Hi everyone,

I hope you're all doing well! 🧡 Since my internship ended last month, I've been meaning to create an article that discusses internship advice. For anyone who isn't aware of my program or what I did for my internship, the program I am in is a three year graduate program for becoming a school psychologist:

💡 Year One: Masters (already completed) - full-time classes, year-long research project, professional development hours log, comprehensive exam, and a lot of large assignments.
💡 Year Two: Ed.S. degree, year one (completed) - full time classes and semester long internship with large portfolio.
💡 Year Three: Ed.S. degree, final year. Year-long internship, year-long seminar, Praxis exam for NCSP cert, and continuing portfolio.

Last semester, I was in year two of graduate school with my internship going from January of 2020 to June 2020. At the internship, I was a school psychology intern in a regional middle school. I will be doing my full-year internship in a very large district from September 2020-June 2021 primarily in the high school, though they make us go to various schools in the district. Here is my advice and what I learned from the experience this past semester. Please be aware that this advice is geared more towards anyone who is interning in a school as a teacher, school psych, speech therapist, etc.
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You will feel very uncomfortable at first. It's normal! If you've never been in the school before (which is most likely the case), you may feel apprehensive towards getting lost. Something as simple as not knowing where to park or where a specific room is can yield some fear. Just know that this is normal and all okay!! To prevent this from happening, ask for a school map and call up the main office prior to ask for directions. You may also have some fears towards transitioning from observing your supervisor to taking the lead in tasks. That is okay as well.

Funny story: When I interviewed back in February for the internship I'm doing in September, I got lost finding the interview area! 😂 I went to the main office and told them that I had an interview in the CST office (the location) and the secretary told me the wrong directions... I ended up at a dead end in one of the halls and had to ask a teacher for help. A student in their class then walked me down to the location, and thanks to them, I wasn't late to the interview! 👍🏻 I told the interviewers this that day and they liked that I took the initiative to ask for help. Don't be afraid to do that if you land in the same boat! My internship is ironically going to be in the same school that this happened in. 😂 Hope I don't get lost again!

Keep and ask questions Have a notebook for internship and write down any questions you have along the experience. Don't be afraid to ask your supervisor questions. You're there to learn!

Stay active, even in times of observation: If you're a school psychology intern, you are going to be sitting in on many IEP, initials, annual review, manifestation, and I&RS meetings with the school psychologist, school social worker, speech therapist, guidance counselors, parents, etc. Although you are supposed to be sitting in on these during your second year, don't be afraid to add your insight or suggestions during these meetings. I have done this before during parent initial meetings where we determine a student's classification. Your input in these meetings matter, especially if you are the one who conducted the psychological evaluation and administered the testing (which I did often). You are trained in your program to know what is best for the students, so be confident in doing so.

Accept that mistakes can and will happen I made a few early on, and it's okay. Everyone in my program has too in their schools! We're still in training, so we're not always going to get things right. One example I can think of is when I did a psych eval on a student and wrote up the report. My supervisor told me that all of my values were incorrect, which I didn't understand. It ended up being that the district I was at used different norms than the ones my college taught me. I was super embarrassed. I also made a few other mistakes while there. As long as you are taking responsibility for them, apologizing when necessary, and not repeating the same mistakes and growing, you will be okay.

Use internship as a time to experiment As school psychologists, one thing we do a lot of is giving individual and group counseling. When I first started at my internship, I never got to observe my supervisor doing counseling. Instead, I was thrown into it as a case manager to students with zero experience. Everyone else in my program either didn't get the opportunity to do counseling without supervision or had to be watched, so I'm grateful for the opportunity I had. I started off doing worksheet style activities with the students, but found over time that they enjoy game-like activities much better, so I adapted my style of counseling to engage students more, and the only way to do this is through experience.

Try to be involved in the school Attend in-services, participate in school spirit days, and communicate with the staff that you see. Try to smile at people and engage in conversation, even if you don't know them. A lot of the times, I would do classroom observations in various classrooms (something that school psychs do a lot of), and I would talk to the teachers afterwards about the experience. This helps to build rapport.

Don't be closed minded to feedback You may think that your supervisor is being mean, but their feedback is meant to be constructive for future improvement. I always valued constructive criticism so I could learn and grow more in the profession. I never viewed it as being mean, and you shouldn't, either. Your supervisor was in the exact same shoes as you were at one point, so they understand that you are there to learn. I am actually using my supervisor's evaluation rubric from the end of the semester to assess areas of improvement.

Be friendly This goes back to the point of being involved at the district. Smile at staff members, connect with your supervisor, and be kind to the students. I was lucky to feel very connected to the students I saw for counseling. I also tried to remain friendly during classroom observations and talk to the classroom teachers. One thing I liked to do during observations was to become involved in class lessons with the students. Rather than sitting in the back of the classroom taking notes, introduce yourself to the classroom and get involved. I was observing a student in a science class before where they were doing an experiment, so I engaged with everyone while simultaneously watching the student's behavior. This makes things a lot less weird!

Come prepared, always Be prepared in advanced for changes in plans, because this happens a lot in the profession. There have been times where a meeting will be canceled or a student I am supposed to counsel is absent, so be prepared. Look at a student's evaluation results prior to a meeting (we see many so you may forget) and plan counseling lessons far in advanced. What I did was have an entire counseling portfolio of activities that I carried everywhere. My supervisor was also absent a few times and I was left solo to be in meetings, do test administration, and counseling. Trust yourself and your abilities during these instances.

You will grow more comfortable with phones: When I started my internship, I DREADED talking on the phone. Sometimes, I would have to call teachers to send down a student and would be a nervous wreck. As time went on, I grew more comfortable. When COVID happened, I had to do everything remotely and call parents and students from home and was totally fine. If that's not progress, I don't know what is!

Complete portfolio items early For my program, we had a large portfolio that went along with our internship that included presenting an in-service to staff, a counseling case, FBA, BEA, and many other things you complete at the school. When COVID happened, I barely even started on anything, so I was panicking and forced into rushing assignments. If you have a portfolio, start everything early, establish expectations between your university and school supervisors, and have your supervisor scan your assignments early for mistakes.

Track hours log every day you're there: For internship this past semester, our requirement was 300 hours. Part of the portfolio was tracking hours, the activities done each day, and how much time you spend on each. Use an Excel sheet to do this and update it every day. Don't wait until the last minute or you'll forget the days that you were at your internship and the activities you did that specific day. This was a mistake of mine that I will NOT be repeating next time around 😂

Connect with supervisors You will be spending a lot of time with your supervisor, so try to connect with them whenever possible. Send them regular communication via email, hang out with them on lunch breaks, and ask for advice from them. I would also suggest that you are communicating with your professor supervisor to discuss your progress at the internship.

Check email daily This is a given. You will be given a staff email address and will be using it frequently to email students, parents, teachers, and other staff.

Use appropriate student contact I did case management with students where I did counseling and progress monitoring. Since I had access to student grades and attendance, I would email and/or discuss via phone a student's progress with classes during our counseling sessions.

Create a counseling portfolio I have a portfolio that I'm building of various counseling ideas to try out for middle and high school students. This is great since you're always prepared and you won't ever not have ideas!

Don't be afraid to ask for help You are not annoying your supervisor by doing so. By asking for help, you're avoiding the potential of making a giant mistake.

BE CONFIDENT! You're in graduate school and at the internship because you are highly skilled and what the school needs. They wouldn't have you there if they didn't believe in your abilities.

Keep a dated observation notebook If you're a school psych intern, you will be doing many student observations, so date each one and take great notes. You're likely going to be referencing these notes in the future.

Prioritize your internship I worked in a different school that I attended growing up while also doing classes full-time and my internship. I don't recommend this to anyone. If I didn't work, I could have gained more experience through being at the internship five days a week. Instead, I was only at my internship twice a week and my job wasn't the most understanding of my situation. If you're juggling between work and your internship, choose the internship since this is what is going to matter in the long run.

Adapt to remote work When COVID happened, everything switched to online. I went from in-person meetings and counseling to doing meetings over the webcam and phone. I also did counseling this way. It may be tough to transition to a whole new way of doing things, but you'll be alright. Have faith in yourself!

HAVE FUN Whatever happens, make this your priority! You are only going to be an intern once or twice, so have some fun along the way. I really enjoyed my internship experience and I miss being a part of it so badly! 😭 I really felt welcome and at home in the school I was in.

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If you've gotten to this point, WOW, thank you!! There is so much more I want to add and say (I have a huge note in my notes app), but I don't want to make this any longer than it already is. Hopefully this offers you some insight and advice if you're doing an internship in a school.

Thanks again for reading! 😃

Kim💙

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