Every year, I get to be a mentor to a new school psychologist in my district. I really enjoy doing it, but I have to fight the urge to give them a little notebook and say, “Write that down” after everything I say. Wouldn't that be fun? I got to do it one time before in my life, the day before I got married and my sweet sweet friend, Leigh would write down all the last minute things we had to do before the big day. "I forgot to get a guest book! Write that down." It was so fun, but I suppose it’s a tad much for people who don't know my sense of humor yet. See also: "Get me coffee! Just kidding. Not really."
ANYHOO. After my first day back in the school district the other day, I came home and told my husband I got assigned my new mentee! He said, “You got assigned one of those underwater animals that are kind of like whales but almost extinct?” Not MANATEE, silly. Mentee. Husband is so precious.
So the next day my manatee and I were talking about all the fun that is my school district (Yes! You really do get to use a 1960s card catalog to find student folders! You’ll feel like a secretary in Mad Men! Isn’t that why you got your Ph.D.?), and she got quiet for a second and I thought I’d taken my sarcasm too far. I can do that from time to time. Then she said, “You know, I just realized that you are the one who writes that school psychology blog. Um, you’re not going to write about me on your blog are you?” Of course not, sweetie. Only I am.
But rest assured, I will not write about her, per se, but perhaps just some general tips for brand new school psychologists (and teachers!). So, here are my top three mantras for all the virtual manatees out there, starting out their first year. Repeat after me:
1) My work will still be there tomorrow. It will never be “done” because kids are never “done” learning. Don’t make yourself crazy by working so much overtime that you burn yourself out. I’m not saying don’t work hard and be one of those “my contract says I only have to work 7 hrs” people, but don’t kill yourself trying to do more than humanly possible.
2) I must free myself of “Why” if I want to work in a school district. Why do we still use card catalogs? Why do I have to log the same information in 6 different places? Why are we waiting for kids to fail enough to be eligible for special education? Young Jedi, you will make yourself crazy asking why we do all the ridiculous things we do in bureaucracies. The better question is, “What can I do to get around this dumb policy to really help the kid?”
3) Consult, Consult, Consult. And also: Consult. Knock Knock. Who’s there? Consult. Seriously. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Plus, people like to help. You like to help, right? Guess what? So do others. If you are thinking about a problem with a kid, parent, staff member, lesson, assessment, anything late at night, wondering what to do, that is your cue to consult with someone.
And in the interest of being green, I shall also recycle a few tips for new teachers and school psychologists. Recycling. So hot right now:
Wow. Saving the manatees and recycling all in one post. Perhaps this post was brought to you courtesy of my training at Berkeley. Now it’s your turn, people—any tips you wish someone had told you in your first year teaching or school psychologizing*?
*New verb. Just decided. Write that down, young manatee.