Chris is a third-year in the school psychology program. He has been a teaching assistant and research assistant, and has some amazing hidden talents (like flying!) - he also was the first person to tell me about the program at MSPP. I had never heard of MSPP when we met at an elementary school in Concord. I appreciated his perspective as a fellow "career changer." Now, two years later, I am slogging my way through law & ethics, and Chris is in the midst of his internship year. He was kind enough to share with me his thoughts on being a school psychologist, MSPP, and advice for future students.
1. What led you to an interest in school psychology?
It was the fact that many children find school to be overly difficult, too "boring," and disconnected from "real life." In every work/volunteer position I've held working with kids, I have found myself helping kids navigate their way through homework, tough social situations at school, and high parental expectations.Thus, when I found out that this is basically what a school psychologist does everyday, I knew the field was perfect for me.
2. What were you doing before you enrolled at MSPP?
I am one of the students at MSPP who is completing a major career change. Prior to MSPP my wife and I were living in Colorado. I had worked in commercial aviation for awhile (my undergrad degree is in Aviation Technology) but had spent a significant amount of time volunteering and working with different child/youth organizations. We took the plunge to pursue school psychology and have not looked back. Both my wife and I have been extremely happy with our choice.
3. How did you decide to attend MSPP?
MSPP is truly the only institution with whom I spoke who expressed an interest in me as a person rather as a walking set of qualifications. MSPP recognized my unique background and viewed it as an asset rather than a deficiency. Furthermore, upon visiting the campus and meeting the faculty, I was incredibly impressed by their "eons" of expertise and genuin personableness. I knew that MSPP would offer me a holistic, nurturing, and academically challenging environment, and I have not been disappointed.
4. What has been the hardest part of being a graduate student? What has been most rewarding?
Obviously, balancing studies, practicum experience, work, and family life has been a huge challenge. With the caring support of my family and the MSPP faculty, I have nearly made it through...could not have done it without everyone's understanding and help! Seeing my skills and knowledge increase on a nearly daily basis has been incredibly rewarding. I've come to the realization that this is what I was made to do – a pretty awesome feeling.
5. What kinds of things are you doing at your internship this year? Do you have a particular interest you are focused on?
I am an intern in the Nashua, NH public schools. I currently split my time between an elementary school and one of the high schools. Look at a school psychologist's job description and I'm probably doing it right now. The majority of my time is spent consulting with teachers regarding behavioral and instructional issues, conducting psychological evaluations, and assisting staff with the emotionally handicapped kids in the elementary school's four self-contained classrooms. My interests lie in taking a preventive approach to helping kids with their learning difficulties. So many kids (a large percentage of which are boys) find school to be too difficult and "not fun." I would like to continue investigating ways in which schools can improve instruction as well as overall school climate in order to prevent the many behavioral and academic issues seen in students during the later grades (middle school and high school).
6. What would be your advice to future MSPP school psychology students?
1) Spend time with kids! One of my best instructors the last ten years have been the kids themselves. Volunteer at your local Boys and Girls Club, tutor, and talk to kids about their experiences in school.
2) On a more academic note, spend time trying to hone your writing skills. A huge part of being a school psychologist is writing reports.
3) If you can, shadow a school psychologist for a day. Seeing what they do on a day-to-day basis can be invaluable.
7. Is there someone who has been particularly helpful as a mentor/leader in your school psych work thus far?
I couldn't have made it through my training thus far without the support and encouragement of my wife. As far as helping grow specific skills and knowledge, my second year practicum supervisor, Dr. Peter Szuch, challenged my perceptions, preconceptions, and invested countless hours in helping hone my skills.
8. Anything else you would like to add?
The training to be a school psychologist has often been difficult, uncomfortable at times, yet utterly worth it. The skills I have learned that last three years apply not just to the eight hours a day spent in schools, but to life itself. From learning how to truly listen to people, to helping kids put the pieces together after a hard day, I've learned that being a school psychologist is much more than a way to make money. It's a way to help make life better for kids, their parents, and the teachers themselves. Pretty cool when you think about it.