Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In the Beginning: A School Psych Starter Kit

A while back I shared my Advice for the New School Psychologist.  Getting and starting your first job as a "real" school psych is  as exciting as it is nerve-wracking.  You are  so ready to take on the world, but at the same time, feel like you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.  Right?



You are most likely taking over the job of someone else who left your district.  This can mean a few things:  you are taking the place of someone who left behind some district-purchased goodies that are a-okay, or you are inheriting  20 years of files and papers.



I don't believe it's necessary or wise to go crazy buying everything off amazon before you start and here's why:  you won't really know what you'll need, until you get to know your job and your kiddos. Often, my population varies year to year (or every few years), and my needs change.  So, I came up with a list of things that would be helpful to start out with, at the beginning.

1.  A report template:  I mentioned this in my first post, but I cannot stress how helpful it will be to put something together before you need to.  Because in all likelihood, but the time you need to be writing that report,  you will already have 5,000 other things on your plate as well. So start it now, while you have time.

2.  Fun games for kids:  You don't need much to start with, and what you need probably depends on the kids  you work with.  I found that, my first year, even though I had every game in  the world, all my kids wanted to play with was the old psych's legos and foam blocks.  That said, a game of Uno  and sorry will suffice at the  beginning.  And ask around-coworkers, family and friends often have used board games their own children have outgrown!

3.  A planner:  You will be a popular person for meeting invitations.  In order to remember to attend these, and to know when you are double (and triple!) booked, you will need some place to write these down.  So paper, or electronic, be prepared on your first day.          


4.  Professional clothing:  This might vary according to the school and district you work with.  My first year, I made it a point to look as professional as possible, even if I didn't feel like it all the time.   To this day, I feel better in tough meetings, when I'm rocking a blazer and my glasses. Am I crazy?  Maybe it's just me.  This is especially important if you are young out of grad school, and work in a high school setting.  A few months into my career, I asked for the key to the faculty bathroom at our high school, only to be told "Sorry, that's for staff only, hon!"

5.  A comfy place for students to relax:  When I moved into my office, it was outfitted with a leather Freudian -style couch.  Appropriate, for a psychologist, I suppose, but I couldn't imagine a Kindergartener coming in and opening up about their life while sitting on red leather.  I quickly donated it to another part of the school, and replaced it with a "calming spot", which I have had ever since.  A tiny rug, and some comfy pillows or a chair is all it takes.  Kids love it.  And there are some days, I just want to close my door and take a break in the calming spot myself.    

6.  Snacks:  You probably know this from being in an internship, but there are days where you will forget to eat lunch.  Or, you will think that you have an hour for lunch, and you end up spending that on the playground trying to get a student in for lunch.  If you get HANGRY like me, (or if you just need energy to function), don't forget your snacks.  Snack drawer, people.  It's essential.

7.  A bag to bring it all home:  If this is your first job, splurge and get yourself a nice bag to lug back and forth to your office(s) with you.  I know, I know, "don't bring work home", but it happens.  When you are the last person in the building and you aren't even halfway through your report, and you're falling asleep, it's better to take a break and bring it home.  And you will need a bag to tote that laptop, and iPad, and 10 folders.

8.  Some resources for counseling, but bring what you have, or what you know:  Like I mentioned above, please don't feel like you have to go crazy over materials.  Over the years, the resources I have used the most are the ones that I have borrowed from other people, and then bought myself.  Or, I will try out some freebies online, and then see if the curriculum works for me.  So, my advice would be, use what you have learned in school.  If you really like Social Thinking, buy a book.  But don't go nuts for things you might not use.

Your first year as a School Psych is going to be just as exciting as it is overwhelming and nerve-wracking.  And before you know it, you'll be an expert 2nd year professional!

What else did you have that helped in your first year?

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