School Psychology Awareness: Finding Strengths in Others and Ourselves

By Cohn, Andrea; Cowan, Katherine C. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, September 2012 | Go to article overview

School Psychology Awareness: Finding Strengths in Others and Ourselves


Cohn, Andrea, Cowan, Katherine C., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


As our students walk through the front doors of our buildings at the start of this school year with new backpacks, fresh school supplies, and eager enthusiasm, we know that one of our primary responsibilities is to help them tap into this energy throughout the year in order to achieve their best. We are lucky to work in a field where we get to celebrate the end of one school year and ride the wave of excitement for the start of another.

We also know, though, that there will be times when difficult situations, setbacks, overload, and stress will make it hard to see the work at hand in a positive light. This is as true for our colleagues and us, as it is for our students. Even in the best of circumstances, challenges inherent in helping every student overcome barriers to learning and success can seem daunting at one point or another. And few of us would describe the current climate in education as the best circumstances. Economic realities and political dialogue can make it easy to feel beleaguered pretty quickly. One of the challenges that we must set for ourselves is to reinforce our own resilience so that we can draw upon it andhelp others do the same, even on those most difficult days. This year for National School Psychology Awareness Week, November 12-16, 2012, we urge our school psychologist colleagues across the country to help our students and the colleagues that we support to discover and celebrate their individual strengths. Whether strengths are academic, athletic, or social, they serve to bolster an individual's resilience in the face of stress. Helping others harness their individual strengths can have unlimited benefits such as boosting stress tolerance, improving academic performance, increasing life satisfaction, and even augmenting self confidence. In addition, this is an opportune time to remind ourselves of our own personal and professional strengths to help us become more resilient school psychologists.

KNOW YOUR OWN STRENGTHS

Helping our students, colleagues, and ourselves focus on our strengths is at the heart of the School Psychology Awareness Week theme, Know Your Own Strengths: Discover Them. Share Them. Celebrate Them. Anchored around the poster theme and images, the strengths 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 also encourage you to reflect on your own strengths and how you will tap into them throughout the year. Like the oxygen mask on an airplane, your self-care is essential to your ability to support the students in your care.

SUGGESTED SELF-REFLECTIVE ACTIVITIES

The following are some suggestions from practitioners for self-reflection.

Catalogue your signature strengths. Review the six signature strengths defined in the positive psychology literature (see page 29) and list specific qualities or capacities that you have related to each one. Think about specific circumstances under which those strengths have helpedyou and others to overcome an obstacle or achieve a goal. Consider doing this with your colleagues to help each other discover, share, and celebrate your strengths.

Find your professional passion. While we are responsible for all aspects of our jobs and strive to demonstrate excellence in all domains of the NASP Model for Comprehensive and Integrated School Psychological Services, it is important to take time to discover the part of your job that you love the most and make sure to devote time to it.

Update or create a professional vita. If you haven't done so in years, raise your self-awareness by updating your vita and highlighting your professional strengths. Seeing in black and white all the things that you do can certainly helps bolster your sense of professional efficacy.

Assess your professional development needs. Competency is a core strength. While the NASP Practice Model in its entirety is likely overwhelming, and in many cases impossible for an individual school psychologist to practice at one time, it does list all aspects of our training and competency. …

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