Adventures in Appreciation

Resistance is futile…

No, really….it is. I resisted subscribing to twitter for a long time. If I’m honest, I’d have to say it’s was more out of spite for someone than anything else. When I attended Closing the Gap in 2009 and heard someone speak about networking on twitter, I realized I was only hurting myself. So I sat on the floor of the conference room at CTG and started a twitter account. Not too long after that I connected with several SLPs (Bob Bateman, Janelle Albrecht, and several others). Not too long after that the #SLPeeps were born (but that’s another story!). Now, I can’t imagine not being connected to the #SLPeeps. As a rural SLP (the only one in my school district), I love having other SLPs to network, bounce ideas off, and generally expand my knowledge base. I can honestly say, I am a better clinician because I’ve developed a Primary Learning Network through twitter.

I resisted blogging for a long time too. I’ve guest blogged for a few people with success…but I honestly didn’t think that I had enough content that was worthwhile to have a blog of my own. To be completely honest, I also knew that it would be a great way for me to waste time and I was concerned a bit that it would interfere with the things I already procrastinated on…and it seemed like a lot of work. There were a number of #SLPeeps that nagged encouraged me to do a blog and eventually I capitulated. Once again, I’ve proved resistance really is futile. I am very glad that I’ve started blogging. I don’t know if the rest of the world is; but for me it’s a great way to feel like I’m making a statement, however small.

After the last few blog posts about workload vs caseload, teaching certificates vs license, etc. I’ve come to realize that resistance really is futile – and that if enough SLPs discuss and take action, the powers that be will have to capitulate…eventually. We as SLPs will need to remain united and persistent in what we will accept.

Are you wondering about the title of this post? After all, all I’ve done is talk about resistance. Don’t worry, I’m getting there…

I firmly believe we need to speak up and make the changes that are necessary in our lives. Being passive and unhappy is not a solution. A mantra I’ve had for years is that when there is a problem we are either part of the solution or part of the problem. If we are not an active part of the solution then we are, by definition, a part of the problem. That means we can’t sit around and do nothing. We can’t expect change without some catalyst.  But, I also recognize that none of us are Don Quixote and we can’t go blindly stabbing at windmills. We need to be organized, cohesive, and coherent in what needs to be changed and why.

Obviously caseloads should be manageable. For SLPs to have caseloads in the high 80s – 100s is ridiculous (unless they have a lot of SLPAs under them or wear bright red capes and are Super SLPs). Sadly, I don’t know any Super SLPs personally, although I do know a few who are close!Equally obviously, SLPs should be recognized for the professionals that we are. However that needs to happen. I personally do not believe it involves a teaching certificate and in the case of some states, I think that the use of teaching certificates is actually detrimental to the SLP profession.

As commented on a previous blog post, California is requiring SLPs to jump through more hoops while providing personnel with no SLP experience or training to be a “certified Education Specialist” with a “Communications Development Credential.” http://www.csba.org/NewsAndMedia/Publications/CASchoolNews/2007/Dec/ElectronicOnly/SpedEdCred.aspx.

According to the website “Teachers holding these credentials would be authorized to provide site-based language development services to students, such as addressing articulation problems that are very common in younger students,” Farland explained. “This would mean that districts would not have to contract out with licensed speech therapists for many services.”

Now, I don’t know about you but this scares the heck out of me. What makes it worse is that (apparently) California’s state hearing and speech association supported the law. Now, granted I don’t know everything about it, I am currently researching it, but on the surface it seems like a great way to get rid of the SLP in schools. I’m really hoping I’m wrong, and I sincerely hope that if there’s anyone involved in the process reading this, they speak up and clear up the situation. Please??? I’d really like to remain PollyAnna SLP and think all is well (or will be well) in the SLP world.

Are you still wondering about the title of the post? Are you even still reading???

While I believe, strongly, that it’s important to be an active part of the solution to any problem…I believe it’s important to really look at what we have. Is it a real “problem” or an inconvenience? In order to do that, we need to appreciate what we have.   If possible, we need to separate ourselves from the situation and look at the entire picture and see both the positives and negatives. Appreciate the problem (because you can make a change) and appreciate the good things that we all have.

For instance, I can honestly say that for many SLPs the caseload/workload issue seems to be a true problem (even if it doesn’t affect me yet). When an SLP has 100 kids that are receiving direct services – something has to give. Ultimately the kids are the ones that lose out in that situation…That’s a problem. When an SLP has to take work home constantly because there’s no time to do the paperwork at school because of caseload/workload burden – something has to give. Ultimately that leads to burnout and resentment and that’s a problem…Again, the kids lose out because the SLP is either not functioning as well – or leaves due to burnout and the problem is compounded when another SLP has to pick up the slack. One SLP on twitter recently told me that nearly half of the 30+ SLPs in their district left due to mismanagement, unreasonable caseloads, and other issues. That’s a very real problem. Anytime half a workforce leaves the employer should be worried. Frankly, if I were an SLP in that are if at all possible, I’d be looking for a new job too. (But, I also know it’s a lot easier when I’m sitting here rather than living it.)

Listening to the SLPs here and on twitter and facebook, I’ve gained a new appreciation. For me, I appreciate my employer and work site immensely. I will be completely honest and say that the majority of SLPs that I’ve talked to would be envious of my position. Yes, I still have the dreaded paperwork, yes I still have things I could complain about…but I also have complete support of my administration and employer. I have near autonomy at work and I choose what happens when, etc. I have a manageable workload. While there are times I may complain about certain requirements or whatever, I recognize that I am extremely lucky…I appreciate what I do have. When there is a real problem (and not my attitude problem) I know I can approach the powers that be and at least be heard. If reasonable, I know it will be acted on. I also know that I am valued as the professional I am.

I’d love to hear what positives and negatives you have in your position. Is there a problem we can work together on – all the SLPs reading (and there are a lot of you) are a great source of inspiration and wisdom. Let’s work together to fix these problems!

Until then…Adventure on!

Mary

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5 thoughts on “Adventures in Appreciation

  1. Great post & thanks for the shout-out!

    I love my school board job, the only negative thing is that few teachers follow through on the classroom strategies that I give. I need to find a way to inspire the teachers and help them to see that stuff can fit in with all of their teaching.

  2. Great Blog, Mary!
    I agree with Mary that we need to speak out for changes to occur. I thought I could use social media to be a catalyst, however, I fear that the politics of this situation have played out, as very little information was shared with SLPs, and decisions (“compromises”) have already been made by our leaders.
    Just to clarify, the link (above) that I posted previously, is from 2007. I have done a lot of research, so let me update you. The CA Commission of Teacher Credentialing’s (CTC) new teacher credential, is now called the “Language and Academic Development” (LAD). The regulations for this were adopted into Law August 2011. Yes, a year ago! Here is the link for the CTC’s webinar (9/2011) explaining emphatically (maybe too much) that these LAD teachers are NOT replacing SLPs. Watch the CTC Webinar, or read their draft of FAQs, and judge for yourself.
    Sept. 20th: http://video.ctc.ca.gov/2011-09-20-Ed-Sp-LAD
    FAQs: http://www.ctc.ca.gov/educator-prep/special-education.html

    Here are the 8 LAD Standards:
    1-Characteristics of Students with Communication Needs
    2-Language Development
    3-Assessment and Evaluation of Language Skills
    4-Academic Assessment and Instruction
    5-Planning and Implementing Curriculum and Instruction
    6-Literacy Instruction
    7-Social/Pragmatic/Communication Skills
    8-Behavior Based Teaching Strategies

    Anyone else see a conflict? You may think I sound like an alarmist, but #s 1, 2, 3, and 7, (that’s 4 of these 8), are our scope of practice! It really seems to me, as much as the presenters emphatically state (again, maybe too much) that these LAD teachers are NOT replacing SLPs, that this entire plan was developed to mitigate the SLP shortage, and in the process, whether intended or not, put SLPs out of work- Oh, except for Articulation, Voice, and Fluency (they did say that, over and over again!)

    Search asha.org, you will find NO results regarding this major change to our profession. I’ve received no replies to my emails to ASHA. The email response I received from CSHA’s leaders stated: ASHA and CSHA’s leadership were actively involved in all negotiations and deemed this new teacher category to be an acceptable (and best possible) compromise. Wow! We already have a professional crisis with staff shortages nationwide. How much time, energy, and monetary resources are being spent on recruitment campaigns? If teachers begin doing our jobs, why would students pursue a degree in SLP? We’ve been debating whether we should accept being called “Speech Teachers” and here in CA, CTC is making a whole new profession of “Speech Teachers”, sorry “Language and Academic Development Teachers”.

    I have submitted a similar Letter to the Editor for the ASHA Leader…we’ll see if it gets published?
    Thanks again Mary,
    Maryann Potts
    Speech-Language Pathologist
    Redding, CA

  3. I love my job. I think it’s ridiculous that our district forced one of the two SLP’s in our building to travel part-time, but I felt a nudge to volunteer and I’m looking forward to meeting new kiddos and gaining new ideas from the other SLP at my new part-time building. Our caseloads are borderline unmanageable but definitely not 80. It could be worse.

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