Anyone who has been through graduate school in psychology or education knows that the standard pedagogical practice in most classes is to reflect on what you have observed or read. This reflection* is thought to bring you closer to the material and improve your practice. In my brother-in-law’s Education Ph.D. program, he had to reflect on an on-line reflection journal and comment on others’ reflections on his reflection. Wait, what?
In any event, it is summer break, so I actually have time to reflect on my work in the schools and with my students.** I work part-time in the public school and part-time in private practice, so I am constantly doing a compare-contrast essay in my head. On any given day, I have picked up my voicemails and heard:
1) Hi, this is Judy from the Psych Department. We have an emergency. We had another shooting of a student on campus, so we’re calling out Crisis Team #8 again. Call me.
2) Hi, this is Janice from Snooty School. We have an emergency. McKayleigha has once again failed to turn in her homework. Call me.
It is so difficult to reconcile the differences between the types of emergencies that ensue in each of my roles. To each caller, there is an emergency. And each caller is seeking my help. My rational side wants to arrange some sort of Freaky Friday situation in which broader perspectives are gained on what an “emergency” is. My compassionate side thinks that you cannot compare suffering; each person’s experience and perspective is real and valid, because it is his or hers.
As I reflect this summer on what kind of school psychologist I want to be in the Fall, I can’t help but think of the students I have worked with in both urban districts and elite schools, each with their own set of challenges and strengths. I feel equally efficacious helping the student who is melting in a pool of anxiety because she failed a test as I do helping the student who just lost his father to community violence and is anxious about retaliation. I have seen students shed their perfectionist ways and become happier and I have seen students come to terms with their grief and bounce back in ways I cannot fathom. For all the bureaucracy in the public schools, there are equal challenges working in the private sector.
At this point in my career, I want it all. I want to work with all kinds of students. I could be the type of psychologist who eventually finds a “niche” with a certain population of students, but right now, my reflection is telling me that’s not going to happen. I don’t want to become myopic about education and learning, because every school has something to offer.
And can someone please remind me of this in August when I return to Bureaucracy-Fest and Elite-a-Polooza 2008?
*You must say reflection softly, with italics.
**Please forgive the penguin reflection photo. It’s the best I could come up with before my morning coffee. The other pictures I saw resembled those inspirational posters that never seem to actually inspire me. Oh! An Eagle Soaring! I feel just like that Eagle now, only I’m soaring over adversity! Not so much. The penguin is at least cute.