Thursday, May 28, 2015

Interview With a Speech-Language Specialist: Part 6 of the Blog Chronicles

Where has the month gone? Just when I think I have a handle on EVERYTHING, it all slips away! I admit, I am very excited for the end of the school year. This summer will be taking us on several college visits and I am hoping to meet some of my speech "besties" while on the road. Summer is so restorative to me, but we're not finished yet, soooo without further ado, I present the next installment of the blog chronicles. In NH we have an emergency certification for speech-language specialists during periods of critical shortage.
"An individual may obtain Alternative 4 Certification Path for Critical Shortage Areas with a bachelor's degree in Speech Pathology or Communications Disorders. By plan completion, candidates for Speech-Language Specialist must obtain a master's degree in communications disorders or a closely related area."
My friend holds this certification and agreed to add her two cents to the blog series.
How do you see a true multidisciplinary team functioning?

A true multidisciplinary system works best when each member's expertise is understood and appreciated, members consult with one another prior to making important programming decisions about students and once programming is established, consult continues relative to progress. Ideally co-treating among related service providers would happen, especially for the youngest students.

What message do you have for the powers that be (administration, DOE, elected officials, etc. Your choice).
There is nothing more important to our future as a society than the education of our children. When we invest in the education of our community's children we are at the same time, investing in the future of our community. On a related note, post-secondary education should be accessible to all who want it, and we need to make it affordable because potentially qualified people are shying away from lower paying careers (like education) because of the burden of debt.
What do you see as the most pressing issue impacting our students today? Why?
I feel as though students today are not taught with enough time and attention to the basics of 'HOW' to learn. It seems that the expectations are skewed more towards quantity with less regard for quality. Also, tracking every student towards a four year college degree is a mistake. Our society needs quality tradesmen and tradeswomen and there are less and less of the types of programs (i.e.: vocational education) in public schools that allow students to explore these options.
What energizes you to come to work everyday? What keeps it "fresh" for you?
I am energized by the camaraderie of working closely with my colleagues whom I respect and also have respect for me. What keeps things "fresh" for me is the challenge of working with all the different types of learners and figuring out best therapy practices.
Describe your dream work environment? How does your dream compare with your reality?
How can you make it a reality?

My dream work environment would allow all young children to attend a quality preschool with certified early childhood teachers at no charge and would have a teacher/parent mentorship component so that parents who need it could learn some skills relative to early childhood under the mentorship of a teacher or other experienced parent. Right now, although we have an integrated preschool, only parents of typically developing students that can afford preschool can attend. Children who do not have an IEP, but are borderline at-risk because of poverty or other factors cannot attend. Also, although we try to communicate with parents, there is very little hands-on training of parents in preschool.

Well said, my friend, well said! I agree wholeheartedly! I sometimes can't believe how fortunate I am to know such talented professionals!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bias and Education

I fret. I stew over things and get my stomach all turned around. My thoughts whirl around the past, the present, and the future. Bias and education is a subject that has been a concern of mine for quite some time, however it moved to the forefront when our own children entered middle school and many of the materials they were exposed to reflected only a single perspective.

While it is gravely unpopular to admit this, I lean to the right, not completely, but on issues of balance and fiscal responsibility. I value all life, therefore neither support abortion nor the death penalty. I am also a strong advocate for peace and social justice. I value the notion of education and helping others became self-sufficient. "If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he'll eat for life."

This morning I saw an article posted on a news website for kids, reporting on the recent Amtrak train crash. The article alluded to the cause of the the disaster as reduced funding of the railway system from 1.4 billion to 1.1 billion. The article did mention the engineer was going 100 mph in a 50 mph zone, nevertheless, the article further stated, a curve, that should have been straightened with these funds, was the crux of the issue. The article didn't mention that the cell phone records of the engineer will soon be under scrutiny as his speed increased from 70 mph to 106 mph around the curve. Curves happen; on roads, on tracks, in life. We must exercise caution around a curve because when taken too quickly disaster is around the bend. This may not be solely an infrastructure issue (while, I'm sure upgrades are needed). On the surface it appears this is a negligence issue, but we don't know. Knee jerk reactions don't provide answers. Knee jerk reactions are self serving and do little to promote dialogue and problem solving.

Where is the opportunity for comparison in education? The practice of exploring thesis, antithesis, and synthesis is crucial when teaching children to make informed decisions. When was the last time students were asked to explore the positives of climate change or even to look at the research debunking global warming? The trend du jour may be captivating, but it lasts a nanosecond (remember #bringbackourgirls? What level of help has been offered to find those poor girls since?).

I have seen this expression of only one side of the issue being offered in education over and over and over. Whether it is reading material or teacher bias the outcome is the same. The opportunity for thought, the opportunity for academic conversations, the opportunity for dissent is squelched. Historically, the effects of one-sided education have been horrific. We only need to look to Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin to appreciate how hate is fostered.
Yes, our kids are not immune to the current American zeitgeist. Our kids are taught to eschew values, faith, work, life.
The Common Core State Standards in the area of Speaking and Listening clearly define collaborative discussion and analysis. As speech language pathologists we encourage higher order thinking.
We are responsible for educating those who will run the show as adults and it is beholden to us to present all sides of an issue. Our personal bias should not be the focus, but rather the dissemination of information and the tools necessary for formulating opinions.

The upshot is, we are all entitled to our own opinions. We are not entitled to our own facts. Lets give our students the facts, all the facts and encourage them to become true, informed thinkers who are able to develop and support their own opinions whatever they may be.

Comprehension and Collaboration:
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
Follow rules for collegial discussions, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
Pose questions that elicit elaboration and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant observations and ideas that bring the discussion back on topic as needed.
Acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.
Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.
Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 7 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Interview With a Speech Language Pathologist: Part 5 of the Blog Chronicles

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.

How do you see a true multidisciplinary team functioning?

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.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Chicken Soup for the SLP Soul: Funny Edition Linky Party

Finally, May is here. Not only does May signal the end of the school year, but it's our month; our month to shine! I'm linking up with the indomitable Felice, our own Dabbling Speechie for her Chicken Soup for the SLP Soul! What a great idea! I really enjoy reading about all the funny experiences we have had. I certainly have had my fair share. I wish I had written them all down, I've forgotten so many, but this one is seared in my memory. Enjoy!

When I was still in New Jersey the elementary school I worked in offered a 3-5 class for students identified as "communication handicapped." I was in my early thirties and loved working with the preschool age group. I really miss them for their energy and unabashed honesty and love. One of my favorite little ones had these big, big blue eyes and little blond curls. She used to melt my heart by saying,"My love you, Mith Annie!" My word, she's an adult now!

One day I was returning something to a cabinet before walking another three year old companion back to class. He was standing just beside and a "little behind" me, looking up with those admiring eyes and a big, big smile. He took a deep breath and uttered the words that nearly bowled me over; "Ummmm... Miss Annie? You have... umm... big pants." Whaaaaat? Did this three year old just tell me I have a big A  butt? Yes, yes, I think he did! I went home and joined weight watchers.

I'm really looking forward to reading your funny SLP story. I need a good laugh!