A Highlight of the 2nd Year School Psychology Graduate Students
By Aubrey Elmore
The overall transition from first to second year graduate training is generally a smooth experience. For example, the classes are structured to coordinate with our practica experiences. However, when the second years were asked to describe their practica experiences, an overwhelming consensus was the dramatic change of the amount of independence each student had within the schools during their second year. Initially, this increased independence was a source of concern for many, fraught with adjustment difficulties. Accompanying this semi-autonomy, the students reported that they had to be more responsible and less reliant on their supervisors. But being a second year student was also interpreted by our students as having learned more skills and being given the opportunity to apply them in the schools. They also felt that with these skills they were able to build better relationships with school staff and students. All in all, though, the second year students unanimously agreed that they had a greater impact on the contributions they had to offer at their individual settings.
The practicum supervisors, on the other hand, expect more from the second year school psychology students and want them to be self-sufficient. Some teachers and other school personnel prefer to work with second year students because they feel that they are more knowledgeable and have more skills to offer them. This added responsibility and independence has allowed the second years to grow professionally and personally. Essentially, being a second year student means, observe less and interact more.
There is considerable variability in responsibilities at the various practicum sites. Many of the second years are completing portions of assessment batteries (e.g., cognitive, social/emotional, achievement) on actual students referred to the Committee on Special Education. Also, they have had the opportunity to interpret test results gathered from observations and evaluations of students with direct supervision from their supervisors. Further, they have even participated as active team members on evaluation teams. Second year graduate students are also consulting with teachers and meeting with students for group and/or individual counseling. Some second years reported developing functional behavior assessments for students at their settings and making follow-up contacts and phone calls to both faculty and parents.
Many of the second years agreed the added responsibilities at their practicum sites proved overwhelming initially; however, all adjusted well over time. They agreed that they wished they could be in the schools five days a week and felt that what they were learning in class is being used by them in their settings. Interestingly, when the second year students were asked based on their individual experiences what population they preferred to work with, the majority replied that they desire to work with elementary students.
Finally the second year students offer some insight for the first year students. Remember to go into your second year placement with an open mind because their will be various changes and greater independence. It is important to be vocal and meet people on your own, offer to help out in different classrooms to gain experience with regular and special education students, and become aware of the various forms of teaching styles. Lastly, be aware that "the bridge" between school and forming a professional identity is already being constructed.