It's the second week of May already! I have loved following our speech peeps and all the Better Hearing and Speech Month hoopla on social media. SLPs are such a creative and energetic group of folks. It is, then, very fitting that my first post of May and the continuation of the interview series be contributed by an amazingly gifted SLP friend of mine. As with all the guest contributors, I have been inspired by her perspective.
At first glance it may seem obvious that multidisciplinary teamwork means members of different disciplines working together. However, truly effective multidisciplinary teams are so much more. As those of us who have worked these teams can attest, some teams are truly functional and others seem less so. Some are doing great work and others are stuck. So why is this? I think it comes down to focus. Teams with members that are student-focused rather than self-focused are the teams that get the most accomplished. In my experience, they are also the teams that are the most enjoyable and professionally fulfilling to be a member of. Being student-focused means being an equal player with other members and not being reluctant to stand up as the “expert” in your discipline. It also means, listening to and being open to new ideas, perspectives, and approaches suggested by other disciplines. Occasionally teams become mired in questions about professional territory. Putting people together in groups representing many disciplines does not necessarily guarantee the development of a shared understanding. While it is important to practice within the scope of one’s profession and personal competency, you also need to be willing to go out on a limb and try something new occasionally. I have gotten some great ideas from other team members and love teams that do creative work to solve problems or find ways to help students excel. As long as members keep the line of communication open and reconvene regularly to assess outcomes and refine approaches, I don’t think you can go wrong.
What message do you have for the powers that be (administration, DOE, elected officials, etc. Your choice).
Well this is an easy one! My message to the “powers that be” is to invest in families. If there is one thing that we know for sure about student achievement in U.S. schools, it’s that achievement is associated with family income. The higher the income, the better students do at school. Rather than pouring money into enacting one school reform initiative after another, perhaps the focus should be on addressing issues such as poverty and inequitable school funding.
What do you see as the most pressing issue impacting our students today? Why?
There are so many issues impacting our students today that is difficult to choose just one - national standards, health and nutrition, school reform, high stakes testing, the list goes on and on. However, because I work primarily with preschool and elementary school students, my thoughts come from this context. The issue that I see as relatively pressing revolves around play. Is it just me? Have you noticed that play seems to be on its way out? Apparently the American Academy of Pediatrics concerned about this too. According to their April 2015 report, what children really need for healthy development is more time for old-fashioned play. They need more free time for recess and for unstructured time at home in order to increase their social and emotional health. Unfortunately it seems just the opposite is happening. Less time is available for children to romp around the house, build imaginary worlds, and explore the outdoors. I think there are multiple factors contributing to this. Among these is the pressure for children to achieve at earlier ages in both academics and structured sports. This can lead to over scheduled children both at school and at home. I also think that the increased access to electronics, and the devices that go with it, is an obstacle to more creative and physical outlets. Like many of you, I am wondering what the long term consequences to child development will be.
What energizes you to come to work everyday? What keeps it "fresh" for you?
Having a personal vision and mission is what keeps me coming to work every day. Luckily, I work in an environment where the vision I have for my work is closely related to my personal vision. Having a job that reflects my personal vision is powerful because it allows me to stay grounded in the present while working towards the future. It allows me to be what I think of as a “work-a-frolic”. I am working hard, but that work is fulfilling and enjoyable. It is a good frame of mind to be in and I encourage you to work on defining your own personal vision and mission if you haven’t already done so.
Describe your dream work environment? How does your dream compare with your reality?
How can you make it a reality?
My Ideal Work Environment
3 cups of awesome students
1 cup inspired teachers
¼ cup creative therapists
½ cup fabulous special educators
½ cup marvelous support staff
½ cup exceptional administrators
2 Tbsp respect
3 Tbsp compassion
2 Tbsp positivity
1 tsp teamwork
2 tsp flexibility
1 tsp diversity
Dash of fun (to taste)
Directions: Preheat school to warm. Add students, teachers, support staff, and administrators. Mix until combined. Sing, smile, learn, and play. Combine with therapists and special educators. Be careful not to over-stir. Pour mixture into a large, comfortable, well-supplied classroom. Top with respect, compassion, positivity, teamwork, flexibility, diversity, and fun. Cook for about 7 hours. Serves all!
That is certainly a recipe for success.