May 2, 2022
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I know that there are a lot of feelings going through your head right now. You are so excited to finally be starting your career while simultaneously questioning how anyone could have thought that you are ready to do so. You’re also thinking “what the heck is a 403-B?”.
Let me start by saying that you’ve got this. Sure you are young and have a lot to learn, but you are willing to learn and that’s what is most important! Does that feel a little too broad and actually not reassuring at all? I figured. Here are some tips that may help you keep your feet grounded until you realize that I am, as always, right:
Lean on your people
You have so many people who are invested in your success. Your family, your friends, your grad school faculty, your new coworkers, your CF-mentor, your students. Everyone is rooting for you. They don’t expect you to be perfect, even though you do.
Celebrate your wins and ask for help when you need it. Laugh about the mistakes that don’t make you cry, and don’t be too hard on yourself when the tears happen. Anything new can be scary and uncomfortable but those are the feelings that let you know that you are growing. Your people will remind you of how far you’ve come.
Enjoy moments of witnessing your students being kids
What you will come to love the most about this job are the moments that make you laugh. Take a spare 15 minutes and jump into gym class to be the “hula-hoop monster” trying to catch all of the screaming 1st graders. Eat lunch with a group of high schoolers so they can try to explain what TikTok is and why you need it.
Sure, over time this makes you feel older and older but those connections keep you rooted. On the first nice day in spring, go to recess – you need to run around in the sun, too. These are the moments that sustain you through the long days, the endless meetings, and the paperwork that never seems to stop.
Pay attention to the parts of the year that try you the most
What you’ll come to realize is that the school year is a bit like running a race. Times of the year will be harder or busier than others. When meetings start piling up, you’ll start to feel like your therapy is taking the brunt of it. When progress reports are due, you’ll find yourself wishing you did a better job taking data. When March comes you’ll wonder why 50% of your caseload has an IEP due that month when all you want to do is go outside to recess.
As the years go on, you’ll see these hurdles coming from further away and you’ll start to prepare for them. Through your own self-awareness and reflection, you’ll work to improve the efficiency of your practices so that you can jump higher and still land on your feet. There will always be improvements to make, but each year the race goes a little bit smoother.
I know that you’ve just inherited about 50 students who make you nervous that you’ll do something to screw them up. You’re nervous that your therapy is all wrong, that you’ll dismiss a student who still needs you, or maybe keep a student who would rather do anything other than speech.
A couple of years from now you will have a better understanding of this whole process. You’ll realize that it’s never as clear-cut as you’d wish it to be, but that with experience comes a greater level of understanding. When you don’t trust yourself, reach out. It will help you understand the thought process that others use and how they build the bigger picture for a student. With some experience, those conversations will become internal and you’ll begin to trust your own thought process.
You don’t like doing crafts in therapy–and that’s okay!!
There are so many resources available to help you plan your therapy. You’ll do research to understand the foundation of what you need to do and why you need to do it, and that will drive your decision-making. You like when therapy is functional and when it’s not something you have to prepare at home on the weekend.
What you’ll come to learn, is that there seem to be a million different ways to accomplish the same goal. Feel confident in the decisions that you can justify with evidence and don’t worry when therapy looks, and sounds, like play.
Get to know your coworkers
One of the worst parts about working in a school is the number of times you have to pass someone else in the hallway. In order to cut down on how much time you spend in your head deciding what to say, if anything, to the person as you pass, spend time with them. Go to the staff events, pop into a teacher’s classroom after school to check in about a student and chat.
It’s easy to feel like you can hide in your office and just do your job, but feeling like part of the school community is what makes coming back year after year so enjoyable.
Work-life balance gets easier if you keep it in the forefront
Your first year will feel a bit draining at times. You will never know as much as you want to and therefore will think that your nights and weekends should be spent getting better at your job. The truth is, you will never know everything. Keeping this job sustainable is part of your job, too.
Sure, here and there you will work on a weekend when it helps you not feel behind on Monday and that will be worth it. But you owe it to yourself to keep growing outside of work; to put time and energy into your friends and family who’ve been cheering you on. Take time to reset. You’ll be a better, well-rounded, well-rested, therapist because of it. Your students will feel that.
**In 2019 you should take a vacation ** Trust me, 2020 is a dumpster fire.
This job is hard, but for everything it takes from you, it gives you back five more. Your journey is just beginning. Enjoy the ups, embrace the downs, but most of all–enjoy the ride!
Your Biggest Fan,
Your Future Self
About the Author
Sarah B. Bromley M.S. CC-SLP, has a blast working with the entire educational age span from preschool through high school. Sarah received her Master’s degree from Marquette University in 2018. When she is not wearing her speech hat, she loves to grab the biggest cup of coffee from her local coffee shop while taking her dog Ziggy for a walk around the lake. Feel free to email Sarah at email@example.com.