My STEP signature project was a Service-Learning and Community Service project completed in Autumn 2015 through the First Educational Experience Program (FEEP) at Ohio State. FEEP is a course offered in the College of Education and Human Ecology that allows undergraduate students to shadow and work alongside professionals in educational fields. My experience with FEEP allowed me to complete a service-learning endeavor in which I helped gather data on middle school aged English Language Learners for preassessment for future assessment of learning disabilities. This endeavor fulfilled the requirements for a service-learning project mandated by both FEEP and STEP.
Before my STEP experience, I wasn’t secure in my decision to pursue school psychology. My confidence in my career-related decisions was low due to having changed my path several times over the course of my undergraduate education. In working with a variety of school professionals at Johnson Park Middle School (Columbus City Schools)- the school counselor, English Language Learners instructor, Multiple Disability classroom instructor, school psychologist, and others- I’ve discovered that school psychology is the route I want to pursue. Prior to this experience I didn’t know if I would like working with young students or even in education at all. I know now that working in education is the ideal placement for me. I went from being unsure and second guessing myself to having complete confidence in my career decision.
Although the STEP and FEEP combined experience was wonderful overall, a few main components pushed my growing confidence in my career decision forward. First and foremost, I wasn’t paired with the school psychologist at Johnson Park. Instead, I was assigned to the counselor, Ms. Suhoza. I spent over 100 hours at her side learning the ropes and getting insight into working in education. With Ms. Suhoza I completed many meaningful projects, such as assisting with career guidance programs, learning what it means to proctor standardized testing, assisting National Junior Honor society inductions, collaborating with other school professionals, and building relationships with students that allowed us to help them in what ways we could. While all the projects we completed were meaningful, informative, and mostly fun, I realized they aren’t how I want to spend my days. On the occasions I met with the school psychologist at Johnson Park, I was thrilled to see what she was working on or see the materials she used. Her career excited me, while Ms. Suhoza’s only interested me. I never knew there was a difference between the two until my experience. Being able to differentiate between interest and excitement has made a huge impact on my confidence in my career decision- whereas before I may have gone into a field that only interests me, now I look forward to a career that will thrill me.
Another major aspect of my STEP project that led to my change was working one-on-one with students. The students I worked with were mainly English Language Learners, although I did have the opportunity to work with some students in the multiple disability classroom. In working with the ELL students I created assignments that gave telling information about their ability to read, write, and comprehend phrases in English or their native language (always Spanish). Alongside testing these three factors, I was also able to assess the students’ motivation and focus levels. Creating assignments that were fun for the students and helpful to their instructor was my favorite part of my experience because I was able to see the results and determine what they meant for the student. Being a school psychologist wouldn’t give me quite the same opportunity to create these assignments, rather I’ll use tested and proven measures to assess students. But the most important aspect, analysis of the assessments, will still be a major part of my career. And I’ll still be working one-on-one with students, which is something I’ve learned I thoroughly enjoy.
Attending various meetings with families of students and becoming accustomed to the expectations and rules for such meetings was another crucial part of my STEP experience. These meeting initially sounded intimidating, and I was unsure how they would play out. After attending a few, I’ve become much more comfortable in this environment. These meetings are a vital part in the role of a school psychologist, and if I wasn’t able to feel comfortable in them I wouldn’t think school psychology is right for me. Seeing that they aren’t bad at all has, on top of everything else, strengthen my confidence and joy in my career decision.
This change has been fundamental in my professional and academic development. I have begun looking for graduate schools that offer Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degrees, which is what is required in most districts to become a school psychologist. This semester I’ve taken Introduction to Exceptional Children, a course all about children in special education and other exceptional students. I’ve also begun taking an American Sign Language sequence to increase my communication skills with a variety of students, families, and educational professionals. I plan to gain membership in the Ohio Association of School Psychology once I enter graduate school, and have already received a plethora of information about the field from weekly emails. I’m excited to pursue this field, which is a huge step for me.
My personal plans have changed due to STEP as well. Now that I know I’ll be going into the field of education, it’s easier for me to imagine having a comfortable family life in the future. I’ve known for a long time that if I were to start a family, I’d like to be around as much as possible. Now I know I can have both- an amazing career and fulfilling home life. That never seemed like an option to me before, but after seeing how Ms. Suhoza creatively balances her time and seeing the school psychologist aim to coach softball after school, it’s clear I can do all the things I’ve wanted to around my future career. I’m extremely happy and confident with my choice to pursue school psychology, and I wouldn’t have this without STEP.