Thriving School Psych Thriving Students

Free To Be You and Me (and Pee?)

A big part of my job is doing observations of kids in their learning environments. I find it shocking that there are psychologists who don’t visit the kid’s school when they are testing for learning disabilities, or any disability for that matter. To me, it seems like common sense that if you want to see how someone learns you go to where they learn all day. It would be like someone whose never seen you at work evaluating your job performance at your doctor’s office. There’s no context and you act differently. Recently, I had a school refuse to let me observe a child in their classroom when the referral is about the child’s attention problems in the classroom and classroom performance. Okay…I’ll just guess how he’s doing in the classroom? *sigh*

However, another school allowed me to observe a little gal this week and I learned so much. Almost TOO much.

For all of you non-California, non-Bay Area peeps, there are some areas (coughcouchBerkeleycoughcough) and schools that really believe in letting children be free. Some of their schools are set up to be overly child-centered (read: permissive). I’m all about letting kids play and learn without super rigid regulations, but there are some rules needed. Kids need boundaries.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was observing a private school Kindergarten class playing on the schoolyard, and a little girl drops her pants and pees in the garden by the play structure. I was not even sent there to observe that girl, but clearly one’s eye gets drawn to a child squatting at recess. I turn to the director standing next to me, in horror, and she simply says with a neutral expression, “Oh, she’s peeing.” Doesn’t say a word to the girl, then, in the next breath, tells me how much the children love to “get messy here and just play in the dirt.” Right. With the urine. Neat. And with that, the little girl pulls up her pants and gets back on the swings and the director tells me it’s time for snack.

Well alrighty then. You just can’t get this kind of information when you see a kid in your nice little therapy office. Hm. I wonder why this other little gal I was observing at this same school has difficulties following rules at home…I mean, her parents must have some crazy rule that she has to pee in the toilet or something. Sheesh.

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Comments on Free To Be You and Me (and Pee?)

  1. Mimi says:

    First of all "urine luck"? Genius. Just genius. You know how I love a good pee story. Love it! You may have inspired me to write a new urine based post (have seen many children pee on trees in park as if it is no biggie…definitely not school sanctioned public urination, but still…

  2. Rebecca says:

    @Mimi-I totally thought of you when I was writing this post! At least the kid was outside, unlike your little friend las year!!!

  3. ASchaps says:

    One day as I parked my car at my child's preschool and was headed in to get her, my eyes were drawn to a bare-bottomed girl in the outdoor play area. She might have just peed — don't know — but I had terrible visions of her home, her parents, her teachers. Then I realized it was MY child. Oh dear. The story I got had something to do with sand in her britches and she was only 3, so she escaped being labeled a misfit.

  4. You are right, not many "office" psychologists who work with students who have learning/school related difficulties observe students in learning environments. In the situation that you described, they'd be missing a key part of the picture if they did not observe the student at school!

    Unlike those of us who work in schools, I've noticed that office psychologists don't always arrange for a student's vision and hearing to be screened before the start their evaluation. Unfortunately, hearing and vision functioning are an important part of the picture when it comes to a child's performance in the classroom!

  5. Rebecca, if you are an "office" psychologist, I think it is fantastic that you go out to the schools and observe.

  6. Rebecca says:


    I'm both an "office" psych and a school psych (part-tie in each role). I can't let go of the school psych part of me though–it's too important! Good point on the vision/hearing too. If they can't hear or see, how can they process the info? It's amazing how some of the basic things get overlooked.

  7. Adam says:

    At what age does a child become aware that they are being observed and change their behavior? I realize that with younger children they probably won't pick up on the fact that they are being observed and will behave normally, but how do you go about observing older children without them picking up on it?

  8. Rebecca says:

    Adam– Good point. Even the little ones sometimes know. I think it's interesting diagnostic data if they are super aware vs. oblivious. Depends on the kid. I think the key is to set it up in advance with the teacher so that if a kid asks (they usually do), then s/he can announce that I am there to observe her teaching or something. At my school sites, the kids are so used to 8 million people coming in and out of the classroom, they don't know whose observing whom. In a school where observations aren't the norm, then the teacher usually has to normalize it for the kids.

    I am very sneaky about writing stuff about the kid I'm watching while I look at the teacher. So it looks like I'm writing down what the teacher is saying.

    Also, rookie mistake is to have the kid's folder with you, because kids always peek at what you're holding and it's a giveaway. 🙂

  9. Casey says:

    Little did I know I'd have my own urine story to tell shortly after reading yours. I started out reading your blog to get more information about school psychology as a potential career path. Now, halfway through my program I can relate!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think it is time for an update 🙂

  11. Rebecca says:


    I know! I've been going down a shame spiral for not posting!!! Soon, I promise. 🙂 It is not for lack of stories, that's for sure….

  12. Amy says:

    You're not a School Psych if you don't have a good pee story. 🙂 Earlier this month I got called out of an observation to observe another kid who was in an in-school suspension room acting out. He told me he had to pee as he was pushing over the bookcase and throwing chairs. I leaned outside the door and just let the principal know so she'd be aware. She told me to tell him that as soon as he was calm we would escort him to the bathroom. I refrained from rolling my eyes because obviously I had thought of that :-). My statement wasn't one of panic, more informative… because I knew what was about to happen. And sure enough, right there in the back of the room, just a few inches from the electrical socket, he did. I just wish I had been allowed to hand him a mop before his mom picked him up. 🙂

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