OMG It's August!!
You know what THAT means!
At least for ME - and oodles of other school SLPs - that means...
BACK. TO. SCHOOL.
Whether those three words make you cringe or make you tingly with excitement, it's coming and there's nothing you can do to stop it!
Today I'm teaming up with my fellow Frenzied SLPs to talk about
SURVIVING THE FIRST WEEK.
Guess what? I went back to school last Thursday (for staff planning) and TODAY was my very first day with students. In my world, school year 2015-16 has officially begun!
Don't hate me but......for me it is PURE EXCITEMENT.
It wasn't always that way. Let me tell you why it's changed.
For the past 6 years I've served as my school's "lead teacher." That means that I oversaw all of the faculty's parapros and special education staff- about 25 people in all. I trained them in all matters. I assisted in managing difficult cases (mostly severe behavior issues).
I facilitated those tough conferences with irate parents. I did scheduling for all sped. matters. I read and vouched for all 150+ IEPs written in our huge school of almost 1,000 children....in my spare time.
I also carried a "half" of a caseload of children age 3 through 5th grade. If that wasn't enough, I conducted screenings, RTI and evaluations. I quickly started to dread going to work. I dealt with discipline on a daily basis, and more and more, I got pulled away from my first love, speech and language pathology.
In May, I expressed to my principal and director my desire to go back to doing what I love.
This is my 20th year in the public schools, and I wanted to spend every minute of it knee deep in speech and language. I got my wish, and I couldn't be more excited!
Now you alllllll know that the job of a school SLP comes with a big, fat, long to-do list.
Well, I'm here to tell you my secrets for getting that baby checked off!!
1) SET UP YOUR SPACE BEFORE THE FIRST DAY!
Summer days are precious, but getting to school before the year starts to organize your space (and decorate, of course) is crucial so that you can hit the road working on day one!
Since we have outgrown our school, I was "demoted" to a closet space. I spent weeks before school getting it ready, and I'll be showing it to you soon here on my blog :)
2) RESIST THE URGE TO SOCIALIZE
This is torture for me.
I'm a social butterfly and I want to talk to my peeps, BUT it's the biggest productivity killer ever.
There will be all year to chat; the first week is not the time. Catch up quickly, and then go to your room and keep your door closed. Stay in your room as much as possible and nail down your to-do list.
Okay, there's one exception to this- IF you are new on campus you need to go out to your students' classrooms, sell yourself and start collaborating to your new coworkers!
I get very antsy to start scheduling ASAP but there are actually more urgent matters to attend to. After you've found out who your students are on campus (including who has moved away and which students identified as needing speech services have transferred in) and which teachers they are assigned to, make yourself a roster. For me that includes splitting the school caseload with another full-time therapist. Open each of student file and go straight to that page on the the IEP (annual plan) that outlines student accommodations. Send those accommodations out to teachers STAT!
I used to type them up on paper and have teachers sign that they've received them. Now I just email them (with a confidentiality statement attached to my email) with a read receipt.
Works perfectly. Quick and easy and DONE. CHECK!
4) SCHEDULE CREATIVELY
Ugh it's possibly the worst part of our jobs.
Is it just me, or is it a cruel, real-life version of Tetris?
There really aren't any secrets; it's just trial and error with lots of caffeine and chocolate.
Think creatively. You can see students of different grade levels together. Sometimes I amend IEPs to try different delivery models based on student progress or lack thereof. Currently, I see some students in inclusion (you can read more about that here and here) while I pull others from PE for therapy. With some kiddos, I do "quick artic" sessions which can range from 5 to 15 minutes. Those students are pulled right out of class into the hallway for quick artic drill multiple days a week, but it's for such a short period of time that they really don't miss much. I love that model for those students who either need to go to PE or just love to go to PE.
Don't be afraid to think outside of the box!
5) PLAN FOR SUCCESS
Get yourself a kick butt planner (I can't wait to show you mine soon!) because meetings and deadlines are a huge part of our job!
To-do lists and planners are an SLP's BFF.
Whether they're digital or good 'ole paper, it's a necessity.
6) PLAN FOR THERAPY
Go through each student's file and read, read, read. Use the information you find to...
A) ...create a "tally sheet" or data collection sheet for each student. There is no "right" system for this. The "right" system is the one that works best for you! I personally use a certain form that I created, and I keep all of my students' data sheets in a binder with divider tabs. I'll be sharing my data collection form here very soon!
B) ...start planning the first week of therapy's activities! The kids are anxiously awaiting their first week of therapy (especially if they already know and love you). Don't keep them waiting. For me that first week will include getting to know each other and will be chock full of activities from my Back to School Fun Pack and taking some baseline data along with reinforcement from my School Time Quick Drill.
In addition to data sheets, I am required to write a lesson plan. You can read more about that (and grab the editable form for free) HERE. In addition to planning the activities, I make sure I have my learning targets, incentives and speech room rules ready. OH, and these handy dandy (and free) speech day/time notes!
7) TALK TO YOURSELF
Okay, that's weird I know. I really do talk to myself. You should have heard all of my yapping as I trudged through scheduling today, but that's not the kind of talk I'm talking about!
I don't know about you, but positive self-talk works for me.
Our jobs are fast-paced, high pressure and mentally and physically demanding.
"You got this!" "You are a machine, girl!" "OF COURSE I can do this!" never hurts to hear!
I've confessed here on my blog before that I can be prone to falling into negativity.
In the words of Sweet Brown, "ain't nobody got time for that!"
When needed, I've been known to watch a little Kid President. Sometimes we all need a pep talk!
I also post signs around my room (and in the hall outside my room, too) to spread some encouragement. Here are some of my favorites that I have printed from Pinterest:
Positive messages like these really perk me up.
On the toughest days,
I rely on this sweet prayer from Mother Teresa (which I have near my desk) for encouragement:
You can download it here free.
Occasionally I even adopt a musical anthem- which my family laughs at me for- that I blare in the mornings.
This morning it was "Keep your Head Up" by Andy Grammer.
Hey! Whatever it takes!
Here's wishing you a fabulous first week!
Check off that to-do list!
What are your secrets? I really want to know!