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How I Became a School Psychologist

How I Became a School Psychologist

Dr. Rebecca Bell Branstetter

What is a School Psychologist anyway? Personally, I don’t recall any school psychologists in the schools I attended growing up. Perhaps I wasn’t the type to be referred to said psychologist as I LOVED SCHOOL. I do seem to recall there being counselors who helped you pick your schedule, but I was certainly unaware there was such a field as “School Psychology”.

I stumbled upon school psychology as a profession in Reno, from a Gypsy. I’m not crazy, read on.

I come from a family of 158,439,753 teachers (including my mom) and one engineer (sorry, dad, you’re outnumbered). Education was the clear choice as I always loved working with children. This decision was further solidified by my one summer in high school clerking with my father’s engineering company as a “traffic engineer” cross checking how many pipes were needed in Uzbekistan for a gold mine…zzzzzz. I complained to my father that the only exciting thing that happened all day was the small social interaction I got when the Airborne Express delivery boy came. Also once I saw a memo that someone was trying to sneak gold out of the mine in a thermos. That day was pretty exciting.

It was clear I needed to work with people, not paper.

Initially, I went to college to be a teacher. I quickly ruled it out as the first class one had to take was public speaking. I was not shy, but it sounded horrible. So I loaded up on courses in child psychology and anointed myself the prestigious title “Psych Major” with the aim of being a child psychologist.

My junior year I conducted a research study for my psychology class that tackled the ubiquitous burning research question: “Do members of the Greek system cheat?” Deep stuff. Remarkably, this study was accepted for a presentation at a psychological conference in Reno, NV. So off I went, alone, to this conference. I was only 19 at the time and therefore could not partake in the delightful world that is Reno’s nightlife, other than going out to dinner. I went to the nearest restaurant that advertised “European Style” seating, which turns out, is code for “share that table over there with that stranger.” I sat next to a woman who was also attending the conference—a woman named Gypsy, who was a school psychologist. As we shared our Euro meal together, it became abundantly clear that school psychology was the career for me. As she spoke about how school psychology blended the fields of education, teaching, child development, and counseling, I found myself getting excited. It seemed to me that if a teacher and a child psychologist had a baby, it would be a school psychologist. And it would be perfect.

Plus you have summers off.

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