Go the Way and Show the Way
January 21, 2022
As overwhelming as our jobs can be, the LAST thing you may think of is taking on a leadership role. Instead of immediately dismissing it, I encourage you to view leadership as something that can look different depending on what your availability and interests are, and where you are in your career. They can be small or big roles, virtual or in person, once a year or once a week! Ultimately, leadership opportunities are ways to grow professionally in ways you may not be able to in your day to day job. Your skills and strengths will extend beyond the speech room and ultimately can impact thousands of other people (students, families, other SLPs) you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.
The list below are a few ways to get involved and grow your leadership skills:
Supervision: One of my favorite roles in the schools was as a grad student supervisor. Sometimes I think the students taught me more than I taught them! Their heads are full of the latest and greatest research and methodology, and their eagerness to apply these skills in therapy always brought a fun energy to my speech room. Connect with a local university and find out how to get involved with supervising students.
Mentorship: CF SLPs must have a mentor, and instead of thinking of this as one more thing to do, think of it as a way guide the thinking of a brand new clinician during their first year of practice. Like grad students, they often bring information to you that makes you think in a way you hadn’t before. Unlike a grad student, these are professionals who need to be mentored, not supervised. Through Socratic discussions, you can help CFs navigate the muddy waters of their first year and fill them with info and guidance to make
State Speech and Hearing Positions: I really wish I had gotten involved in this sooner! In our state, our association is small (but mighty :) and I think I was intimidated by the thought of doing anything beyond being a member. However, the associations are volunteer driven, and have lots of opportunities for you to contribute beyond having to run for a long term position like President or Treasurer! I currently am a part of our state’s SLPA committee. Not only do you get to be “in the know” of the latest things your association is doing, but you get to be in the conversations driving what’s being done! Remember - these are volunteer positions. The short term committee positions often don’t have a huge time commitment and are filled with people who just want to be involved, just like you.
Organize Support Groups: If you are one of those lucky SLPs who get to really hone your skills and specialize in something (e.g. the majority of your students have autism, or TBI, or you love stuttering and have taken every course available on this and feel super confident in treating this), this passion can extend into creating support groups. Whether you are organizing a quarterly parent meeting at school, leading in person or remote meetings, or creating a Facebook group, this is a great way to share your passion with other people who have similar interests.
Providing Professional Development: SLPs are experts in communication and language, and have a lot to offer other educators, including administrators, teachers, other educational specialists, and paraprofessionals. Although there is a very (valid) fear for many of public speaking, you know more than you think you do! It is an awesome personal goal to set, whether you opt to do a quick staff inservice, a district course for your SLPs, or developing a professional course for speechpathology.com or bethebrightest.com. Trust me - you, your brain, your experiences - are super valuable. Sharing is caring! \ You may not be ready to hop into a leadership role immediately, and that’s okay! But think about ways you’d like to contribute to our field in ways that extend beyond the speech room, and create a goal centered around leadership that you want to tackle in the future!