By Emma King, Staff Writer
This week is school psychology awareness week, bringing attention to a field that a lot of students don’t know exists.
Dr. Alexander Beaujean, Baylor’s School Psychology Program Director, said school psychology is always one of the top social service professions in the nation. This year, the U.S. News’ list of best social service jobs ranked school psychology No. 1.
Beaujean said the purpose of the week is to inform students, faculty and families of the skills and services that school psychologists have and provide.
“The main thing school psychologists do is they help students in schools, and teachers and administrators in schools,” Beaujean said. “Basically, it’s that focus on academic, mental heath and behavioral issues.”
School psychology, in the educational psychology department, is not just clinical psychology in a school setting.
Beaujean said clinical psychologists have a larger focus on the mental health area and often times deal with more severe cases than a school psychologists would. School psychologists consult with teachers and are a resource for both the school they work in and the school district, said Dr. Julie Ivery-Hatz, a Baylor associate professor of education psychology and the director and founder of the Baylor Autism Resource Clinic.Hatz said a school psychologist is not a school counselor.
“School psychologists tend not to deal with vocational guidance or schedule setting. They tend to work more with students that are struggling in the classroom,” Beaujean said.
That means that they would be more likely to work with learning disabled or special education children than a counselor would, Beaujean said.
“You have some of those kids that you will never forget and I think that’s what inspires our field,” Hatz said.
Hatz said school psychologists would ask themselves something like, “What can we do to help them maximize learning?” or, “What can we do to help all students learn?”
Beaujean said most universities do not have an undergraduate school psychology program. At Baylor, it is a graduate program or a minor in the school of psychology. Beaujean said most of the students in the program come from psychology or education backgrounds, but there are some exceptions.
As a part of school psychology awareness week, students from Baylor’s graduate program will be visiting some Baylor classrooms and organizations to tell them about the field. Some Baylor professors will be going to other universities to spread information about school psychology, as well.
This week of awareness is part of an effort by the National Association of School Psychologists, an organization that both Beaujean and Hatz are members of.
Before coming to Baylor to teach, Hatz spent time as a practicing school psychologist in four different states and worked with student populations ranging from pre-kindergarten to age 22.
“I’m very passionate about what I do and I feel like it’s very important to bring these experiences to the students in the classroom,” Hatz said.
She said students in the educational psychology department get hands on experience in their first semester.
Hatz said a passion for children is a must-have in this field and that school psychologists will wear multiple hats at work and must be very flexible.
“As we counter so many challenges in the school its important to have personnel that can help,” Hatz said. “That’s why I love what we do.”