Thriving School Psych Thriving Students

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
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.
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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Comments on SPAW! SPAW! Burning Question, Answered.

  1. Jill says:

    My favorite roles are also the ones in which I get to work directly with students, so counseling and assessment. My least favorite is documenting everything and completing the mountains of paperwork that come with assessment and counseling.

  2. Laura Kiewel says:

    Hi! I am in an Academic Research Developmental Psychopathology Psychology graduate program. However, I really want to do more with kids than research them! So I'm now applying to School Psychology programs! My favorite part of school psych? I can interact with the kidlets and still do research and crunch statistics! My least fave part? I can't wait to find out! Thank you!

  3. Agreed. My favorite parts of school psychology includes working with the kids and "helping solve the puzzle" of their school struggles for them and for their family. So rewarding. My least fav – definitely writing the reports!!! I love all the data, all the information, and I have it neatly explained in my head. It just takes HOURS to neatly explain it on paper. I would LOVE to get a copy of your book:)

  4. Leigh King says:

    I'd have to agree with everything you just said. My favorite part of the job is getting to directly interact with the students, which for me is assessment time. I also love hearing what their responses are. I've had many "kids say the darnedest things" moments!
    My least favorite part of the job is, by far, writing reports and eligibilities. Just like you said, they are so tedious because they will remain with the child and in their file forever. So we have to be sure that all information is written accurately and makes sense to the parents. I'm right their with you on length of reports! I try to explain everything, from results to why I have the assessment in language that the parents can understand.

  5. I am currently a graduate student in School Psychology. I think that assessment and feedback meetings will be my favorite roles. Assessment because some of the tests (i.e. Battelle) are really fun, and the meetings because I will be helping the students, teachers, and families so much by letting them know what we can do for the child! As for a least favorite, I've heard that it can be very difficult when teachers don't provide progress monitoring data for you. Can't have a full assessment report without all of the necessary data and work samples!

  6. I am currently a school psych grad student. I believe that assessment and meetings will be my favorite roles. Assessment because I'll get to work with students one on one; and meetings because I'll be helping students, parents, and teachers to better the student's educational experience. I love that I'll be able to bring my ideas and knowledge to the table to really be an asset to the student. I've heard that trying to get progress monitoring results can be pretty difficult (since teachers are very busy). Well, you can't have a full assessment without progress monitoring and work samples! So, the inability to control for other people's contributions would probably be my least favorite part.

  7. Rachel says:

    The best part has to be working with the kids! It seems that there's never a dull moment!

  8. Stephanie says:

    I'm just finishing up my first year as a School Psychologist in rural Australia.
    My favourite part would have to be assessment, I've always been drawn to this and actually don't mind the reports borne from assessment.
    My least favourite part is schools that exploit their School Psychologist for means of resourcing. My main job is to assist the child with their strengths/weaknesses and this does not always lead to resourcing. I refuse to label unneccesarily.

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