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.

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!

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.

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:
Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 11.20.11 AM
  • 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. 

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.

#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. 


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.


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!

Looks cloudy, but it was a beautiful day!


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!

#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. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Week 12: Calm Before the Chaos

I think there's only 4 more weeks of school and then I'l be officially done with my first year! This past week was great for me--I turned in my first year research paper and I finally got news that I passed my two cognitive assessment administrations (one more left to go!). Next week I am giving a presentation on trauma and stress related disorders from the DSM-5 and I'm preparing to give one on one counseling sessions to finish up my final project for my counseling class.  I can see the end in sight and I'm trying to stay calm, but there's still plenty to squeeze in. Plus I'm meeting with two doctoral candidates at my school next week to discuss a major decision that I'm thinking about.

#1: Gap jeans & tee, Target scarf
#2: BR trouser jeans, ? silk top, Anne Klein blazer (thrifted)
#3: Lands' End Canvas Heritage cardigan, J. Crew silk scarf tank in floating rose, Paige denim

Thanks for stopping by! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Week 11: More Stripes

I'm a little late with this post, but I've been working on my first year research paper all weekend because it's due in a few days. Fortunately for me it's just about done, and Turnitin (a program that detects academic plagiarism) gave me the green light on my rough draft so I'm feeling pretty good! I think one of the hardest aspects about writing a literature review is synthesizing the research and putting it back into your own words. Thankfully it looks like I did a decent job on that and now I just need to do a final proofread/edit and turn it in! It definitely feels like a major accomplishment to have a large body of work done. The more that I work on research papers, the more that I enjoy it--pretty nerdy I guess. After being a teacher for so long, it's been nice this past year to spend time reading through journal articles.

#1: J. Crew scout chino, Brooks Bros. striped shirt (thrifted), Circa Joan & David wedge sandals (thrifted)
#2: J. Crew Factory striped shirt, ON jeans, Target necklace

Hope everyone has a great week! Thanks for stopping by. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Week 10: Navy & White Stripes

Only 2 outfit photos this week! These are the only two outfits from the week that I liked anyways--I love me some stripes. It's the end of week 10, and (knock on wood) I'm feeling pretty good. I finished my crisis training on Friday and completed a major paper and presentation for one of my classes, so it was a productive week. My skin started to flare up because of stress the other week, so I've been trying to take better care of myself. I recently learned that bananas are a natural beta blocker, so I've been eating a banana a day. I also went on several walks this week after class because the sun is staying up longer and I've been making more of an effort to cook, all of which has been great for relieving some of my stress. 

#1: Talbots boat neck tee, J. Crew matchstick cords, Onecklace monogram necklace
#2: Merona boatneck tee,  fan fringe necklace knock-off, Paige denim, Sperry for J. Crew Top-siders

Thanks for stopping by!