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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!