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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm Sending Out an S.O.S.

The following article was written by a school psychologist as his message to teachers in his school:

As future school psychologists, what do you feel your obligations are when dealing with situations

of difficult students? Do you feel that giving information and guidance to teachers on how to treat children or adolescents and handle these situations is enough? Sometimes teachers are very quick to refer students for evaluation, but how much are they doing in their classrooms before resorting to this? As school personnel as a whole, we should be treating each and every student with the idea that he or she needs that extra care to succeed. The article said:
"This type of caring extends beyond a call home to parents when homework or papers aren't completed. It's the quality of caring that challenges us to look beyond the traditional markers of educational excellence. It invites us to try and connect with the humanity in even the most difficult of students."

How do we, then, deal with teachers that do not put forth as much effort as we would like? How can we make up for this in another way?
Posted by Susan Bartolozzi.


tjasa said...


I have to say that I really loved this article and completely agree that teachers are the ones who have the most influence in many students’ lives. In Abbott Districts most students lack parental support in one way or another (i.e. both parents are absent from a kid’s life, a kid was raised in a single parent household, one parent is incarnated, etc.). I think that every teacher should be required to read this article at the beginning of the school year to be reminded of just how much influence he or she has on students.

In my opinion, we as future school psychologists should be required to give advices and helpful brochures to teachers to help them deal with problematic students. This would help teachers a lot since many of them are fresh out of school so they lack experience of dealing with tough situations. Further, we should hold monthly after-school meetings that all teachers should be mandated to attend where we could all talk about any issues or concerns that some faculty member may have.

Yes, teaches are super quick to refer students to IRS team simply because many of them don’t know what to do with problematic students. It’s always easier to get rid of a student as opposed to trying different behavioral strategies. Also, having a problematic child in a classroom disrupts other students who are willing to learn and as a result the entire class suffers…

Katherine said...

The problem is resitance from faculty members to accept change and responsibility beyond the classroom for their students. As school psychologists we are asked to wear man hats: the assessor, the counselor, the voice of reason, the "problem" solver, and the advisor while teachers tend to get upset if they have to revise their lessons for one student.

Its a great idea in theory about holding meetings and handing out brochures but realistically you can provide a teacher with all the materials to implement strategies in the classroom but what is going to make them follow through?

Being in distict for my internship I have seen firsthand how teachers divide themselves from school psychologists and insist that they have tried everything you have told them when in reality they haven't. What can we do as school psychologists to get the teachers to buy in to our ideas? Remember adults are just big kids so they also need a reward or an immediate positive reinforcer to gain trust in our judgement.

Roxane Nassirpour said...

I really think it comes down to the administration. They need to support high standards and refuse to tolerate a "throw your hands up" mentality. If teachers do not implement a series of defined interventions (also supported by the administration), there should be consequences.

But alas, we are not administration. I am a big fan of classroom presence. By observing in class, we can help identify kids that are struggling BEFORE they are at that point.

I agree with Katherine. What can those rewards be? I think that teachers who are following our recommendations should be recognized. Edible reinforcement is effective and I'm not above throwing my money at the problem ;)!!!! Please, eat some pizza and follow my recommendation. With their support, their colleagues should be referred to them for guidance and instruction.

What about the ones who refuse? I think by making the intervention simple, provided them all the components spelled out, labeled, etc, thanking them profusely and telling them how hard it is... AND THEN.. Check in with them every day and offer to help out in the intervention whenever you have free time. By saying, look, I will help you with this whenever I can, we are "in the trenches together", they will likely be more open.

We will not be able to make everyone do what we want or strongly believe is best. However, maintaining an attitude that teachers are lazy, or the administration is out of touch helps NO ONE. I like to believe that everyone in the school is trying their best in the way that they know how. Sending that vibe and energy out encourages people to live up to that standard.

SBartolozzi said...

Roxane - I agree with you. I think that we need to help the teachers move in the right direction and provide them with everything they will need to implement a plan. Also, providing them with support and showing them that we are around to help is definitely the right idea. Recognizing that they have a million things to do but showing them how important these ideas are will require us to explain it fully.

Katherine - it is definitely hard to get teachers to "buy into" our ideas and actually try and use them. I think that having a good rapport with the teachers and really letting them get to know us at the beginning of the year will help that. They need to know that we are there to help the students AND them and that we are available, instead of just saying "here try this" and disappearing. Also, there will always be teachers that are unwilling to try different ideas and that will be a big struggle for us. How long does it go on? What is our next step after they refuse?

Tjasa - I agree with giving teachers strategies on how to deal with problematic students, but again how do we get them to actually use them? How do we deal with the "seasoned" teachers that refuse and will only stick with what they've been using for 20 years? This will definitely be a challenge for us in our districts, wherever we wind up.

Jessica S said...

I think that the administration has to be completely behind the whole system of RTI. As it currently stands, RTI is merely a suggestion.

I've said before that as school psychologists, we need to be present in the classroom, both so our interventions are more plausible and so that we have more credit with the teachers who will be implementing these procedures.

And I am a huge proponent of train and retrain. Meaning, school psychologists need to make sure that the teachers know exactly what they are required to do. Often times, teachers have the best intentions, but they are implementing the interventions incorrectly.

I think the most important idea to get across to teachers is that, although certain interventions may take some extra time initially, in the long run their jobs will become much easier. How do we do this? Gather up as much information as we can to support us and present it to the teacher.

At the end of the day, it's really up to us to convince the administration to see things our way. By proving that RTI reduces the number of students in special education, we can likely win the support of at least one person at the top.

Tammarra R. Jones said...

School psychologists should be master teachers who can design and implement their own interventions. When that is the case, we can convince other educators about the urgency of the need for students and train educators in assisting the children we serve. Traditional means of accountability are important, but they haven't been able to mitigate the huge voids in educational services that many children are experiencing. School psychologists have to be agents of change in a building. We can be a resource that educators depend on for assistance. Our dispositions about our co-workers can make the difference. Our commitment to the children can help us to manage our differences, and get to the important work of finding ways to educate them effectively. We don't have the luxury of throwing up our hands. The reality is too dire.