Friday, August 29, 2014

We All Need To Move

The first four days of the school year are under my belt! One hundred seventy-six days to go, but who's counting? Last week I outlined my goals for the new school year, and yes, they are lofty.  They, for me, are also critical.  This week I'm talking exercise and goal number nine has and will always be a challenge for me.  It reads, "In leaving work at a decent time I will allow myself time for my favorite thing.  EXERCISE (not!). Despite my apparent dislike of exercise it is crucial not only for my health, but for my well-being.  I need to exercise everyday in order to stay sane, relatively speaking ;)" The jury is still out on whether I have a love-hate relationship with exercise, hate-love relationship with exercise, or simply a hate-hate relationship with exercise.  I will also admit, I am a Jazzercise junkie. I have been "jazzing" for twelve years.  It is fun, social, and I burn calories, lots of calories.   The bottom line is, it doesn't matter we all need to move.
Jazzercise stuff I've earned or won!

I recently read Brain Rules:12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School  by John Medina and am working on how to apply the core principles outlined in the book into my work (and life).  Brain rule number 2: Exercise boosts brain power!  Historically, we have always moved and as we moved our brains developed. It is clear that a fit body can result in a longer and better life, but my interest is in how a fit body can affect my brain and how movement can improve how my students respond in therapy.

Medina writes, based on his research, that exercise can boost mental agility, reduce the possibility of dementia, and help in the treatment of depression and anxiety (I am living proof of that one).  More conclusive studies need to be completed, however, the current information points in the direction that physical activity is crucial in helping our students be more mentally alert, better behaved, and less anxious.

I have students for only 30 minutes per session, yet I plan on integrating more movement into my therapy sessions for all the reasons indicated above, but also because movement improves the automaticity of skills.

  • So why not march or twist while practicing speech sounds?  
  • Let's use EET, but move from colored disk to colored disk while describing.  
  • In June we played vocabulary kickball. I painted the bases with chalkboard paint and labeled them to  include antonym, synonym, category, etc.  
  • Next week we are taking EET to the hopscotch area and using colored chalk circles as EEtchy.  
  • Do you work with middle schoolers?  Ever notice that glazed look in their eyes when you just know they're thinking "I'm gonna die in here," (or they might not be thinking at all)?  When I see that tell-tale sign we jog or do jumping jacks or even dance.
  • Do you work with teachers that take away recess for non completion of homework?  I will admit, in times of utter desperation, I have done the same.  Never again!  Perhaps, I will go out to recess with them and modify the homework to include activity.
  • We have a beautiful nature trail on our campus.  This year we will be walking and talking along that trail.
  • Standing, in and of itself, is more active than sitting.  This year I'm going to try doing speech therapy on our feet.
  • The trek from classroom to speech room is often lost. My mind is full of all the things I have to do and and I frequently let go of valuable speech moments, moments that incorporate movement.  I am going to capture the moments this year!
For some comic relief I've included a video of one of my favorite Jazzercise routines.  Our unstoppable instructor Kristen and some true die-hard jazzercisers were gracious enough to allow themselves to be videoed.  THANK YOU!  By the way, I am the comic relief, not them!

This is only a start, I am very interested in knowing how all of my amazingly gifted colleagues use movement in speech therapy.  Please comment and give me some much needed help.

On another note, stuff happens and it is not always good stuff.  Going back to school can bring with it difficulties; misunderstandings, struggles, stress.  How I respond, how much I let these difficulties impact me, and how I interpret comments can shatter my confidence.  I follow a wonderful devotional and today's was timely.  I thought I would share it here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We Can Do It!!!!

Last week was spent soaking up the sun "down the shore." The Jersey shore that is.  We had a wonderful time visiting family, digging our toes in the sand, riding the surf, and EATING (pizza, bagels, taylor ham, oh my). Being back home means the reality of vacation ending is at hand.  Don't misunderstand, I feel blessed to have seven weeks of vacation.
What always becomes difficult for me is the anxiety of getting back into work mode. I start out with good intentions and then fall quickly back into my old habits that ultimately lead to exhaustion, frustration, and burnout.
I have done some real intense soul searching the past eight months and I am committing myself to putting my family and my life at the forefront.  As I begin my school year I have established some goals.  I also recognize that it is entirely up to me whether I adhere to them, and I MUST actively make a decision to remain well.  As a whole, speech-language pathologists go above and beyond.  We do it, not for the glory, recognition, or big bucks, but because we are a gifted and generous group, a group I have great admiration for. What follows are my goals for the 2014-15 school year and I offer them with the knowledge that it has taken me 30 stinking years to get to this place!  Those of you who aren't as "seasoned" as me, start now and you may prevent "grumpy old SLP syndrome."

  1. There will be times I need to stay late.  I accept that as a professional, however, as a practice it is not healthy.  I MUST leave at a reasonable hour. Eight o'clock on a regular basis is not a healthy practice!
  2. Dovetailing with leaving at a reasonable hour, is making sure we dine together as a family, at the table.  No more take-out in front of the television. Not that that was a daily occurrence, but it happened enough where it became too easy. My daughter is a junior in high school, my son is a freshman.  Before we know it they will be off creating their own lives (sniff, sniff) and we need to enjoy every minute with them.
  3. Schedule preparation periods and use them.  Many of us are part of collective bargaining and our contracts specify a certain number of preparation periods.  We do ourselves no good when we don't put them in our schedules or eliminate them as we acquire more and more students. Preparation periods are necessary for report writing, lesson planning, activity creation, supervision of SLPAs, phone calling, teacher consult, and on and on and on.  I have to keep those times as sacred.
  4. Make time to get get out of my speech room.  My speech room is lovely.  Lunch is also lovely.  I need to take my lunch, get out of my room and socialize with my friends for 30 minutes.  Again, contracts often specify a duty free lunch.  Take lunch and breathe!
  5. I have a little problem: I am in awe of all the talented SLPs out in the great big world!  That's not really my problem.  My problem is that they share amazing ideas and create a wealth of incredible products and I. WANT. THEM. ALL.  I spend waaaaaaaayyyyyy too much money. This year I will set a dollar limit per month and not go beyond it.  To all the TpT SLPs I follow, I won't forget you, I'm simply going to exercise restraint.  Believe me when I say, this pains me!
  6. You may not believe this: sometimes I decide not to drink water because I don't think I have the time for the inevitable result!  WHAT?  Drink plenty of water, regardless of the time it takes for a potty break.  If I don't have time for that, the thing that needs to change is not my water consumption, sheesh!!
  7. I have enough materials to supply several schools (and yes, I own 80% of them).  This year I have decided to end the materials madness and purchase subscriptions rather than hard goods. That includes continuing my subscriptions to Therasimplicity, vocabulary A-Z, and lesson pix. They are great investments.
  8. Sleep, wonderful, glorious sleep.  I need it.  Lots of it and I plan on making sure I get it.  I have to be careful of the book I just can't put down or the desire to watch some mindless television. Enough said!
  9. In leaving work at a decent time I will allow myself time for my "favorite" thing: EXERCISE (not!).  Despite my apparent dislike of exercise it is crucial not only for my health, but for my well-being.  I need to exercise everyday in order to stay sane (relatively speaking;-).
  10. I always try to stay on the cutting edge. I also want to provide my students with motivating and effective treatment.  Sometimes I forget I don't need to reinvent the wheel.  Simple can be awesome.  My planning has to reflect that less can be more.  I have only to look to our creative and brilliant SLP community to find fun and engaging activities that don't require mega hours of prep or money.  I truly admire Lia Mantel Krief of TalkInTime for her clever and simple activities that get to the heart of therapy.  I plan on following her lead in easing my prep time and effort without sacrificing effectiveness.
  11. Now for my mental preparedness!  I will strive to remember that what is said by other people is always a reflection of them and has absolutely nothing to do with me.  I erroneously believed that what others said was because I wasn't liked, or smart enough, or competent enough.  NOT TRUE!  Remember that!!
  12. Finally, I will remember who I am.  I am a highly trained speech-language pathologist with extensive and diverse experience.  I am the wife of a man who loves me and cares for me.  I am the mother of two magnificent, kind, and loving teenagers. I am a friend to those who know me and to those that don't.  I am a woman with a story that needs to be embraced.  I am a daughter of the King of Heaven.  What more could I ask for? 
Here is a little back to school treat!  Enjoy your school year!  We can do it!!
SLP To Do List

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Sparklle SLP has been doing a great series this week on "pushing-in" and I thought I might "push" passed my technological fears and limitations and "push-in" to the discussion (thank you Sparklle for the tutorial)! I have been pushing in to the classroom in some form or other for thirty-one years (YIKES!!).  I have had some great experiences and some, shall we say, not so great experiences.  I can relate to SLPs who have had to conduct whole group lessons in order to access the classroom.  I can relate to those who have been viewed as intruders and effectively ignored when allowed into the inner sanctum.  I know how uncomfortable it can feel when SLPs are relegated to the role of passive observer.  I know the frustration of being scheduled to push-in, only to find your students missing or contending with schedule changes or students reading silently.  I understand the challenge of targeting goals, keeping data, and feeling as though your time is not being used effectively.

I truly want push-in to work; it makes sense!  As an SLP working in the schools, my job is to help students with speech and language difficulties access the curriculum.  Where is the curriculum?  Why, it's in the classroom proper.  Naturally, some pull-out is completely appropriate and necessary, but in the context of the Common Core State Standards, it just makes sense.  The thing is, I always want it to be an effective use of my time with my students.  The challenge, then, is how to make that happen.

My friend and soon to be "academic conversations mentor," Carly, recommended a book called Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk That Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings (I really want to underline the title, but my daughter tells me the correct MLA formatting is italics), written by Jeff Zwiers and Marie Crawford (available on Amazon here).  I believe this approach has the potential to make push-in a powerful experience for SLPs, students, and teachers.  In a nutshell, Zwiers and Crawford describe academic conversations as "sustained and purposeful conversations about school topics" (1).
Available on Amazon here
The first chapter outlines the rationale for integrating oral academic language in the classroom vs. the "trivial pursuit" strategy for learning.  The reasons are compelling, in particular that "oral language is the cornerstone on which we build our literacy and learning throughout life" (7).  The use of academic conversation expects that students collaborate, express their ideas and listen as they learn to "communicate with purpose" (13).  I love that line "communicate with purpose."  Isn't that what we desire to instill in our students?  Academic conversation not only allows for in-depth interaction with content, but it improves cognitive agility and gives students the tools they will need for the future.  In fact, the authors reason that the communication skills honed using this approach dovetail with what employers outline as the skills and qualities they desire in their employees.  The benefits of academic conversations are far reaching and encompass categories of language and literacy, cognitive, content learning, social and cultural, and psychological.

Zwiers and Crawford provide the recipe for getting started and provide the framework for academic conversations drawing on the five integral core skills; elaborate and clarify, support ideas with examples, build on and/or challenge a partner's ideas. paraphrase, and synthesize conversation points. The book effectively explains how to create lessons, design conversation tasks, train students, and develop academic grammar and vocabulary thorough conversation.  Academic Conversations is a comprehensive book, rich with examples on how to integrate purposeful conversation into language arts, science, and history.

This all sounds awesome!  How am I going to do this?  I tend to jump in with both feet, however, I think I need to reign myself in and take baby steps.  First I need to seek out a couple of teachers who want to try this in their rooms.  I work with some amazing people and I am certain this won't be a problem.  I would like to start in fifth through eighth.  Not that the little ones are too young to start this level of conversation, I just need to get good at it! It will be of paramount importance that we meet every week to discuss what is happening in the classrooms and how best to incorporate practice. Zwiers and Crawford provide absolutely fabulous activity suggestions  and mini-lessons for getting started and I suspect I will be camped in those chapters for a while.  As SLPs, we hold the keys to the conversation kingdom and I am excited about the potential that academic conversation promises for the future of education.
Click here for free conversation prompt bookmark