What’s most surprising about this first year as an SLP is how quickly I found my weaknesses.
In SLP graduate school, the support is there. Ever-present even in the smallest of ways. Someone to answer a question, pick up your slack, support you, and even take over if necessary. There was always back-up. But all I can remember is feeling like a slick professional, ready to shake the chains of graduate school for a paid position doing what I love. I knew I didn’t know it all, but I figured I could figure it out.
True. I can figure it out. But when a kid is sitting in front of you and you can’t think of where you put your tongue depressors or how to interact with a non-verbal kiddo, “figuring it out” doesn’t always cut it. I am doing my best to prep for my days by problem solving my weaknesses. Here is a quick list of my weaknesses:
- I need more tricks for teaching the /r/ sound.
- Being more systematic. My ADD rubs off in therapy…need to tuck that in and straighten out, Katie.
- Modeling social behavior before I expect it. It’s so easy to just grab a kid from a room, head my office and start. Take a moment for greetings and farewells.
I’m sure this list will change, grow, and become more complex as the year goes on. But to recognize where I have the potential to be overwhelmed makes me feel less overwhelmed. I haven’t had a day where I went home and felt overwhelmed with what tomorrow brings. I brainstormed some ideas on why I think that is. While this applies to my Clinical Fellowship, I think many can apply to starting SLP graduate school or any new position.
1. Tackle the Paperwork before it tackles you
Therapy seems to be the one constant I can handle in my day. Before I start my day and after the last session, if there is a lingering document I need to fill out, I am trying to tackle before I leave for the day. While an IEP can take a few days to complete given the time I have, I am inputting small pieces here and there. This stuff just sneaks up on you so fast.
2. Open lines of communication
Touch base with a teacher when an IEP is due soon. Soon to me means at least a month. Start collecting data to share and get input from the classroom environment. Contact the parent, if even just to say hi. Build a relationship so that when the time comes to invite them, perhaps attendance might rise as well.
3. Admit inadequacies
It’s so easy to sit in my office, feel like a failure, and just push those feelings down. I’m refusing to let this year be rough. If I need help, I have an amazing support system in my district. My CF supervisor is knowledgeable, many district SLPs have offered help, and previous supervisors are always a call or email away. For the sake of my clients, I need to address my shortcomings so that I can see change.
4. Ask for help
During the 18 zillion trainings (approximately) I attended, the one thing people kept saying was, “Just give me a call if you need help” or “We only have a job to help make you look like a rockstar.” And you know what, that’s what I’m trying to take advantage of. There is an entire staff at my disposal to help answer paperwork questions and make sure I stay in compliance. This takes doing #3 – admitting inadequacies – by telling them where you are stuck. I’ve called my central office support services at least once a day. Me and those ladies are going to be BFFs by year end. I’m just fine with that.
5. Use resources
Our department gave us a flash-drive with answers to virtually every question I’ve had. Yet, I didn’t explore this as I should have. So before I call and seem helpless, I’m trying to help myself. It might take a little research, but I find that when I uncover the answer using my own resources, the answer and knowledge tends to stick a lot longer.
6. Take a lunch break
I’ve been guilty of eating lunch at my desk, in my office, and reading emails. Alone. I’m sure there are days when it might seem necessary. But not only is lunch a time to get sustenance, I like talking with fellow colleagues. Talk about moose, discuss Alaska Life, and laugh with others as I ask newbie-Alaskan questions. If even for 30 minutes, my day is broken up with mini-session of encouragement and rejuvenation.
7. Introduce yourself
Something so easy, but is also easily overlooked. I keep walking around my school and see people I know work there, and I see working with students. Yet, I’m being shy and don’t stop and extend a hand and a hello. Why?! I’m making an effort that when I see someone who I don’t yet know, I introduce myself. Simple, yet friendly. Makes those hallway encounters less awkward when I can at least know we’ve spoken.
8. Over prepare
I’ve had meetings where I thought I wouldn’t need a release of records form, then I needed it. Or I thought a parent already received their parental rights document, so I didn’t print one. Then I needed the document. So now, I’ve printed several out, filed them away, and will hopefully have the things I need when it comes to a meeting. But, if I don’t…it’s ok to say you will get it or step out and find it.
There are still moments where things pile up. Overwhelming feels rush in. And I panic. But I know who to call. I know where to look. I know that I have support. So, it’s a continuum of balancing my resources with my emotions. Learning to react with these things in mind, rather than jump straight to negative thoughts.
Here’s to being thankful I have a job in a career that brings me joy.