sthurstonmspp

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5 days until Vacation...

Posted on December 16,2013 by sthurstonmspp

It is the time of the year when the glowing holiday lights and cheerful Christmas music make my drive home something to look forward to. Especially as our recent dusting of snow has turned all of the muddy brown landscape into a clean and icy vista.
It is also, however, the time of year when teachers and students are burnt out and everyone is counting down the minutes until the bell rings on Friday at 3 o’clock. It is also the time of year when we remember lost loved ones, feel exhausted by the mere thought of going out in the cold air, and fight the crowds at the mall to pick up that last minute gift.
That being said, there are a few things that always cheer me up no matter what kind of storm cloud is hanging over my head. I’d like to share them with you all and wish you days that are merry & bright:

Kids Give the Darndest Answers

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Problems that Sparkle

Posted on December 13,2013 by sthurstonmspp

I have recently made a new friend. She is all about fashion, with flashy purple glasses and outfits full of glitter and glitz. What I know about her is that she is NOT a morning person, she loves books by Mo Williems, and that she has a gorgeous smile when she is proud of herself.
I also know that reading and math are hard for her, and that it is frustrating when she wants to be a good student but feels like she can’t. At those moments, her brain gets “stuck” and her feet carry her out of the room. Her arms begin to wave, the tears stand out in her eyes, and she begins to escape, then turns to come back, then turns to escape again. The war between wanting so very much to be a good student and the panic at her own skill gaps plays out with each step of her booted feet.
She is grateful for my presence, but she is not ready to hear my voice and make a plan. She is not in a state where a caring gesture would be helpful. To her, that is a signal that she has lost her struggle to be with the group. She comes to an abrupt stop, the tug of war at a momentary stand still. This is my window.
“We are going to go for a walk,” I say, and she stalks down the hallway away from her classroom. I stay a few steps behind her power walk, as she is still not ready for interaction. On our second lap of the school her small fists have slowly unclenched themselves, and the clicking of her boot heels on the tile floors have become less forceful. “Whoa,” I say, with all the inflection I can muster, “Look at that!”
She stops, and gives me a side eye glance. She knows what I am up to, but she allows it to happen. Her boots take her over to where I am standing, and her breathing slows as whatever it is I have pointed out on the bulletin board allows her to disengage from the fight in her head and pauses long enough for me to help her.
“Let’s keep walking. To the gym,” I say, and this time we walk side by side. We begin a casual conversation, about her likes, and what she has to look forward to this weekend. We start to label how these things will make her feel, what “zone” she will be in. Then, as we reach the gym and about face to make another lap of the school, we circle back to the current situation and talk about our zones again. By the time we near her classroom, we have made a plan to go back inside.
Sometimes, my friend is able to use her walking feet to scoot right back into her room and to her desk. Sometimes, her feet screech to a halt just outside the door and her face begins to close up again. We keep going, another lap or two, and try again.
These are my favorite parts of the day: it may seem time consuming, but I love being able to help this student. Not just because of the sparkle her style brings into my world, but because she is trying so hard to do her best. And that is the best kind of student!

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Tagged School Psychology

Tis the Season to be Thankful

Posted on December 03,2013 by sthurstonmspp

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Tagged Personal Growth, Experiential Education, School Psychology

Bah. Humbug!

Posted on November 26,2013 by sthurstonmspp

The Christmas carols started early this year. I had barely passed out my last package of M&Ms to the zombie doctor darkening my doorway when the first Santa made his debut on my television screen, harping about the remaining 8 shopping weeks till the big day. The stores gave in a day later, putting out the decor and having pre-pre Black Friday sales. God knows what the toy-of-the-year is this year, but I shudder when I think of all the parents and relatives waiting in line and having to switch their brains over to JackMerridew4.0 in order to bring home their child’s love in a box.
On the school front, I wonder what effect this prolonged holiday “cheer” has on the students. Is there an increase in the stress levels at home? Do this eight shopping weeks feel long and laborious? In a strictly qualitative way, I feel as though I notice kids to be crabbier after Halloween, in a way that never truly lets up until after the holiday break. It could be a myriad of factors, but I choose to believe that this forced holiday cheer that pounds down our doors as the last lonely trick-or-treater has something to do with it.
What is to be done? This may sound like a humbug post, but I do love Christmas. I will be the one with the radio up full blast on the day after Thanksgiving. But when the first messages of the holiday season are commercials about buying gifts, I begin to feel like Charlie Brown amid the shiny aluminum trees. I can only hope that families and schools are marking the true beginning of the holidays in a more love-and-joy manner. I want this year’s children to be able to feel what I felt when I was a little girl.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47e91Nc0Mag

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Overlaps and Updrafts

Posted on November 19,2013 by sthurstonmspp

As previously mentioned, myself and another member of my MA/CAGS School Psychology cohort are embarking on an ambitious and perhaps insane attempt to begin our PsyD education while participating in the rigorous third year internship of the CAGS program. This has involved the dedication of our summers and the willingness to go straight from our sites to classes, a condition that requires us to be learning twenty hours a day. Exhausting.
What I can also say, though, is that despite the audible humming of my brain as it works to soak up all the new information and experiences I am exhilarated by this opportunity. I am amazed at what I have learned in the 5 months of PsyD classes and how it has helped to inform my practices at my internship site. While I fully appreciate the education I have earned so far through MSPP, I have taken some very enlightening classes that leave me to wonder how my classmates will go into the world without them.
I realize that we are resigned to a fate of continuing education credits and professional development classes that are supposed to address this deficit and to keep us current on best practices in our field. However, I recognize that even in its early stages, this advanced education is endowing me with a greater set of tools and increasing my ability to be an agent of change in schools. Come take a summer class with me. You’ll see what I mean.

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High Inference Statements...

Posted on November 07,2013 by sthurstonmspp

Bullying has become a huge, time consuming, and frustrating thing at my site. Despite all of the efforts put towards prevetative measures (there is an SEL curriculum, we do the SOS cards, we have been giving ABCD problem solving presentations to each grade level, there is Responsive Classroom in place, and we had part 1 of a 3 part a community/parent night presentation regarding bullying) there have been at least 10 incidents this year. Out of those 10, I believe 2 of them meet the criteria of bullying.

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Tagged School Psychology

Social Thinking, My Thinking

Posted on October 29,2013 by sthurstonmspp

There are over 400 people in this room, and yet it is quiet. We all sit enrapt and engaged with presenter Michelle Garcia Winner, nodding at the clear and concise expression of what we all know to be common sense in our line of work. Then I hear the scratching of pencils and shuffling of paper as she walks us through a new strategy for developing the social competencies of our children and our groups.
What I have found particularly helpful is the way in which she has labeled and defined the various levels of social functioning and, more importantly, “social executive functioning.” It can often be a challenge for us to develop social goals that feel meaningful: yes, we want Tommy to learn to say “hi” to others, but what we really want is for him to know when it is appropriate to say “hi” or “hello” or some other greeting based on reading the social context. For that to become a SMART goal, we need operational definitions of Tommy’s current level of social performance, and a definition of where we’d like him to be. Enter Social Thinking.
On a personal level, this conference has also highlighted the way that this year of internship has already transformed my thinking from “student” to “professional”. I am listening to the presenters and thinking about how I will use these strategies to change this group, or how next year I will look to use this method of measurement for baseline and monitoring data. I am also thinking in terms of the educator evaluation and the ways in which these tools will enable me to write my own SMART goals for professional practice.
The change was sneaky, but it happened. Maybe it had to do with the fact that, for me, it was slipping back on an old pair of favorite shoes. I’ve been here before, employed and ambitious. This is still my “practice” year, but I am already feeling fully confident in my ability to venture out on my own next year!

www.socialthinking.com

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Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology

The Ride of a Lifetime

Posted on October 22,2013 by sthurstonmspp

I am afraid of heights. I think, though, that what is really going on is a fear of falling- and a perfectly reasonable fear of the resulting test of my mortality. Roller coasters, therefore, are off the menu for me. With one very special exception: I love Space Mountain. First of all, Space Mountain is at Disney. What better place to put you in the trusting mind frame of a young child? And, even more importantly, the Space Mountain roller coaster is in the dark! I can’t see what is coming, and am so busy being rushed forward that I get to experience the thrill without the anxiety.
This year has felt like an incredible roller coaster: I feel as though if I stopped to think and acknowledge everything on my plate I may panic. But, given that I am in the aura of safety and support provided by MSPP and that I can continue rushing forward, adding things to my docket as they come, my momentum is carrying me to places I would never think to go by myself with eyes wide open. And, I am enjoying it.
I am finishing up my M.A./C.A.G.S with a full time internship at an elementary school. I am doing psychological assessments, running lunch groups, attending a myriad of meetings, doing counseling, and generally putting out fires all over the building. Some days I forget to eat lunch! The work is keeping me on my toes, reminding me how to think on my feet, and is presenting me with many situations that require careful planning and collaboration. I am taking the associated Internship Seminar, and have also begun my journey into the PsyD program. I managed to knock out 4 classes over the summer, and have squeezed in one more this fall. I am already thinking ahead to the job hunt that will begin in a few months, and taking on any extras I can: this week I will help to put together and facilitate an Anti-Bullying night for community members.
I am, in all honesty, looking forward to when the ride will stop and I can catch my breath. But, in the mean time, I am enjoying the ride!

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Tagged School Psychology

2nd Star to the Right

Posted on October 10,2013 by sthurstonmspp

This week I have been thinking a lot about “normal” or “typical” kids. It can be hard to tell the “typical” from the “unusual” these days: everyone wears tiaras and tutus to school, wears the Ninjago sweatshirts and seems to have trouble listening in class. But in other respects, I am remembering how much effort needs to be put in to recognizing what a “typical” kid looks like, talks like, and learns like. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in the students who get sent our way that the definition of a baseline 3rd grader starts to shift.
So I am hitting the library- the children’s section- and checking out the books that the kids are reading. I have played many an hour of Poptropica. Occasionally I will flip on the television at home and watch an episode of the show that the 2nd grade boys are acting out on the playground. I may even suffer through an episode of Sofia the First for my kindergarten girls. And as I’ve caught up on who the good guys and bad guys are to today’s elementary school students, I’ve realized how much more I have been able to understand, guide, and contribute to the conversation that bounces around the lunchroom.
Pull up a chair! Check out Jake and the Neverland Pirates (totally watchable) or even a little Spongebob Squarepants for your kindergarteners and watch how excited they get to have an adult who has been a part of their world, even if it was only for a half an hour. And it just may make you feel younger, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bH1WeysYDdg

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Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Posted on October 01,2013 by sthurstonmspp

What does it mean to you? More importantly, what does it mean to the kids in our schools? I can remember when I was little it was something that was demanded of children. And I do mean that in the very best way.

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