Tips for Surviving Internship*

As I've mentioned elsewhere, becoming a school psychologist takes lots of time studying the processes of learning, psychology, and educational theories. In addition, it also takes a full year of guided professional practice (called an internship) to become a fully credentialed school psychologist. Because of this, I thought I would write this page to offer some suggestions to young school psychologists which may hopefully make life a little easier on you. The following suggestions are listed in no particular order and many will continue to apply long into your professional carer after you complete your internship. I would also suggest you take a moment to review the tips I've created for nailing your school psych job interview.

  1. Always keep a pen and paper handy (or your tablet/phone). Teachers and administrators will often give you good information in the hallways, so make sure you have a way to keep track of it. You can also use the line I've used frequently: "I appreciate you telling me that, can you email me that information later?"

  2. If you have an itinerant position, your vehicle will become a mobile office. I'd suggest keeping some office supplies in the backseat.

  3. Link your phone to your district email/calendar. Scheduling meetings becomes easier when you can send a virtual invitation from anywhere.

  4. Buy incentives/rewards to keep in your office(s). Make the time you spend with students enjoyable for them. Young students like stickers, older students enjoy candy.

  5. Post your office hours and contact information by your office door. No one should ever tell you that they had a question but didn't know how to reach you.

  6. Schedule times to walk into classrooms to introduce yourself and services directly to the students. You can do the same for faculty during the first inservice meeting of the year.

  7. Take a nice lunch break on some days and skip lunch on other days. Don't eat lunch in the teacher's lounge; get out of the building and spend time with other school psychs.

  8. Learn all you can about state assessments, especially allowable accommodations and alternative assessment formats for students with disabilities.

  9. Lock your file cabinets. Student records should be kept secured. Even unused protocols should be kept away from wandering eyes.

  10. Start a resource library with books or materials for faculty and staff to borrow from you.

  11. Keep your school(s) phone number(s), bell schedule(s), and other critical information nearby. If you have more than one office, keep a copy of this information in each building.

  12. Live (and die) by your planner. Don't be afraid to tell someone that you're busy. Don't be afraid to leave a meeting if you need to go to another meeting. You have plenty of other places you need to be.

  13. Document phone calls made with parents.

  14. Get a date stamp and use it to document when you received important paperwork.

  15. Make and utilize report templates to save time when completing your reports.

  16. Prioritize. Don't feel pressured if your top priority is not the same as the someone else thinks it should be.

  17. Organize the paperwork you take to meetings in the sequential order in which you'll need to use them. It's embarrassing when there are people watching you fumble for the right documents you need in the middle of a meeting.

  18. Keep your computer/software login information in a secure place. I recommend you refer to my password safety page for additional hints.

  19. Find out what type of candy your secretary (or para) likes. Buy it for them regularly.

  20. Get on the good side of your information technology staff. The same advice goes for your custodial staff.

  21. Visit with all your building administrators and special education faculty regularly. Make them know you care about their concerns.

  22. Try not to take work home with you. Understand that your work will be there for you in the morning, it's okay to leave it there overnight.

  23. Your mental health and well-being are important; you need to be on your "A game" so you can fully serve those around you!

  24. Try not to take things personally. Realize that working in schools can be challenging for everyone.

  25. When you are asked tough questions, realize it's because people believe you know the answer and are willing to help. You are not going to know all the answers, but you are often the best suited to answer the tough questions, so take your best shot at answering the tough questions. If you don't know, then find the answer.

  26. If you get an upsetting email, do not reply to the message in an email. Talk in person or on the phone. You may find out that you misread the email in the first place and if you had responded by email, you would have only made the situation worse.

  27. Sign up to help with school/community events. Your coworkers will see you as more approachable and you'll make connections outside of the office.

  28. If you're asked a question to which you do not know the answer, you can say, "I'm not 100% positive, but I will get right back to you." Then get back to them!

  29. Go to as many annual IEP meetings as possible. This is especially important during your internship year so that you can get to know your students.

  30. Keep up to date on current events in education, politics, and local news.

  31. Be visible in the hallways during passing periods.

  32. Buy things from school fundraisers.

  33. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

  34. Call your colleagues to brainstorm (or just for a pep talk.)

  35. Remember to do no harm, and to be an advocate for all students.

  36. Limit who has your personal cell phone number. Give out your work phone number. If your school doesn't give you a cell phone, then sign up for a VOIP number, through a service like Google Voice (for free).

If you are looking for generic tips for surviving your first year of teaching (many also apply to school psychologists), you could look here or here.

Page last edited: 3/21/21