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Everything Counts

The Interview

They Seemed Like Nice People, They Just Kept Asking The Wrong Questions!

"Everybody's trying to get it right." Loverboy, Working For The Weekend

Welcome, and thank you for your interest in this opportunity. As you know, you are interviewing for our new psychological assistant position. The psychological assistant will work under the close supervision of our APA certified, PhD-level, clinical psychologist. With huge federal funding budgeted to continue to bring mental health into the schools, we are looking to expand. We will use a "round-robin" interview method, with each of us asking predetermined questions. Are you ready to begin?

No, not yet. Okay, I'm ready now.

How long have you been a teacher?

I've never been a teacher.

Um, well, how long have you been a, a teacher?

I've been a professional educator for over twenty years.

Tell us what you would do in a typical assessment for an emotional disturbance?

I would follow appropriate educational and scientific methodologies within the confines of the law and ethics of my profession to identify the student's needs and forward powerful and effective recommendations based on those identified needs to the IEP team for further consideration.

But what would you do?

That's what I would do.

I think what the question is trying to get at is, what would you do?

That's what I would do.

How long should an IEP meeting last?

An IEP should last about five to ten minutes.

Our IEPs last at least an hour, usually two or three hours, longer if necessary. We use the first thirty minutes to review parent rights and the law. How familiar are you with the latest reauthorization of IDEIA?

What's IDEIA? Is that some new law? Don't you think it's about time we got the lawyers and politicians out of education and just let us do our jobs?

We take great pride in our forms. We currently have over one-hundred IEP forms and are in the process of finalizing our next set of fifty. How good are you at filling out forms?

I'm great at filling out forms but I'd rather be doing something that actually helps students.

We also take great pride in the services we provide. Could you effectively and consistently deliver research-based educational, psychological, and mental health interventions through our new RtI program here in our district?

No, because RtI hasn't reached the stage where it can do that and probably never will.

Our district believes in a strong team approach. Would you be able to work closely with our clinical therapist as her psychological assistant by scheduling her anger management classes and therapy sessions, helping her with the daily administration of medications, and performing other related tasks such as doing her testing? It will be quite a challenge for the successful candidate because she will be out later this year on maternity leave. As you know, clinical therapists provide important services for students with Asperger's, autistic-like behaviors, bipolar disorder, ADHD, dissociative fugue, polysubstance dependence, dyspareunia, vaginismus... the list goes on and on!

I know. I just don't think I could ethically be part of the therapist's team. Sorry. But I might be able to help some of those students start to recover from all of those 'services.'

Well, that's okay. We appreciate your honesty. Let's start wrapping this up. What is your primary service delivery method?


Ha, ha, ha! You obviously have a great sense of humor, but seriously...

Rights Without Labels. I empower students rather than disable them. I think schools should quit calling students horrible names like "disabled, disturbed, disordered, retarded, impaired."

I haven't ever heard of an approach like that in the schools.

I know.

Are you able to write comprehensive behavioral plans for children with Asperger's Disorder?

There really isn't any research indicating that Asperger's actually exists. Why not just write an effective behavior plan for a student who is experiencing behavioral difficulties? Why not target the behavior rather than the label?

Oh we do that of course. It's just that we've had a few lawsuits. Tell us about your experiences and qualifications diagnosing children with autism. We've had a 359% increase in autism in the past two years. Again, we can't speak highly enough of our clinical therapist... she's consistently matched or exceeded the statewide increases in prevalence and diagnosis of autism. We're up to seventh place in the state and our goal of course is to reach number one!

I don't diagnose children with autism. IEP teams diagnose children with autism… often, though, it's quite obviously a misdiagnosis. If a child is truly autistic, then it should be quite evident by age three, well before they enter the public school system. The student shouldn't all of a sudden in the fifth grade be diagnosed with autism just because there was an inservice on autism the week before.

Are you trained in the administration of group tests? We have about forty days of mandated national and state tests per year and we need someone who is trained to administer these tests.

I'm trained in administering group tests, but I'm not the right guy for that job. As I said earlier, I want to be involved in activities that actually help students.

So are you saying mandated tests don't help children? What are you, some kind of Democrat?

I'm a highly-trained and experienced Educational Specialist.

This year we've started a free afterschool tutoring program. Our clinical therapist is the director but we need someone to tutor every afternoon for two-and-a-half hours. If you weren't offered the psychological assistant position, would you be interested?

Well, I'm sorry, I'm not a certificated teacher.

That's okay. You don't have to be a certificated teacher -- just about anyone can do this job. It's pretty much babysitting anyway. Basically, someone needs to sit there and pass out meds. It's mostly a punishment group for boys who refuse to do their homework. It's federally funded and pays seventy-five dollars per hour. It's pretty easy money -- and no stress because there's no accountability. The main thing is to make sure each boy gets his meds.

I think I would have to pass, but that's a tremendous opportunity for children provided by the current presidency. Wow! No Child Left Behind is amazing, isn't it? I'm thinking of all the money that enters the economy, especially to the pharmaceutical companies...

Yes! And we get a pretty healthy kickback from all that too! Next question, what would you do if a teacher disagreed with one of your recommendations at an IEP meeting?

I would probably wear that as a badge of honor.

Tell us about a time a parent disagreed with one of your recommendations?

That would be yesterday. I encouraged the parent not to ground her son for life and not to take him out of band just because he hates homework.

What did the parent do?

She took the advice of his teacher, grounded him for life, took him out of band, and told him he can't eat lunch at school with his girlfriend any more. Then she got him on higher doses of meds for his ADHD.

But these unruly boys have to pay a price for not doing their homework. Our clinical psychologist regularly dopes up these boys for not completing their homework. They have to learn. She strongly believes meds work... and, once again, the district makes some pretty good bucks using her system. We have almost 10% of the boys in our district identified as ADHD and our goal is 20%!

I understand.

Here's a hypothetical situation. A student has missed fifteen days of school out of the first thirty... he usually only attends football-related activities. The teacher is requesting special education assessment because he's failing math. He had an argument with his best friend and there was a huge fight with a knife involved but he's the starting quarterback on the varsity football team so he can't be expelled. The principal has directed you to diagnose him with Asperger's. The clinical therapist has had to recuse herself because the young man is, well, eighteen, and they have a, a, personal relationship -- remember, this is all just hypothetical. What would you do in that situation?

I guess I'd forward a referral to the SARB.

We're sorry, that's not the correct answer, would you like to try again?

I'd recommend a threat assessment and consider counseling if appropriate.

Okay, one last try. Remember, varsity football coaches are the only ones allowed to speak with their football players. You aren't allowed to speak with a varsity football player... you could, however, request an appointment to consult with the coach regarding one of his players after the season is over. You would forward that request in writing to his wife. Want one more try?

All right, I would put him in special education to insure his continued football eligibility. I suspect he might have Asperger's.

Good! What would you do if a principal came to you and gave you a directive that violated a law or the ethics of your profession?

Don't worry, I'm used to that.

As we mentioned earlier, there is a lot of new funding coming to integrate mental health into the schools. In December, we are expecting to hire three new interventionists. If you weren't hired for the current position, would you be interested in that position?

Well, what do the interventionists do and what type of qualifications are required?

All that's needed is a high school degree. The job is pretty easy. You counsel students and if your counseling doesn't help, the child is referred on for therapy, medications, and anger management to address their ADHD.

They can counsel without a counseling certification? Is that legal and ethical?

They call themselves counselors because, hey, let's face it, no one will ever know whether they're certified or not. And it saves money for the district by not having to pay for a high priced credentialed school counselor. There are lots of benefits to the position...

Um, I guess I'll pass on that one too. it sure is great that mental health has established such a presence in the schools, isn't it. Will your district start participating in the annual National Depression Screening Day?

Oh, we've been participating in that event for years. That day alone brings in enough clients and money to provide great job security to many. You see for yourself how we are growing. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself?

I make a great bowl of chili.

If you would have chosen a career other than school psychology, what field would you have most likely entered?

Nautical engineering. I would have designed sailboats and sailed off into the sunset.

Wow! What do you do in your free time?

I have a blog.

Oh! Ohhhhh. Do you have any questions for us?

Yes, I have several questions for you... I keep thinking about some of the reasons why California is ranked 47th in U.S. education. I'm wondering if your district has considered...

...Sorry , we've run out of time. We'd like to thank you for driving five-hundred miles to be here for this twenty-minute interview... we have to interview a certain amount of people even though an administrator's best friend has, um, applied for this position. We hope this interview wasn't an inconvenience for you in any way. We'll be contacting you. Thanks again, and have a safe drive home.

Thank you!

Background Information: On or around 2007-10, the American Psychological Association (APA) became keen on the idea of allowing only PhD-level practitioners to use the term, "psychologist." School psychologists, most of whom have two- or three-year degrees, were to be called "interventionists" or some other term (unless they had a PhD). For a brief period of time (a year or two), some school districts began hiring bachelor-level (or even high school graduates) as practitioners. Usually they were called "behavior intervention specialists" and were to work under the brilliant guidance of the PhD-level mental health psychologists or therapists (or possibly even psychiatrists). Well, thankfully, that model didn't take effect for a variety of reasons (click here for CASP's PDF document addressing this issue). Behaviorism died and people began realizing that just because a person has a PhD, that doesn't necessarily mean s/he has any clue as to what is really going on in the public schools, especially if that PhD has a clinical, rather than an educational background. Although we all want trained personnel working with students, people ultimately realized this portion of Model Licensure Act was a big attempt at a money-grab. The consumer should realize that most school nurses, speech pathologists, school counselors, and school social workers are not doctoral level employees. As of the present, the wars between the educational and clinical fields are real and rage every day.

The Interview © 2010, 17-24. Donald J. Asbridge, Ed.S. Bakersfield, CA USA Some rights reserved.