November 9-13 is the National Association of School Psychologists annual School Psychology Awareness week. The theme this year is Connect the Dots and Thrive. To kick off the week, we at Families on the Home Front feel it is important for parents and educators to understand the role of the school psychologist as it pertains to military-connected students. Becky Harris, NCSP and Managing Partner at Families on the Home Front, shares her perspective on the role a school psychologist plays in a school with military-connected students.
As the mother of two military-connected students, I have made it a personal and professional mission to ensure that my children’s educational and social-emotional needs are met the minute they walk into a new school. Soon, I will be walking into another new school, not with my kids and not as the parent – as the School Psychologist. As I embark on this role, I am ready to broaden my mission from advocating for my children, to advocating for the educational and social-emotional needs of ALL military-connected students. As I take off my parent lenses, here is how I see my new role, through my School Psychologist lens.
As a School Psychologist, I may be called upon to provide professional development on my areas of expertise. After almost a decade of researching and advocating for military-connected students, I hope to be considered a subject matter expert for this subgroup. I feel I have a responsibility to the military families of my school to educate the educators on the intricacies of living a military lifestyle and the impact this lifestyle may have on a child’s education and mental health. I am also ready to share all I know and can find out about the Military Identifier, Military Interstate Compact Commission, phases of deployment, best practices for welcoming new families, academic and social-emotional challenges for military-connected students, best practices for engaging military families and much more.
I also welcome the opportunity to educate parents. One of the things I have focused A LOT on during my 12 years sabbatical from formal employment is parenting. Over the years, I have been able to blend my school psychologist background with effective parenting strategies and share this knowledge with other parents. In my new role, I will look for opportunities to engage parents at the school level and provide them with the latest research in child development, effective parenting, and learning.
A major role for any school psychologist is assessing needs and developing intervention plans to meet those needs. We do this at the school level, classroom level, and student level. In a school with military families, I anticipate being part of a team who assesses the needs of this subgroup and takes the necessary steps to execute a plan that best meets their needs. This could mean developing and leading small groups of military-connected students who are experiencing similar life circumstances like PCSing or phases of deployment. It could be developing a school-wide program that helps connect new kids with “local” kids. I could also provide classroom lessons on resiliency or character development. Lessons that help students learn to cope with and manage typical life challenges thus preventing them from becoming serious life issues.
To increase parent engagement assessing the needs of the families is just as critical, and part of my responsibility. Kids don’t come to school and leave their stressors at the door; they pack them in their backpack. As a school psychologist, it is my role to determine how family-based challenges are impacting a child’s education, and determine the best way to address those families’ needs.
I recently attended ParentCampUSA at the Department of Education with my parent lenses on. I left inspired to reach out to my kids’ school to see how I could be a part of their parent engagement efforts. Read more about my time at ParentCamp here.
As I change lenses, I now view parent engagement from a different perspective. With my insights into military family life, I can help a school learn the best way to build relationships with military families that is welcoming, trustworthy, and engaging. At my new school, I will look for opportunities to engage military families through outreach efforts and events geared toward supporting them and their children. This could be fun events celebrating Veterans Day, service branch birthdays, and Month of the Military Child. I encourage parents who are military service members to participate as guest speakers in educational events for the students. Given my personal experiences with and knowledge of resources available to military families, I can help a school become the go to place where this subgroup can receive information, referrals, support, and guidance.
No matter if you are a parent or a teacher of a military-connected student, take some time during School Psychologist Awareness Week to connect with your school psychologist. We have a wealth of information to share with you and look forward to learning more about how we can better support your needs.