by Julie Richardson, school psychologist
School psychologists are trained to wear many hats such as providing direct support and interventions to students, consulting with teachers, families, and other professionals, working with administrators to improve school-wide practices and policies, and collaborating with community providers to coordinate needed services. School psychologists strive to meet each student where they are emotionally and academically, and work with them to address needs and improve skills. This could include teaching social skills, conducting small groups targeting specific issues and practicing coping strategies, and working one-on-one with students who have more intensive needs. School psychologists also work with families to understand their child’s learning and behavior needs and assist them in navigating the special education process. They are regular members of school crisis teams and collaborate with school administrators and other educators to prevent and respond to crises.
These supports and services have become critically important during the global COVID-19 pandemic. School psychologists, like educators across the nation, have adapted their role to ensure that they are effectively supporting both student and educator mental health. Whether schools are functioning in-person, remote, or a hybrid model – school psychologists have been there. You may find them crouched down (at a social distance!) calmly practicing coping strategies with a child in distress, lending a listening ear to an overwhelmed teacher, consoling a parent when they learn their child has a significant difficulty to overcome, or actively advocating for their students’ rights at a meeting. These types of moments are why they do what they do. They are the daily struggles and small victories that motivate them to keep going. They are regarded as a safe haven to students, families, and teachers alike. Students may go for help to mediate problems, families may go for support and guidance, and teachers may go for the ‘magic’ that is behavior modification.
To my fellow school psychologists…thank you! Thank you for being constant advocates for your students and for building connections between schools, families, and communities even in the midst of a global pandemic. Thank you for supporting your students, families, and teachers through the tough times and being there to celebrate their successes-no matter how big or how small. Thank you for your optimism, dedication, flexibility, and compassion. Thank you for being school psychologists!
Julie Richardson is a school psychologist for the East Greenwich School Department in Rhode Island and an alumni of the Department’s School Ambassador Fellowship.