Monday, August 5, 2013

What I Wish I Knew Before Internship

I must say, summer has gotten away from me too quickly. I began this post back in early June while things were finishing up at my internship site. It is now August and I am just now tying up the loose ends. My apologies for the delay, but it is also perfect timing. Back to school sales are in full swing, fellow school psych soldiers are reporting for duty, and I am giving myself gray hair and nightmares and I think about beginning my first year. So much of the advice I have for interns below will apply to myself as well. 

  • Facilitate as many meetings as you can. It will make you much more comfortable in the long run.
  • Depending on the role of the school psychologist, get your hands on as many IEP's as possible too. In CT, school psychs might be PPT Coordinator in a district (varies across the state, but in my internship/current district I did/will serve as one). I had the opportunity to run meetings and write the subsequent IEP (minutes, goals, etc) before sending them out to parents. It was overwhelming at first, but I am much more prepared heading into my first year.
  • Become familiar with district initiatives, such as PBIS & Tier 1 programming. This will be helpful as you communicate with staff, implement interventions, recommend programming, and potentially interview. My district uses a program at the elementary level called The RULER Approach (check it out here). I became very familiar with it through my own research because I was at a high school during internship. I tried to find ways to adapt some of the values within my sessions. Because I am familiar with it, I will have an easier transition into my role within an elementary setting.
  • Offer yourself as a sacrifice (to an extent). We all know how hard it is to be a school psychologist. In some ways, it is even harder to be an intern. In my district I was able to do some outside evaluations (out of district placements). After I had done my assigned, an email went out that there were 7 left for the year. I immediately offered my services to demonstrate I could be a team player. Did I want to complete an initial for a student at a local charter school due the last week of school? No, but it helped me practice what I preach: I am flexible. I am a team player. I am a go-getter. And I fully believe these qualities were the a partial reason I was hired in the district.
  • Build your resource data base. In the age of social media, many are connecting on blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Listservs, NASP Communities, etc. This is a great way to get some ideas for groups, problem-solve, and collect resources. Also use your supervisor. S/he can be extremely helpful and have probably built an arsenal of supplies. Peruse their stash during the "down times" the first few weeks. Skim over/borrow some books to decide if they are helpful and something you'd like to purchase. Get samples of reports. Everyone's writing is unique, but they may have that one phrase that clarifies exactly what you were trying to say.
  • Observe. Observe others in your building and district. Watching other professionals at work is important to developing your own style. Join other IEP meetings (if there is more than one school psychologist). Participate in a session with a social worker. Facilitate a group with a guidance counselor. Go to other schools in the district. Again, it shows you are a go-getter, but also that you are really trying to make the most of this experience. Each school may function differently, so it is important to take a peek.
  • Start your case studies EARLY! These honestly sneak up so fast! The psychoeducational evaluation was a no brainer as I had done so many in the past. The ones that tripped me up were consultation and the mental health intervention. It takes a lot of planning and time to complete these. They also made me second guess my skill set (did I really understand consultation?!). Be sure to allot enough of your precious time to get them done, and done right. Also, start small. Break problems down into manageable chunks.
  • If at all possible, avoid bringing work home with you. While in the first two years of grad school I was immersed entirely in my courses and practicum sites. Because there was so much overlap, I was constantly thinking about my to-do list and the kiddos I worked with on a weekly basis. While this was important for the learning process, I found myself losing some of myself. I failed to practice self-care and lost a lot of my interests because school psychology became so consuming. During internship I moved out of state and in with my (now) fiance. I strove to make my apartment a sanctuary. I rarely worked from home as I preferred to stay late and relax on my couch when I returned. Not to mention, our school day hours are much earlier than "normal" work hours. Why not stay a little longer instead of being alone until everyone else gets out? It also helped that my supervisor was really good about boundaries and encouraged me to leave things until Monday.
  • Read. I know I mentioned blogs, Twitter, etc for professional development, but there are so many books available to make the most of your internship/first year. I read The School Psychologist's Survival Guide (Dr. Branstetter) last summer and flagged pages/resources to recreate and adapt. I plan to re-read it over the next few weeks in preparation for the year. I also just ordered So, You're a School Psychologist by Dr. Turner (literally, right before I started editing this post) and look forward to reading this one. The Burgeoning School Psychologist wrote a great review which prompted me to "like" Dr. Turner on Facebook. Over the course of the summer, he has teased subscribers with some highlights from the book that made me realize I needed to own it. I'm hoping that as I encounter scenarios in the field, I'll be looking for focused reads to overcome issues or further educate myself. 
These are just a handful of suggestions. Internship is exciting, scary, overwhelming, fast-paced, and full of emotions. You see the light of the tunnel, which can be incredibly far depending on the day. Just remember graduation day will come (before you know it) and you will be on your way to full-fledged school psychologists!

Have you survived internship and have some advice to share? Post it below in the comments!

I know I speak for the entire school psychology community when I say, congratulations on making it to your internship and I wish you much success and learning in your experiences!

Until next thyme, 

1 comment:

  1. In my opinion this is perfectly timed, because I start internship in three weeks! Thank you!