Sunday, October 26, 2014

One "StressLP" Rocking the Boat

Photo credit: Lois Metzger
It was a beautiful day. I woke up feeling well rested and eager to go to work. I felt completely prepared as I entered the building and even had time to connect with my colleagues in the teachers' room over a cup of coffee. We laughed and shared stories of excellence in teaching and supportive administrators and parents. Some suggested we meet later in the day to collaborate on how to best implement a push-in lesson. A great start to a great day. I walked down the hall to my room meeting smile after smile. I grabbed my schedule and when the bell rang my first group was at my door ready for some top shelf speech-language therapy. Their homework was complete and they were eager to leave my room and use the skills we had addressed. When I met with their classroom teachers they asked how they could help reinforce the students' speech-language skills in class. I had a preparation period next and since all my IEPs and evaluations were up to date I was able to work on my therapy plans for next week. I have a wealth of materials available all paid for by my school district and I realize how fortunate I am, and then...I woke up!
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.
Understand, there is no one person to blame for the situation facing SLPs. It is the system. Without legislation mandating caseload caps we will drown in a sea of paperwork. Without legislation that requires certification of SLPAs, districts will continue to hire individuals lacking the proper credentials who we are responsible for training and supervising. Without universities promoting the field and educating future SLPs we will continue to experience a critical shortage.
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?


  1. I agree. You have made the nice blogs with the great info in the contents. advice from writing speeches

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback.

  2. Yay for you! In my current position in my current school system, I feel like I have found a dream job. I'm a little (okay, a LOT!) weird in that I really don't mind paperwork; in fact, even though I enjoy working with the kids, I would be perfectly happy doing paperwork all day. I do realize that there are a lot of SLPs out there who have a less than ideal situation, and my heart goes out to them.

    1. I'm so glad you are content in your current position! There are so many things I love about my job, as well. I know I probably am in a better position than many, so maybe I can help effect a change for them, too. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!