Are you a New School Psychologist brimming with Anxiety about your first year on the job? If so, then hopefully these 7+ tips will help you feel more confident in your rookie year!
I’ve been a school psychologist now for over 15 years. I’ve had good years and very stressful years. Being a school psychologist is like running a marathon year after year. Sometimes it starts out at a fast pace. Sometimes slow. At either early school year pace, things are bound to get a little rocky and a lot stressful at some points. With these 10 tips, hopefully you can keep things smooth sailing, even in your first year on the job.
TIP #1 Create an Assessment Log and Fill it In During the First 2 Weeks!
If your district doesn’t mandate you to create your assessment log for the year, then this is something that is a MUST for you to do on your own. Every district is different. My first school district provided a log and insisted that the school psychs keep it up to date and share it monthly with our supervisors. My current districts has no such organizational strategy, so I made this process a must for myself to help keep track of the craziness in real time.
How to make an assessment log:
Every year I spend my first few days figuring out all of my pre-determined Triennials. I use a log that I have created in a Google Docs spread sheet. This log will be your guide and should include: when IEPs will be due, when assessment plans should go out, when IEPs are scheduled, who the case-holders are, and other details about the student (ID #, Grade, DOB, etc.). You can also use an Excel sheet. However, using a Google Docs spread sheet will allow you to easily share the form with the members of your school’s SPED team that need to see it.
The key is to create a preliminary log that includes all of the annual and/or triennial dates. Then meet with your school’s Special Education team (SPED teachers, speech path, principal, etc.) and schedule THE ENTIRE YEAR!
An additional tip within this tip #1 is also to be sure that you space your triennials out!
If you have a year with 2 Triennials in January, 4 in February, and 7 in March…move some up! If you don’t attempt to spread your report writing evenly from the start of the school year, you will surely lose you mind. This is because throughout the year, parents and teachers will be requesting initial assessments. And, I promise you, these initials will always end up being due in your busiest months! By explaining to your teachers at your IEP scheduling meeting that you NEED to move up some IEPs to spread out the year, you can save your future-self a lot of stress.
TIP #2 Make a Testing Schedule and a Counseling Schedule and Try to Keep to it!
Yes, more organization is tip #2. But the key to less stress on the job is to set things up right, right from the start. Being proactive with figuring out with your other specialists (RSP & Speech Pathologist) when you can pull students for counseling, will help keep things consistent for you and your students.
For testing, you can make a testing schedule, so that you don’t fall behind on testing. Having more than one school can be particularly challenging. Keeping a testing schedule that indicates which weeks you plan to test upcoming students can help keep you on track. Just be sure to update it every month, as IEPs will be held and new students will need to board the assessment train.
TIP #3 Get to Know Your School Psych Colleagues
If this is your first year or two, you will definitely need some support from other psychs! Meeting up for coffee and showing up to monthly meetings is a must to build trust and support from your very busy School Psychologist colleagues. You can also engage in email banter to help build your rapport. But just be sure to not say anything inappropriate. Keep things professional, but show your kindness and eagerness to do things right.
TIP #4 Get to Know the Teachers and Staff at your School Sites
Being friendly and engaging in banter from time to time is good. As my district’s current slogan says, “Relationships Matter.” By taking some time out of your day to talk to your teachers, specialists, and staff, you become more approachable and likeable. Other tips may include giving holiday gifts to your Special Education School Team and bringing treats when there’s a potluck day.
Teachers often have their cliques because many have been at their schools for years. If you are new to a school, you might want to start with an introductory email to share a little about yourself. This can help the staff get to know you, remember your name, and be more friendly with you from the start.
Other than creating a more friendly work environment, there is one anterior motive to being friendly. That motive is getting the teachers at your schools to return your rating scales completed and in a timely manner. If they don’t know you or like you, some teachers may blow you off when you leave them all of your lovely long rating scales to complete. Once completed, be sure to thank them in an email or in person. Gratitude brings positive attitude.
TIP #5 Be Visible and HELPFUL!
There’s a lot you can do to make yourself visible on your campus. Many psychs like to hide in their cozy offices and only leave to do observations. Well, don’t let that be YOU! Making yourself visible is good for your self-promotion of how hard you are working to support your school. If you hide in your office, the Principal may not think that you are going above and beyond to support their school.
If psych-time is a school-purchase situation, this could lead to your school purchasing less days. You’ll still have the same number of cases to evaluate. You’ll just have less days to do it in. So, be visible and helpful to the best of your ability. That may mean doing yard duty, welcoming parents at registration, or helping out at assemblies.
TIP #6 Communicate Well and Often with Your Principal
Principals come in all different personalities and opinions of your role. By frequently communicating with your principal about how you are helping different students and teachers, you are guiding them to see your role and value. I’m always updating my principals on everything that is going on with students or parents that need support. To communicate, I will either tell them in person during the day or I will sometimes Cc’ them on emails with concerned parents or the Special Education team, so that they can be up to speed on all of the problems that I am solving.
This school year, I have both my Principal’s cell phone numbers in my phone. Since I am bouncing between two schools, I often have to text my principals if I get called to the other school mid-day or need to start my day at the other school due to an IEP meeting. Yes you can email, but texting is more of a sure thing that you are communicating in the real-time. This makes you look like an excellent communicator, which you are!
TIP #7 Have Lots Of Counseling Resources and Activities Planned Out Ahead of Time
As a seasoned School Psychologist and TpT creator, I have the advantage of having tons of games, videos, and activities for my counseling students at my fingertips. As a brand spanking new School Psychologist, you may not yet have a few, or any, Counseling activities. This is going to make things tough! If you are not confident yet in your counseling, having lots of activities will definitely help you get through the first few weeks.
If you are looking for more tips on School Based Counseling, check out my article on “3 Tips for School Counselors for Improving your Confidence with Individual Counseling Sessions”
If you are in need of some Counseling Resources and Activities, please check out my TpT Store, Counseling Fanny Pack of Fun.
Here are some of my most popular products. Just click on any that sounds fun for your students! My school-based counseling activities are all about being fun and engaging, so students want to come to counseling and can learn the important social and emotional skills that they may be lacking.
It takes around 5 years in any profession to be fully competent. So, don’t let any hiccups in year one set you back. You’re doing GREAT! Just be organized, professional, visible, and for an added tip…
Make sure you get ALL of your testing done at work!!!…Reports can be written on the couch at home if worst comes to worst.
You Can Get Counseling Activities Today… for FREE!
If you are hoping to find not just inexpensive, but FREE Counseling Activities, then you are in the right place! Subscribe to CounselingFannyPack.com and gain access to the Free Resource Library! In it, you will get new counseling activities that are updated monthly for subscribers! Just Click HERE to sign up for access!
If you are OK with spending $3-$5 on a few fun counseling activities for your students, please just click the pictures within this post and they will all link you to the product in my Counseling Fanny Pack of Fun store.