School Psychologists as Agents of Social Change: Inspiration from the 2023 National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
By Dr Christina Limbird
I have never been more proud to be a school psychologist. I am on the plane back to Berlin from a week of learning, growing, and inspiration at the 2023 National Association of School Psychologists conference in Denver, Colorado, and I am still buzzing. It was a true privilege to attend the conference alongside 5600 incredibly dedicated school psychologists from all over the United States and many from abroad.
The theme of this year's conference was Radical Hope-Authentic Healing. Whereas most of the time, school psychologists are thought of as somewhat nerdy but kind professionals in schools who help identify and support children with learning difficulties through their school years, this year's conference reminded us that we are so much more. The opportunity to use research and data to impact the most vulnerable children in a school is an incredible gift. Instead of just talking about testing, IEPs, and report writing, the halls of the Denver Convention Center reverberated with impassioned, bold commitments to justice, diversity, humility, authentic service to children and minority communities, and a clear pivot to strengths-based work.
Instead of just talking about testing, IEPs, and report writing, the halls of the Denver Convention Center reverberated with impassioned, bold commitments to justice, diversity, humility, authentic service to children and minoritized communities, and a clear pivot to strengths-based work.
NASP’s president, Dr. Celeste Malone, compelled us to use our unique positions in schools to listen to, protect, and uplift children whose voices are often not acknowledged. The themes of listening and honoring minorities and disadvantaged voices were underscored by the powerful opening of the conference with a performance and blessing given by a group of indigenous musicians from several nations, including the Cheyenne and Arapaho people, who helped us remember that the land we were convening on had been taken by the Euro-Christian invaders. Dr. Tink Tinker, a member of the Osage Nation, called on us to consider that as the beginning of the pillaging of the “Grandmother Earth” and the current climate crisis in which we find ourselves today.
The Keyone address was delivered by the truly inspiring Dr. Shawn Ginwright, one of the United State’s foremost thought leaders on African American youth. He encouraged us to integrate social justice into our work through critical self-reflection, community building, and social justice advocacy. Despite his vast knowledge in the field of adolescent development, he reminded us that:
“It is not what we know as professionals, but how we show up for young people that makes the biggest difference.”
In fact, in many (or most) of the academic and behavioral interventions that we design and implement, it is the RELATIONSHIP itself that IS the true intervention.
Over the past week, I attended dozens of workshops and presentations on multicultural efficacy, multilingual assessments, the importance of mentorship, and how to integrate neurodiverse children’s voices into building their support plans and assessments. I am flying home today full of pride in this profession, invigorated to do even better. But more than anything, I am returning to our international, multilingual, excellent, caring, empowering team of school psychologists at Linden, incredibly proud of how we have been at the forefront of these practices all along. We are not only on the right track; we are at the frontlines of a powerful movement.
My notebook is full of quotes from the week, but this one from a read by a recipient of a Scholarship for Minoritized Students encapsulates most of our work as psychologists, therapists, mentors, and coaches at Linden for me:
“Be who you needed when you were younger.”
Just imagine if we all did just that! Thank you, #NASP2023, for the inspiring week.
About the author
Dr. Christina Limbird has over 15 years of experience in educational psychology. Her career highlights include building an exemplary comprehensive program of inclusion at an International Baccalaureate school in Germany, creating a non-profit organization that initiated peace and community building programs for teenagers in post-conflict Croatia, and launching a premier international girls leadership academy in Europe, Girls Gearing Up.
Underpinning her work with schools and young people is Dr. Limbird's extensive research background in bilingualism and her firm belief in informing work in education with empirically sound evidence. She has published several articles and book chapters on the effects of bilingualism on literacy acquisition and school performance. >>> Find out more about our school psychologist services for schools and families here.