Adventures in Fear…

First, let me say . . . It’s good to be back. I have not written a blog post in way too long. There are a few reasons for this (excuses really). Between work and my PhD, I’ve been very busy. But, in reality, a bigger portion of it is because I’ve been afraid to.

full frame shot of text on wood

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When I was writing before, I belonged to (and read) numerous SLP forums on Facebook, and I saw second hand the frustration people felt over their workplaces, and I felt a strong need to advocate for them. Unfortunately (or fortunately for my sanity), I’ve been far too busy to spend much time on Facebook these days. However, in reality, the reason I haven’t written much is that in my current position at the university, I’ve been . . . afraid to write things for fear they will be misconstrued by co-workers, students, or administration. So, I’ve been silent.

I see so many things I want to blog about, so many wrongs I want to help right, and I am frustrated to be unable to affect the type of change I want to see occur. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t blog about where I work, but I have gained enough insight to know that even when I’m blogging about things in general, people will internalize it and believe I’m talking about them. For those of you who have never seen this phenomenon, I encourage you to take up blogging for a bit…You’d be amazed at how people interpret your words.

I’ve decided to try to conquer that fear. There has to be a way to be able to balance my desire to blog, to advocate for our clients, students, and ourselves without creating a toxic work environment (or worse case scenario, NO work environment because I’ve accidentally said the wrong thing that I didn’t know was wrong).

I’ve talked with SLPs who were afraid to say anything about their work environment because they need their job and were afraid they’d get fired if they said something. I have talked with countless students who feel bullied, threatened, or targeted and are terrified of saying anything because the instructors or supervisors control their grade (and therefore their life for the foreseeable future). I’ve talked with people on Facebook who are afraid to post in an SLP forum because they will get attacked for thinking differently or expressing a different opinion. I’ve talked with (and felt) the fear of speaking out on Twitter because of online attacks when people disagreed with a thought, post, or statement.

Where does it stop? How do we, as communication experts, stop this fear of speaking out in order to speak up? For a long time, the answer was to simply stay out of it, to say “this will pass,” “it will be okay, you just have to get through this instance,” and “are you sure it’s worth the battle?” But the problems don’t go away.

Caseloads are still unchecked (and unmanageable) for many SLPs. Students are still bullied or targeted, and social media has highlighted the lack of social skills in many of us. So how do we change it? Should we change it?

I don’t have the answer…but I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do we, as advocates, make things better for those we walk beside? How can we all make things better for students? For our coworkers? For our clients?

Until then…Adventure on.


3 thoughts on “Adventures in Fear…

  1. I would have greatly appreciated this when I was in grad school. And with a few toxic advisors/supervisors since then. Thanks for being brave, Mary!

    • I’ve been trying to figure out why we (collectively) seem so determined to beat students down in grad school. I’ve talked to SO many students across the nation who, for whatever reason, put up with being mentally and emotionally abused just for the sake of a degree. I get why they put up with it – I don’t get why so many faculty feel the need to do so.

      One student I had the pleasure of speaking with a while ago told me about how she literally sat in her vehicle and cried, daily, before she was able to step foot into the department hallways. When I asked why she felt the need to cry, she said it was so defeating to be constantly told how awful she was – she could do nothing right in the eyes of her instructors and/or supervisors.

      I talked to a few SLPs who are hesitant to go into the department hallways of their alma mater because the negative memories are so strong they become physically ill. It always makes me wonder if the faculty know they are responsible for making life hell for someone…do they take joy in that? Do they feel like they’re “doing their part” for the field?

      I wish I knew how to affect change to help us get rid of that situation for all students. Maybe one day I will keep stats on the number of students who have a positive grad experience and a negative grad experience. I certainly hope there’s more positive than negative.

      • I have mixed feelings about my alma mater. Most are positive though. Unfortunately, I am periodically reminded of my advisor’s harshness when I hear people introduced on NPR by first and last names. I recall a nasty note about how I should address her by Dr. ___ or by her first name. Like I said, most of what I learned was positive — and I learned a lot!

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