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I scheduled my meeting with a school psychologist of k-12 public school in the town where I visited for two days. The aim was to learn more from her about her experience as a psychologist and understand school psychology in general. On the first day of my visit, I met the psychologist who was warm, friendly and accommodative. From the initial reception, I knew she would assist me to understand her role as a psychologist. To warm up for the discussion and asked her why she chose school psychology as a career. With a smile on her face, she told me she developed the passion to help and support children better their lives at an early age and this drove her towards this career. This question opened room for my major question on her role as a school psychologist.
As she explained to me, a school psychologist supports diverse roles of the school unit and these roles are in flux. First, the school psychologist is an active member in a school community and works closely with the staff, parents and teachers in an effort of achieving their mutual goals promoting children wellness. As a school psychologist, she made me realize that the activities include dealing with behavioral issues, social-emotional problems, learning difficulties, disability and other concerns that a child may be having. Unlike in early years when the role of school psychologist was limited, she emphasized that the role has currently expanded to include counselling of children, mentoring them while providing instructional services to them with a goal of promoting their wellness.
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I learned that in case a child is having learning difficulties, the school psychologist helps teachers increase the child’s achievement though assessing child’s ability and formulating effective instructional strategies that to ensure child’s optimal learning. Basically, the role of school psychologist revolves around individual child assessment, consultation with parents, teachers and other mental health professions and developing interventions such as counselling. As noted by Branstetter (2012), student assessment acts as the major role of a school psychologist. However, from the way she explained, I could tell that assessment is not only a major role but also a complex process that entails gathering information related to a specific child with an aim of understanding any difficulty or issue that a child may be experiencing and later intervene and eventually assist the child.
Personally, I thought psychological assessment process was all about administering psychological tests. However, she elaborated that although such tests are a part of his process, they are not automatically administered in every child’s case. They are only administered when necessary in an effort of understanding the difficulties facing a child. The school psychologist clearly elaborated to me how the assessment occurs. From the way she explained, I realized that assessment process of a specific child begins upon receiving a referral form filled by the teacher and a signed consent by the child’s parent or the guardian. This occurs when the teacher observes child’s poor performance in academics or when a child appears to be having some social- emotional problems.
Observation of psychologist’s activities
Since I wanted to understand what a typical day of a school psychologist entails, I requested her to allow me observe her school activities without causing any disruption. We planned for the observation to take place the following day. As I arrived in the school, the psychologist was already there and was having some consultation meetings with some parents and teachers. In a few minutes the meeting was over. Immediately after the meeting she began making calls to some parents. As she explained to me, one call was from parents who wanted her child to have a grief counseling session.
As the day progressed, there were students that came for the assessments. In this assessment, the psychologist would have face to face sessions with one student at a time. I realized how the psychologist works in a different setting in the course of the day. I noticed there was a time she had to go to the class and observe the students while they are in their learning activities. She explained to me that observation was part of her child assessment. Additionally, would constantly request for child’s file that has their classroom performance/ academic performance and would sit down and try to analyze how the child is performing.
The psychologist was kind enough to arrange for me to observe classroom activities in regular classes and arranged for my meeting with one some teachers in this school. I visited the class in the afternoon. The classroom had 20 children. As I entered the classroom, I went and sat down at the back of the classroom because I was trying to be invisible to avoid disruptions. While some students did not notice me there was one student who constantly turned back and stared at me looking curious. What came to my mind is the fact that this particular child was more aware of his social environment as compared to others. The students were busy in in their social study activity that involved designing their city using cubes.
The teacher introduced me to her class and she later explained to me what the class activity was all about. As she was explaining to me, the student who had captured my attention by constantly looking back and staring at me began making physical noise as if he was moaning. The class teacher inconspicuously asked the boy to stop making the sounds. I could see how the teacher passionately explained the assignment to the students but again, the same boy began kicking the chair that was in front of him but this was quiet so it did not disturb other children. All through, the boy seemed focused on the teacher. I noticed how the teacher would ask the students if they had any question related to the assignment and several students would raise their hands including the boy.
Although the boy seemed to have some problems, I was amazed by how hard he was striving to be productive in class and how well he cooperated through doing the assignments. I also noticed that the teacher was able to control the behavior of the boy and the boy would follow instructions given. The class teacher told me the boy had some psychological problems and at 4.00 pm, it was time for him get tested. The teacher asked me if would like to go with the boy to the school psychologist’s office, I agreed though I opted to stay outside as the psychologist had earlier told me that they maintain privacy. After a few minutes, the boy walked out of the room together with the teacher.
Meeting with teachers
In an effort of understanding more about the role of a school psychologist and the perceptions of others towards the role and responsibilities of a school psychologist, I met two teachers who termed school psychologists to be an integral member in this school. The teachers uncontrollably praised the school psychologist for the role she pays in helping children make responsible decisions and help children deal with traumatic issues facing them. Additionally, the teachers mentioned of the major role the psychologist plays in helping them manage children behavior in the classroom. Additionally, they talked about the key role that psychologist plays in ensuring children respect themselves and others.
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Generally, this was a great and an enjoyable experience for me. I got a chance to interact directly with a school psychologist and heard directly from her what her role entails. Additionally, I learned that those who work with a school psychologist have a negative perception towards the role she plays. Notably, I got a chance to learn much from the visit and I know what to expect and how to manage a similar job opportunity. As noted by Snyder and Christner (2011), school psychologists that are capable of managing their professional practice may enhance services they give to children and their families and consequently increase their job satisfaction.
- Branstetter, R. (2012). The school psychologist’s survival guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint.
- Snyder, E. P., & Christner, R. W. (2011). A Practical Guide to Building Professional Competencies in School Psychology [recurso electrónico]. Estados Unidos: Springer US.