14 Life Lessons from the School Psych Trenches

I’ve been a school psychologist for 14 years.  Yesterday I packed my office for the last time.  Or at least the last time in the near future.  Earlier in the year I announced that I would be resigning to stay home with my family.  Once Kitten is in school full-time I will consider going back to a school psychology job, but I don’t think I will ever work full-time in a school again.

This decision is bittersweet to be sure.  I’ve worked with some amazing people over the years and I will deeply miss their friendship and collaboration on a daily basis.  However, what I do is really hard work.  Performing at the level that is required of this job is extremely stressful and this year was one of the worst (although I feel like I say that every year!).  Walking away from my job is as much about the health of my family as it is about my own health.

Despite all that, there are some lessons I’ve learned in my tenure that I want to share with all of you.  I don’t know what the future holds for my career but I do know I’ll be taking these thoughts with me.

1. Parents only want what’s best for their children. This is hard to remember when parents are reacting in less than respectful ways, but we all know parenting is hard work and sometimes it’s hard to remember that we’re all in this together.

2. You are your child’s best advocate. Always. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

3. You catch more flies with honey. Kill ’em with kindness.  The people I deal with on a daily basis who treat me with courtesy and respect are the ones I will go above and beyond for.

4. Everyone deserves to feel valued and appreciated. It’s sad to me how many people I come across in my work who don’t know their worth because no one took the time to tell them.  Take the time to tell someone you appreciate them.

5. When someone makes a difference in your life, tell them. This year, for the first time ever, I had a student thank me for pushing him to his potential.  Cue tears.

6.If you suspect your child has a school-related problem speak up, there are people ready to help you. I get lots of emails or messages from friends about their kids and school problems and I always say the same thing “call the school”.  The professionals that work at your kid’s school know what they’re doing and are there to help, and are happy to do it.

7. School and learning are supposed to be fun.  If they aren’t, there’s a problem. No one should cry over school work.  Ever.

8. In a high-stress job it’s important to have co-workers you trust and rely on. It’s no coincidence that some of my closest friends are people that I’ve worked with. I truly don’t know what I would do without them.

9. Always remember to take time to laugh and have fun. In one of the schools I worked at my department would meet every Friday afternoon at 3 to decompress about the week.  I booked it into my calendar.  I still get wistful about Friday at 3 o’clock.  I have never laughed as much as I did those afternoons.  And just like #8, it brought us closer together.  Meg, Kate, Carol, Tracey, Cindy, Marie, Pete, and Doree you set the bar so high for what I expect in a colleague I really don’t think it will ever be met.

10. All children have gifts, some open them at different times. -Patricia Pollaco I stumbled on this quote this year and it really sums up why I did my job.  NEVER EVER give up on a child.  Even if they’ve given up on themselves.

11. You have no idea what someone is leaving behind when they go to work or school so don’t assume and don’t judge.  Everyone you meet is fighting their own battle, don’t be another stumbling block for them.

12. Never sacrifice your integrity.  If something feels wrong, it probably is. I left my first job upon returning to Connecticut 10 years ago because I was asked to do something that went against every professional ethic and value I hold.  The minute you sacrifice what you hold dear is the minute you settle.

13. When something you were once passionate about begins to feel like a chore you need to tune into it.  Either change what’s not working or move on.  Life is too short to be unhappy. I recently watched a Tedx talk on burn out.  It was eye opening, and scary.

14. I can do hard things.

3 thoughts on “14 Life Lessons from the School Psych Trenches

  1. This is such good advice! Definitely sharing it. Sad to hear CT is losing such a fantastic school psych (and I KNOW how valuable those are!) but happy you’re putting your own mental health first.

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