|Photo credit: Lois Metzger|
I am hesitant to write this post, because I 'm not a whiner. I am well aware of the fact that I am incredibly fortunate to have a job and I appreciate that. The problem is every day I read with sorrow, the posts by SLPs, young and old, who are overwhelmed. They are faced with staggering caseloads, paperwork burdens that threaten to smother them, shrinking budgets that cause them to spend their own hard earned money on supplies, professional isolation, and the list goes on. When I read about bright young SLPs, who are more talented and better educated than I, considering leaving the profession I have to ask, "Why?" When I read about a veteran SLP who weeps the first week of school because she feels powerless to help her students, I ask, "Why?" When I read of a young SLP who is reprimanded for having a pile of papers waiting to be sorted through, in the corner of a room, I ask, "Why?" I know first hand the effects of this stress on my well-being and that of my family. By the end of the week I have nothing left. I have to force myself to go out and socialize, because by Friday I am spent. I bring home evaluations to type, goals to write, and plans to create. Just yesterday the banter on Instagram was desks. One die-hard SLP was committed to keeping her desk neat and that spawned a dialogue of desk madness. My contribution included a lunch eaten at my desk over a period of hours. Last school year I was criticized for this and had to defend my actions by stating that a meeting had been scheduled during my lunch and rather than chowing in front of parents, I felt more comfortable at my desk.
It has, unfortunately become our culture. We know each other by the bags we tote back and forth between school and home and the bags we sport below our eyes. We seek support for the abuses we face on social media and while we all try to hold the hand of the affronted SLP, we are still rendered powerless. We are on a quest to validate ourselves in the schools; emphasizing constantly that we are not just the speech teacher, that we are integral to the system, not simply part of an unfunded mandate. We have stormed social media with blogs and websites and tweets and photos. We are a huge presence on Teachers Pay Teachers and still we struggle.
I don't pretend to have the answers, but I believe it is time to rally! I am convinced that we can effect a change. Many of us are members of teachers' unions who should be advocating for our needs. How many SLPs are in administrative positions within the NEA or the AFT? ASHA needs to hear us and work for legislation that mandates caseload caps. Individually, we must get involved with our state associations and demand that the lobbyists we pay are actually working for us. There is power in numbers and I believe that we can change the status quo together.
I am still trying to do something everyday that scares me, and this post has been lurking in the back of my mind, but I was terrified to open myself up to the criticism. I then realized that that is part of the problem, I don't want to rock the boat. Well, it's time for me to rock. I for one am going to begin to advocate for my profession and myself. I am going to write to my legislators. I am going to contact my union. I am going to contact ASHA. I am going to do whatever I can to support my fellow Speech-Language Pathologists. How about you? Want to rock the boat?