Sunday, September 18, 2016

From Those to Whom Much has Been Given

My Teachers Pay Teachers Store is sort of a snoozer, in large part because it is my red-headed stepchild. Doyle Speech Works, the store has 52 products, some of them lovely little gems, but they are not big sellers. I am not a big materials creator nor am I a stellar marketer. I create things I think my students will enjoy and if the mood hits me, dot my copyright I's and cross my copyright T's and upload them. I don't earn a substantial income from my halfhearted endeavors. I marvel at those who have made Teachers Pay Teachers a successful business, however I choose to spend my time doing other things. This spring I reevaluated my commitment to TpT and decided to un-clutter my life and eliminate thoughts, things and activities that add an element of stress, so I stopped creating altogether.

Fast forward to the weekend of September 10, 2016, when Mother Teresa was canonized. Here is a woman, who amid swirling controversy and negative publicity, devoted herself to helping others. Here is a woman who despite experiencing what is called the "dark night of the soul," (a feeling of spiritual emptiness) still sought God. I am humbled by her selflessness and the selflessness of countless others who give of their time, treasure, and talent.

I used to be one of those people. When my children were younger, I spent a considerable amount of time and energy in volunteerism. I taught faith formation, helped raise money for and build a playground, began a women's retreat (now going on its 16th year), raised money for Bibles for middle school students, and did walks and runs for everything pushing my little ones in a double stroller as I did them.  As my children got older they volunteered on their own and I did less. My volunteerism of late has been paltry. I donate money to causes, but I DO very little.

As I reflected on the life of this diminutive nun with a Texas-sized heart, this verse from Luke echoed in my mind: "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required" (12:48). That means me. I have so much to be grateful for, so much. I need to dig back into my heart and find that altruistic nature I once nurtured.

To begin, I have decided to donate any monies earned in my Teachers Pay Teachers store through December 31, 2016. If I don't earn much I will supplement the amount, so as to provide a donation that is helpful. My goal is to help 3 different charities, one per month. I have selected the Captain Douglas DiCenzo Camp Fund, the Jim Kelly Memorial Fund for the PRHS Music and Theater Department, and CADY. The Camp Fund provides children, who would otherwise be unable to attend, an opportunity to go to summer camp. Jim Kelly is a recent graduate of our high school and a dear friend to my children and many others. Sadly, Jim is no longer with us, but his music and theater legacy will live on with this memorial fund and I will do what ever I can to sustain it. CADY is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting alcohol and drug-free youth in our community and beyond.

I have to spend more time discerning where to give my time and talent. I have some thoughts and will fill you in when I have made a decision. I would like to enlist my husband to work with me as we move forward in our lives. It will be nice to work together.

You never know this might motivate me to create more materials! Meanwhile, take a gander at my store. If there is something that piques your interest, buy it! I hope it makes you happy to know all proceeds will go to to those who need it. Praise God, I don't!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Progress Monitoring-Baselines and Beyond: A Frenzied SLP Linky

Labor Day brings the unofficial close to the summer season and with it an end to the lazy, hazy days of relaxation. Don't dismay, though, because with the return to schedules and school come the Frenzied SLP posts chock full of ideas, materials, and suggestions for the busy SLP. Thank you Sparklle SLP, Lisette Edgar, and Kelly Woodford-Hungaski for coordinating our first frenzied linky!

To start things off, we thought we would share how we do progress monitoring, establishing baselines and more. I understand there are a plethora of products available for progress monitoring, however, I have streamlined my process. I purchased MANY products for monitoring progress and what I found was that, while, they were fantastic products, they weren't aligned with the goals I had established for my students. I created a couple of my own progress monitoring tools, but still, I didn't feel I was capturing the information I needed (You can access my elementary and middle school progress monitoring tools for free). Additionally, trying to find the extra time to administer the progress monitoring tool added needless stress to an already stressful day.

I take detailed data for every session. I write an anecdotal and document percentage accuracy for every objective. What I realized was my documentation was, in fact, all I needed for progress monitoring that specifically targets my students goals and objectives. When it is time for an annual review or progress reports I collate all the data for a specific time span and find the median percentage accuracy.  Using the median rather than mean eliminates the outliers. I also have a baseline if I need to continue addressing a certain area. This streamlined approach has saved me considerable time and, I believe, paints the most accurate picture of a student's progress as it relates to their individual goals.

Sample data collection sheet
You can access my data collection sheet here. Everyone does things differently, however, I have found that keeping accurate and current data is the best method for me to assess progress without having to pull out an additional tool or schedule time for dedicated progress monitoring. 

How do you monitor progress? The Frenzied SLPs are eager to hear your thoughts and/or check out your methods. Link up with us!!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Thoughts From the Back Porch: My Visit with Small Talk, SLP

I know how busy people are these days and catching up on the blogs can be a task. This post will likely be lengthy, however to truly do it justice, it has to be told in full. This is a story of friendship, so I'll spare no words. 

It all started several years ago, when my soul sister and I started sharing photos and quips on social media. We had been liking and commenting on each other's SLP-based photos back and forth for a while, when one day I posted an activity using some winter themed stampers. My social media and SLP compatriot "hearted" the photo and expressed how she liked the stamps. I had ordered them from Oriental Trading and received triple of each stamp, I think, so, I asked her if she wanted a set. She was thrilled and I was happy to send them across the country to brighten her day. The rest, as they say, is history. A cross-country friendship between Small Talk, SLP and Doyle Speech Works was born, moreover the relationship between Pam and Annie has flourished ever since. 

I remember the first time we chatted in real time via instant messenger. I was cooking dinner and we started getting to know each other outside of the public eye. The times we chatted became more and more frequent and open, sharing bits of our lives, our joys, and our frustrations. Now barely a day goes by where we don't touch base, even if it's brief. After a particularly grueling day for one of us, we wished we were sitting on the sofa together with a glass of wine. I remarked that one day that dream would become a reality. Time passed, as it does, and Pam sent me a message asking if I really meant it, would I really come to Oregon and visit? I did get a little nervous, not about the visit (well maybe a little), but about time and money, kids and work. I thought April 2016 would work, alas, no such luck. June arrived and I thought it was high time for an adventure! Now I was waiting on my husband, could he get the time off after recently starting a new job? No he couldn't, but I could! The time was right and on June 30, 2016, I found myself on a plane Oregon bound! YEEHAW!!! When I arrived in Portland I headed to retrieve my baggage and I heard, "Annie?" I turned and saw Pam! We embraced and held each other and were both filled with such emotion! I cannot even describe it adequately. We hopped in her car, started talking and never once did we run out of things to talk about. There was never an uncomfortable moment. Why would there be, we had already bared our souls for years. Now our families? Our families trust our judgment, yet there were a few comments from both sides (What if she's nuts? You're going to let her stay here?). We already knew, though. We were connected.

Our adventures began with what all SLPs do when they visit each other from across the country, a children's book and toy store!! Yes, we both walked out with items for therapy. 

We proceeded to Industry Restaurant for happy hour, a well earned margarita, salsa and guacamole! Simply ambrosia after a day of travel from the east coast to the west. Pam's husband met us there and I loved him the moment we met! We returned to their lovely home and shared our love of fine food by cooking dinner together. It was early to bed for me still not having adjusted to the time differential. I slept comfortably and happily, blissfully exhausted.

The next day began with a lovely 2 mile walk and face to face conversation! Pam invited me to observe her therapy session (with parental permission of course) which was a real treat. What a wonderful experience seeing an incredibly gifted SLP at work. I loved it and wish we had more opportunity to observe each other and collaborate not just with materials and ideas, but practice. Following therapy we headed to Portland for some sightseeing. Portland is bustling and everyone appeared so healthy and active. I love a city. There is just so much to do. We began at the International Rose Test Garden and then headed into the city proper for a visit to Powell's Books, the Food trucks (we went to the grilled cheese truck. Oh My!), and a walk across Tilikum Crossing for a view of Oregon's Bridge City. Naturally, no trip to Oregon is complete without a stop at a brew pub. I can't remember the name of the one we visited in Portland, but while I was there I didn't meet a brew I didn't like. Yummy!!
International Rose Test Garden
Bridge City, Portland, Oregon
Powell's Books: So many books, miles of books, so little time!
Saturday was reserved for hiking. I love to hike and so do Pam and her husband. In fact, we talked frequently about hiking together (I wish Jim had been able to join me). We live in NH, and the hiking is wonderful, but nothing had prepared me for the Pacific Northwest. It was like hiking in Middle Earth, lush and green and majestic. It is beyond compare and beyond words. The day was absolutely perfect and the hiking sometimes steep, yet manageable. I did almost fall backwards down a mountain, when I looked up at a view and stepped back! Gave us all a scare and Pam was grateful she didn't have to call my husband to tell him she lost me down a cliff! We had worked up quite an appetite (and thirst) after hiking, so we went to McMenamin's in Edgefield for a burger and, you guessed it, a cold brew! The focal point of McMenamin's, aside from the spectacular gardens, artisans, and outbuildings, is a hotel that is a restored county poor house built in 1911. The history, architecture, and artwork is remarkable.
Hiking the splendor that is the Pacific Northwest
Sunday morning brought church. To share this moment with my friend and her husband after all we had shared over the years is beyond description. Suffice it to say, I was overwhelmed. Following church was another delicious brewery and restaurant, Ancestry. The gustatory memory of my chicken sandwich and brew is still vivid. I am going to try and replicate that sandwich at home.  My amazing hosts then shepherded me off to the Anne Amie Vineyard in the Willamette Valley. Wine, oh sweet, wine, and vistas like no other. I left with a bottle of Prismé we still haven't opened. I'm waiting for just the right moment. 

Monday was July 4th and Pam and Dan were prepping a barbecue for their children. It was another picture perfect Oregon day, with wonderful weather and even better company. I went to bed fairly early knowing my adventure was coming to a close. I had to leave at 3:30 in the morning to get to the airport and Pam was gracious enough to drive me. 
Red, white, and blue!
Frequently, social media is viewed as a black mark, and it can be, but it's a tool. If it's used in the way it was intended it affords us the opportunity to find information and establish meaningful relationships. I think of my experiences as the modern day version of writing pen pal letters. Many a relationship was forged via pen and paper and the relationships I have made are truly no different. Perhaps the chance to talk daily vs. weeks or months even enhances those relationships. I have spent many a summer morning on this very porch enjoying coffee with my girls. Some may view my trip to Oregon (and my trip last year to Ohio) as a leap of faith. When Pam and I discussed this possibility we agreed; nah, it wasn't a leap of faith, it was meant to be and the natural next step in our story. Our story. To be continued...

Friday, July 29, 2016

Thoughts from the Back Porch: Summer Post 4

Work. Often, during my workaday life as a school-based SLP, I think of work as a four-letter word. There are days and weeks I think will never end. There are days and weeks that go by at the speed of light, leaving me little time to complete all my tasks. It can be an endless cycle of do, complete, redo, restart, test and retest. It can be exhausting. It's the type of exhausting that renders me prone on the couch and ordering pizza for dinner. The type of exhausting that when Saturday rolls around, the thought of cleaning can bring me to tears. While, the physical aspect of SLP life is limited to trips up and down the hallway and in and out of chairs, the mental piece is substantial and exacts a toll both emotionally and physically.

Fast forward to summer. My summer is work is different; it is generally pure physical. I don't shy away from hard physical labor. In fact, during the summer I relish it. I like to sweat. I like to get dirty. I like planning and planting and mowing and weeding yard work. At the end of the day when I'm grubby and tired I can look at the fruits of my labor and get deep satisfaction. I can see what my toils have produced and I love it. Summer is good for my soul.
I mentioned to some SLP friends recently as we were sharing photos of our gardens, that if I were a rock farmer, I'd be a millionaire. NH is rife with rock. Our landscape is crisscrossed with picturesque rock walls and many towns have ordinances that prohibit their dismantling, as they are inherent to our New England character. As beautiful as these rocky scenes are, they are a bane to gardeners. So what do we New Englanders do? Use the rocks. Over the years I have built a number of rock garden beds. I have single handedly, hunted, harvested, hauled and built these beds. 
This week I wanted to further fortify our fire pit (yes, I am in an alliterative mood). For roughly three hours I scoured the woods for rocks and dug them out.
I piled them into the wheelbarrow.
I pushed that wheelbarrow UP the hill that is our driveway.
I hoisted them out and carried them to their final resting place.
I strategically placed them one on another.
I put my feet up and felt a sense of pride in my strength and my work.
Now, I know that my efforts at my day job yield results. I see the student who has made some measure of progress and I receive the rare note from a grateful parent or student. More often than not, though, we are unsung heroes and we miss the end result of our labors. I want to reframe my vision of my daily work as an SLP. I don't want work to be just a four-letter word. Perhaps, in the spirit of growth mindset, I can envision my task as building a rock garden. Each and every day, I search for a beautiful rock. I carefully extract it from the earth, that has a firm hold on it. With strength I carry it to the place where it will shine. When my work is done, I look at the end result and I am grateful for the toil because it has yielded a purpose, it has touched a child. Isn't that why I do what I do?

Monday, July 18, 2016

I'm Visiting the Speech Bubble

I am so happy to helping Maureen, a.k.a. The Speech Bubble, with her blog as she prepares for her little baby! Expecting your first baby is such a special time filled with joy, happiness and a healthy dose of nerves. As many of you already know, my first baby is preparing to go off to college. I too am filled with many of the same feelings as Maureen! I wish her all the best as she readies herself for this next big time in her life.

It is always exciting to do a guest post and I am happy to share what I consider to be the highlights of ASHA Connect 2016. So head on over to The Speech Bubble and enjoy!  <3 Annie

Monday, July 11, 2016

Thoughts from the Back Porch: Summer Post 3

The past two weeks have been busy! On June 30th I headed to the Pacific Northwest for a person to person SLP linky with Pam of Chit Chat and Small Talk. I was home for one day and then on to Minneapolis, Minnesota for ASHA Connect 2016 for an educational and fun-filled experience. 

I will share much more about those adventures in future posts, but today my thoughts were clearly focused on memories. Naturally, upon my return I had to attend to all things domestic: laundry, cleaning, and organizing consumed my whole day. While it seemed dull in comparison to the fun of the previous two weeks, it was good to settle back in back at home. As I straightened the house and dusted photos, I recalled people and events. As I folded laundry I recalled who gave me this beach towel or that top, and I read little notes from my children as I sorted through items on my bedroom bookcase.

Memories. Memories can trigger laughter, sadness, bitterness, remorse, and more. My memories of my little ones are so much more intense as I prepare for our daughter's big step into the world of college. I came across this note that caused me to pause and truly miss those days of young children. 

It reads Christmas Eve 2008: 
Dear Santa, 
I have a question that has puzzled me all day: 
which country do you root for in the summer and winter Olympics? 
You probly have a pen to answer my question so I leave no pen.
Merry Christmas, 

Santa responded in this way.
My Dear Nora and Mack,
Here at the North Pole we are doing what we can to be "greener." I know that you are two very smart children and you feel the same way, so I instructed the elves to pick only children who would understand. I had them wrap Mack's presents with the red paper and Nora's with the blue paper. That way we wouldn't have to waste all those tags. You should tell your parents to do the same thing. Think of the trees we will save!!! I love you dear children. Merry Christmas!

Santa Claus

P.S. These days we travel the world with a laptop, so I don't need a pen! During the Olympics, both summer and winter, I support all the athletes regardless of the country they represent.

I was filled with such love for my children as I recalled their curiosity and innocence. It is both wonderful and bittersweet to think on those days. If our children grow and develop the fortitude and confidence necessary to spread their wings and leave home then we have done well, but my thoughts today longed to smell their hair and feel their heads as they rest upon my chest, to hear gales of laughter and hold tiny dimpled hands.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Thoughts from the Back Porch: By Sparklle SLP

Hello Doyle Speech Works readers. I am Sparklle SLP from Speaking About Remarkable Kids Learning Language Everyday. I am a school-based SLP, Mom, blogger and TpT author. I am always so excited when SLP bloggers visit each other's blogs so, when my dear #slpbestie Annie invited me to participate in her Thoughts from the Back Porch series, I was all hooves in (more on that in a moment). 

When I read Annie's first post in the series I totally related. 100%. While she works and resides in NH and I in OH, our school-based SLP positions have a trending theme. When Annie remarked, "I went through the proper channels and was effectively shut down" it was as if I was speaking her same thought, literally, roughly three weeks earlier when my own school year ended. I love how Annie is vowing to use a positive mindset with attainable goals in an effort to promote change.

I, too, have moved beyond the shut down. Summer is galloping on by and I am determined to not let it pass without soaking up loads of time with my own kids at home.  You see, for 9 months, I spend an enormous amount of time with everyone else's kids.  My chosen career fits me perfect. I love being a school-based SLP. I can use my creative, ambitious mind daily. Being a mom is no different and I am grateful to have the time off to enjoy my kids at home during the summer. Today, I'm planning to shed some light "literally" on thoughts and actions from my back porch.

I have three lovely, intelligent, creative, involved children of my own.  Today's post is about my middle child. She fits the middle child syndrome perfectly! She's independent, creative, can avoid work better than most, tends to enjoy her time alone, and will seek attention in ways that cause a few additional grey hairs. My #2 is incredible. She's like chaos flip-flopped upside-down with this amazing ingenuity and she's only 7!

For quite some time now, she's been into Breyer model horses and has taken over my husband's basement office to accommodate her stables, pastures, arenas, a tack room, a training arena, and a bunkhouse.  When we go shopping for groceries, we bring home boxes and they are quickly converted into horse accommodations. She uses a variety of office and craft supplies to create saddle racks, bridles, halters, lead ropes, feed buckets, wash stall supplies, and the like. She has master glue-gunning skills and popsicle stick engineering.  I bring in the lawn tractor (AKA vacuum) often to swipe up the debris.

I neglected to snap pictures of her before barns (insert sad face; however, she took video of the adventures of her horses). Below is the start of her hot walker (this is a new vocabulary word for me) and tack room.


When this girl gets an idea, she is on it like metal to a magnet. You will hear her feet pitter-patter down the steps and the rummaging begins. Last week, "wooden stables" was verbalized. Scrap wood was obtained. Power tools were plugged in. The adventure began. 

This SLP mom used her creative, organized focus to help the ingenius youngster to use her powers to design stables for her ever growing team of horses. 

We sketched, measured, cut,




staged, reconfigured...


and now the designing is hers for the making.


These actions from my back porch, the perfect backdrop for quality time with my middle child, proved to be just what this SLP mom on summer break needed. Who would have thought power tools and hammering could relieve stress? Totally an added bonus. I am looking forward to witnessing her completion of these barns and the narratives that will follow.  See how the SLP in me still emerges in the summer!

What are your thoughts or actions from your back porch this summer?  Do they help you to rest, create, reflect, or enjoy?  Please share in the comments. Thanks so much to Annie for the invite and the prompt to share my stable story.