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How do you eat an elephant…?

…One bite at a time!

There’s been a bit of a phenomenon taking off on twitter recently among trainee educational and clinical psychologists. Each week, more and more colourful elephants have been appearing.

Reminiscent of Elmer, TEPs have been metaphorically eating their doctoral elephants one chunk at a time.

At edpsy we’ve absolutely loved this idea and thought this would be a great opportunity for a bit of an art/creative project! We’d love to receive as many elephants as possible showing your journey so far, through your training. (Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, England…all invited!)

What we want you to do

  1. Download a blank elephant (or if you’ve already got one…jump straight to step 5!)
  2. Write in the ‘chunks’ of your training. (Rachel’s elephant on twitter is a great example of what we mean)
  3. Colour in what you’ve achieved so far
  4. Place on a flat surface in good light and take a picture of it straight down, in landscape (Like Rachel’s elephant on twitter – we’ll need them to be in the same orientation)
  5. Send your elephant along to hello@edpsy.org.uk. (It would be great if you could put ‘Elephant’ in the subject line)
    • The deadline for getting them to us is 1st September

We’ll compile them in to one huge image and hopefully be able to pull together a nifty video of them all.

We think this will be a great project and hopefully one that supports new TEPs beginning their courses in September to see that the best way to eat an elephant…really is in colourful chunks!

Rachel and Ali have also written about their experience of colouring their elephants.

Rachel – a sense of accomplishment

Anyone who knows me will know I love a list, a visual, the graphic process and breaking down a task into manageable, achievable chunks. The doctorate can feel overwhelming and a lot like plate spinning with managing placement work and undertaking our thesis. As a cohort we’ve already broken down the three years into ninths and we’re celebrating our achievements a term at a time!

In the midst of the uncertainty of Covid-19 working from home and feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed halfway through year 2 of the doctorate I had to take a step back and think about how far I had come.

Everything was now taking place within 4 walls and through a screen – not how I ever imagined Year 2 would be (which definitely impacted upon my productivity, my motivation and ability to boundary myself). When I saw this elephant from a friend on the clinical psychology doctorate I was sold and got started on designing my own doctoral elephant for my progress on the Newcastle course. I found the colouring process therapeutic as it helped me become mindful of the present moment, and a real rewarding sense of accomplishment as I coloured in sections of the elephant and saw how far I had come and what I had achieved halfway through the doctorate. I love this colourful representation of the course and particularly love seeing other Trainees elephants across a range of courses.

Now Ali has shared a template for the elephant I am tempted to create a specific thesis elephant to break that down further as that is a MASSIVE task.

Get colouring everyone! We’ve got this!

Ali – recognising small steps

I remember seeing the BPS and DECP Educational Psychology competencies and proficiencies at the start of the course and being asked to start a professional development plan (PDP). It was quite overwhelming to think of all the competencies I’d need to demonstrate I had met.

Later in the year, I saw Rachel’s elephant on twitter and I felt a connection with the saying ( how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!) It felt very relevant to the doctorate process. Writing down all the steps I’d complete during the three years helped me visualise the process. Three years is a long time and the progress can feel gradual. By colouring in a section after each milestone its a great recognition of each small step and a brilliant way to represent the whole journey.


You can download an elephant here


About Dan O'Hare

Dan is an educational psychologist and founder of edpsy.org.uk. He has a passion for the power of educational psychology and connecting EPs with each other.

View all posts by Dan O'Hare

About Rachel Meyrick

Rachel is a trainee educational psychologist at Newcastle University heading into 3rd Year, currently on placement with Stockton-on-Tees LA EPS and a trainee representative on the DECP committee.Her doctoral research explores Residential Care Workers’ perspectives of how using psychologically informed practice can help build staff capacity and achieve positive outcomes for CYP.

View all posts by Rachel Meyrick

About Ali Tonks

Ali is currently a trainee educational psychologist. She will shortly be starting her second year at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust. She worked previously as a primary school SENCo & Head of EYFS.

View all posts by Ali Tonks



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