***Post written by Stacey Kern, Conferences Chair for WSPA***
Every year, IT happens. I get filled with excitement as I submit my professional development request for the NASP Annual Convention. In the months leading up to the convention, I look forward in anticipation to the vast options of learning opportunities available, and the opportunities I will have to network, reconnect with friends and colleagues from around the nation, and explore cities filled with great food and activities.
Every year, IT happens. January rolls around, and the hectic pace of work for a school psychologist only accelerates. School-based problem solving meetings become more frequent and more feverish because students are falling further and further behind. Referrals for special education pick up as a result. The behavior students that teachers have tried to manage on their own first semester suddenly become too much to handle, so the conducting of FBAs and the development of BIPs become priority tasks. The behavior data that was supposed to be collected wasn’t, so classroom observations are also added to “To do” list. Individual counseling cases increase because “nothing else is working.” The list goes on and on, and, every year, I question my sanity for ever thinking I could take a whole week off of work to attend NASP.
Every year, IT happens. Somehow, I survive January, get all of my work done, and hop on a plane to destination known. I stand in lines at the airport with school psychologists. I sit next to school psychologists on the plane. I share a shuttle ride to the hotel with school psychologists. I attend sessions, welcome parties, key note addresses, hockey games, and leadership meetings with others who get it. I get to spend time with others who understand the vital work I do each and every day. Others who experience the same challenges, frustrations, ups and downs that I do each and every day. And every year, I experience intense personal and professional satisfaction as a result of selfishly taking the time to go to NASP.
Every year, IT happens. Even though I regretted committing to going to the convention this year, and I really wanted to cancel my reservations the week prior to leaving, I am deeply thankful that I went. It really is true when people say they leave the convention reenergized with passion for their work. Every year I leave the NASP convention renewed in many ways, but this year was more impactful for me than any other year that I have attended. Maybe it was because I desperately needed connection with other professionals who get it, and this year I had many more connections to people at the convention than I have ever had before.
As I attended sessions and interacted with others throughout the week, I jotted down ideas knowing that I would need to write this blog post about the convention when I returned home. Looking back at my ideas, a common thread of “connection” kept appearing in my notes. This is not earth shattering as John Kelley, NASP president, chose the focus of this year’s convention to be The Power of One: Creating Connections. John believes that each and every one of us school psychologists has the power to make connections with students, teachers, parents, and community members, and that those connections are key to helping children thrive in life. Creating connections is what we do, but I wonder if we neglect and important connection in our daily, that of connecting with other school psychologists.
Even though I work in a district with eight other school psychologists, opportunities for connection and collaboration with each other are just not available. School psychologists rarely have the time because we are so focused and dedicated to each and every one of our students. We are at a point in our professional practice where being a school psychologist is tougher than at any point in history. Much is taken from us in our roles, and little is given in return. Work place burn-out is a real condition that is impacting all educators at this point in time, especially school psychologists. I believe school psychologists across the country desperately need the opportunity for connection with other school psychologists as a way to combat this burn-out and the general stress of our work.
I know attending the NASP convention is not possible for all of us out there every year. I would like to encourage all of us, though, to make time to make those connections with other school psychologists in any way possible. Here in Wyoming, we have such a small group of school psychologists that I feel we could easily make connections with each other through opportunities such as these blog posts, annual conferences, shooting each other emails, or taking the time to share a beverage with each other. Every year, I hope IT happens. I hope we are all able to make the time to make connections with each other. Through connections, we become better at what we do.