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School Psychology Awareness: Making Connections

Article excerpt

COMMUNICATION MATTERS

A day in the life of a student at school is filled with potential connections (relationships, linkages in learning, behavioral choices, etc.). Friendships with peers, relationships with teachers, acknowledgements from administrators, encouragement from coaches: These are all interpersonal connections that are essential not only to making school an enjoyable place to be, but also to building a child's resilience and ability to overcome challenges and adversity. Whether or not they are aware of it, students also make ongoing cognitive connections - between reading and personal experiences, studying and grade outcomes, self-regulation and control, and even social-emotional functioning and adjustment.

Time and again, research points to the central role of meaningful connections in children's adjustment. Having a trustworthy adult in their lives will help children overcome challenges or major life crises (Rutter, 1987). Having at least one reciprocal friendship is enough to help a childfeel accepted at school (Pianta, Yu, & Davidson, 1996; Berndt & Perry, 1986). Having a sense of connection to school decreases truancy and the likelihood of drop-out (Boyer, 1983; Phelan, Hu, 8c Davidson, 1994). We also know that students who can link their choices and thought process to actions that lead to specific outcomes are better able to make good choices.

HELPING STUDENTS MAKE THE CONNECTION

The role of the school psychologist sits at the epicenter of the multiple facets of a child's life. Consequently, we are in a unique role that allows us to facilitate students' connections while they are at school through direct work with students and groups of students, consultation and collaboration with colleagues, and development of programming to forge linkages.

We can strengthen the students at our schools by increasing the number of meaningful positive connections they experience throughout the day. We can do this by working with students on social skills to forge friendships. We can facilitate relationships between students and adults by coordinating mentoring or check-in-check-out programs. We can link school and community by providing families access to services by bringing community and mental health services into the school building.

However, the importance of connections is not limited to students. As school psychologists, effective relationships are central to the success of all our work, particularly to indirect services suchas the consultation, problem solving, and decision making that takes place on collaborative teams. Moreover, effective professional activities and work conditions are dependent on essential relationships with stakeholders such as parents, administrators, and school boards. Making connections with these folks may be wildly different from helping children form friendships, but the importance is the same.

Helping our students and schools focus on strengtheningpositive relationships and increasingpositive connections is at the heart of national School Psychology Awareness Week, November 14-18, 2011. The theme, "Every link matters. Make a connection." is directed to students but also carries an important message to other adults in the building. Anchored around the poster theme and images, the links and connections program involves a series of resources and activities that school psychologists can use to reach out to school staff, students, and parents to help students achieve their individual goals.

We are continuing a number of components from previous years of School Psychology Awareness Week: a certificate for recognizing students, the Student POWER Award; a certificate recognizing colleagues, the Possibilities in Action Partner program; and Gratitude Works, a program to help foster gratitude in students. We also encourage school psychologists to use School Psychology Awareness Week as an opportunity to forge positive relationships among students and staff throughout the broad school community. …