California Educator

June/July 2020

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Page 29 of 63

HERENIA SHEPHERD SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST, West Kings County Teachers Association Describe your job in the age of COVID-19 in one word: Fluid. What's a "typical" day for you in the new learning environment? It starts with checking for urgent emails, making breakfast for my kids and getting them started on their distance learning, and then I work on reports for IEP meetings. There are always calls or texts from teachers, colleagues and administrators, Zoom meetings, and of course, times when I have to walk away from work to help my kids with their assignments or to prepare lunch. I'm also always on the lookout for articles or webinars to help me prepare for the opening of schools. What challenges does this pose for you and fellow school psychologists? This is different in that the reports I'm writing are based solely on teacher/parent reports and on previous evaluation results, rather than completing a full psycho-educational reevaluation for triennial IEPs. Additionally, we are not able to complete any initial psycho-educational evaluations. We will feel the effects of this when schools open again, as we will have to play catch-up to complete all of the evaluations that needed to be done during the school closures as well as all of the trien- nial reevaluations that will be due at that time. Another aspect of how things are different is that, rather than sup- porting teachers with behavioral challenges that students may have, I now host Zoom meetings with parents to support them with their child at home. I listen to their concerns and provide them with strategies to try at home, or I model sensory regulation activities. I've been happy to be able to support parents, and am hopeful that they will continue to support their children at home once they are back in school. How will your work be different next year? How are you preparing for it? This is the most intimidating part because we don't yet know what will be different, and so we don't know how to prepare for it. We are antici- pating that many students may have anxiety, difficulty adapting to being at school again, and although we wish it were different, an increase in reports of abuse. Our students are going to need our emotional support, and teachers will too. It will be difficult for teachers to manage not only their own anxious feelings, but those of their students as well. But we will be there to support them in any way that we can. What should colleagues know about life right now for school psychologists? I feel that even on a "typical" workday we're like ninjas, addressing a multitude of issues daily in the background, seemingly unnoticed, ready to jump in to help at a moment's notice. We're still here, doing just that — please reach out to us if you need us — and educating ourselves in an effort to prepare for all the challenges to come. "We're like ninjas, addressing a multitude of issues daily in the background, seemingly unnoticed, ready to jump in to help at a moment's notice." get back on track since several students on my caseload fell behind this semester. If we are still working at home, I fear that we will not be able to get to all of our students in a timely manner. Ultimately, our jobs require face-to-face contact, usually within close proximity. We rely on body language and facial cues to assess how the student is feeling and performing inside the classroom. Sadly, counselors do not foresee being able to experience that close proximity for quite some time, as we will be required to wear masks and need to maintain a healthy distance. Counseling is going to look very different for the fore- seeable future. What should colleagues know about life right now for school counselors? We are doing the best that we can to keep up with our case- loads, and please know that many aspects of our jobs are taking twice as long as they would at school. ORTEZ-GALÁN: continued from page 27 GRIFFIN: continued from page 26 have discussed a focus on rela- tionships and our rapport with students and families as a way to emotionally support them during this time. Speech therapy does not always have to be drills and flashcards, and we want to give parents ways to include speech and language into their homes. Flexibility has been key in working with students' families and juggling the respon- sibilities of our own families. 28 feature C O V I D - 1 9

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