10 MUSTS for New School Psychologists

School Psych Meme

1. Create an Assessment Log System…and Share it with YOUR Specialists

I am “Ms. Organization” when it comes to starting the school year, but the key to success with keeping up with your caseload is keeping up with organization throughout the school year. There are a few systems that you can use to keep up with assessments. The main system is an “Assessment Log” that I have on Google Drive. I used to have it as an Excel sheet; however, a few years ago I realized that if it’s in Google Drive as a Spread Sheet, I can share it with ALL of my specialists that will be part of my initial and triennial IEPs. This includes the nurse, Speech Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, and of course Special Education Teachers at your school or schools. This way, everyone can see your updates, such as new initials, changes in IEP dates, and when their student’s assessment plans need to go out for triennials.

With putting the log on Google Drive for everyone to see, there are no excuses for absent minded specialists. Of course, warn everyone that they need to check with you if they need to make any changes, but typically, I will have them email me a change and I will update the log. This system really helps with keeping on top of things when you have multiple schools because you can just have a separate tab for each school within the Google Spreadsheet.

When to Make the Assessment Log

Make the log your first two weeks of school! To make it, you will have to look at your entire case load and try to arrange a print out of your entire case load of students at your school or schools in the order of their next triennial IEP. Then you will have to manually create your log. Here’s a picture of part of my log, so that you can see the categories. Yes, I also color code the columns. Organization people.

Assessment Log

A Monthly System for Testing Order

To further help you keep your head on straight, I would recommend using a system for determine exactly when you will be testing each student. This might sounds a little over the top, but you will thank me come November, when things start getting out of hand. You can make this yourself with a ruler, or you can use the one that I made and use. It is a FREE RESOURCE in my Teachers Pay Teacher Store. Basically, you will just fill it out with your next 10-13 assessments, in order of IEP due date, every month or two depending on your case load. This way, you can indicate exactly what week or exact date you will be testing each student.

Of course, things happen. But, if you fill it out in pencil you can move things around if IEPs get pushed back or you are out sick and don’t test on a date you were shooting for. It’s all about setting yourself up for success. So, give yourself some wiggle room and you will always get your testing done with time to spare. Getting the testing done is the key to success with getting reports done because you can always type on your couch at home. You can’t test students outside of school hours, however.

If you are in need of other assessment tools and tips for assessment, click HERE for my article, “6 Tools for School Psychologist to Conduct A Psychoeducational Assessment.”

2. Create a Counseling Organizational System

For this item, I made a whole video to help better explain how to keep organized with your counseling case load. This school year, I started with a cozy 8 students. By the Spring, I had 25 students to keep track of between my two schools. Using a system to keep organized with your counseling case load will help ensure that you see all of your Counseling students according to their designated minutes that are in their IEP. Keep a tracking system of your sessions will then also help you with tracking their progress and helping you with any documentation that you may need to do for Medical or other billing during or at the end of the school year.

Organization for Counseling

3. Create a Great Workspace

Office Desk

As a school psychologist, I often have little to no say as to where my office will be. I can attest to being put in janitor’s closets, the back of the dean’s office, and in “the bungalow.” As a school psychologist, it is important to be flexible and work with what you are given. Even if you have a small space, many of these items are important keys to making your job easier. This can help prevent school year burn-out.

School Psych Office

Comfort is key. For my first two years as a school psychologist, I was at the edge of campus of a very large Middle School. My office was between the boys and girls bathroom, and did not have a working AC or heater! In my article, “10 ESSENTIALS For Your School Psychologist or Counseling Office”, I dive into the things that have made my life in my offices over the many years workable. I am not as good as many other psychs at making things super cute, I’ll admit. And, I do not spend a lot of my own money on decorations, but sometimes a few key essentials can make your life at work more comfortable and functional at the same time. Click HERE if you’d like more specific tips from this article on setting up your office space for success.

4. Do GREAT, not just GOOD, Observations!

Seeing is believing. Always observe the students that you are assessing as part of every assessment. Sometimes this is the hardest part because it’s hard to leave your cozy office and put in the minutes in the classroom to observe students. If possible, always try to do your observations before you assess, so that the student is less aware of who you are. Another tip for good observations is to talk to the teacher before observing. This way, you can schedule a time that they are actually teaching. I cannot tell you how many times I have “popped” in without remembering to contact the teacher and your student is at PE, watching a video, is not in the classroom, is taking a test or is doing a computer activity. ST Math does not make for a good observation.

Then take detailed notes and use short-hand if possible. Pretend that you are a movie camera and be object about what the teacher is doing, what the student is doing, and what the other students are doing. Comparing the student to the other peers is a key part to determining eligibility. This is especially true with students that you are evaluating for ADHD or Autism. In addition, I always just use initials while observing, just incase a student nearby tries to look at what you are writing down.

5. Use or BUY Report and Test Templates

While your district may provide a report template for you to use, it is likely that it will be exactly what you need to save you time. First, Try to edit it down the template that they will give you to just the tests that you will typically give. My District gave me a template with 79 pages! There were all kinds of test options that I didn’t even have available or had never given. After editing down my template, I have around 45 pages. When I start a report, I will then delete out all of the tests templates that I will not be administering to avoid too much scrolling time waste when plugging in different parts of the report.

If you are not feeling confident with writing up certain tests or writing eligibility statements, ask for samples from your more experienced colleagues. Samples does not mean copying your sample and then plugging in your student’s name. That won’t work because scores and analysis are always individualized to the student’s performance. You can, however, take how others’ write up and make it flexible for writing it up for a variety of genders and performances. To do this, put an “XX” for the original student’s name and insert “his/her” in places, and insert “Low/High Average” and/ or “strength/weakness” in areas that these terms apply to in order to create your won template for certain tests. Other options for improving your report writing include purchasing templates for specific tests or write-ups on Teachers Pay Teachers.

6. Get a Mentor or Attend Case Review

Hopefully you have been hired into a district with a great system for supporting new psychologists. A good system would probably include a seasoned psych mentorship, frequent case review meetings with your supervisor, an orientation, and other supports from a supervisor who does not expect you to know everything on day one. This might not be the case for every new psych, as every district is different with their new psych support system.

While I disliked case review when I was forced to go to it, I wish that my current district had it on occasion when I have a tricky case. While after 15 years I rarely have a case that I don’t know what to do, I would think that the newer psychs in my district may not be writing the most defensible reports. I think my district does, however, provide a mentor to newer psychs that are hired. If yours doesn’t, maybe figure out on your own someone who you feel if knowledge, friendly, and would make the time to support you if you had questions. Maybe buy him or her a coffee or Starbucks gift card in exchange for some pointers and support.

7. Have Tons of Counseling Activities Ready

School Psych Bookhttps://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/AWESOME-Book-for-School-Psychologists-and-Counselors-supporting-Grades-K-8-7966053

Here’s where being prepared will help make your life easier and help you be a strong provider of counseling services. Most districts will provide you with none to a few counseling types of games. It wasn’t my experience to have any counseling materials provided for me, so I had to use my own money for board games and find counseling worksheets. For most students on your caseload, you will be providing counseling services FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR! That’s a lot of counseling sessions. Kids get bored. Kids don’t just want to talk about their difficulties or “bad behaviors.”

This is why I started making my own games and worksheets. I found that the ones that I purchased were just not always what I needed once delivered or that my students got bored of the same games. Above is my handbook that is filled with tons of games, worksheets, social stories, and activities that can last you weeks for a variety of counseling topics. I also started incorporating videos into my counseling several years ago. I didn’t use videos for my first few years as a school psych, however. YouTube was very new back then, and it didn’t really have many options for counseling videos. Yes, I’m old, haha. Here is my videos list that is my go-to when working with students on a variety of counseling topics.

Counseling Videos

8. Dress for Getting RESPECT

I’m not a fashion designer, influencer, or wardrobe expert. I just remember my counseling intern asking me at the beginning of the school year how she should dress. I felt a little worried hat she didn’t know. My basic advice would be to dress professional 95% of the time. This means no sweatshirts, costumes, crazy hair, or T-shirts, unless its a nice T-shirt that you pair with a sweater or blazer. I typically strive to dress less casually than teachers often do.

I used to wear heals, as I am only 5ft tall. But, you may have “runners” at your school site! If this is the case, but you want to wear heals, bring a spare pair of slip on shoes for instances where you will leaving your office and going for a walk or run. I NEVER wear…Ughs, Tennis Shoes, Flip Flops, or Slip-On. I do wear…Boots, low heals, nicer sandals, and flats. That’s just me. But, if you want to appear professional, you need to dress the part at all times for the most part. I don’t even dress up for Halloween or spirit days unless I can make it as professional looking as possible. Sorry, funny outfits are for the teachers. They are the stars. We are the background managers who control the chaos.

9. Build a Positive Relationship with your teachers and Administrators

This is probably the most important step to having a good school year. You need to build both trust and respect from your principal, while being approachable and supportive to your teachers. Don’t hide in your office. Get out there and eat lunch with your teachers from time to time. Spend some free moments consulting with teachers on any students that you are assessing or they are concerned about. Nicely bug them for your rating scales and teacher questionnaires back and let them know that you completely understand that they feel too busy to complete your forms. Give them thank you cards and praise for returning your forms.

When the holiday season comes around, I always give little gifts to my special education teachers, speech pathologists, and principal. Let them know that you appreciate all of their hard work too. Building positive relationships take time. Some administrators can be tricky or even difficult to work. Just be organized, stay on top of things, and go above and beyond when you aren’t feeling swamped, and they will know that you care about their students and are not lazy or unhelpful.

10. Believe that you are a SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST!

Psychologist

That’s right! As my professor told my graduating class, “Just pretend that you are the School Psychologist, and one day you will feel like you are.” You got to fake it until you make it, or something like that. They say it takes at least 5 years in any profession to actually know how to do a job, so you’ve got this year…and four more years of growth before you really feel confident. You are only going to get there if you give it your best, ask for help or ask questions of colleagues, and keep investing in your knowledge in your new profession. Better to be right, that write a weak report or IEP goal.

There will be so much to remember, learn, and do every day. Just keep swimming! When you look over your shoulder, you will realize that you were an amazing School Psychologist this year, even if there were a few bumps along the way. You got this!

1. Create an Assessment Log System…and Share it with YOUR Specialists I am “Ms. Organization” when it comes to starting the school year, but the key to success with keeping up with your caseload is keeping up with organization throughout the school year. There are a few systems that you can use to keep up…

1. Create an Assessment Log System…and Share it with YOUR Specialists I am “Ms. Organization” when it comes to starting the school year, but the key to success with keeping up with your caseload is keeping up with organization throughout the school year. There are a few systems that you can use to keep up…