Crisis of Conscience

It’s Saturday afternoon, my wife and kids are napping, and I’m filling out an application with PAREAP, Pennsylvania’s statewide educational job bank. I’m doing this in anticipation of my graduation from the School Psychologist graduate program I started back in the summer of 2003. At the time, I was a little disillusioned with my job, and wanted to take some graduate credits in anticipation of an eventual career move.

During the program, I became very enthusiastic about the potential for helping in this position, much as I was enthused about the potential for helping during my teacher training program. I still want to become a psychologist, and am looking for a position for the 2008-2009 school year, but here’s the rub:

I feel that this school year, I’m just starting to hit my stride in terms of connecting my students with a world much larger than their own. Some of that is thanks to “Web 2.0” and the perspective shift brought about by my involvement in blogging and Twitter over the last 8 months; some of it just due to my own personal growth & maturation.

My question is one with which I’ve been wrestling for a few months now, but have been a bit timid to blog about: after 5 years and several tens of thousands of dollars in tuition & book fees, is there a place for psychologists in the School 2.0/Unschool framework? Is there anything my expertise can provide or help facilitate, or am I effectively signing away any ability to contribute once I am no longer in a teaching or administrative position?


  • Congratulations! I wish you well!

    It seems to me that analyzing one’s goals and motives is an important critical thinking skill. Enhancing your metacognitive skills benefit your self analysis when striving for effectiveness.

    I don’t know if you studied his work, but Dr. William Glasser has guided my life for many years. He is an American psychiatrist interested in helping develop schools without coercion, The Quality School. Dr. Glasser frequently mentions the need to incorporate technology in our educational process.

    He believes that the use of technology can help students, teachers and the school community achieve more effective learning, by eliminating barriers and accelerating the opportunity to achieve quality work. Plus, it can make learning more fun!

    Good Luck!

  • Damian,

    I’m contemplating a major shift also: one more year of teaching, then retirement and (I hope) a career in various online enterprises which all connect back to education.

    It’s only been under a year that I’ve been really aware of, and committed to, the 2.0 sensibility. I can’t imagine losing my PLN; but will we still have a common language?

    I hope so, I believe, so, but it is scary to take that step into the unknown.

    Still crazy, after all these years, I guess.

    Congratulation! You’ll be spectacular at whatever you undertake.


  • Damien,

    That’s a tough choice (but the important ones always are, aren’t they?).

    From what I know of school psychologists’ jobs so much of what they do is confidential, I don’t know how you’d work the read/write web into that. Also our school psychologist spends most of her time dealing with testing for special education eligibility and writing reports. She complains that there is little time to actually work with students.

    I guess the question is can you find a school that shares your vision of what a school psychologist does? Do you know what your vision looks like?

    I have no easy answers for you. I’m here if you need to talk this out. I do know though, that no matter what you choose, the kids will benefit!

  • From my understanding of school psychologists’ responsibilities, I can imagine “web2.0” being pretty useful in helping the students. Even teachers have confidentiality issues to contend with, and EVERYONE has paperwork, so I wouldn’t worry so much about that.
    If you’re working with students with special needs, many technology/web tools are available to help with visual impairment, speech practice, you name it! I pray that it doesn’t come up, but as a psychologist, you may see more and more cases of cyber-bullying, but with your skills and experience you have an advantage while trying to settle those situations with ease.
    Best of luck in the “job-bank”. I was fortunate enough to get my teaching position before PAREAP took-over.

  • Just because an institution’s all Read/Write Web doesn’t mean that everything has to go that way. The students, for example, aren’t going to change. Sure, they’ll change the ways they work, hopefully, but the ones that have a need for a psychologist will still have that need. Just because you won’t be able to spend your workday helping a class full of students make magical discoveries online doesn’t mean you won’t contribute. My guess is that your office will be the place where a lot of kids will actually feel human.

  • Clearly your role with children will change as a school psychologist, but your influence will still be great. I have appreciated greatly the talent and expertise of the school psychologists I have worked with over the years. There may be a sense of separation with that ‘special group of kids’, but you will impact a far greater number of children overall. Many times, the children on your caseload really need a person such as yourself as their advocate, confidante, and mentor. I think it is particularly special that you are a male in such a role.

    If you land in the ‘right’ school you will be able to continue to bring the world and technology into your practice. If the job doesn’t seem right, stay where you are. As someone who has walked away from 2 jobs in the past 4 years for greener pastures, as you sit in that interview, you just know if it is right or not.

    I look forward to hearing more about this journey. The fact that you are even asking these questions means that your heart is in the right place for working with children; in whatever capacity you choose.

    All the best!

  • Damian,

    Titles, positions, and responsibilities mean very little; it’s the dedicated and learned voices who choose to speak out that matter. I have NO doubt that you can effectively and positively contribute to the lives of your students regardless of the path you follow. As long as you have opportunities to interact with kids, your input will be heard and make a difference….and that’s what counts!


  • I obtained a psychology diploma a little while ago. Thinking that I would move into a psychologist role. I changed my mind, fundamentally because I love teaching. Evaluating where you are and career changes is a natural process. Doubts about giving up something you have enjoyed and making progress with is only natural. Make your applications and then consider it some more. You can always change your mind, whilst keeping you options open.

    The UK education system is different to the US and as a school leader I have found my psychology diploma very useful. Ok I am not a psychologist, because I decided that route wasn’t for me, but I use the skills every day. Whichever route you choose you will be making a difference to the young lives in your care. It just depends how you want to make that difference.

  • Thanks everybody for your e-hugs; I appreciate the support. I guess I need to clarify my concern, though – while I enjoy the computer-based stuff, I think I’m more concerned about maintaining and promoting the 2.0 ideal, as @diane mentioned. To me, that’s less about the technology (although that does play a role) and more about engendering collaboration and building relationships. Skype, wikis, and Twitter, for example, make that sort of thing easier, but even with no Internet access, I’m wondering how I’ll be able to contribute to that development of relationships and sense of community when so much of my job will involve standardized assessment – not very unschooly.

    I love my tech toys, but they pale in comparison to the joy I get from bringing students together and seeing them combine their individual strengths to discover ones they didn’t know they had. Web technology facilitates that, but is not a prerequisite.

    I deeply appreciate everyone’s responses so far; this has been weighing heavily on me for a while now. I’d also love to hear the perspectives of administrators on this one – principals? Vice-principals?

  • […] asked in a blog post almost two years ago what, if any, place psychologists have in the School 2.0/Unschool framework.  Let me expand that […]

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