Tips for Surviving Internship
School Psychology Survival Tips
As I've mentioned elsewhere, becoming a school psychologist requires studying the processes of learning, psychology, and educational theories. Coupled with the coursework, there is a full school year of internship before practitioners are able to become a school psychologist. Because of this, I thought I would write this page to offer some suggestions to aspiring school psychologists in order to (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. I would also suggest you take a moment to review the tips I've created for nailing your school psych job interview. I've bolded a few that I believe are very important.
Always keep a pen and paper handy (unless you prefer to use your tablet/phone for digital note taking). 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?"
If you have an itinerant position, your vehicle will become a mobile office. I'd suggest keeping some office supplies in the backseat. Before I transitioned to a digital portfolio, I used collapsible file folders to keep blank copies of the most commonly used documents on hand; you never know if your printer/copier will jam and you'll need quick access to some eligibility, identification, or placement forms.
Link your tablet/phone to your district email/calendar. Scheduling meetings becomes easier when you can send a virtual invitation from anywhere.
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. I also kept a pack of playing cards in my work bag at all times; there are lots of activities I found to complete with students of all ages with a $2 pack of cards.
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.
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. Being seen at the beginning of the year sets a precedent that you'll find will help you later in the year.
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. I've bolded this one because I found it to be very important to my personal mental health. You need to make time for yourself during the day; I found that lunch time was my time do this.
Learn all you can about state assessments, especially allowable accommodations and alternative assessment formats for students with disabilities.
Lock your file cabinets. Student records should be kept secured. Even unused protocols should be kept away from wandering eyes.
Start a resource library with books or materials for faculty and staff to borrow from you.
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. I'd suggest snapping a photo of this information into your tablet/phone so that you'll have it with you at all times.
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.
Document phone calls made with parents. Write a single sentence summary of each phone call you have with each parent. It's all you need to job your own memory later.
Get a date stamp and use it to document when you received important paperwork.
Make and utilize report templates to save time when completing your reports. You can even use email templates for the same purpose.
Prioritize. Don't feel pressured if your top priority is not the same as the someone else thinks it should be. I've bolded this one because it's very easy to fall into the trap of being pressured by a needy parent or colleague to get something done faster than you had planned. No one knows the deadlines you face other than you. Don't be afraid to be honest: "I have 19 students I am working with this week, 7 meetings to host, and I plan to work with Johnny next Wednesday." Being able to acknowledge their need for assistance will help alleviate the pressure.
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.
Keep your computer/software login information in a secure place. I recommend you refer to my password safety page for additional hints.
Find out what type of candy your secretary (or para) likes. Buy it for them regularly.
Get on the good side of your information technology staff. The same advice goes for your custodial staff.
Visit with all your building administrators and special education and related service providers regularly. Make them know you care about their concerns.
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.
Your mental health and well-being are important; you need to be on your "A Game" so you can fully serve those around you!
Try not to take things personally. Realize that working in schools can be challenging for everyone.
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 and follow up with that person later.
If you get an upsetting email, do not reply to the message in an email. Respond 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.
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.
Go to as many annual IEP review meetings as possible.
Keep up to date on current events in education, politics, and local news.
Be visible in the hallways during passing periods.
Buy things from school fundraisers.
Don't be afraid to ask for help; call on your colleagues to brainstorm.
Remember to do no harm, and to be an advocate for all students.
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).