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Friday, August 29, 2014

Preliminary Start

This week is officially my last week of summer, and next week starts a whole new beginning for the second year of grad. school. Hooray for no longer being a first year rookie!

This year I am juggling work, classes, and practicum experience. I am working part-time as a graduate assistant in the psychology department at my university, basically supporting undergraduate students on their research projects for the year. I also work in the education department, providing assistance to first year graduate students in my program also on their research papers. Academic writing is one of my strengths (or so I've been told), so hopefully I will be able to provide good support! On Wednesday I met with the professor I will mostly be working with, and I was excited to find out that I'll have a small office space to work with students in and I get keys to access the building! I'm feeling all official now!

Two outfits that I've worn recently--sorry for the terrible lighting. The left was for orientation and the right was for work.

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#1: Merona tee, J. Crew skirt (thrifted), Halogen flats (thrifted)
#2: J. Crew shirtdress (thrifted), same Halogen flats. In the background is my
mini Longchamp tote that I purchased via ThredUp for $13. 
 
On Thursday I attended orientation for the first year students in my program. It's pretty informal, and it was so much fun to catch up with some of my cohort friends that I haven't seen in awhile. I didn't realize how much I missed some of them! During orientation, the professors introduced themselves and gave a brief talk of the program. Afterwards, we broke out into small group table-talks where the first year students were able to ask us questions and get advice. In our program we are all paired up with a mentor who is one year ahead of us, so I got to meet my mentee for the first time. She's super sweet and I hope she adjusts well.

For practicum, I'll be at two sites during this semester. I've really enjoyed working at the preschool center, so I am going to continue to put in hours there. However, most of my time will be spent at a middle school. I'm so excited to be working with middle schoolers. I know that it is such an awkward age for them and the transition from elementary school to middle school can be incredibly difficult, so I'm particularly enthusiastic about this placement.

Since I am going to be working in a school setting again and also because of my job responsibilities, I am excited to get dressed in more professional clothing. My university has a dress code to which we have to abide to during our fieldwork:

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I think mostly everything on the list is pretty good standards to abide by! However, I do think a tee is fine to wear with a skirts or work pants, so I'll probably end up being a rebel and doing that anyways. I have gained some weight over the past year, so many of my pencil skirts are too tight for my personal comfort. I'm trying to be more purposeful about my food and exercise habits, which was poor last year. So, especially for now I think a lot of my outfits are going to be featuring pants which I am okay with, especially when working in a middle school setting. Also, my style has changed somewhat. My preference now is definitely for more neutral colors and more simple styling, which is a difficult to do when I have lots of bright colors and patterns in my closet.  It'll be interesting to see how I put together what I already have in my closet to match my present taste. 

I hope all my fellow educators out there have a wonderful school year! Thanks for stopping by! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Recent Thrift Finds

Happy National Thrift Shop Day! I've barely spent any money shopping over this past year, unless you count shopping for textbooks which I definitely do not. If you've followed me on this blog, you know that I enjoy thrift shopping. You never know what treasure you'll find and I have enormous patience to sift through racks of stuff in order to find a gem. My rule of thumb when thrift shopping is to look for brand names and to make sure items are either new or very gently used.

My three favorite departments that I like to spend time in while at thrift stores include shoes, accessories, and dresses. I visited two of my local thrift shops (including Savers) over the past week, and probably spent about 40 minutes just trying on shoes which was a big surprise because I almost never find good shoes while I'm thrifting. Here's the shoes that I came home with: 

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$60 spent in thrifted shoes

All are leather, comfortable, and look to be either new or barely worn. With the exception of the boots and Kenneth Cole Reaction shoes (which each have about a 2.5 inch heel), the rest are flats. I'm thankful for these finds because I definitely need some comfortable shoes for my schedule this school year. 

I also found two shirt dresses (Old Navy and J. Crew), two Boden dresses, a red leather stretchy belt (Express), a blouse (Banana Republic Factory), and a pair of Banana Republic Sloan-fit ankle pants. The Sloan-fit pants are definitely my magic pants lately, but the regular length are cropped on me because of my height (5 ft 11 in). I did splurge and buy two pairs (navy and black) in the tall size when they were on sale and I had a code, which brought the price down to about $35/each. Still, my thrifted version was only $4. Anyhow, it's nice to have some new items to wear and thrifting comes in handy to help stretch my small budget as I get through school.  

Have you found any recent thrift store gems? Thanks for stopping by! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The First Year of Grad. School

I know many educators have already started their first week of school, but for me it feels like I just started summer vacation! I finished my last class from my summer school session about two weeks ago, and I'm excited to have a little bit of time off before starting my second year.

I thought that I would write some sort of reflection on my first year of graduate school. I found this post, and I thought that I would answer the same questions too. While I am not in a doctorate program (maybe one day?), I am enrolled in a full-time three year graduate program. Next summer I will have a MA in Educational Psychology and the summer after that I will earn an Educational Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) in my field. Here we go with the questions!

Was there a period of adjustment/transition when you started grad. school? If so, how long did it last? What needed adjustment? 
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Just looking at this picture stresses me out! When I felt overwhelmed,
I just kept reminding myself that it'll all get done somehow!

Yes, I definitely had a period of adjustment when I started grad. school! Many aspects put me out of my comfort zone. First off, the transition from teacher to student was difficult. Instead of being the person giving feedback to my students, assigning the work, and preparing lessons, being in a reverse role was an initial shock. Learning how to be a student again has probably been the most challenging for me, especially learning how to receive constructive feedback from my professors. I have to constantly remind myself that I am new at learning many of these concepts, and that my professors have many more years of experience than I do and are trying to point me in the right direction. Everyone who is an expert was once a beginner, right?

Another aspect was developing the much needed self-discipline to sit down and do all of the reading and especially write several major research papers. I haven't had to write an extensive research paper since undergrad, so sifting through articles and relearning APA style was quite the challenge!

The last aspect I'll mention is making friends. Most of the people in my cohort are fresh out of undergrad and are from the local area, whereas I'm pursuing a second career and I'm from another part of the state. However, because my cohort is small and we have been required to do a lot of group projects together, it has been fairly easy to get to know people. I would say overall, it has taken me a semester and a half to feel adjusted. I definitely feel much more confident in myself now than I did a year ago.

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My research paper from the first semester. I wrote about the
 factors contributing to teacher resiliency to remain in the
profession for more than five years. 

Have you changed the way you study? How?

This is a tough question to answer. I completed my undergrad. degree more than ten years ago and my teacher credential program was completed almost 9 years ago. I definitely think that being a teacher and instructing my own students on how to develop study skills and strategies has really helped me to become a better student. While I try to read everything that is assigned by my professors, I've come to realize that that isn't always possible. For the material that I think is really important I will spend more time on it and take notes and read through it more purposefully, and for the material that I think is less important I will skim through it and look for keywords and main ideas. After spending time with the material on my own, I also like to go through it again with another person in my cohort because I find that it adds to my perspective. I really try not to stay up past 1 am, but instead get to school early and find a study room before class in order to be productive. However, sometimes a few of my classmates are in the same study room and we end up distracting one another! I also try to not go to campus on weekends, but with group projects and presentations, it becomes necessary to do so at times. 

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One of my group projects for my counseling class we had to come on campus to
complete on a weekend. We decided to film it instead of doing our session live in front
of the class because we were both so nervous. 

Once you started grad. school, did you feel prepared to be there? 


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The planner ended up being WAY too small. The Lands' End tote is
the medium size.I like how it zips at the top, but it was a little
too small for my needs. 
Academically, I felt prepared to be there. I've always been the studious type and I felt confident that if I worked hard and asked for help when I needed it that I would be successful. I think those are really the two factors that have allowed me to maintain a 4.0 so far. I am determined to do well and learn the most that I can and not take this opportunity for granted.

What I did have to work on was being better organized. Organization is something that I have always somewhat struggled with. I tend to have papers floating around and my schedule of things to do logged into my brain rather than written in a planner. This past year I've been better about putting papers into designated folders and binders and writing things down in a planner so I know when something is due and I'm also better about breaking down larger assignments into smaller pieces on my calendar so that I don't get overwhelmed. I've also used Google Drive a lot this past year. I organized all of my classes into files on my drive and have tried to be really good about placing all of the important documents in the right file so that everything stays neat and easy to find. 

Are you enjoying it? 

Absolutely, there is no place that I'd rather be right now in life than doing what I am doing. I love bringing my experience as a teacher and applying that to what I am studying and doing right now in my program. I think that because I am older and have work experience, I value this opportunity on a greater level in many ways than if I had done this program in my twenties (just my perspective, but certainly not true for everyone!). I am extremely proud of how far personally I have come during the last year and there is an extreme satisfaction in knowing how hard I have had to work in order to achieve and learn over the past year. My confidence and leadership capabilities have definitely grown, and I feel more flexible to try new things and think outside of the box. My world has become wider as a result of deciding to be a part of this program, and I am excited to continue to learn and grow from the new experiences and challenges that await me.

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One of my favorite experiences this past year was going to Washington, D.C. for a conference.
We took the Monuments by Moonlight night tour, which was so much fun!
It was my first time on the east coast, but hopefully not my last.

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After my last final as a first year student!
Woo-hoo, what a relief to be officially a second year student!

Before I start the fall semester, I'll share what my second year looks like. It's definitely going to be a lot busier (full load of classes, fieldwork in the schools, hopefully beginning an additional post-master's certification program, and a part-time job!), but I am excited to start branching out even more.

Thank you for the encouragement this past year! As always, thanks for stopping by! 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Shifting Perspective

As a second year student, one of the program requirements is to perform 600 hours of fieldwork (aka practicum) out in the schools this year under close supervision. Although we don't have to technically start until the fall, I decided to go ahead and start now. It's really important for me to gain as much experience as I can and learn from more seasoned educators, so when I was asked if I wanted to start early, I was on board! I really want my practicum year to be a time to observe, ask questions, get to know people, and take on challenges with the support of my supervisor before I start my third year internship where I will have more responsibility. I'm very excited to learn from others and be considered a newbie during practicum.

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Because preschool is a year round program, I have started my placement at a preschool assessment center. Working at the center is a team of school psychologists, occupational therapists (OTs), and speech/language pathologists (SLPs) who provide assessments for preschool aged children. Although I have a designated supervisor, I have been able to work with everyone on the team which has been fantastic!
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So far I've logged in about 15 hours, and I feel that I've already done/observed so much just in this first week. After being away from teaching for a whole year, I've really missed interacting with colleagues and children. Here's some of what I did this week:
  • Observed an intake interview done by the school psychologist and SLP. 
  • Observed an assessment of a three year old done by both the school psych and SLP at the same time. It was a real tag team approach! From the outside the assessments looks like a lot of play, but I can see that there is so much more going on than that! 
  • Observed two Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings--both were long, but I learned a lot just by listening. 
  • Logging in assessment data into the computer.
  • Visited a preschool classroom and observed a child suspected of having autism. 
  • Read sample reports.
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One of my goals as a practicum student is to be diligent about reflecting, write down my thoughts and impressions, and to critically think about how my perspective is changing as a result of my experiences. I've been using a sticky pad to jot down my thoughts every day, but I really need to buy a nice notebook to document everything! Here's a sample of my thoughts from this week:
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  • I need to spend more time brushing up on my stats knowledge. Assessments use all sorts of different scores (z-scores, t-scores, standards scores, raw scores, etc.), and it is important to be able to know what each means and explain them in an easy to understand manner. I like how the team refers to the bell curve when explaining assessment results to parents. 
  • The perspective of both parents is important to have. Each parent has a lens in which he/she sees their child, and a more comprehensive picture of the child is developed for the interviewer when both parents provide input. Of course having both parents attend meetings may not be possible, but it is ideal if both can. 
  • Teacher expectations or the general environment in which a child is in may be a poor fit for a child to be successful. This is definitely not saying that the teacher or the supervising adult is "bad"---it's just a mismatch for what the child needs. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I'm sure that I will write more on this topic at another time. 
  • During an IEP, I noticed that one of the team members asked the parent if the data that she presented on her child fits the parent's expectations. What a great question to ask! It lets the parent know that his/her input is valued, and it creates an atmosphere of collaboration. I think at school meetings, parents can feel talked at rather than talked with, especially during IEP meetings which can be overwhelming! 
  • My favorite part of the week was just seeing how all of these wonderful educators at the center work cohesively together and really make an effort to work with the parents. It was so clear to me that the team members all genuinely get along and it really does seem like a team effort. The relationship piece is such a big factor to enjoying your job, as well as believing that what you do matters. I think this is going to be a big reason why I am going to enjoy my time at the center. 
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The dress code for preschool where I am at appears to be pretty relaxed. I've seen members of the team wear jeans, dresses, and slacks or ankle pants. I think during the IEP meetings it is nice to be a little more dressed up, but since the assessments for preschoolers are often done on the floor using a lot of toys and objects, pants are needed on those days! I'm hoping to do a little bit of shopping for work wear this summer. I anticipate having to wear a lot more pants rather than pencil skirts for what I have to do, plus I would like to have more blouses for the warm weather and I need to go shoe shopping for flats. I'm curious as to how my style will change as I progress professionally.

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#1: Talbots anchor embroidered skirt, Merona tee, Lands' End Canvas scarf
#2: BR short sleeve jacket, BR trouser denim
#3: J. Crew linen trouser pant & J. Crew shirt

Thanks for stopping by! 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Week 16: Done with Semester 2!

I am so happy to be done with the second semester! The first thing I did when I got home after turning in all my projects was watch the first episode of The Bachelorette since I missed it on Monday, haha. I have one week off to hang out and relax before I start my summer session. What I didn't realize before I started school is that I have to take classes year round in order to graduate on time, so technically I'm not done with my first year yet. I'm definitely fine with that, I enjoy learning and I would feel weird having the whole summer off anyways. I have to take 6 units (2 classes) this summer, then I have most of August off. 

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I focused a lot of my projects on issues of culture and race this semester. I investigated the Larry P. case, which is the main reason behind why California prohibits the use of IQ tests to be administered to African-American students in schools, and I also looked into alternative measures of assessment that school psychologists use. I also examined the statistics of school discipline disproportionality in regards to race, and programs that are more effective than Zero Tolerance policies such as social emotional learning programs (SELs) and school wide positive behavior support programs (SWPBIS). Another issue that I looked into is the diversity gap between teachers and students. For example, in California, 73% of students are nonwhite but only about 29% of teachers are nonwhite. I've always been fascinated by issues of culture and race because of my own biracial background, and looking into these issues for my research has been eye-opening to say the least. What I've learned is that although it is impossible to be culturally-competent, we can and should examine our own biases, ask for feedback on our practices, and continue to be educated on culturally responsive practices. 

I also did my first year research paper on test anxiety and used the public health model (aka RTI model) as a framework to focus my paper on interventions that can be used at each of the levels (for all students, for those at risk, and for those needing intensive services). As a teacher, I remember having students who were so worried about taking tests, especially the state test. I was surprised at how there is such little research out there for test anxiety--if I remember correctly, between 2000 and 2010 there have only been 9 peer-reviewed studies done in the US! One of the most simple and useful strategies that we can provide to help with anxiety is to teach kids how to belly breath. I've been using belly breathing more to help me deal with my own anxiety, and it really does work! 



In my counseling class one of our assignments was to try certain life hacks and reflect upon our experience. One of the life hacks that I liked was the use of power posing. Amy Cuddy gave a TED talk about how power posing, which means to stand in a position of confidence even when we don't feel confident, can affect our testosterone and cortisol levels in our brain and can help to increase our chance of success. I had several presentations to give this semester, so before each one I would stand in my power pose to help ease my nerves! It felt funny, but it has become common practice for my classmates to stand in a power pose.

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I am also happy to say that I am finished with my cognitive assessment class. During the first semester I learned how to give standardized Achievement tests, and this semester I learned how to give IQ tests (WISC-IV, WJ-III, KABC-II). We had to practice and then administer each of the tests to school-aged children and write a mini practice report for each (don't worry, none of this was considered valid and we had to get parental consent). The hardest test for me to give was the WISC just because there is so much querying and writing down responses, the easiest to give was the WJ because it is very straight forward, and the most fun to give was the KABC because there are so many moving pieces. I'm looking forward to watching my supervisor give these tests once I start my fieldwork and to learn how to interpret test scores by integrating observations, interviews, and a child's work and previous records.

me and Kyle 2
Thanks to my cousin for enduring 3 hours of testing! He was so nervous when I
had to time him on sections, so I taught him how to belly breathe!

Of course lots of other things happened (such as my visit to D.C. for the annual conference) and were learned this semester, but this is what comes to my mind right now. If you read through this, thanks for taking a walk down memory lane with me for the semester!

Thanks as always for visiting and congratulations to all of the 2014 graduates! 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Weeks 14 & 15

My parents were in town the other week, so it was nice to spend some time with them and ease back on schoolwork. We took advantage of the mini heat wave that passed through and drove down Pacific Coast Highway and spent some time at the beach. The weather definitely feels like summer already, so thoughts of spending more time at the beach are on my mind. But with only one more week of school left, I just really need to focus and get all my final projects done!

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Looks cloudy, but it was a beautiful day!

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I think it is pretty safe to say that I won't be needing all of these layers for awhile! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 02, 2014

Week 13

The general sentiment among my classmates is how tired we are feeling--me included. The super hot weather is not helping either. There are three more weeks of school left, and I have major assignments for each of my classes due on the last day of class during Finals week. I have to somehow get through all of those and push the tired thoughts out of my head. I also signed up for my summer school classes and for my fall classes this past week. I'm not even ready to think about all of that yet!

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#1: ON tee and jeans, Lands' End scarf
#2: Merona top and ballet flats, J. Crew Factory skimmer pant in wool
#3: Talbots tee, Paige denim, J. Crew belt, Ily Couture necklace

That's all for now! Thanks for stopping by.