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

Off to a great start!

Posted on September 26,2013 by sthurstonmspp

There is nothing like the fall. Aside from the gorgeous colors and abundance of delicious fruit-turned-pie, the crisp weather sends me scurrying for hoodies that have been buried in the back of the closet all summer. I am always quick to spot my favorite grey, the super large one that still has the soft and fuzzy feel of a brand new sweatshirt. It occurs to me that this year’s placement has that same feel.

My full time internship is at an elementary school, the kind where we have no testing cases yet but plenty of lunch groups and visits to classrooms. I feel as though I am tunneling back into my comfortable place, where the past year’s teenage dramas are a memory and the gap toothed smiles of small children make me feel at home. I’ve dusted off a few of my old favorites, but for the most part have spent some time reacquainting myself with the picture books and tv shows that will inspire my social thinking lessons.

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Tagged School Psychology

Mourning for my City

Posted on April 18,2013 by shansenmspp

Almost exactly ten years ago I embarked on an ambitious academic project to interview feminist female poets from Guatemala. Given the country's fractured and violent past, and its extremes of wealth and opportunity, I expected that many of the women originally became authors in an attempt to shift gendered attitudes and push for social change.

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Tagged School Psychology

I haven't been here for the Longest Time...

Posted on April 01,2013 by sthurstonmspp

I’ve been feeling a little brittle lately. Overall, things are good. But it feels as though the bad news has been stacking up- things that, on their own, can be taken in stride but when piled together seem to generate a mire of thick, taffy like substance that is constantly threatening to trip me up.

My classes are coming to an end (already!) and with that comes the inevitability of final exams and projects. This year, it is coupled with the sad knowledge that my time of living and breathing together with my cohort is coming to a close: we will only meet for class about once a month next year, a far cry from the 12+ hours a week we’ve had this year. For myself, I am also keenly aware that this summer will herald the beginning of my doctoral pursuits as I take 3 classes, venturing in to the intimidating unknown.

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Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology

Come for the Professors, stay for the coffee.

Posted on January 30,2013 by sthurstonmspp

Over the summer I moved. I had been living with my husband (then fiance) in a rented house, one with a large kitchen and small yard, but the kind of place where bright paint seeks to hide old cracks, the heating bill for the old oil furnace is outrageous, and the faucet continually leaks despite all variety of handy work. My new home, our new home, may not be bright and shiny new but the yard is huge, there are multiple bathrooms, a gas heating system, and no cracks in the walls.
Over the summer MSPP also moved. The new building is immaculate: it is bright and shiny, infused with modern technology and trendy furniture. There are four microwaves on every floor, touch pads at every classroom door which allow you to look at the schedule of each space and book rooms as needed. The lights in the lounge on the third floor are whimsically reminiscent of fireworks, or the seeded head of a dandelion poised for a young child’s wishing breath.
Recently, my cohort and I had reason to reminisce and fully understand the change the new space has had on the perception of MSPP. In the spring of 2011 we all arrived to Interview Day, excited at the prospect of finding our place in the world of graduate study. For myself, I was determined to make the transition from working back to schooling as painlessly as possible: I wanted a program that focused on the practical, that allowed me to be in a school system starting my first year, and whose faculty were actually doing the work rather than just talking about it.
All of my classmates and I shared similar versions of the same story: dressed to impress, rehearsing potential interview answers, we faithfully followed the GPS which lead us down the VFW, enticed us behind the Home Depot, and down a road that hadn’t seen a new paving job in at least 20 years. And directed us to stop in front of a used car dealership. WIth a drop of the stomach that accompanied the thought “Of course this program was too good to be true” we ventured further down the road, arriving at a lot of cars pooled by a bend of the Charles River. A low slung building, blending into the dreary landscape of early spring, had one bright spot of color: a blue awning that boldly proclaimed “MSPP”. There were thoughts of turning back, wariness inspired by a less then awesome facade. Entering the building was a great leap of faith. We fumbled through the entryway, gathered name tags and a green folder, and tried to stifle the new set of worries as we spread cream cheese on a bagel.
Within 5 minutes I forgot the tumultuous journey, the road that spoke of strangers and dark alleys, and the unassuming building. Other green folders came and joined me at a small round table. Current students sat with us, the president sat with us. Conversation came easily, the way it does when you have found the people with which you share not only hobbies and interests, but values and goals. By 10 minutes into the welcoming breakfast, and certainly by the time Bob had finished his spiel on “Why School Psychology, Why MSPP” I was newly convinced that I had found the program best suited to me, one dedicated to creating a well rounded, well connected and high quality school psychologist. Here were the people who were not only working in the field but who were changing the field, the movers and shakers of the world.
So, to all you interested parties: MSPP is a wonderful place to come and learn. But as you walk through the glassy hallways and marvel at the art brightening each step don’t forget the real reason you have come knocking at the door. You are looking for a great program. You are looking to roll up your sleeves and get involved. You are looking to open your textbook and find footnotes about your professors and the contributions they are making to the field. The microwaves and free coffee machines are just the icing!

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Tagged School Psychology, Applying to MSPP

"Never Worry Alone"

Posted on December 14,2012 by sthurstonmspp

Today’s tragedy stuns the nation. It generates conversations even as it breaks hearts. Facebook is plastered with personal statements. Statistics. Most of it is about guns, and gun control.

There is another important aspect to this tragedy: the access to mental health care.
We need to continue to cultivate a culture of acceptance around mental health services. And we need to have access available to all who need it.

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Tagged Social Responsibility, School Psychology

Zebras

Posted on December 05,2012 by sthurstonmspp

When you hear hoofbeats, you are supposed to think “horse” not “zebra”.

Most of the time, that is sound advice. Sure enough, you turn to see a glossy chestnut or black stallion thundering across the field, not a black or white stripe to be found.

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Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology