Posted in Miscellaneous

So… What Exactly Is School Psychology?

One of the first things people ask me when I meet them here at BYU is, “So what are you studying?”

Since I have answered this question approximately a lot of times, I have really refined my response.

“I’m in a graduate program called School Psychology,” I respond.

“Oh! Like a school counselor?!” is normally their reply.

“Yeah… kind of… well, no. Not really.”

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School psychology is an emerging field within the educational world, which is why most people think it leads exclusively to school counseling. But that’s not what we are. School counselors help the entire student body with credits, registration, applying to college, and career exploration. School psychologists, on the other hand, tend to work more with students who are on the fringes of the student body – the bright boy who just can’t get the hang of reading and nobody can say why. The capable girl who stops participating in class and interacting with her friends when her parents divorce. The teenage boy who bullies students, skips class and cannot control his aggressive behavior. Through their combined knowledge of education and psychology, school psychologists help any child, grades K-12, who struggles academically, emotionally, socially, or otherwise. So how did I find my way into this ‘unknown’ field?

I started my college career with absolutely no intention of studying anything to do with education. I did NOT want to become a teacher or anything like it. I wanted to do something PRESTIGIOUS, and DIFFICULT, and IMPRESSIVE – a major that when I mentioned it, people would gasp and maybe have to find a chair to sit in as they composed themselves. I wanted to do something BIG – where I could leave my mark in the world. And for some reason, I had decided that becoming a teacher would not help me do that. But after major-hopping for about a year and a half, I somehow found myself majoring in education. It’s amazing how I could be so indifferent to something for so long, but come to be so passionate about it in just one year. In my mind, teaching became the most PRESTIGIOUS, and DIFFICULT, and IMPRESSIVE field. I was proud to tell people that I was in education, and if they didn’t gasp or grab a seat when I told them, I didn’t care one bit. I had found the place where I wanted to make my mark.

Through a stroke of luck – or maybe it was more than that – I stumbled upon school psychology after perusing through the Graduate Studies website for the umpteenth time. Pretty soon after learning about the school psychology program, I knew this was the way I wanted to make my mark not only in education, but in the world. I loved the idea of working with individual students, groups of students, teachers, parents, communities, and entire school systems to change it for the better. What a huge opportunity! Now that I am in BYU’s School Psychology Program, I am looking forward to the opportunity and responsibility that comes with taking on this career. Along with my amazing school psychology cohort, we are going to change the world in a BIG way!

If you want more information about what a school psychologist is, check out the National Association of School Psychologists website. And if you want to know about the school psychology program here at BYU, check it out here and watch this!

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Hannah Faux is from Henderson, Nevada where she fell in love with the desert. She loves traveling and has been to the UK, Israel, Egypt, Spain, Germany, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Thailand and she has loved it all. She looks forward to being involved in improving the world of education wherever she goes!

 

Posted in Miscellaneous

Taking the TSA’s

When most people think of the TSA, they picture long lines at airports and uncomfortable security scans with the agents of the Transportation Security Administration. However, students in the McKay School of Education have a different fear associated with TSA’s–the Technology Skills Assessment.

ImageRemember that teacher you had in high school that was almost completely incompetent when it came to technology and needed help just to pull up the internet browser? The TSA is a method to prevent us from being those technologically-challenged teachers by assessing different skills used by instructors today.

Taking the TSA’s is easy. The McKay School of Education Website is jam-packed with information on how to take the tests, tips on how to prepare, and even practice tests so you can practice the skills before you’re tested on them. If you have any questions about the TSA’s, this website is definitely the place to go.

Here are some of my tips as well as some things other teaching majors say have worked well for them:

  • Prepare. You only have 30 minutes to complete each segment, so use your time wisely and prepare beforehand. It’s worth it to not have to take the test over again!

  • Use what you know. We live in a generation surrounded by technology and you might be surprised by how much you already know. When going through the practice tests, refresh those skills so you can be ready to show them off in the real assessment.

  • Focus on new skills. I’m going to be honest–I’m not very good at spreadsheets. No matter how many times I think I have it down, if you try and throw a new format at me, I panic. That’s why I found it helpful to do a more in-depth review of the spreadsheet component before taking the actual test. Even though I still struggle with difficult spreadsheets, the practice really helped me get the basics down.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Obviously you’re not allowed to ask for help during the assessment; the TEC lab assistants are asked to avoid giving advice even if you’re practicing. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find help in other places. BYU offers several technology classes and I’m sure you have some sort of computer whiz in your ward that can help you out. One fellow teaching major suggests going through the practice tests with someone else–that way, you can work through the instructions together. Two heads are better than one! Also, Google is your best friend.

  • Take the practice tests. Even if you feel confident in one area, it’s helpful to go over the instructions for the practice test so you know exactly what to expect. If you’re not very familiar with a particular area, the practice tests will help you become more familiar with the program as well as show you the requirements for assessment. If you’re worried about the time limit, try and do the practice test in under 30 minutes. The practice tests are a wonderful way to make sure you know what you’re doing and know exactly what to expect.

There was a time when I would have rather gone to the airport and undergone a security scan by the security agents in blue than take the Technology Skills Assessments. But once I realized how manageable it was and talked to some other students about it, I realized there was nothing to worry about. The TSA’s are a great way to show off what you know and be ready for whatever technological question may be thrown your way by your future students. No technologically challenged teachers should be coming from BYU!

Posted in Miscellaneous

Camping and Mud Pits and Zombies… OH MY!

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Fortunately, these small shoe prints were not left by zombies but rather by the students of Foster Elementary Outdoor School 2013! Outdoor School is typically a week of activities and learning outside of the classroom setting. It is in an outdoor environment such as a camp, which gives them the students an opportunity to learn and explore in new ways. Children have only one chance in their life to have an experience like this, and the memories and knowledge gained during it will stick with them for many years. While an experience like this can be very amusing, it’s important to ask, “Is this really adding value to a student’s education?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy elementary school didn’t offer Outdoor School, but in high school, I volunteered as a counselor at Foster Elementary Outdoor School. At that time, being an elementary teacher was just an idea to me. My biggest motivation to be a counselor was to play with kids and not have to go to high school for a whole week. Now, four years later, as a senior in the Elementary Education program at BYU, I volunteered once again at Foster Elementary Outdoor School. I went to gain more experience working with students. During that week, I captured a whole new perspective on Outdoor School. I watched the teachers and their different teaching styles. I understood the different teaching techniques they used. I could see the core subjects being integrated into this fun-filled camping experience. It was like I was behind the scenes of movie.

Here’s a few things I found the kids learned through their experience at Outdoor School (whether they knew it or not!):

Real Life Applications
Survival: Survival was the main concept being taught during Outdoor School, but to capture what children have an interest in, the week was centered around “Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.”

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They learned valuable skills including building shelters, fires, and weapons, what to bring with them when they are hiking and camping, and what to do when they are lost in the woods (a Search and Rescue Team came as guest speakers).

Being Away from Home: Going to Outdoor School was many of the students first time away from home. It can be really difficult for them to be without their parents. This experience can really help some children with their emotional development by giving them the chance to deal with their homesickness and attachment to their parents.

Teamwork/Cooperation: The students may be able to work together in a classroom setting, but what about in a setting outside the classroom and with other students? This outdoor school experience typically combines all the fifth and sixth grade classes together in the elementary school for a fun-filled, educational week.

Integrating Core Subjects
Science: Being outside in the woods, the students were able to go on nature hikes where they learned about vegetation and wildlife that are native to the area in which they live.

Geography: All school year the students learned the different countries and their capitals. At the end of the week of Outdoor School was the “Geography Bee” where all the students got in a long line and if the teacher said a country, the
student had to say its capital and if a capital was said, the student said the country it is in. If they couldn’t name the country or capital in five seconds, they were out.

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The last person left won the “Geography Bee” trophy. This was like their “final” for geography.

History: The students learned a little about the history of the Spanish Armadaand then were given a challenge to create their own boat. One person in their team had to then get their boat across a section of the lake without touching it.

Other Subjects that Help Teach the Core
HPIM0956.JPGArts: A great way to wake the kids up and get them ready to start another long, fun day was to dance! Morning dance was a favorite among the students.

Physical Education: These kids have energy! They were running everywhere! Picture scavenger hunt, puzzle piece hunt, zombie gold rush, … Those were just a few of the fun games that they played. They also had the opportunity to rock climb, canoe, swim, and wallow in a mud pit!

So, is outdoor school a week for kids to just play outside the classroom? Nope. In fact, it is it a week of fun and valuable education. From my experience, I say let’s change it up, get them involved, and create an Outdoor School experience! What kind of activities would you do at Outdoor School to incorporate the core subjects?

Posted in Miscellaneous

The Language of “Education-ese”

One of the most important elements of being a successful teacher and learner is being able to communicate clearly. I’ve found that when teachers talk to each other or other education professionals, they begin talking in almost another language.  My dad has coined this language as “Education-ese.” This language is filled with a smattering of acronyms (NCLB, IDEA, AYP, LRE, IEP, just to name a few), reading programs, laws, and other non-typical language. This language helps teachers communicate clearly and more efficiently with each other.  However, sometimes “Education-ese” makes communication even more difficult. The following two experiences, though not directly related to “Education-ese”, have taught me about the importance of clear communication.

 One experience happened in high school.  Of the approximately 700 students in my graduating class in high school, there were five Mormons.  Because of this, I had the opportunity to meet lots of wonderful people from many faiths and ask and answer lots of questions.  One day, close to graduation, a classmate was asking me some questions about going to BYU.  She knew BYU was a private religious university, so she asked, “Do you have to go to services?”  I thought she had misspoken and meant service, like going to do community service.  So I replied, “Well, since I have a scholarship I do.”  She looked really confused by my answer.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized she was asking if I had to go to church every Sunday.  We both knew about going to church, but we were basically speaking different languages because we used the same vocabulary in different ways.

Another experience I had happened last year during my study abroad to London.  During the study abroad, we went to Paris for a few days.  I’d taken French for five years and I was excited to finally try out my language skills.  As I travelled around the city with my two friends, I would do most of the ordering, asking for directions, and finding out where the bathroom was.  However, when we ate at restaurants, something else happened.  The waiters would hear us speaking in English, and although I would start talking in French, they would speak to us in English.  At first, I was a little frustrated that I wasn’t getting to use the language I had studied for so many years.  But it did make the process a lot smoother, and my friends actually got to speak for themselves.



In one of my education classes, we talked about the importance of not losing the parents of our students in translation.  We both have the goal of success for their child.  However, when talking to parents, it’s easy to have a similar situation as my first experience.  We’re both talking about the same thing (in this case, the success of a child) and both have a lot of knowledge about it.  However, we sometimes have a hard time communicating effectively because we’re not using vocabulary that both of us understand or that we simply understand differently.

Instead, it’s important to be more like the French waiters.  When we discuss the child’s success in school with parents, we need to speak in their language.  If we are using a term from “Education-ese” we need to make sure we explain what it means.  This helps the process of helping a child succeed go a lot smoother; it also allows parents to be fully participating members of the conversation.