Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Off Task

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Off Task

Article excerpt

I Never Got Comfortable With the Puppets

My job assignment usually changes somewhat from year to year. Occasionally it's a big change like a new school. Often it's something smaller like helping implement one of the grant-funded programs. One of our favorite grant programs is the Early Mental Health Initiative (say, "Emmi"), which inexplicably gave up one of the best acronyms in the field, the Primary Intervention Program. Actually, we usually still call it PiP.

As school psychologists, we get involved at different levels, depending on what the school needs, such as sitting in onparent conferences, helpingthe "special friend" determine the caseload, or sometimes implementing the classroom lesson component The lessons I got to teach for a few years are called Second Step, and it's a great way for a school psychologist to get to do lessons on empathy, emotion management, and problem solving in primary grade regular ed classrooms. My favorite lesson was about howpeople can feel different ways in the same situation. It shows a picture of two boys in Halloween costumes entering a haunted house: one looks thrilled and the other, terrified. This always prompted me to tell the story of chaperoning a trip my son took to a water park. He talked me into an attraction called Scream and Die or, well, no, I think it was The Tidal Wave; but at any rate, after we had climbed several stories of ladders and were parking ourselves in a tiny two-person raft and scooting out to the edge of a drop-off from which I could not even see the descent, it was so steep ... I can tell you, we felt different ways about that situation. I can still get my hands to sweat just thinking about it

Anyway, the lessons include great things to keep primary-age students involved, like big pictures and sympathetic stories. I always like the CDs and singalongs I'm a youth group and scout and camp song-leader from way back, plus I'm always complaining that the elementary grades don't have enough music anymore, so we did plenty of singing. But it also has puppets. Impulsive Puppy and Slow Down Snail, to be exact, and they are extremely cute, first-rate puppets. Unfortunately, I am just not comfortable using pretend voices and talking to my hands (at least not at work), but I have got to say, it is riveting stuff for the students. The minute I pull that puppy out from behind my back, the kids are on the edges of their criss-cross-applesauce, hanging on his every word, er . …

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