May 16, 2016

It is that time of the year. The time when we are barely getting by. We start the year with every intention of being amazing, organized, efficient…a difference maker. And then comes the mid-year slump and the end of the year panic. It’s easy to be amazing at the beginning of the year when you are rejuvenated and wide-eyed. Then life happens and best intentions fly out the window.

I have done some things I am not proud of. I know I am not alone, yet it’s embarrassing to admit some of the mistakes I have made throughout my career. I believe in the principles of best practice. I write about the principles of best practice. I have not always used the principles of best practice. Sometimes I look back at things I have said or done, especially in the beginning, and I laugh. Other times I look back and I cringe.

The good news is in the setting where I work, I can’t kill anyone! The bad news is, I might not always help them either. Maya Angelou says when we know better we do better. In our profession, a lot of our clinical skills and judgment come from on the job training. We get a lot of theory in school but not always a lot of application. I used to question that but where I am at this point in my career I realize that it’s because a lot of what we learn has to happen over time after we have worked with a lot of people. You start to see the patterns and theory in action and your clinical expertise improves. So in that regard, I am definitely doing better now than I did when I first started out. I have finally figured out how to remediate the /r/ sound, I am more confident in my diagnostic abilities, and my behavior management skills are more effective. But what about the misdeeds I continue to commit even though I know better? I hate to make excuses but when we are slammed with high caseloads, paperwork, and deadlines, something has to give - right?

So in the true act of confession, I am about to lay it all out there. I am hoping that if I say this out loud it will give me accountability and hopefully some of you won’t make the same mistakes. Deep sigh and here we go:

  1. I have had some students on my caseload that I had no idea how to help.
  2. I have written such terrible goals that even I didn’t know how to measure them.
  3. I have reviewed data for progress reports and realized there was hardly any or terrible data to report on a goal.
  4. I have gone into IEP meetings completely unprepared with nothing updated on the IEP except the date on the signature page…I call those true ‘working IEP’ meetings.
  5. I have been so behind on paperwork that I pull out my phone and check Instagram instead of trying to catch up.
  6. I have called in sick so that I can stay home and work on paperwork.
  7. I have canceled groups so I can catch up on paperwork.
  8. I have still not caught up on paperwork.
  9. I have pulled therapy lessons out of thin air more often then I care to admit (although, this might not be so bad as some of my best lessons have actually been completely spontaneous.)
  10. I kept forgetting the name of one of my students so I called her sweetie.
  11. I have prayed in meetings that no one would question the goals I selected.
  12. I have made up things in the strengths section of the present levels because I couldn’t think of anything nice to say other than, “Charlie is a nice boy who is one of a kind.”
  13. There are days I want to quit.

There I said it. I am not proud of myself and I know I should be doing better. I genuinely love my job and know that we have the ability to really make a difference in the lives of those we work with. That’s what makes this so hard! I wish I was the kind of person who could go home and leave work at work. But I can’t! I think about my students all the time and worry that I am not doing enough for them. So what do we do about it…

Here are a couple of suggestions that have helped me and hopefully they will help you too!

  • Ask QUESTIONS! Sounds easy enough, right? Yet, it can be a scary thing to do sometimes. I think sometimes we are afraid to ask questions because then it is evidence that we don’t know everything :) But this is really how we all learn. Talk to the teachers at your school, the other SLPs in your district or join a Facebook SLP group.

  • Be RESOURCEFUL! We don’t know everything, it’s impossible. You will have students on your caseload that do things you have never seen before, or you will get really good at treating some speech/language skill areas but struggle with others. This is when the internet can be your best friend. Search ASHA, Google it, find resources on TPT, blogs, and Pinterest. There are some smart and talented SLPs out there who have done a lot of the work for you. Use them! Here are a couple of our go-to’s:

Beautiful Speech Life

Dabbling Speechie

Nicole Allison’s Speech Peeps

Activity Tailor

Speech Time Fun

And most importantly…do your very best! That’s all we can do. We ask questions, take continuing education classes, call in sick and catch up on paperwork, and find resources that attempt to make our lives easier. We simplify. We use the curriculum in the classroom rather than making our own materials all the time. We have our students wear name tags :) But in all seriousness, we do better when we know better. . .and even then we just try our best.