This weekend I attended #Edcampphilly, a great un-conference which included many outstanding connected educators. We had just come from a conversation about school crisis prevention and intervention, and I was thinking along those lines, and more broadly about the role of school psychologists in schools. I sat down to lunch with a great principal I've gotten to know over the past year who works in a different state not to far off from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The role of the school psychologist was brought up, and the principal began to talk about how he did not have the best experience with his psychologist. I told him that this annoyed me (not knowing the school psychologist) because, in my mind, when that perception occurs, it sends the message that we as psychs don't bring value to the table. It is not good advertising for the role of the school psychologist.
For the next 24 hours I reflected on this, and on the thought of the role of school psychologist. What do we bring to the table? Too often I believe school psychologists get stuck in roles of testing for special education. Granted, that has been a primary role in most places I've come across that employ school psychs, but I believe that both through my own schooling, internships, experience, and teaching, that we can bring a vast degree of expertise to schools that too often goes untapped. Part of the problem may be our own fault. Have we advertised our skills? Have we volunteered and contributed to all areas of education?
Psychologists are well trained in the area of assessment, but we also offer broad and diverse skills in behavioral consultation, crisis intervention, individual and group counseling, systems consultation, and academic skills consultation. Our training is based in a scientist practitioner model, and we use a research base to guide our practice. We get involved at an individual level, with classrooms, with families. We can contribute on a macro level, with district wide change or sit on county or state committees. Psychologists can use the power of social media to learn and to advertise what we can do, and spread the word through our Personal Learning Networks, through conferences and collaborations.
Cognizant of the idea that we need to advertise our role, and bring value to schools, I'm always looking to expand my role. Psychologists should look to volunteer their services, on district and school wide committees, to help with difficult cases and problems, or to offer a different perspective on how to handle particular situations. I generally try to check in with the administrators of my buildings to offer support and services, volunteer for initiatives, and to try to keep a pulse on student and building needs. I view myself as an advocate for how services can be improved in schools, and how we can make stronger connections for students and families. I like to think that I'm constantly on the lookout to remove roadblocks to help support students to improve their academic and emotional well-being. Most psychologists do this, we are trained to do it, and it's instinctual. What we need to do, is a better job of not waiting for people to walk through our door to ask for help, but to go out of our way to walk through other people's doors to offer it. I hope to continue to improve in this area, and hope that other psychologists are doing the same thing around the country, so principals are having conversations with statements like: "That psychologist brings a lot of value to the table!"