Thriving School Psych Thriving Students

It Aint Easy Being Green

Every year, I get to be a mentor to a new school psychologist in my district. I really enjoy doing it, but I have to fight the urge to give them a little notebook and say, “Write that down” after everything I say. Wouldn’t that be fun? I got to do it one time before in my life, the day before I got married and my sweet sweet friend, Leigh would write down all the last minute things we had to do before the big day. “I forgot to get a guest book! Write that down.” It was so fun, but I suppose it’s a tad much for people who don’t know my sense of humor yet. See also: “Get me coffee! Just kidding. Not really.”

ANYHOO. After my first day back in the school district the other day, I came home and told my husband I got assigned my new mentee! He said, “You got assigned one of those underwater animals that are kind of like whales but almost extinct?” Not MANATEE, silly. Mentee. Husband is so precious.

So the next day my manatee and I were talking about all the fun that is my school district (Yes! You really do get to use a 1960s card catalog to find student folders! You’ll feel like a secretary in Mad Men! Isn’t that why you got your Ph.D.?), and she got quiet for a second and I thought I’d taken my sarcasm too far. I can do that from time to time. Then she said, “You know, I just realized that you are the one who writes that school psychology blog. Um, you’re not going to write about me on your blog are you?” Of course not, sweetie. Only I am.

But rest assured, I will not write about her, per se, but perhaps just some general tips for brand new school psychologists (and teachers!). So, here are my top three mantras for all the virtual manatees out there, starting out their first year. Repeat after me:

1) My work will still be there tomorrow. It will never be “done” because kids are never “done” learning. Don’t make yourself crazy by working so much overtime that you burn yourself out. I’m not saying don’t work hard and be one of those “my contract says I only have to work 7 hrs” people, but don’t kill yourself trying to do more than humanly possible.

2) I must free myself of “Why” if I want to work in a school district. Why do we still use card catalogs? Why do I have to log the same information in 6 different places? Why are we waiting for kids to fail enough to be eligible for special education? Young Jedi, you will make yourself crazy asking why we do all the ridiculous things we do in bureaucracies. The better question is, “What can I do to get around this dumb policy to really help the kid?”

3) Consult, Consult, Consult. And also: Consult. Knock Knock. Who’s there? Consult. Seriously. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Plus, people like to help. You like to help, right? Guess what? So do others. If you are thinking about a problem with a kid, parent, staff member, lesson, assessment, anything late at night, wondering what to do, that is your cue to consult with someone.

And in the interest of being green, I shall also recycle a few tips for new teachers and school psychologists. Recycling. So hot right now:

What to Post on Your Classroom Walls to Support Positive Behavior

Checklist for New Teachers

Making Positive Reinforcement Your Best Friend

Dealing with Oppositional Kids

How I Survived my First Year as a School Psychologist

Wow. Saving the manatees and recycling all in one post. Perhaps this post was brought to you courtesy of my training at Berkeley. Now it’s your turn, people—any tips you wish someone had told you in your first year teaching or school psychologizing*?

*New verb. Just decided. Write that down, young manatee.

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Comments on It Aint Easy Being Green

  1. Jessica says:

    your blog makes applying to grad school for school psychology seem so worth it! thanks for the advice and laughs 🙂

  2. Was there with you at Berkeley, saw it all says:

    In re-reading your recycled post about how to survive the first year as a school psychologist you neglected to mention the beverage made by the mega-worldwide coffee company that contains both caramel and vanilla and that you drink in the size that means 20 in Italian. Is it really fair not to credit that contribution? Especially since you sometimes went back for a second one at lunch:)

  3. Anonymous says:

    My first year of teaching, I wish someone would have told me to not take it personally, and to just do your best. I also wish someone would have told me that it's a tough job (tougher than it seems)!!

  4. Rebecca says:

    Yikes! I DID forget Rule #1:

    Always have a coffee the size of your head before going to work!

  5. Michaele says:

    GREAT blog (found via the listings at Blogher)! I'm a kindergarten teacher and blogger and am looking forward to checking in on your psych. sarcasm from time to time!

    The tip I knew, but that I see many other "newbie" teachers needing: shut….the….door *before* you talk about a kiddo.

    Close it. Listen for the ~click~ of the knob/latch. Walk away from the door. Make sure the windows are shut too. Then chat.


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