Riverview School District, St. Louis, MO
When I first worked in St. Louis, I was placed in Riverview School District. Typically, I refrain from sharing the names of school districts, but the teachers and support staff that I worked with there, are unforgettable. Over the years, I met other professionals who embraced my clinical skills, and others who were not as kind. Those who were unkind, had their own internal battles, and others the result of negativity toward my race and/or ethnicity.
The aforementioned school district, however, made a lasting impression on me, and I learned quite a bit from them. We had such positive rapport, especially during special education team meetings. But, when I went on maternity leave and returned, I was placed within another school. I was crushed; however, that was one problem with maternity leave. You may keep your job, but it could be assigned differently.
Punished for having a baby.
Twenty-one years later, maternity leave continues to be problematic within this Country.
Sometimes you never know how people feel about you. My assigned school above, showed me how they felt about me when they secretly gave me a baby shower. The teachers and administrators surprised me with this baby shower and gave me all kinds of gifts and support. Although this was 21 years ago, I still have some of the baby blankets that they gave to me. When my new baby was 6 weeks old, I took my baby to visit the school teachers during their lunch break. You know what they did while this tiny baby was sleeping?
Took turns holding the baby so that I could sit down and rest.
I completely trusted them.
Rarely have I met teachers that I could not trust, even with my own children.
I remember it being very easy to talk to them about the kinds of things that I was hearing from the school children and yes, some of the kids did report “seeing” things. At that time, I did not pay too much attention to it. I was a Master’s degree-leveled School Psychologist with no clinical training.
In other words, what they were “seeing” was not as important to me as gathering data for the Special Education (SpEd) team because that was my job.
I also had a wonderful Director, a former SpEd teacher, and team members who had no problem with training me as a Missouri School Psychologist. Recall that I was trained in School Psychology initially in Tennessee, and my team had the patience that some of us strive to develop in psychology. You see, transferring to a new State into special education is no easy feat for any School Psychologist.
Reason being, the paperwork usually changes a bit, along with State Laws.
There is also the need to learn many other things including, the style and/or systemic way that your job needs you to operate or perform. There is not a lot of credit given to School Psychologists, but there is a shortage of us across our Nation. So, what does that tell you? That we are needed and if you loose one, you may be waiting for a long time to find another one. My former school district administrators were a smart group of Psychologists.
They trained everyone properly, and we stayed.
I stay for 4 years.
They had a low turnover rate.
Many are still working there, after 20 plus years.
Some have since retired.
The learning curve can take a lot of time when developing new School Psychologists and collectively, I commend the Directors from my former place of employment, as well as my SpEd team in Riverview, for having the tenacity and patience to train me. That is what we are supposed to do as Psychologists; have one another’s back, even when it becomes difficult. We need to keep encouraging one another. Their teaching strategies trained me well for Missouri. Most importantly, it taught me how to treat and train new School Psychologists as well. These are skills that need to be taught to student School Psychologists, along with self-care. I have witnessed far too many interns and practicum students in tears due to stress. Their stress deriving from not having a clear understanding of how difficult this job can be, as well as not knowing exactly what to do in their new field placements.
That happened to me too.
Staff expect School Psychologists to know how their school operates on day one of school.
That applies to psychology students and new School Psychologists as well.
Especially if you transfer from other States into their School Districts.
Results in a,
High turnover rate.
What Happens When You Give Empathy toward Others?
When I moved away from St. Louis, I took all of that learning from my former employer all the way to Chicago. When it was time for me to work with children, I remembered the staff from my school placement in Riverview. I recalled the "do's and don’ts" of special education, and how to work that into Clinical Psychology. In the future and at random, I would bump into former students in Chicago years later. Although my former students would remember me, I rarely recalled all of them, including their names.
But you know what some would say to me in person when they saw me?
“You were very kind to me”
“You treated me as a human”
“You added my culture to your lectures to make me comfortable”
“My pregnancy while learning was easy because of you”
“I remember you. I never had a Professor make me feel so good about my culture”
“Thank you for not judging my sexuality, that’s important to me”
"You were very kind to me"
Acts of Kindness are Never Forgotten
I keep my job evaluations to help me grow. I still have all of them from many years ago, as well as my current job evaluations, whether they were or are positive or not. Remember, you are not perfect, so negative evaluations make you stronger! I took these evaluations with me on my journeys from Missouri to Illinois. We did eventually move to St. Louis, my second time living there, and once again, I met some outstanding teachers. Some of whom taught my oldest child in high school. Others were involved in team meetings that I was a part of clinically.
Some I met as friends.
I am still friends with a few of them.
Now, we teach one another.
After residing in Illinois for quite a long time, my family and I were deciding if we wanted to move to St. Louis. Many conversations and prayers happened, but I could not decide whether or not we needed to move. So, I asked in prayer to have a “clear” sign to make the call. I was sitting in my kitchen just looking out of the sliding glass doors, and a cardinal bird landed on my deck. It just sat there and looked at me.
I thought well, that’s my sign, and we need to move to St. Louis.
Once we were settled in St. Louis, I started seeing cardinal birds all of the time. As I worked with more and more children who could see ghosts and/or spirits, they began to tell me about these beautiful creatures. Many would tell me that they are either signs of God, or His angels watching over us. Child B was the first kid to talk to me about cardinal birds, and the ones flying around my new home. Then, I met a teenager who enjoyed talking with me about the spirits seen by this teen, and what cardinal birds represented spiritually.
The kids also made mention that God's angels remain around us, to protect us.
Sometimes, angels are in human form, says Nebulous Children.
Speaking of angels, as a kid, I recall a teacher that seemed angelic to me. She was my 3d grade teacher and she had a lot of patience with me, according to my mother. I was a busy bee; always exploring, talking, and bothering other kids until my 3rd grade teacher became involved. I just remember that she kept me busy whether it was extra math packets, clapping erasers, washing chalk boards, or running school errands for her. Then, a lot of my behaviors decreased. You see, I was bored in class which helps me to understand some of the children’s behaviors that I have worked with, and still assess from time to time.
Sometimes, psychology is not the answer and if we dig deeper, we can find ways to improve the plight of children without a psychiatric diagnosis or making them eligible for special education services. It can be difficult to work with others who are quick to jump to psychological testing and/or medication or both as solutions. I remain in touch with my 3rd grade teacher, and I still love her.
I will never call her by her 1st name, I still respond quickly if she calls my name on social media, and most of all,
I Remember Her Kindness
It was time for me to defend my dissertation in 2006, and it was hard. It was the hardest part of my entire doctoral career. My professors were all superb, and tough on me for my defense. Specifically, the Head of my Department. She stressed me out, (laughing), and when they asked me to leave to determine if I passed my defense or not, I was sweating. When Bob, my former Advisor, came out of the conference room to find me,
I was just looking at him. He said,
“Congratulations Dr. Liggins”
And I almost passed out! He grabbed my hand. He walked me into the conference room and they all hugged me. Then, the Head of my Department approached me and looked me in the face. I said,
Why did you make that so hard on me?
“I NEVER WANT THERE TO BE A QUESTION ABOUT YOUR CLINICAL COMPETENCE,” and she hugged me. I almost cried on her shoulder. Bob always told me that people would be hard on me because I am a Black female Psychologist. Ironically, my former Advisor, Dr. Ed Binkley, from Tennessee State University (TSU) said the same thing to me. And because of his foresight into what I would encounter, he wanted me to obtain a Ph.D.
He helped me apply for my doctorate degree.
Dr. Binkley told me to work hard when I am accepted because my journey would be difficult.
I am unsure if Dr. Binkley is still alive.
I did not understand what my three former professors meant at the time, but I do now. Most recently, I spoke to the former Head of the Department and I reminded her about what she told me in 2006. I wanted to remind her for awhile especially after Bob died, but I waited until the right time. She remembered.
She was RIGHT.
I’ll say it again, some people are not very kind. However, no one has ever questioned, MY CLINICAL JUDGMENT! When I speak to my colleagues about Nebulous Children to date, not one has second-guessed my stories. Nor did they disbelieve me, or even entertain that I may have fabricated my clinical notes. Too bad over the years that some had to learn of my clinical abilities the hard way; simply by showing them.
The kindness that I did experience from people throughout the years, heavily outweighed those
who were more difficult to work with in my career.
I am grateful to have met so many well-rounded teachers, faculty, and friends who have been there to teach and train me since the time I was in elementary school. I have family members who are also teachers. I watch their posts on social media, read articles, and see how exhausted they are during this pandemic. Millions of them, including support staff, have also lost family members due to COVID19, but still work with our kids daily.
For these teachers, including the ones that shaped me into who I am in order to help families, I am thankful. Recently, I told a teacher in a rural area about the child who prompted me to begin this blog, (the one who saw a ghost by a statue while testing). The teacher asked me what I was going to do with the information to teach others? Wait…what? I had not been asked that question. I told this teacher that I was unsure of the answer because it has been happening to me for years with kids. You know what this teacher said to me,
“Then you better get started with telling others to help these kids”
“Because I believe you…”
Sometimes it takes just one teacher to believe in you. Then, another one of my colleagues told me a few weeks ago about experiences that this person has and had with spirits. This person, also in education, encouraged me to write about these children’s stories because,
“I wish I could have told someone about mine”
“And I wish they would have told my visions to the public”
“My parents never believed me”
I have heard, “My parents do not believe me,” a million times. These stories are written on behalf of these children. I told some Nebulous Children in the past, “Many will not believe you or they will be skeptical of your visions.” I realize that these stories are hard to believe, but they are true. However, I am not writing them to convince you of their truth. I am writing them as they were told to me. Making you into a believer is not the goal of this blog, but adding how psychology plays into these children’s stories is mine. The next time that you hear a child tell you that s/he can see ghosts or spirits, take the time to listen to what they are trying to tell you. You may be able to assist them, as I learned how to, just by paying attention to them. Remember, fears and/or anxiety can decrease if the children trust you enough to talk to you. Be a good listener and most of all,
Be Kind to Others