I’ve been hesitant about writing this post for a few reasons…
1) I’m a fairly new blogger and I would hate to lose readers already…2) There’s a fair amount of controversy that rears its ugly head periodically and this is one of those… and 3) Similar blogs have been written recently and I didn’t want to step on toes.
That being said…I think it’s time to delve in and stir up the waters just a bit. I guess we’ll see who is listening…err… reading.
During one of my undergrad classes we were given a lecture on how to work in the school system and play nice with teachers. In this lecture, the professor talked about everything that SLPs used to be called. You know, “speech correctionist,” “speech therapist” and so on and so on. I remember this professor going on and on about how many SLPs make the mistake of holding themselves above teachers and refusing to do bus duty, lunchroom duty, etc. and that was just wrong! This professor also said that in order to create harmony in the school system, we should be okay (even encourage) being called a speech teacher.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a teacher is a) someone who instructs, or b) a Mormon who ranks higher than a deacon. Since your schools are supposed to be non-religious, I think we can safely rule out the Mormon definition. That leaves us with someone who instructs. Granted, we do sometimes “instruct” as in give directions, teach how to do something, expect compliance…but, we are not teachers.
Teachers spend hours per week with each child, teach a myriad of subjects, and provide appropriate feedback in the way of corrections, tests, grades, etc. I do not spend hours with each child…heck, I’m lucky if I can spend an hour with a child in a week. I do not teach math, health, science, etc. although I do help with those subjects (sometimes). I do not give “tests” for the purpose of providing grades. I do not “instruct” in the traditional sense. I provide a type of therapy. I am not a teacher.
Now, before I lose too many readers, please know I have the utmost respect for teachers and firmly believe the fate of students today is in their hands. Frankly, I would struggle to fill a teacher’s shoes. I know I would struggle with grading and a number of other things teachers have to do. I don’t deserve to be called a teacher.
ASHA has stated that SLPs should be known as Speech-Language Pathologists. Basically, what ASHA says is that humans communicate through language, without language humans have a significant handicap, and that SLPs are responsible for diagnosing, therapy, and remediation of language disorders. We all knew that and it doesn’t come as any surprise. There is however, a fourth bullet that ASHA makes:
“WHEREAS, this should be immediately and prominently discernible to other specialists and the general public”
This is the part that I believe many people gloss over. Why is it important to be called a Speech-Language Pathologist? So that other people know you are a specialist. So the general public knows you are someone to go to for specific expert help. So the parents of your students recognize you as a language expert. The “speech teacher” teaches public speaking, oration, and possibly speech and drama. The speech-language pathologist teaches children to communicate. There is a world of difference.
Now, I’m not saying we should start a mutiny and refuse to speak unless addressed correctly (although trust me, there are days I’d love to do that!)…but I do think we need to gently correct people. When I’m in my RTI meetings and someone says “you’re the speech teacher” I correct them. When I’m introduced to parents by another teacher or the principal, I’m introduced as the speech-language pathologist. When I introduce myself, I say I’m the speech-language pathologist at so-and-so school. The only time I accept “speech teacher” is from my younger students who aren’t able to see the difference. From everyone else, I expect to be called what I am…a speech-language pathologist.
I believe this mislabeling leads to legislative difficulties and hoops that we as SLPs have to jump through. In some cases, it leads to an inability to be gainfully employed, and at the very least, it costs us, the SLPs, money. I’ll explain that in the next post since this one is getting long.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Do you object to being called a “speech teacher?” Do you consider yourself a teacher? Leave me a note here and let me know what you think.
Until the…Adventure on!