Columbus, Ohio—Governor John Kasich has proclaimed November 12-16, 2012 School Psychology Week in the state of Ohio. This week is also designated as National School Psychology Awareness Week by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). The Ohio School Psychologists Association (OSPA) held their annual Fall Conference in Columbus November 8th and 9th. OSPA members attending this conference donated over $1,100 to the American Red Cross for Superstorm Sandy relief efforts.
This year’s theme of National School Psychology Awareness week, “Know Your Own Strengths. Discover Them. Share Them. Celebrate Them.” helps our students to discover and celebrate their individual strengths. Whether strengths are academic, athletic, or social–emotional, they serve to bolster an individual’s resilience in the face of challenges. NASP offers a series of resources and activities for school psychologists to use with school staff, students, and parents to help students boost stress tolerance, improve academic performance, increase life satisfaction, and even improve self-confidence. “This year’s theme expresses the importance of students and school staff being aware of their strengths, both as individuals and as members of their school community,” says NASP President Amy Smith. “We know from the positive psychology research that students do better in school when they see themselves through the lens of their abilities rather than their inabilities. Our job as educators is to reinforce students’ positive attitudes and feelings of competence by emphasizing and building on their strengths.”
The learning environment is the ideal setting to help students discover, share, and celebrate their strengths. “When students are engaged in learning, they are not just building skills, they are shaping their understanding of the world and their place in it,” explains Smith. “We have the opportunity to help students see a particular characteristic, such as kindness or curiosity, as a strength and then help them to apply that strength to a positive action, such as solving a problem or helping a classmate.” The more students practice this strengths-based thinking and acting, the more natural it becomes and the greater affect it has on students’ learning and resilience.
When schools imbed a strengths-based approach in all aspects of learning, the whole school community benefits as well. “Positive approaches to teaching and learning can improve school climate and connectedness,” says Smith. “When students feel connected at school and see themselves as contributors to their school community, they start to take responsibility for its well-being.” A number of activities include NASP’s “Know Your Own Strengths” program to reinforce how individual strengths contribute to community strengths, as well as the connections among students, between students and staff, and between home and school.
Smith points to the importance of school psychologists in fostering strengths in students. “School psychologists promote wellness and resilience in students by reinforcing problem solving, anger management, positive communication and social skills, and optimism,” she emphasizes. “The training and expertise a school psychologist holds is important in improving resilience, goal setting, empowerment, and emotional awareness leading students to be more engaged, academically successful, and self-confident. These are skills that will serve students well through their academic careers and when they transition to adult life.”
As part of National School Psychology Awareness Week, the Ohio School Psychologists Association (OSPA) will be distributing the resources provided by NASP to their members. OSPA will also be notifying statewide media resources and school district boards of education and administrators of Awareness Week in an effort to spread the word about school psychology and the invaluable work school psychologists do for children and families every day.
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