Giving children a voice: educational psychologist Wendy Brindley-Richards

Issue: Volume 96, Number 14

Posted: 14 August 2017
Reference #: 1H9dwx

An educational psychologist talks about her own learning journey and the year-long internship process she likens to learning to drive a car.

With devoted passion, educational psychologist Wendy Brindley-Richards has created a journey for herself in which she touches the lives of those who need it most.

Learning throughout the world

Wendy studied for her undergraduate degree and honours in psychology in South Africa, though she always felt drawn to education. Teaching was a career path chosen by many members of her family. It was for this reason that Wendy decided to go back to school and received her postgraduate degree in education.

She taught in South Africa for a few years, dealing with many children who suffered from childhood trauma and were involved in gang violence, drug use and poverty. She credits much of her learning to the experiences that she had with those children.

In 2011 Wendy moved to New Zealand with her family where she became a relief teacher for a year. Inspired by her sister, Wendy travelled to Taiwan where she taught English as a second language. Each new place provided new experiences.

During her time teaching, Wendy didn’t feel that she was supporting her students to the fullest extent. Though she used principles of psychology in the classroom, she felt that she could do more. In an attempt to connect her education and psychology backgrounds, she moved to Wellington to earn her master’s in educational psychology through Victoria University.

Wendy found her return to student life challenging, refreshing and eye-opening following multiple years of teaching. After gaining internship experience, Wendy found herself in Learning Support at the Ministry of Education, where she still is today.

Creating ripples in the community

Wendy’s current job within the Ministry of Education focuses mainly on being involved with schools that have children with complex needs. This job entails supporting those adults that work with children with learning support needs, ultimately helping the child to participate and engage in classroom settings.

“I hope to give children a voice in their situation,” Wendy said. “A lot of my role involves reframing behaviour for people so that they feel more able to take steps to help change it.”

The role of an educational psychologist is not done alone. One of Wendy’s favourite parts of her current role is working with others within Learning Support. She truly feels that learning never stops, especially when surrounded by people who are so passionate about their roles. When asked if she had any advice for someone considering joining the educational psychology field, Wendy keeps her suggestion short and sweet.

“If you have a passion for education and psychology, or working with children and schools, go for it,” she says.

Her passion stems from a want for the greater good in the local and worldwide community.

“Students who are engaged in education are also more likely to be adults who participate and contribute to society,” Wendy says.

“This could have ripple effects into the community as that person becomes more able to participate and contribute.”

Even with such bold impacts on the community, Wendy finds that her role as an educational psychologist has caused great change in her own life as well. She gets personal fulfilment from her work and is able to use many of the practices that she uses in her job in her own life, creating positive change within herself.

Learning to drive

Following the necessary years of study to become an educational psychologist, postgraduates must participate in a year-long internship process. Wendy uses the analogy of learning to drive to explain the switch from the classroom to the field.

While studying for the master’s degree is like the permit test, taken before ever getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, Wendy relates the internship process to learning to drive the car hands-on. Though both scenarios yield different experiences, each piece is vital to the end goal.

“The internship programme really contributed to my learning about how to apply the theoretical learning we did in masters to real-life, practical situations,”
says Wendy.

Applications for the educational psychology internship open on 1 September. For more information on the educational psychology internship, visit link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 14 August 2017

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