We all dread the question.
We dread it the most on public transit.
We dread it more on an airplane when we are trapped.
That’s right, the question, “So, what do you do for a living?” can be a dreaded question for psychologists. When I say I’m a school psychologist, I get:
-Wow! So you teach? What grade? (“School” must trip people up)
-Whoa! What am I thinking RIGHT NOW (um, psychologist, not psychic)
-Are you analyzing me right now? (Yes. Unless I’m tired.)
-I have a daughter/son with X problem……
-That must be so rewarding (Erm….most days…)
-I totally need a psychologist (Darn. My expertise ends at age 18, unless you are super immature).
and my favorite (someone really asked this):
-What is your favorite kid problem? (ooh! ooh! I love when they can’t read!)*
It is sometimes hard to say what exactly it is that a school psychologist does, because we have 8 hojillion hats to wear, but I usually go with “It’s like a child psychologist in the school setting. If there is a student who isn’t learning, I try to understand why, and I provide interventions or recommendations. I specialize in what gets in the way of learning (e.g. emotional problems, behavior problems, disabilities) and what helps learning. I do some prevention activities, but mostly I do interventions with kids, like testing students for disabilities, counseling, and consulting with teachers and parents.” I’m sure NASP has a better definition, but that is my “elevator speech” about my job. But sometimes, after the job description, you get trapped in a very long and unwelcome discussion about your profession…
In case you missed me posting this on my Facey Face page, I recently did this interview for the New York Times about psychologists trapped on airplanes in uncomfortable situations. Enjoy. In a schadenfreude kind of way.
*Like my friend Beth, I really wish there was a universal sarcastic font.
** I love this article. I love all of it. The only thing that made me have a Dr. Evil moment was reading “Ms. Branstetter” instead of Dr. Branstetter. (In Dr. Evil voice): “I did not go to 6 years of evil graduate school to be called Ms.” But who am I to criticize the New York Times? THE New York Times. I feel lucky to even be referred to incorrectly in it at all. And in true Me-Monstery fashion, I got a bunch of copies when it came out in print. Stocking stuffers, maybe?