starting a volunteer training program for aspiring school psychologists, aspiring teachers, and those who just want to get involved in the name of social justice. Come volunteer and see if school psychology is right for you (before you fork over thousands of dollars in grad school!
Starting in March 2010, I will be training volunteers to work individually with students on academic, behavioral, and social difficulties. Think of your role as a coach or mentor, but you are armed with research-based interventions! We will have a training and journal club every week to learn about theories of learning, and check in once a week as a group to improve our intervention skills and learn from each other. And there will be data collection! I love data collection! We can actually see if our interventions are working! You will do far more than peek in a classroom or tell a kid to do his or her homework. You will be able to guide the students so they experience success and build academic skills and self-confidence. You will learn how to partner with teachers and families. And you get to hear my sarcasm LIVE (deterrent or incentive? It's unclear).
Doesn’t that sound fabulous, people? If you are interested in joining my platoon of volunteers (armed with weapons of mass instruction!), I am hosting an information meeting on February 8th, 2010 at 4pm at my school site. Send me an email at email@example.com to get the address and more information. I do this to protect the identity of my schools as much as possible, so I can continue sharing stories about the yoots. When you email me, share with me a bit about yourself, your goals, and your areas of interest (e.g. reading, math, writing, study skills, behavior plans, ADHD symptoms, social skills, Learning Disabilities, second language acquisition). I will be looking for a few interns in each academic area.
For those of you not in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m looking at YOU for helping me find good Response to Intervention resources. Everybody can participate! I love Chevron Coffee with Techron! Now I need the energy of volunteers to keep me going strong throughout the school year!**
Jerry Springer final thought: I will also walk each of you through the Bureaucracy Monster of getting approved to be a school volunteer in my district. It involves fingerprinting, applications, and Tuberculosis (TB) screening. Who is with me???
*I’m so fired up, I fear that in getting my coffee at Chevron gas station this morning, I may have accidently gotten Coffee with Techron or something….
**My English teacher friend, Beth, will be mortified by the over-use of exclamation points in this post. She once told me I was only allowed to use one per year, so she really knew I was exclaiming something. I got a little excited today!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Hello friends...I have some exciting news. No, I'm not going on maternity leave. You people are just like the bridal registry peeps at Pottery Barn. When I returned a duplicate gift one month after my wedding, the girl winked and said, "You know you can always use your credit at Pottery Barn KIDS..." Relax, lady.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
You know what is not interesting about being a school psychologist? Writing up psychoeducational reports. Sure, at first it was exciting, trying to figure out new and exciting ways to explain results from the Differential Abilities Scale, but now, not so much. And you know what I never write about on my blog? The boring stuff (you're welcome). There are some parts of my job that make me want to poke my eyes out (thanks, Mrs. Mimi, for that phrase!) Writing reports and filling out paperwork are in that category, and it is a huge part of my job.
Sorry to break the news to all the eager people who email me asking if school psychology is the right career for them, but it’s not all warm fuzzies. And contrary to my headshot photo, I do not typically stand in front of school busses with perfectly coiffed glamorous hair. If you picture yourself in warm, fuzzy, cable knit sweater that makes students feel comfortable in your presence, safe to share, as you sip on your green tea in your cozy office with one of those squeezy balls, let me paint you another picture.*
Every time I come to my office, it is pitch black in the hallway so I can’t find the keyhole, and there are new piles of stuff/unidentified liquids or food/fresh graffiti in front of the door. It’s typically a degree in there and I spend the first few minutes of my day orchestrating an elaborate tripwire heater situation because there is no electrical outlet. I plan to do a photo collage for my Facebook Fan page at the end of the school year. The series will be entitled, “Crap In Front of My Janitor's Closet..oops...Office.”
I have digressed. My point is that like in any job, there are pros and cons. There are also going to be undesireable tasks in every job. I tried so very hard to change my job description in my previous school district so I could do more than write reports, but the Bureaucracy Monster was too big for me to fight. Instead of quitting, my mantra ended up being, “Free Yourself of Why” (as in: “Why do I have to log the same information in 5 places?” “Why do I have to test a student with a 4.0 grade average?” “Why is my caseload so high?” “Why are you giving me another school to serve when I am already drowning?” “Why did I get a Ph.D. to sit in an elevator shaft in San Francisco when I will surely die if there is any seismic activity?”)
Free yourself of “Why” in a large urban school district or you will go clinically insane. I finally changed my attitude (and districts) and I am so much happier. My new strategy is to be super efficient at the low desirability tasks to get to do the high desirability tasks** So after 9 years of working as a school psychologist in the San Francisco Bay area, I have finally worked out a few tricks to getting reports done faster without sacrificing quality. These tips come from the girl who loves a good multitasking solution. I dry my hair in the morning with my car heater on blast, saving ones of minutes each morning. I double-down on New Years Resolutions (do more cardio and learn more Spanish) by listening to Spanish podcasts on the elliptical. I hope a few work for you, and I hope that you can all contribute more to share with other readers. Teachers, feel free to chime in some time-saving strategies for paperwork—I know you have mounds of paperwork too.
1) After you assess a child, the second that kid is back in class, take 10 minutes to write up your testing observations. Sure, you jotted down some notes on the protocol, but trust me, you will forget the nuances when you go to write it up 3 weeks from now. Every time I do this, I save myself time going back through the protocol and looking through notes and trying to remember, “was this the kid who rushed through stuff or took forever?”
2) Attend pre-referral meetings (e.g. Student Study Teams, Parent-Teacher Conferences, support staff meetings) if you can and have with you copies of developmental histories and behavior rating scales in every language possible. When the conversation inevitably turns to whether or not a psychoeducational assessment is needed, whip out those papers and give them to the parents right there to fill out and bring to your next meeting. Tell them this is the first step in getting more information for the assessment to guide the process toward their concerns/questions. I know, it’s ideal to sit with them and do it together, but if it is a pretty straightforward case/family dynamic, you can have them get started on remembering when the kid spoke his first sentence or learned to ride a bike.
3) Get really good at scoring stuff up while the kid works on other subtests. I usually have most of the cognitive assessment scored up by the time the kid is finishing up with the last subtest. This is a natural process that will occur after giving the same test over and over again. And over…and over….
4) Spend some time really working on your templates so that you have a good structure to work from. Borrow other colleagues’ templates and take the best parts from each one. Write all your recommendations into the template and then delete the ones that do not apply to the student you assessed at the end. Add new ones that occur to you that are particular to that student and add it to your master list. Also, in your template, use “Xx” as the child’s name and then when you find and replace “Xx” for the name, it will have proper capitalization.***
5) Write up background history before testing the kid. You will thank yourself later when you are all done with testing and don’t have to go back and do that part. Also, it guides your selection of assessments. When I first started, one time I didn’t look carefully at the kid’s English language testing scores and did the whole assessment before realizing it should have been a bilingual assessment. So mad at myself (for not looking, and also for not being bilingual. Hence, the podcasts).
As I am wrapping up this post, I realize that this post is kind of boring. I may or may not have just fallen asleep for a second at my own post. But welcome to the world of report writing. It doesn’t give you that same warm fuzzy feeling as working with a kid who has a breakthrough, helping a parent or teacher really understand how the student learns best, or hanging around in your frumpy second sister wife sweater, waiting to transform the lives of the yoots. But reports have their own value when done well. And when you’re done, you can get back to the “fun and glamorous" part.
*I do have this scenario in my private practice office twice a week. It’s lovely. Also, I appreciate having an office at all at my school sites. I used to have to carry around 40 lbs of testing materials, my purse, and my lunch wherever I went and begged people for testing space. I tested a student in an elevator shaft once. Klassy.
**Sound familiar, class? Anyone? Anyone? Premack Principle.
***A note about templates. Use them as a skeleton for your reports, but elaborate to tell a story about that child’s approach to tasks. Scores can always be imported into a template, but your reports will be more useful to people if you supplement with qualitative information. And for the love of Pete/Phil/Patty, don’t use the wrong kid’s name over and over, like Frau Psychologist. Dead giveaway for over-reliance on templates.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
After last week’s delightfully sad post on telling a parent her daughter has mental retardation, I think we (I) need a more lighthearted post today. You know, exploring the softer side of Sears or whatever. I should warn: This post will not interest 12% of readers.*
I am going to talk about the world of school psychology fashion. It’s a topic that I feel I need to address. Why? Let me tell you a little story. And by “little” I mean really long story.
When I was an intern school psychologist in San Francisco, I was all of 23 years old. I was living in a house with 5 roommates and 5 different closets to "shop" from. It was a fantabulous time and I had a fantabulous wardrobe. Now, we have already established that I accidentally used to dress like a gangsta at school. I made many mistakes that first year. But I never told you all about my very first evaluation. It was surreal on many, many levels.
My supervisor from UC Berkeley came to my school to meet up with me and my intern supervisor to evaluate my performance on 8 hojillion criteria. We all crammed into my little janitor’s closet and began with the checklist. Gets along with colleages? Check. Knowledgeable about assessment and counseling? Check. Good boundaries? Check minus.** Able to deal with a crisis? And I kid you not, at that exact moment, the Principal got on the loud speaker and said, “This IS a lock down. Initiate lock down procedures.” This was our 8th or 9th lockdown that semester (bomb threats, primarily) , so mid sentence I said, “Excuse me ladies” and put up the “Green Light” sign meaning no one was injured in this room and asked everyone to move away from the window. Then said, “carry on.”***
My supervisor from Berkeley was a little rattled, I think, but we got back to the checklist. Professional? Check minus. Wait, WHAT? I was totally professional! Did they not just see my calm in the storm performance? What was that about? My intern supervisor, who was fabulous and totally spot on, cautiously said, “Um, sometimes your pants are a bit too tight for a middle school.”
Mort. ti. fied.
I look down at my pants and they were not THAT tight. I don’t want to give the impression that I dressed like Olivia Newton John at the end of Grease. They were totally normal pants. My supervisor continued, “It’s not that they are too tight for the normal world, it’s just for middle school you have to be a bit more conservative. I’d avoid skirts as well.”
At the time, I thought, “whatever, my pants are fine, I don’t want dress like a schoolmarm.” But the perfectionist in me did not like my check tarnished by a minus, so I started shopping at (wait for it) Ann Taylor. Yes, at age 23. Why didn’t I just go straight to SEARS? It was so sad.
I told you this was a long story. The men who tried to prove me wrong about interest level are long gone.
Fast forward a few years. I found this great skirt by Theory on consignment for $10. Ten dollars! It was a simple, black pencil skirt. So classy. So I wore it to my middle school (of course, with tights and a frumpy cardigan to disguise any femininity.) And as I left the building at the end of the day, I heard an 8th grade yoot yell from the second floor window down to me: “I’M HOT FOR TEACHER!” Oh dear. Another added, “I’D HIT DAT!” Make it stop. The cat calls continued, from the ambiguous source and I cursed myself for not listening to my supervisor. Minoo, wherever you are, you were totally right.
Now I fear I have gone to the extreme. I sometimes dress like I’m the second sister wife in Big Love. I actually have an ankle length jean skirt. My husband threw it away recently because it really was horrifying for all involved.
(I'm the second from the right, in aforementioned jean skirt)
In my next life, I’m designing a line of clothes for school psychologists that are professional, attractive, but not too attractive. And now that I have written this all too important post about fashion, I feel like I have just told the blogosphere that I’m all that and can't possibly hide my hotness unless I'm in a jean skirt. I’m really not. I just happen to work in a teenage hormone fest.
Maybe I should start shopping at (shudder) Sears.
*I recently took a gander at the demographics of the Facebook Fan Page (what can I say, I love me some data), and it turns out that 88% of fans are female. Quelle surprise. I bet that matches the demographics in the schools.
**I needed some. I had a hero complex at the time. It’s in remission.
***It was one of my students on campus with a gun. Neat.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
It never really gets easier. I get better at my schpeal, but telling a parent their child tested in the retarded range is never easy. It can lead to some very awkward and emotional moments, especially when a parent is getting the news for the first time and the child is FOURTEEN years old. I present to you, Awkward Conversation #249 (get a fresh cup of coffee, it’s a long one...)
Scene: Parent’s home (this parent refused to come to a school meeting, as every school meeting for the past, oh 8 years, has been people telling her that her daughter is behind, acting out, and in trouble). Blaring in the background is Jerry Springer-esque show, where every other word is bleeped out. We’re not going to turn that down, just to add to the awkwardness of having to yell the words, “Mental Retardation.” Good times.
Me: Thank you for allowing us in your home today. I look forward to sharing how Julia learns best and developing a school program that works for her. Before we start, how do you think things are going at school for her? (Knowing full well things are NOT going well. She wanders around the class and yells at teachers every day and is currently suspended).
Mom: I think she just needs tutoring.
Me: Hm…okay, so you are concerned about her academics (BTW, she tested in at the 2nd grade level in reading, math, and writing and she’s a 7th grader).
Jerry Springer Guest (in background): You think my baby mama gonna BLEEEEP BLEEEP BLEEEP BLEEEEEEEEEP
Me: Right. So let’s have a look at some of the possible reasons why Julia may be struggling academically. I tested her on how she solves brand new problems. This is a test that she can’t study for, as it is a set of new problems, both verbal and visual. (Read: IQ test). I give her very little help in solving them, and it is a good way to measure her thinking skills.
Me: Okay. So here is a chart of where most students score. If she were just the same as her peers, she would fall here (points to average range). On both visual and verbal problem-solving, Julia scored here (points to 70—cut off for mental retardation). For example, when I asked her how a banana, apple and orange are alike, she said, “pear.” That’s not quite…erm…it’s related to what I said, but she misses the main point, that they are all fruits. Do you ever notice that sometimes she has difficulties expressing herself to you, or when telling you a story?
Mom: (Noncommittal grunt)
Me: Um. Okay. So you can imagine in the class, where she is currently learning about the Mayan empire, she might have a hard time making connections on her own without help. In head: Not to mention she can’t read the 7th grade text at all. She also might start to wander the class and get angry and yell, because most teenagers would rather look dumb than stupid.
Jerry Springer Guest (in background): BLEEEEPidy BLEEEPin’ BLEEEP!
Me: May I ask if this sounds like Julia? Am I describing her accurately?
Mom: (Stony silence).
Me: (In head: Is she getting this? Is it sinking in where I’m going with this?). I know this must be difficult to hear.
Mom: Not really.
Me: Um…erm..so what are your thoughts so far?
Mom: I think she needs tutoring. I’m not into labels. A student can get special education without being labeled.
Me: While tutoring is a good option, we also want to make sure that Julia’s teachers really understand her, and that she struggles so much with her thinking skills on her own. She can learn, but she requires a lot of support, repetition, and presentation of the material in simple ways. I don’t like labels either, but if they get her better services, then we should think about what is best for Julia. Without a label, you will continue to get calls every day and Julia will likely be misunderstood by her teachers and blamed for things she can’t help. Okay, self, time to just spit it out. She qualifies as mentally retarded. Here goes my “13 Doors Schpeal”.
Um, when we think about special education, we think of 13 “doors” into the program. Each “door” is a disability and with each disability there is a program. (To spare you all, I then go into the process of elimination of doors---not learning disability, not physical disability, not emotional disability—until we reach the “door” that in our district is called Mental Retardation)*
Ms. Parent, I’m going to use a term that is often kind of hard to hear, but I would be doing Julia a disservice if I didn’t use a term that we can all understand. Knowing what is causing her academic difficulties is the first step to giving her what she needs. The only “door” to services that is left is Mental Retardation. Now, there are several kinds of Mental Retardation. Julia is not in the severe range (points to bottom of chart), so we would not put her in a class with students who cannot take care of themselves, have physical challenges, or are learning only basic life skills. Julia has mild mental retardation (points to 70 on chart) and she has some typical life skills, so she would be in a class that would give her practical academic skills, like making change at the store, and reading and writing in the real world.**
Family Feud Guest (blaring in background): The Movies! Teenagers make out at the Movies! Buuuuuzzzzzz.
Mom: (Mumbles) Lover’s Lane.
Me: Excuse me? (Oh dear she is answering the Family Feud game). Right. So this must be difficult to hear that Julia has mild mental retardation, but the good news is we can find her a classroom where her needs can be met. Does this information surprise you? What are your thoughts?
Mom: I’m not surprised. Oh, and we’re probably moving out of the district next month.
I don’t know how things will go for Julia in her new district. I know that I did my best to make it clear that Julia will not be able to keep up in a general education class, and that our meeting documents (the famous “IEP” which is an “Individualized Education Plan”) would carry over to anywhere in the country. I just hope she gets a seasoned teacher who understands that Julia's “defiance” is a largely a defensive avoidant behavior. I hope she gets to experience success. And I hope that there aren’t a bunch of “Julias” out there who could have been getting early intervention services for 8 years had there been a more concerted effort to have the school psychologist have a look at why she continually acted out.
We will return to our regularly scheduled Tomfoolery and funny stories next week. Promise.
*Some districts say “Cognitive Impairment” some “Developmental Disability” and some “Mental Retardation.” I don’t know if one term is better over another. The only benefit I can see of calling it Mental Retardation is that parents know what you are talking about. I have had parents who never really understand that Cognitive Impairment is really MR until their kid is in late middle or high school. Again, sometimes I get to break that news, and usually the reaction is, “Why didn’t someone tell me this earlier?” There is another school of thought that saying MR is not PC.
**And because of No Child Left Behind, some outrageous Algebra goal.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I often get inspiration for my job from the little sayings on my tea satchel. What? I work in a large, urban school district, I gotta get inspiration everywhere I can. At least I’m not reading the tea leaves for what to do, right? The other day, my tea told me that “If you want to know something, read. If you want to learn, write.” Or something like that. Hm. So writing is how we know we are learning? I suppose that writing is a more active process than reading in a way. I mean, when I sit down to write a blog post, I become acutely aware of what I don’t know because I sit there with hands over keyboard, waiting for inspiration. I also solidify my thinking when I write. That being said, I have to say that the initial driving force behind me writing this blog was (in a Viktor Frankl sense), to find meaning in my suffering. I jest. Not really.
Anyhoo, back to writing. As olde-timey readers will recall, I have had a penchant for written expression since a young age. In fact, my mom sent me another round of my early writing that she found in her garage, and I have really enjoyed retroactively diagnosing myself. But I digress. Writing. See how rambling writing is an indicator of not knowing what to write? I have been suffering from a case of Writer’s Blogque lately. Ever since those 5 people started subscribing to my blog on Kindle*, I have been putting pressure on myself to write something good. Then, you get two paragraphs o’ rambling.
I’ll make it up to you in the next few paragraphs, I promise.
I think I mentioned before that I am working on curriculum for special education teachers on how to be effective in working with students in special education. It’s a daunting little project. I have been in a round of revisions about the session on writing, and I have been thinking about the writing process. Or to be more accurate, I’ve been thinking about the revision process. Part of me is like my students, once it is written, I feel like it is done. But then after 4 rounds of revisions with multiple readers (like an adult writer’s workshop!) it really is much better. Without further ado about nothing, here are some of the strategies that have emerged for helping students with writing. Most of the strategies are for late elementary and middle school, but some can be adapted up or down in age. Again, snaps for the New Teacher Project for a good portion of the strategies. The others are ones I’ve collected over the years, and I invite you to contribute more!
Strategies for Improving Student Writing
1) For students with visual-motor integration difficulties, (poor eye hand coordination) you want to strike a balance between remediation (making them practice the physical act of writing) and accommodation (freeing up the physical burden by using by-pass strategies so they don’t get held up on developing good written expression).
2) For remediation, I have seen “Handwriting without Tears” work for some elementary students. You could also consult with an Occupational Therapist (OT) about other strengthening activities. I rarely get to interact with OTs at my school sites, but I imagine they have some great tips.
3) For reluctant writers with good ideas, but who hate pencils and all things writing, I suggest trying some accommodations. I recommend providing the option to orally dictate writing ideas to a peer or adult to transcribe or type, just to get out the writing ideas. Then, the student can work on revisions, improvements, and organization of ideas from the transcription. I am also a big fan of technology (MacSpeech for Macs and Dragonware for PCs) in which a schmancy computer program transcribes the student’s voice into typed text. Super fun and surprisingly accurate. And how cute do the students look with their little 1-800-DENTIST-esque headsets? So cute.
4) For students with difficulties with writing conventions (spelling, grammar, etc), I recommend having them start a personal spelling and grammar dictionary to help them with frequently used or misused words or grammatical rules. I would like it if they can keep such a log on their iTouch or phones. I know, I know, no phones in school, but I really think that kids would be more likely to jot down a frequently misspelled word or the difference between their/there/they’re for reference in their phones than in a notebook. But if you’re old school, they can have a little notebooks too.
5) Metacognitive Writing Logs. My middle school does this with great success. The kids learn to make connections with what they have read to themselves, to other texts, and with the world through their writing. A key point about this is to not say, “Just write whatever” when a kid is stuck. Why? Because it sounds like it isn’t important what they write. Take an interest in the writing by asking probing questions, using sentence starters (e.g. I thought the best part was… This reminds me of when I….). For reluctant writers, start with text-to-self sentence starters, because most kids like to talk about themselves.
6) For students with organizational difficulties (rambling paragraphs, unorganized ideas) I’m a fan of graphic organizers and pre-writing activities. Integrate drawing and art, and you may find a reluctant writer is more engaged. Seriously, just google “graphic organizers” and one million different great ideas will come up. Also, I like writing strategies checklists that walk students through the writing process. There are some good ones in Harvey and Chickie-Wolfe’s book “Fostering Independent Learning.”
7) To teach different genres of writing, there are a bunch of fun ways to do so. For example, teaching persuasive writing can be really engaging, because the students can take a stand on an issue that is important to them. They can do class debates, mock trials, “Take a Stand” activities in which they go to certain parts of the room to represent how they feel (left side of room
is agree, right side is disagree, middle is no opinion, etc).
8) I recently read a really interesting article about how kids today have a great sense of “audience” because of social media. The Greeks called it “Kairos” which is a needed skill in persuasive writing. These kids, through Facebook updates, are learning when something is inherently interesting to others by the feedback/comments and when nobody cares that you just had Rice Krispies for breakfast. I am working on that skill as well in my Facebook Fan Page updates.** I am thinking that students could do a variation on the metagcognitive journal and write status updates for characters in books, for themselves, etc. How fun is that? See, writing is fun.
9) There are many more, but I want to hear your stuff too! Be sure to share what age group/grade level and/or what type of disability the strategy addresses. Aaaaannnnd, Go! Let the Resource Fest-a-Polooza 2010….begin.
*What? You want to know how to subscribe because you got a Kindle for Christmas? I’m glad you asked. Click here.
**Sometimes, I forget Kairos and let boring updates slip in, like my riveting series on staplers (e,g. “Sometimes I feel like Schmeagal from Lord of the Rings looking for my precious….stapler.”) Most of the time, I try to make the updates useful or funny. Working on my Kairos. I really thought that stapler theft was a hot issue in education that day. I shouldn’t have switched to half-decaf. I can’t think straight.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Last night, my husband and I helped a friend chaperone his 15 year old daughter’s first (and I think last) high school party. His daughter had a great idea of quarantining all the adults into one room so it would still seem like a party. She even put up a sign, so we could understand our place.
The fine print says, "No, Actually." As if "Parents Room" could be code for something else...
Yeah, we stayed in the kitchen with watchful eyes, periodically frightening the teenagers with our aged presence.
Being a chaperone at the party made me feel simultaneously 1000 years old and also kinda hip, because I knew what they were all up to. Things haven't changed that much since I was in high school. They weren’t even trying to be slick about sneaking things in. I mean, who carries a duffle bag to a party? Did you just come from the gym, buddy? Do you think I think that’s just a coke, stumbling young lady? And I know that’s not a new fragrance, called “Eau de Pot,” kids.
I applaud my friend for calling in the adult reinforcements. I can’t remember going to a high school party when I was in high school that had parents at it, trying to keep the liquor and drugs out. I even remember a few parents supplying the liquor. In retrospect, I am now horrified at that.
For this party, the five of us did the best we could to keep the party under control. It was the longest 2 and a half hours of my life. I was also a bit paranoid that I could potentially see one of my clients, as one girl I was working with went to that high school. I had an imaginary conversation with her: “I am wondering if this is the risky behavior your parents hired me to help you with?” Thankfully, she wasn’t there. My husband did run into a few horrified young men who he had coached in basketball before. It was kind of fun to see these kids’ worlds collide in the kitchen of my friend's house. I imagined they were thinking, “Why is my coach here and does he know there isn’t a basketball in this duffle bag?”
We made periodic rounds throughout the house to confiscate liquor. If 15-year old me had seen 33-year old me doing this, she would have been mortified. Toward the end of the night, my husband made a round to collect all the contraband (again) and came back with a giant Hefty bag of liquor. Damn, these kids are sneaky. At one point, a girl waiting for the bathroom took a giant swig of rum from a bottle (classy), because apparently, she forgot there were parents 10 feet away. I told her she needed to pour it out. She looked terrified that she had been caught, but then proceeded to gulp it down on her way to the trash, gurgling, “I’m sorry!” Girlfriend puked about an hour later, which is a far worse punishment than being caught by me.
The whole time, I couldn’t help thinking about adolescent development. I know, I can’t shut it off on the weekends. It's a curse. I know that some amount of risk taking is normal for adolescents and may even be biologically driven. And it is certainly amplified in large groups of peers (great, the whole school was at the party). Teenagers also take longer to make decisions about risky behavior than adults (even in deciding about fairly obvious risky situations like whether you should swim with sharks or drink Drain-o). You might think that thinking longer about a decision is good, but paradoxically, thinking longer about a decision is kind of bad, because it should be instinctual not to drink Drain-o. At this party, the kids were calculating the risk of being caught by the adults with the social-emotional drive to engage in novel, exciting, and emotionally-charged behaviors. Guess what won in the end?
We shut down the party at midnight on the dot. I felt a bit uneasy about letting these kids find their way home. Fortunately, they can’t drive yet. I was torn between my psychological theory (risk taking and experimenting is normal) and my maternal instincts (You’re only 15! Come little children, I will drive each and every one of you safely home and counsel you on the dangers of drugs and alcohol).
Like the kids, I too was torn between my rational brain and my emotions. I knew from research (and my own experiences of getting home from parties), that the kids would live to tell about how some old lady (me) made her throw away her rum and how their coach busted them with a 40 oz of crappy beer. I know my friend did everything possible to keep the party drug and alcohol free without humiliating his daughter by frisking everyone who came in. He even recruited his daughter to be the main enforcer, and she did.
On the way home, I asked my husband if he would ever let our future teenagers have a party at our house. He said he would, if we were there. I suppose I would too, only I fear that maternal-me would run into the living room and exclaim, “Surely you all would be just as entertained with a rousing game of Scattergories!” My daughter/son would die of embarrassment. Surely it’s better to not have a party at all. Then again, my daughter/son would just find another party and who knows if the parents would be as vigilant as my friend. Then AGAIN, I went to the unsupervised parties as a yoot and I think I turned out fine.
I love how I am pre-worrying about a fictitious high school party 16 or so years from now. I know I have more empathy for parents after last night. In the abstract, and from our own experience, we know that risk taking is normal. In reality, it is hard to watch.
Especially the making out in the hallway for 20 minutes. Classy.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Happy New Year! If only I was technically fancy enough to make little virtual balloons and streamers fall from this page. Maybe next year.
In an homage to 2009, I have analyzed the most popular posts of 2009 from Notes From the School Psychologist, measured crudely by number of comments. There are a few posts that were my absolute favorite, and they were comment duds. Who knew? Like a good scientist-practitioner, I plan to tailor my 2010 posts based on your wants and needs. Judging that anything with “strategies” did well, I’m guessing you want practical stuff. Who doesn’t? Done. I also see that you want more posts with kittens, awkward conversations, and of course, urine. You’re a sick and twisted bunch! Just kidding, I love you people. Without further ado, the most popular blog posts of 2009:
January: Strategies for Visual Motor Integration
February: A Day in the Life of a School Psychologist
March: What I Have Learned About Executive Functioning From Planning my Wedding (By default—this was the only one I posted in March. I was busy crafting the perfect day).
April: Bride-chilla (Again, by default. It was all wedding, all the time)
May: Crisis Management (Seriously, I was obsessed. This was about a wedding crisis).
June: Awkward Conversation #247 in which I try to explain mental retardation to a borderline mentally retarded teenager. Awk-ward.
July: Judgy-Judgerson Gets a Karmic Punch in the Face (By default, this was my only post in July. I guess I had writers-blogque. I liked this one though).
August: Must. Write. About. Kittens. Kittens? Who knew?
September: Free to Be You and Me…and Pee?. “Urine” luck you don’t send your kid to this school…
October: Making Lemonde, Blog Posts and Whatnot. Enter: Stepford Elementary.
November: "Strategery”. Strategies for teaching reading comprehension.
December: Thrice Bitten, Not Shy. Who doesn’t love a good post about vampire children?
Thanks to all of you fabulous readers for sticking with me through all of the ups and downs of 2009! I wish you all a glorious 2010 in the classroom and beyond!
With much gratitude,
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