A post by Elissa…
During my first year as a speech-language pathologist, a CF, in the school system, I had an interesting conversation with a classroom teacher. I was walking down the hall one day (who knows where I was headed- to pick up a student, to attend a meeting, to talk to a teacher…). She was standing at the door and commented, “I wish I could walk around all day…how do I become a speech teacher?”
I’m sure the look on my face was priceless and I took in this statement and calmly responded as non-condescendingly as possible. I don’t remember my exact words but it was something to the effect of, “Well after I completed my undergraduate degree I spent 5 semesters getting my Master’s degree including practicum experience in about 5 different settings…”
Silence, wide eyes…and, “Oooooohhhhh, maybe not”
That was the first (and definitely not the last) time that I had to justify my worth and the value I add to the students, the teachers, the classrooms, the school.
It’s frustrating, right? Who really understands what we do?
“why does he go to speech; he talks fine”
“you can’t pull him from reading, it’s really hard for him”
“why do you need bigger room?”
Even better “why do you need your own room?”
So whose job is it to show everyone what you have to offer? Only you can!!
Most non-SLPs are really never going to fully understand your role but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.
Some ways I’ve done this include:
- Trainings for staff (and parents) on communication disorders:
highlight the relationship between language and the curriculum
highlight the relationship between articulation/phonology and phonemic awareness/reading
share the impact of a social language impairment
teach about the communication impairments associated with some of the common syndromes or disabilities
invite administrators to observe some of your sessions-I know they’re busy but keep trying to get them in there
- Go into the general education classrooms – even if you pick one room, one teacher…word of mouth is powerful and good news travels fast!
- Be seen in the school – don’t hide out in your room; eat lunch with staff; get in on their conversations about struggling students – give suggestions to show what you know
- Give your students tools to be successful in the classroom so they can show what you are capable of – and share them with the teachers
- Take on an extra responsibility in your school – I know you are already SO busy but even a small effort can make a huge difference. You may be pleasantly surprised by the things that get offered to you after that – and of course you can say no!
What are some of the ways you have had to advocate for yourself and show your value in the schools you serve? Comment below…