Growth, Learning, and Your School Psychologist
By Elizabeth Halsey-Sproul
For school psychologists, having a growth mindset is key, said Paul Bordeleon, a psychologist at Fairfax County Schools in Virginia.
In the #naesp16 session, “The School Psychologist: Partnering to Maximize Their Expertise within a Value Added Learning Community,” Bordeleon explained how a growth mindset helps psychologists support students’ strengths and improve their skills. Students can find success when instruction is matched to their learning needs, particularly in the areas of social skills and behaviors.
School psychologists, stressed Bordeleon and fellow presenters Kelly Vaillancourt-Strobach, Dede Bailer, and Kathleen Case, are uniquely qualified to provide a comprehensive range of services to support students, families and school communities which promote wellness and learning. When the role of the school psychologist shifts from evaluation and compliance, to teaching, learning, and intervention, the school psychologist becomes a resource and a support within the school community.
School psychologists can:
Boost schoolwide emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or how we handle ourselves and our relationships, is essential for students to be successful. Some experts believe emotional intelligence is more important to success in school and life than cognitive abilities such as IQ. Expanding the role of the school psychologist to include counseling, mentoring, small group instruction, and faculty training and support increases students’ and the school community’s overall emotional intelligence.
Make data-driven decisions. Evaluation and standardized testing is a part of a school psychologist’s training. They understand data and statistics and are keen observers, so they can also recommend actions to improve a students’ behavior and skills. They can also suggest a path for teaching students a desired behavior.
Be a crucial part of your behavior supports team. In their presentation, the speakers explained that a Response to Intervention and Behavior Supports (RIBS) team framework has helped the Fairfax County Elementary School community focus on student needs along with support and training for faculty and staff. Teachers refer students to a team of professionals: teachers from across grade levels, the school psychologist, the social worker, and other support staff. The team brainstorms solutions and interventions, and the referring teacher picks the intervention he or she feels would best meet the students’ needs. They set goals for the intervention and the teacher is assigned a “shoulder partner” who supports and works with the teacher as needed over a six-week implementation period. This collaboration of faculty and staff creates successful teaching and learning through supportive, positive intervention.
Be an interventionist. A team approach promotes a strength-based, growth-focused perspective, and can help the school psychologist evolve from a diagnostician to a consultant and interventionist. In Fairfax County, the school psychologist’s participation on the RIBS team created systemic opportunities for collaboration and intervention. For example, one pivotal change the team made to their discipline process was adding a reflection piece. Students are now asked to reflect on what happened, take responsibility, and think about what they learned and ways to improve. The reflection piece gives parents the opportunity to be involved in the discipline process and their child’s learning. Expanding the role of the school psychologist and collaborating as a focused team creates success for learners.
Ultimately, the possibilities for improvement within the school community are limitless when psychologists and principals collaborate, learn from each other, build a framework, and believe that growth is possible.
Elizabeth Halsey-Sproul is Assistant Principal in Pine Bush Central School District, New York.