Hello All! My name is Carly Fowler and I am a second year SLP working with all ages (Birth to 21). I am so excited that Brea from Let’s Talk Speech-Language Pathology asked me to do a guest blog. I am working and living in Nebraska with my husband and our two cats. I have been an active member of the SLP online community for over a year now but just recently opened my own Teachers Pay Teachers store (My TpT Store). It is so nice to have wonderful colleagues to connect with online. You can find me on my Facebook page.
Top Ten Things I Wish I Would Have Known as a First-Year SLP
10. The resource teacher(s), SLP(s) that share your building, and school psychologist are your best friends. Not only do they have the experience in the field they know the students and their families really well. They can provide you with valuable information that permanent student files cannot.
9. Get to know the other staff and teachers in your building. Take time to get to know them. That way when you start taking out their students for speech, they will recognize why you are there. It also allows you to pop in the class and either observe carry-over skills or provide services to students.
8. Parents are a challenge and a blessing. Many will only acknowledge your existence at IEP meetings where as others will be calling you and visiting you the instant you begin. No matter the type of parent be professional and open with them. Share you experience and expertise with them; be able to calm their fears when they are faced with a new speech language pathologist. Most importantly, keep an open line of communication.
7. Best laid plans will have to be abandoned more than you would like. If you have lesson plans laid out and ready to go you will have to drop them for meetings, field trips, absences and more. Schools are busy places and things come up that you may or may not be aware of. Stay flexible and do not give up.
6. Make sure you have a mentor willing to answer your questions and who can visit with you often. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful support group at my first job with three lovely mentors. Mentors are there to help you; do not be afraid to utilize their expertise, and ask them questions, lots and lots of questions.
5. You will make a wonderful schedule and then have to change it, and revise it over and over again. Near the end of the school year it will change again. Scheduling is hard! Work with the resource teachers to develop a schedule that works for both of you. Ask teachers when they prefer to have students pulled out. Avoid pulling students during certain subjects, often reading blocks, math and any direct instruction is off limits. I try to never pull from specials (art, music, technology and P.E.) or recess. If you cannot fit the student in and the teacher is unwilling to cooperate then stand your ground; explain that you have to see the student. Make compromises. Last year, I had a rotating group of second graders that were pulled one day a week in the morning and one day a week in the afternoon, so the teacher could teach handwriting and the students would have to miss technology. Accept that you will change your schedule often.
A few other things about the scheduling: pass out copies to teachers, administrators and any resource teachers. It will come in handy but be sure to tell them that it could change. Do not compromise lunch. Make sure you have time in your schedule for lunch even if it is at 10 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. You deserve a lunch break.
4. Look ahead for any IEP meetings or MDTs that are coming due. Not just in a few months but for a full year. If you know what is ahead, you will be more likely to handle the stress. Also, you may be able to move some meetings and evaluations forward. The spring is a very stressful time, so move meetings ahead if you can because there will be plenty of new evaluations or last minute meetings in the spring.
3. Being in your CFY is nothing like being in your university’s clinic. Students will move away unexpectantly and students will move into your district. You may not have all the resources, toys, tests, etc. that you had before. I had almost nothing at my first job and had to borrow a lot of materials. Make frequent trips to the dollar store and Target dollar spot. Also TeachersPayTeachers is a wonderful resource with inexpensive and free materials. Another way your CFY will not be the same is your job may get in the way of you doing your job. Therapy may not always happen in your room and you may have to go to the library or gym to have it. Paperwork and requirements to provide services will not necessarily be the same. Learn what your placement expects from you.
2. You will make mistakes. You will forget to print out paperwork for an IEP meeting. You will make a student upset because you are not like their old speech teacher. You may be looked down upon since you are young. Don’t get discouraged. Make mistakes and learn from them.
1. My most important piece of advice: Have fun! Your CFY will be stressful, and at times hectic, but you will learn a lot and love the job so long as you have fun.
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