Thursday, February 28, 2013

"I could never be a high school student today."

At the beginning of December, four local high school students (two couples) were driving home from attending a college basketball game when they got into a bad car accident, thanks an aggressive driver who had been drinking. Two of them died, and the boy and the girl who lived were seriously injured. The boy had to be told that his girlfriend and his best friend had died, and the girl had to be told that her boyfriend and her best friend had died. It was horrible. The only positive part was how the community rallied around them, holding fundraisers and benefits to raise money for their medical expenses and for scholarships in honor of the students who had died.

The girl has been posting on Twitter about her insomnia and how much she misses her boyfriend and her best friend. While most people have been very supportive, apparently a few kids have to be assholes about it -- popping up online saying it's too much, she should "get over it" and stop being an "attention whore." Isn't that awful? Then when she went to a game over the weekend, apparently some students from another school were saying rude things to her because of her missing teeth (she lost five teeth in the accident, and if you know anything about losing teeth, you know that the implant and replacement process has to be done in stages and takes forever). One of my colleagues said she heard on the radio this morning that they figured out the names of the students who were harassing her and that charges will be filed, though I couldn't find anything about that online. The girl's friends have been great, posting supportive messages on Twitter like "Better to have no teeth than no class."  I don't understand people -- if you don't like the girl's Twitter feed, don't read it! I've heard that her parents want to pull her off social media. But that's the way so many kids and even adults are these days -- they live their feelings online.

One on-line commenter said, "I could never be a high school student today," and I know what s/he means. On the one hand, I feel like having Twitter and Facebook back in school might have actually helped me in some ways. I was shy but loved to write, so maybe I would've made more friends, and done so more easily, if I could have done it partially through writing. On the other hand, to actually see people write nasty things about you in black and white, like this girl is going through, would have made me want to curl up into a little ball and die.  ;(  The only way they could do that to me when I was in school was to buy boosters (ironic name) in the back of the high school yearbook making fun of me. I always wondered who were the kids who thought I was such a joke that they actually PAID MONEY to have messages mocking me printed in the yearbook. They were cloaked messages (nothing as obvious as "Her Artichoke Heart is ugly" or anything like that) but I knew. A few years after that they actually had to discontinue the boosters section because they were getting so many messages that were so offensive they couldn't be printed. I guess some things never change....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trying to help

Today one of the teacher aides brought one of my elementary school counseling students to me, saying the student was upset. He certainly looked upset. He sat at the table in the school psych office, not talking, his head in his hands. I asked if he was angry or sad. “Both,” he said emphatically. He was quiet for a few minutes, but after I asked him a few more questions it finally came out: the problem was HOMEWORK (“I have so much to do, and I don’t know how to do any of it!”). I was relieved – homework is one problem I definitely have the skills to help with! He seemed very organized and took out each assignment (one for English, one for math, one for social studies). The social studies one was very short, and he was able to do it right away. When he reread the directions for math, he realized that because he’s a resource room student, he only had one page to do (with only three questions), not two, and he looked visibly relieved. Then it was dismissal time and his bus arrived, so he had to leave. He said after he comes in to homeroom in the mornings he goes to the resource room if he has any questions about his homework, so I reminded him he should do that tomorrow if he had trouble finishing the math and English at home tonight. I was glad I could help, and VERY glad I’m interning in a school district that offers so much support for special education students. Even knowing he has the terrific resource room teacher to help him, he still had an overwhelmed, panicky moment – imagine if he were a student at the bad charter school where I taught for a year. That was such a depressing job because there was just not nearly enough support for kids who needed extra help. We were supposed to do “team teaching” and were not supposed to pull kids out of the regular class – the “push-in” model. But I’m sorry, when you have an 11-year-old kid who’s reading at a third grade level, so amount of “pushing in” is going to be enough to help him access material written at the sixth grade level. A kid like that needs major curriculum and homework modifications and adaptations (along with direct instruction in reading, of course). At this school we have teacher aides, multiple remedial reading and remedial math teachers, multiple staff members in general that we just didn’t have at that charter school. It frustrates me that every kid in the country doesn’t have access to all these extremely helpful services. I really appreciate interning in a good school where every day I see an excellent model of how things are SUPPOSED to work.

Two days ago I was scrolling through my daily e-mail that alerts me to school psychologist job openings when I stopped cold: there was an ad for a school psychologist needed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (“start date negotiable”). Mary Sherlach was the school psychologist who died in the massacre there on Dec. 14, 2012. I remember on the day it happened, I went to B.’s after work and we quietly watched CNN together. As soon as the CNN reporter started talking about Mary Sherlach, I said, “Wait – the school psychologist died??” B. looked down and admitted, “I didn’t want to tell you.” I was actually going to apply, but that night I had bad dreams – nothing graphic, nothing I can even remember, but I woke up with a distinct sense of uneasiness and fear. They definitely need a school psychologist with far more experience than I have, anyway. My only recent traumatic experience was this morning when Izzie ( jumped off the windowsill onto my face. Now I have a scratch on my nose.
Tonight I’m going to a reading in Albany by Ann Hood ( ), one of my favorite fiction writers! *Excited*

Monday, February 25, 2013

I want to be a school psychologist!

My first blog post in a year and 5 months! What’s “gnu”? Well, I’m now more than halfway through my year-long school psychology internship in the Albany, NY area, and am already starting to apply for school psychologist jobs for this fall. I think I’ll really like being a school psychologist – I only wish I’d realized it ten years ago! Oh well – better late than never. Where am I applying for jobs? I’m hoping to stay here in the northeast (preferably near a Metro-North or NJ Transit train station so I can easily visit my beloved New York City), but this is where jobs are tightest. So far I’ve gotten two calls: one from a placement agency that’s looking for leave replacements right now but said to contact them again in June; and one from a school district in Wilmington, Delaware that needed someone immediately. It’s reassuring that at least my resume is getting read. Many of these jobs ads ask for two or even three letters of recommendation, which I dread asking for, but I e-mailed one of my professors last night to ask if she would write one for me. I haven’t heard back yet. I think letters of recommendation are kind of dumb – asking someone who you’re 99% sure will write nice things about you to write nice things about you.

Today I got out the Woodcock-Johnson cognitive assessment at my school for the first time, opened the book – and realized it was AUTOGRAPHED. Yes! My former supervisor apparently had gotten WOODCOCK HIMSELF to autograph our copy of the test! I love it! :)
I was on hold for it at the library for months, but Andrew Solomon’s new book, “Far From the Tree,” finally came in for me (here’s a review: He spent years interviewing parents about what it’s like to raise children with significant differences -- everything from severe and profound disabilities, to Down Syndrome, to dwarfism, to prodigies, to criminals (he extensively interviewed the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine killers). It’s FASCINATING. Which is why I stayed up until 1:30 AM last night (this morning) reading it.  I can’t help it if it’s that good!
I am typing this as my cat (she blogs at , by the way) sleeps all comfy on my lap. Purr. <3 o:p="">