02 03 Notes from the School Psychologist: SPAW! SPAW! Burning Question, Answered. 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

SPAW! SPAW! Burning Question, Answered.


And so concludes School Psychology Awareness Week (SPAW! SPAW!) Every year, I alternate between making a screeching sound in my head and mentally adding an “N” to SPAW when I see it written down. It’s a pretty awesome acronym. At least this year I remembered it before it was totally over.  What? School psychs are busy people.  

I get quite a few emails from people asking my opinion on whether or not school psychology is the correct profession for them. I really do try to write everyone back, but sometimes the questions would take 382947982 hours to write back (like, “What is the difference between school psychology, clinical psychology, and counseling psychology?” Or “What is school psychology really like?”)* Important questions, but these 382947982 reports for work aren’t gonna write themselves. And I'm also nursing a baby and my todder is demanding to know why she can't have a brother named Hansel, or some other randomly awesome question.  And so my friends in cyberspace are left wondering. Well, fear not, cyberfriends! I am going to periodically post questions I get for all to read! I’ll even tackle some of the big questions. It’ll be like my very own “Ask Rebecca” column for a suuuuper specific demographic.

So without further ado, today’s question comes from a graduate student in school psychology, who is wondering:

You mentioned in the first chapter of The Survival Guide that school psychologists have many responsibilities. What is your favorite role in the profession? Your least favorite?

Ooh. I get another chance to plug my book! Thank you, grad student friend. In my book, I mention there are four primary roles of the school psychologist: assessment, counseling, prevention/intervention, and consultation. So which is my fave? Difficult to say, because I like some aspects of all roles, BUT, in the school setting, I have to say it’s a toss up between assessment and counseling. Here’s the cliché part: I love working with the kiddies directly. Assessment and counseling allow me that precious one-on-one time when I can really get to know a student and put together the various pieces of the bigger  puzzle as to why the child is struggling in school. Often, there is an X-factor that is discovered in assessment that gives the child’s support team a new lens for interpreting behavior or school performance. I love being a part of the team that solves the puzzle for the student so that targeted interventions can be generated to support him or her.

In assessment, even though the tests are the same, it never is the same experience. I recently told a student I was so excited to use the new WISC-V** because they only make new ones every 10 years or so and I’ve been giving the same test for 10 years, and the kid says, “Dang! That’s gotta get boring!” The thing is, it doesn’t because each kid approaches the tasks so differently, and every once in a while, you get a hilarious new answer to one of the questions. I wish I could post some, but I fear the WISC Test Security Police.

So what’s the worst? It’s also assessment. The absolute worst is writing the report. It’s painful and tedious. And it’s so important to do it right because it is forever in a child’s file and life. Also, I have this problem where I want to explain everything in super detail, so my reports in the school setting tend to be around 15-20 pages long.*** So each report takes me around 6 hours to write, and sometimes, I’m looking at writing a handful of them all at the same time. Also, no one leaves you alone in the school to peacefully write reports, so you’re constantly interrupted and end up having to take those buggers home with you to ruin your weekend. In the school setting, there is also a time pressure to write them, as you can’t very well show up to a feedback meeting without the feedback. So there’s a time crunch on top of it. Boo.

Then again, I do enjoy the feedback meetings in which I present the key findings of the assessment. It's especially rewarding when the student is present and can hear about his or her strengths and areas of need. Without fail,  students who are assessed typically feel globally “stupid” and when you can show them in black and white scores that they have some areas of strength or even super-strength, you can almost see their relief.

So there’s a snippit of my thoughts on the most rewarding and most difficult parts of a school psych’s job. And because it’s fun, I’m going to offer a free copy of my book to a lucky winner who comments on this page or the Facebook page what their favorite and least favorite part of the job is. Wheee! Freeeee! Now there’s a happy end to SPAW. Contest will end on 11/23/14. Annnnnnd go! 

*I have mega guilt about not writing people back because of an early childhood experience in which Molly Ringwald never wrote me back about how to become an actress. Not even a form letter. RUDE.

**Fed Ex guy is officially scared of me, because I totally nerded out big time when the new WISC-V came. He prob thought it was a box of diamonds by the way I reacted. To be fair, it was almost the same price…

***In private practice, I give many more tests in my assessment battery, so I’m rocking the 25-30 pagers for those. I tell parents that many of the pages are recommendations and data tables, so they don't freak out that I wrote a whole chapter on their child. 

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