Thursday, April 17, 2014

Managing Evaluations that bridge the summer break.

Right around this time of year, the tips of my school year come in sharp focus for me. Although it seems counter-intuitive to focus on a time that is months away during one of the busiest times of the year,  I have found it incredibly helpful to look beyond the stack of work in front off to what lies ahead. With summer vacation only less than 10 weeks away, I need to start planning for those evaluations that based on their timelines bridge the gap between school years.

If you are fortunate, or perhaps less so depending on how you see these things, your district takes a break for the summer. Any summer activities held in district do not affect the evaluation cycle. The stretching of the evaluation is a good thing and a bad thing. It's great because technically, you don't have to cram all your evaluations in before the end of the school year you are currently in. The timeline affords you time to complete your evaluation at the beginning of the next school year. It's a bad thing because you loose the momentum of your evaluation. It's difficult to regain the sense of urgency an evaluation brings when you've had 8 weeks away from the routine and rigor of school. With a new school year comes new teachers who despite having a transition meeting with last year's teachers, don't really have a good idea of what the student is like. But, because we operate by virtue of a rolling calendar, these stretched evaluations are regular occurrences. So how do you manage them? Here are some tips for you to try:

1. Conduct your evaluation before the end of the year. While you may not have time to write your report before the year end (don't try anyway!), try your hardest to conduct your evaluation before you leave. Meet up with the student and get the testing done!.  This will be a good time to make your protocols drip with ink as you note every single observation you can.  Leave nothing out, as you'll want all that anecdotal information for your report afterwards. It's a good practice to write notes to yourself in your protocols in general, but really amp it up for these types of evaluations. Make sure you collect all the questionnaires you handed out to the teachers.  If you're able to score them, have a go at it. If not wait till you return and then start pulling the report together

2. Interview your teachers extensively.  Again, it's best practice to discuss with the referring teachers, the concerns they have for their student, but let's keep it real - we don't always do that. If you're not in the habit of talking to your teachers, make sure you talk to them about this one student before the break.  It is always prudent as well when you hold the meeting in the new school year, to invite the previous year's teacher into the meeting so that you have someone who can speak knowledgeably about the concerns for the student.

3. Create a skeleton of your report.  Putting in some information about your student into a skeleton draft will make the process of compiling the report when you come back much easier. My controversial tip - If you're not going to present the report before you leave, don't write the report. Write the report when you return.  The process of pulling the report together will re-familiarize you with the student's case and jog your memory. Presenting information from a report you wrote months ago will feel stale and awkward.

These tips have come in handy for me and as I just received another evaluation consent form today, I expect will continue to come in handy for years to come. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Getting past the fear of losing special education services

In my short career as a school psychologist, I've encountered what I consider to be a surprising amount of resistance to dropping students from special education services.  This resistance comes from all angles - from parents, teachers and even administrators. Whenever I preside over meetings where all the data shows that a student can make academic progress independently, I find myself fending off logical fallacies that portray an outlook of doom and gloom for the student should the "safety net" of services be removed.  If you're a burgeoning school psychologist who is required to chair meetings, it is key to ensuring that you're advocating for the best needs of the students.  I have a mental checklist I run through whenever I come across these situations.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Can't you see I'm testing?!

It's the most frustrating thing on the planet - having someone choose to ignore the sign on my door that says "Don't disturb! Testing in progress!", walk into my office and interrupt my testing session . It's so incredibly  mind-boggling because my door is equipped with a 2x3 foot transparent pane of glass so anyone approaching my door can see me testing. I am there with a clipboard in hand and a student sitting across a small table from me. The student is facing what appears to be a small flip book standing on its long edge and I'm staring at the student intently making note of every little twitch the student makes. That's not a common scenario, so I guess it would make sense to come in and totally ask about something incredibly mundane! AARRGGHH!!!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

3 Spring Time Activities to engage in

You know it's spring for a school psychologist when the following happens:

1.  You're evaluation caseload appears to have exploded and you're testing more than you're thinking.
2. You can't seem to keep up with your report writing. Not that you've ever been able to, but suddenly the backlog appears more ominous and is casting a menacing shadow on you.
3. Your lunch bunch groups are a little more reluctant to meet with you because the weather is more appealing.
4. You are rethinking your reasons for being a school psychologist.

If one or more of the listed items sounds incredibly familiar to you, then guess what... it's spring and there's definitely somethings you need to do.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool's Day News

When I walked into my job as a burgeoning school psychologist, I felt like I'd stepped out of a cool  air conditioned room into the mid-day, mid-July summer heat. Everything about my role hit me all at once and even though I'd steeled myself against the oncoming onslaught, I still was unprepared for the blast of heat that hit me.  That year, I conducted 36 full psych-educational evaluations, chaired over 120 meetings and hid in the files vault once. The next year, I conducted 50 evaluations, chaired about the same number of meetings and gained 15 pounds.  This year, I'm heading on track for 65 evaluations and I refuse to buy new clothes, so I've embraced the muffin-top look.  It's coming back, I know it! This morning forgetting what today was, I stood on my scale and discovered that I've lost about 6 pounds. Giving up chocolate is doing me well so far physically, if not mentally. Woot! This morning with some coffee and a sensible breakfast, I learned while running the numbers with my sped secretary this morning, that I'm on schedule with my testing and all meetings are scheduled and ready to go.  Interesting... No panic moments for me forecasted for the next few weeks.  I can live with that, but this was all sounding a little too good to be true. Then as I've done for the past two years, I ran my transition report for the upcoming school year and that's when I knew the cosmic universe was playing a cruel April Fool's Day joke on me!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...