***Post written by Eldon Clifford, President of WSPA***
***This post can also be found in the “About Us” section of the website, as the president’s letter***
“Are you sure you can handle this?” The other Dr. Clifford asked right before she closed her car door. “Of course, I can handle this.” I said. As she pulled out of the driveway, I thought to myself, I am school psychologist with advanced training in behavior management I can totally handle a 4-year-old for one overnight. (A little backstory, this was my first-time solo supervising my step-children for an overnight, as the other Dr. Clifford needed to attend a class in Casper.)
I had the night all planed out. I was going to make a child favorite of mac-n-cheese and hot dogs (sans vegetables of course). Then there was going to be copious Disney movie watching and then the three darlings were headed to bed. While afterwards I would sit in my recliner with a smug look of success and be the recipient of exuberant praise of my step-parenting skills when the other Dr. Clifford called to check in that night. The evening went off without a hitch, until it came time for bed. The oldest child teeth brushed and off to bed. The middle child teeth brushed and off to bed. The youngest child… “what do you mean you don’t want to brush your teeth?” I asked. Then the tears started. I tried every positive behavioral management trick I could think of, but to no avail. I knew that this was a crucial test for me. If I showed weakness, or gave in, that would be “it” for me as a newly blessed step-parent. After about 2 hours of tears (from the both of us), my persistence paid off, teeth were brushed and one very tired 4-year-old was off to bed. I learned a couple of things from that incident: 1) that young lady is very strong willed; and 2) while training and knowledge are important sometimes it just takes a little persistence.
As you reflect on the school year, I want to commend you all for your persistence in always doing what is right for students/children in the face of the many struggles you encounter in schools. Whether it be from good intentioned, but perhaps not fully informed parents, or reluctant to change staff members. School Psychologists are highly trained professionals, but your willingness to consistently endeavor for best practice in children’s mental health, behavior, and academic needs is what makes you stand out as leaders in your schools.
Finally, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve as WSPA President this year. I want to also express my sincerest gratitude to my colleagues on the WSPA Board, because they did all of the work over the past year. The WSPA Board is a tireless group of School Psychologists whose efforts to promote and advocate for our profession in the state is unparalleled.
I hope to see many of you at the PREPaRe Training the first week of August in Jackson.