First Week – Clinical Fellowship
I made it. This was the first full week starting my SLP-CF here in The Last Frontier. I have about 50 + kiddos on my caseload and couldn’t be more excited. All the preparation in the world couldn’t have prepared me for sitting down at my desk in front of a cabinet full of working files, and figuring out how I’m going to make this work. On more than one occasion, I wanted to stop and ask someone, “Excuse me, could you tell me how to do my job?” But I gathered my newbie-baggage, shook-off the overwhelming feelings, and tackled my job. Sink or swim people…and the water is cold.
Paperwork vs Therapy
I felt confident in my hands-on therapy skills I gained during graduate school. So, naturally the first day I saw kids I wanted to hide in a corner and become the invisible man. Duh. But I didn’t . I put on my big-girl-pants, pulled the kiddos out of class, and stumbled my way through the first day. Then the next. Until it was Friday. What surprised me the most, was how easily I settled into a routine with each group of kids. What wasn’t so natural, was the paperwork. Endless piles of IEPs, progress notes, and learning an online system to input goals, objectives, prior written notice, and consent forms. Yuk. Ain’t nobody got time for that. But I made time. I am slowly learning how to add things and manipulate the system…showing it who’s boss. That’s how all the cool SLPs who work in schools do it. Taking names, and making friends … while doing paperwork. I think I’m going to like this.
It’s not the worst part of my week, but it’s definitely top 5 on the lame list. I decided to approach scheduling like this: Pull kids out by classroom teacher…even if I have 1 kid doing articulation and 2 kids doing language, fluency, or voice. That’s what seemed easiest. I arranged the times so I didn’t pull them out during specials (aka P.E., music). Then, I started adding the kids into an Excel spreadsheet. After they were all in, I went to the teachers – in person – to let them know the plan. I said I was flexible, listened to their input, made some adjustments, and tried to see the kiddos like my scheduled laid out. I bumped into the OT’s, PTs, and reading specialist’s schedule. Re-adjusted. I’m sure in the coming weeks/months I may have to change things around, but for now I have something to work with.
I’ve had 2 meetings with parents, made many phone calls, and am scheduling up-coming IEP meetings. Just saying that makes the last 6 years seem so … worth it. The business end of being an SLP isn’t something you get to experience in grad school or observing. Usually someone tells you which line to fill out, where to sit, what to say, and when to say it. That, by far, has been the craziest part of my first week. Freedom.
I find it strange that the limitations that once made me feel so small, are the very limits I’m seeking in my Clinical Fellowship.
How quickly those limitations remind us of safe havens; a comfort level which we weren’t aware were even comforting. SLP grad school often made me feel anxious, insecure, inept, and ill-equipped. I was operating within the boundaries someone else had set, even if unintentionally. Now that I have no one setting boundaries, I often feel lost. For a moment. But I’m finding my footing, and realizing boundaries can be reformed, redesigned. My comfort zone is expanding. And it’s only just the end of my first week.