Wednesday, October 26, 2016

5 Teamwork Tips for SLPs

My friends and fellow bloggers, the Frenzied SLPs, have inspired me to blog about teamwork. (check out all of their wise words on the blogs at the bottom this post). Work relationships can be complicated; they can be dreamy or they can be a nightmare! I've experienced both while working in schools. In my new position, I work on a team with diverse, experienced, top notch educators ranging from former special education teachers, behavior specialists, preschool teachers, former principals, an ABA therapist and a psychologist. We work in very close quarters in an open door/suite environment. 
It's imperative that we work as a team to support our district.

Want to know a secret? I like working alone!! I was that kid that hates group projects because I ended up doing it all while everyone else goofed off, didn't pull their weight and then got a good grade thanks to my hard work. UGH I hate that! 
If it were up to me I would be like Mr. Incredible...

I work alone. 

 Unfortunately here we are in 2016 and teams are the ticket.  My new co-workers have been in leadership roles longer than I have; I am the new kid on the block. I have learned so much from them, and I'm still learning. I am sure I will always be learning; I hope so.  
My motto is, "When you're done learning, your done."

Wanna hear some of the things I've learned? 

1) Don't get hung up on titles. Be like Elsa and LET IT GO. 
I've been brought into the team to be the resident communication/speech/language/hearing expert of sorts. Coming from all realms of education, my cohorts call me all sorts of things- many of which do not include the words speech-language pathologist, and to me, that's okay. I refer to myself as that casually, but I do not get hung up on what others call me nor would I ever correct them. The same was true during the 20 years I was based at a school. Why? Because semantics do not matter- what matters is what you offer to students, what you offer to the team and your actions on a daily basis. We are proud of our profession, and we are proud of our CCCs and we should be but proclaiming our title does not earn respect. When you make yourself indispensable on a school campus, work alongside teachers as an equal and share your talents to benefit students, people GET it. They get what we do and why we are special. If you correct others or use your title to gain respect, you will likely get the opposite. I hear the buzz about how we should demand people call us SLPs. I can guarantee that the minute I would have done that on a campus, no teacher would want me in their classroom.  The same is true for any word/action/attitude that communicates, "I am better than you, I have a title that is deserving of respect and you should listen to me." Think of the team members you respect...did they gain your respect from a title or from their actions and quality of their work?  

2) HUSH, and listen 3 times more than you speak.
I freaking LOVE to talk. I was the kid that raised their hand for every question and always volunteered to go to the board. Boy was I overzealous! During team meetings and projects, I have to force myself to hush my mouth. By nature, I'm an interrupter. It's not out of rudeness really-it's out of shear excitement over the conversation.  Luckily, I know that about myself (and really really try to keep myself in check) but didn't realized how annoying it was until I worked with another interrupter. It is clearn that the person who always demands the floor gets on everyone's last nerve in a meeting. It's something I'm constantly working on. A teacher who I consider my mentor (I call her my Yoda) once told me that everyone should listen 3 times as much as they speak.  I took that to heart and remind myself of that constantly (and fail miserably at this often) but you know what I've noticed since I've been actively trying to become a better listener? That people thank you!! People often tell me, "Thank you for listening."  Not once has anyone EVER said, "Thank you for talking." 

3) Volunteer; Don't wait to be asked.  
To be a real team member, you have to volunteer. Otherwise, you're just an appendage- the weak link. Many SLPs tell me that teachers do not seem to want them in their classroom. My question is always, "Have you told them what you can do for them?" I get answers like, "Well, no." or "She doesn't even tell me what they're learning and doesn't email me her lesson plans." "She isn't doing anything that's relevant to me when I'm in there." Try to understand why teachers feel this way- would you want to plan your therapy sessions only for a teacher (who is getting equal or higher pay) to traipse in having planned nothing and get to mooch off of your lesson? I know I wouldn't! I would give her the ole stink eye and hope she never came back! Offer to plan the ELA lesson. Offer to make or bring materials for the lesson. Let her keep the materials for her other students. Offer to plan with her (whatever that entails). Offer to teach the whole class if you have to - show her you are not afraid to do your part and you have mad skills. It won't take long for her to see you are a team player and you want to be part of her team- not just a parasite. Before you know it she will be begging you to come to class, bragging to her coworkers about the cool things y'all do in her room, and asking to work with you each year. By volunteering you become an asset- and that builds team relationships. By the way, that doesn't mean you teach the class while she goes hang out in the teacher's lounge. Be so good she wouldn't want to miss a minute! 

4) Keep your word.   
Who wants an unreliable teammate? Not me! If you take on or are assigned a task, get it done and done on time. Know how I learned that? From everyone gossiping about the person who didn't pull their weight. YIKES! Let's not be that person. They would surely be chosen last in a school yard pick! 

5) Give grace and give thanks.
You know that teammate everyone is ticked off at?  Give that person some grace. If you hold a grudge, resentment builds and no team can thrive with resentment. I know because I've been on a rotten festering team like that- it makes you dread going to work everyday. Lastly, give thanks to your teammates for the little and big things they do. Who doesn't like to be acknowledged? No one I know. Chocolate and sticky notes go a long way. Of course, since I'm a word nerd I tend to be a note writer.  No one ever kicked the nice person off the team. 

This version found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. 
 Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  
It was never between you and them anyway.



  1. So many great thoughts in your post, I don't know what to say except that it spoke to my heart! What a way to start the day! I'm so glad you linked up!

  2. I LOVED this post! So many things I agree with and have been doing for years, and good to know that others are doing the same. Thank you for this.

  3. Ooo...being quiet and listening is so hard for me! I always want to share my suggestions. I am definitely working on this one!

  4. OMG! This is such an amazing post!!! I learned early on to listen in IEP meetings when I'm not the case manager. I am in total agreement with you about titles. I've been asked about why I add "CCC-SLP" when I sign IEPs, then I have to explain, but I consider it educating the teachers. And keeping your word: YES!!! LOVE THIS POST!!!! You are so awesome...want to move to Tn.???

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