Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Ties That Bind

I was ironing the other day. That's right vacation has begun?! I was ironing an antique tablecloth and some vintage aprons. As I proceeded with my domestic drudgery (not really, I love to iron) my mind wandered to my love of collections. I am a hoarder, ahem, collector. It started when I was a little girl. My Grandfather was a philatelist and he encouraged me to start collecting as well. Even as a little girl I noticed dialects. One day, my Grandfather was explaining to me what "coil" stamps were. For the longest time I pronounced the word "curl" because my Grandfather was from the Bronx and everything "oil" with my translation, was "url," and everything "url" was "oil!" You see, I was only a little "goil" and Bronx was a different language. My Grandfather was also an amazing artist. He made me a beautiful stamp book that I treasure. I also began to treasure collecting. As I grew up I moved away from stamps and rocks and onto records. I saved all my change and would head over to Ramsey Records and search the bins for albums on sale. I amassed quite a collection, hundreds of albums in fact. One day, many years later, we had a yard sale and my husband accidentally took the crates of albums I wanted instead of the small stack I was willing to part with. I don't want to talk about it:( Suffice it to say, now my kids favorite mom quote is, "I used to have that album." Sometime in my twenties, my nesting kicked in, so my collecting trended to more domestic items; antiques, in particular linens and glassware. I love old kitchen glass especially, jade-ite and salt and pepper shakers and refrigerator jars. Naturally, with children and limited space my purchasing has slowed down. Very sad! I do love poking around a musty antique shop, though.

Okay, back to ironing! I started thinking about how collecting has influenced me and my children. My son would go into my china cabinet and take a Wade whimsy to his room and announce he had a "collection." My daughter has a love of buttons and has acquired some beautiful Bakelite and vintage buttons. My wheels started turning and I wondered how I could connect collecting to speech language therapy? I did a little "light research" and came across an article in Psychology Today that explored how children's collections could be used to an advantage in the classroom. The article quoted Elizabeth Howe. She wrote, "It is quite clear, that the teacher who had such information would have an insight into the children's inner life which she would hardly be able to get in any other way. Since good teaching strives to connect student interest to curricular content, such knowledge can be invaluable for building intellectual bridges."
How can I use a child's collection as the basis of speech language therapy? Here's how:
  1. Vocabulary development-whether it's rocks, stamps, or buttons the opportunity to expand vocabulary is rich. Think about words like philately (love they way that one rolls off the tongue), vintage, Bakelite, igneous, mica, etc.
  2. The connection to science speaks for itself.
  3. As I considered the types of collections I have I am reminded of history and the connection to Social Studies. My collections of choice harken back to the depression and WWII. An exploration of life in those eras would be both fascinating and fun for students.
  4. With many collections, a study of the arts would dovetail beautifully. The designs of types of glassware, textile design, and stamp artistry.
  5. Executive Functions-it would be a blast to have students design a stamp or an apron and role play the process of marketing their designs.
  6. Compare and Contrast- the opportunities for comparison are limitless. Comparisons can be made between eras and items themselves.
  7. Social Pragmatics-I love the idea of students sharing their own collections; how they began and why they are so valued. The collections themselves could provide great insight into a students thoughts and feelings. 
  8. Written Expression-what a wonderful opportunity to write from prior knowledge or to create a character that has a penchant for collecting Matroyshka dolls or socks or gum wrappers.
For me, my collections connect me to an era I love.
They connect me to my parents and grandparents. They connect me to my children and someday to their children and I find comfort in these silly, whimsical pieces of glass and fabric. I think that collecting was important for me as a child and I think it still is today. It seems something of childhood has been lost and I would love to rekindle that joy for my students. Oh, and as I look back on my stamps (that I just had my son retrieve from the attic) I was reminded that my Pops rocked!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This is My Relaxed Look

 It's my last week of school! Typically, I am in the throes of progress reports, last minute IEPs and evaluations, end of year reflections, cleaning, sorting, and other assorted mayhem. For some peculiar reason the end of this school year is different. In fact this entire school year has been different! This morning my friends and coworkers and I were chatting and one suggested we take a picture of this calm, cool and collected SLP because of its novelty. Another colleague suggested a blog post and I happily obliged! I, too, have been struck by my year and thought it might be a good idea to reflect on what was different this year. It's probably a good idea to try and replicate it next year! 

From an organizational perspective I have done some things differently and they most assuredly were effective.
  1. I often get overwhelmed and forget where I am supposed to be. Yes, I am the person you see walking down the hall and then doing a 180 and going the other way. My new support system was my paper calendar (in my binder) and Google calendar. When I received a meeting notification I first wrote it on my monthly calendar then I entered it into google calendar. I put a check on the notification indicating I had posted it. At the end of each week I looked at my monthly calendar and entered any upcoming meetings for the week on my weekly to-do page in my binder. Google calendar helped by sending me 30-minute and 10-minute reminders. I did not miss or arrive late for ONE meeting this year! ALLELUIA!
  2. Last summer I created organizers (that have kept me on task and on time). In fact, I was often
    early with my paperwork. Let me just say, that in the past, it was down to the wire. I used these along with pages from Lauren LaCour's Speech Therapy Organizing Planner, had them all bound, and was good to go. I don't know why I didn't do this 30 years ago. Oh yes, I computers! I was able to keep track of goals, lesson plans, IEPs, evaluations, screenings, copying, field trips, purchases, professional development, and so much more in two books. I did separate my planning from my paperwork in two books. I think one book would have been too massive! 
  3. All my therapy plans for the upcoming week were completed the week before. Materials were prepped and ready to go the week before. There were no early morning scrambles! This had been my practice forever, but somehow after having my own children, it fell to the wayside. I have reclaimed my sanity by being ready to go the week before.
  4. When I received notification for an IEP or evaluation I went to work immediately. Progress monitoring was completed and goals written 2-3 weeks ahead of the meeting date. Testing was begun as soon as possible and was done in the order of meeting date. There were times I would start the process of goal writing only to realize I had already completed them! It's true!!
Now for the mental component. I spent a good part of my life an anxious, sensitive wreck. How did I stay sane this year? Like this:
  1. Exercise; the activity I hate to love or love to hate depending on my mood. Research supports that consistent exercise is as beneficial as medication for many people. It is! Twice a week several teachers and I exercise together after school for an hour. A wonderful fitness instructor comes to our building and for a little while we enter the "vault" where we sweat and vent! On the other days I either run or go to Jazzercise. Perfect therapy!
  2. Apparently I do quite a bit of self-talk. Frequently this year I would talk to my SLPA and she wouldn't respond. One day, I called over to her and asked, "Are you there?" She replied, "Are you talking to me? I never know, you have conversations with yourself all the time!" I hadn't realized it, but it's true, I process aloud. I question, I whine, I problem solve, I debate and it keeps me centered and focused. I know, it's weird.
  3. I have had an amazing sounding board for about a year and a half. This person helps me take a good hard look at myself and process my thoughts. She has helped me recognize that the behavior of others has absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. One of my mantras this year has been, "Don't personalize!" I have learned to yield, to say, "You're probably right," or "Thanks for the feedback," and then let go. AHHHHHHH!
  4. At the beginning of this school year I brainstormed goals for the year. One of these included leaving at a reasonable hour. I am happy to say, I stuck to my plan. I arrived at school between 7:15 and 7:30 and stayed no later than 4:00. 
  5. Prayer. Communication with the God of the Universe.
It has been a wonderful year, but I can't conclude without giving a nod to my fellow SLPs. I have had the good fortune of becoming acquainted with some remarkable men and women via social media. There are so many and I fear I would slight someone if I listed names, because I am certain I would forget some fabulous person. I think you know who you are! This group has served as a palliative to my daily grind. The support, information, faith sharing, materials, and laughs (think "permalink" and "logo") gained through this incredible group of professionals has been amazing and a source of great satisfaction and joy. Thank you all for helping me. I'm not sure you realize I how much I value the online SLP community.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Interview With a Psychologist: Part 8 of the Blog Chronicles

The interview series continues, albeit slowly! The responses keep trickling in and I am so happy with this week's installment! I love these responses. They are honest and thought-provoking!

How do you see a true multidisciplinary team functioning?
In my view, the goal of multidisciplinary teams is to generate useful information to answer questions.
How is the student functioning? What does the student need? What can help the student perform to the best of his/her ability, etc? The answers to these questions lie in the data, both quantitative and qualitative, that team members provide. An effective multidisciplinary team is one in which respectful collaboration and sharing, as well as scrutiny, of pertinent information is highly valued and “safely” implemented. Decisions should be data driven and the impact of emotional factors affecting sound decisions should be managed and if possible avoided. Team members should be valued for their expertise and should avoid makings statements that exceed that expertise. Parents are integral members of the team and should be treated as such.

What message do you have for the powers that be (administration, DOE, elected officials, etc. Your choice).
There is a lot of information that needs to be considered when making educational decisions. It’s really important to avoid assumptions based on incomplete information or ineffectual weighting of certain information. Be supportive of people and of what they are doing.

What do you see as the most pressing issue impacting our students today? Why?
Lack of sleep. Kids are sleeping less and recent studies demonstrate that sleep duration accounts for as much as 64% of the variance in cognitive processes essential to academic functioning. Emotional and behavioral instability as well motivational and physical difficulties is also related to sleep deprivation.

Technology. The explosion of technology over the past twenty years has resulted in the development of amazing tools designed to facilitate learning. The downside is that kids have quick and easy access to all kinds of information – some of which they are not developmentally ready to handle. I also have deep concerns about social media and its impact on the development of social skills as well as its use as a bully weapon. Finally, immediate access to parents and other people via cell phones has many advantages. I do wonder however if the development of critical self soothing skills is interfered with because kids are often quickly rescued from anxiety provoking situations by being able to make immediate calls. 

What energizes you to come to work everyday? What keeps it "fresh" for you?
It’s all about the kids, I like kids and I like being around kids. They have great spirit and the number one priority for most is having fun. They’re healthy for me to be around. Helping kids solve problems and watching them mature and is gratifying and entertaining.

Describe your dream work environment? How does your dream compare with your reality?
How can you make it a reality?

Honestly, it would be on a stage playing my guitar and singing to thousands of adoring fans. I’ve been trying to make it a reality for 43 years. I like seeing people happy having fun. That would be a good way to do it.

As the parent of two teenagers and a witness to the effects of sleep deprivation, I couldn't agree more! Well, when this psychologist makes it to the stage, I'll be there to applaud (and dance, and cheer)!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Interview with a Special Educator: Part 7 of the Blog Chronicles

I have been eagerly anticipating the responses from this phenomenal special education teacher! Hot off the presses!

How do you see a true multidisciplinary team functioning?
The reference makes me think most of our evaluation process in which a team gathers with experts in a variety of fields. Working together, we listen to the struggles a classroom teacher may have with a particular student. Each expert offers their interpretation based on their field and through listening to the variety of perspectives we come to an understanding of how to help a student.

What message do you have for the powers that be (administration, DOE, elected officials, etc. Your choice).
I wish that those in power would stop pushing a competitive, business model onto education. I do not believe that the model is working nor is it appropriate to the education of children with such a wide range of needs. Yes, we all want students to be proficient readers and critical thinkers but in pushing for educational performance over and above all other economic, environmental, physical, and cognitive factors we ignore the larger issues that are oppressing our children. With investments into neighborhoods, we can build up the structure within which schools function and stop asking educators to be parents, counselors, nurses, nutritionists, etc. The burn out rate in our profession is high and even higher in charter schools, where the structure is intended to be independent of neighborhoods. Where neighborhoods are neglected, children will require more support from the school to compensate and educators will be spread too thin.

What do you see as the most pressing issue impacting our students today? Why?
I believe that school should be a place where children are excited to learn, create and explore. As educators we need to fiercely protect this directive and the biggest threat is over testing. Data from independent activities is essential but when so many stakeholders want data in their own format we begin testing more in order to accommodate. It will be a good day when engaging assessment activities that teachers design are the methods that administrators and DOE’s use to assess proficiency. For this to happen, the DOE needs to trust teachers to be responsible to honestly assess their students. The over-testing is a direct result from a lack of trust in teachers.

What energizes you to come to work everyday? What keeps it "fresh" for you?
My students are my focus. I could care less about paperwork, deadlines, or meetings. Even paychecks are not that motivating. If I have an opportunity to plan, teach, and assess great lessons, that is a good day.

Describe your dream work environment? How does your dream compare with your reality?
How can you make it a reality?

I have a dream work environment at this time. After 15 years, I actually believe I might be good at this job, but I want to be great. I believe that my community supports education, but I wish my state supported those in poverty better. I believe that my colleagues are brilliant but I wish that we had more time to truly collaborate. We can always do better but I am so thankful for feeling like I can be successful.

I wish you saw yourself the way I see you; YOU ARE GREAT!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Why I Joined (Linky Party)

I'm a little late to this party, but better late than never! The topic of state association membership is a big one, particularly for SLPs in states with smaller populations, geographic considerations, and rural living. That was the case with me when moving from a very active and visible NJSHLA to a NHSLHA.  In July 2014 I wrote a post on state association membership and feel a repost is appropriate. So here it is!

Join? Why?
I will admit it, for many years I was not a member in my local state speech and language association. When we first moved to New Hampshire I joined in an effort to connect with other speechies.  I had moved from New Jersey, and NJSLHA was very active.  The membership was strong and a bevy of professional development opportunities were offered.  New Hampshire just seemed...a little slower to me.  After several years I allowed my membership to lapse and I noticed no difference.  I became one of the many who uttered the words, "What has the organization done for me?"  I did my job, connected with only a few SLPs in our SAU, and saved $60.00 per year (yes, only $60.00).

Then came my incredible year of participation in LDP.  I suppose I grew up, finally, whew! This shouldn't come as a surprise, it isn't a huge revelation, but if everyone says, "What have they done for me," then NOTHING will get done!  Really?  An organization is the sum of its parts, it can only be effective with effective participation.  We know this, yet still only a handful of people step up to the plate and plod ahead trying to do much with little.  So, I rejoined the ranks of NHSLHA and accepted a position on the executive board.  Public relations...AAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!!  An area I know virtually nothing about.  What I do know is I am willing to learn.  I know I must stop expecting others to do the work alone.  I know ASHA has staff that are ready and willing to help me and our state association experience a renaissance and become an active and proud representative of our profession.

Why should you join the ranks of your state speech and language association?

  • Networking:  Your state association can connect you with professionals who share your passion. Those professionals possess a collective brainpower that can support you in a wealth of ways including, mentorship, problem solving, research, access to leadership in the profession, advocacy and general support.
  • Conferences:  State associations provide continuing education opportunities that are often reasonably priced.  Additionally, registration costs are often reduced for members, another boon!
  • Employment resources: Many state associations list job opportunities on their website.  Some can even assist in resume or cover letter writing, interview skills, or job search strategies.
  • Advocacy: Your state association is hard at work behind the scenes advocating for the needs of our profession.  Representatives from associations tirelessly advocate on your behalf on the issues that impact us daily.  Through their efforts hot button issues like caseload size, insurance caps, paperwork burdens and licensure are brought to the attention of our legislators.  They also keep membership abreast of federal and state legislative developments that impact us as a profession.
  • Professional Clout: Being a card carrying member of a professional organization provides members with some professional influence and who doesn't want a little street cred?
  • Publications:  Many associations provide their membership with access to newsletters and/or journals.


I have highlighted probably the most obvious reasons to become involved in your state association and I suspect I have overlooked many others.  The point is, we are a collective (resistance is futile!), working toward common interests.  A collective needs members, so if you aren't already a member of your state's speech-language association I urge you to join.  Make a difference!

ASHA's Susan Adams
Since that original post I changed roles in NHSLHA and am now the President-Elect. On May 30, 2015 our association participated in a strategic planning session facilitated by Susan Adams of ASHA. It was a fabulous experience not just for the three year plan we devised, but for the opportunity to collaborate with our NHSLHA board as a team committed to revitalizing our association in an atmosphere of camaraderie and humor (Yes, you are a FUNNY group).
I am so excited to be a part of the growth of our association. Recently someone said to me, "Motivation is a concept. If you want to effect a change you need an action." I can be as motivated as I want to change and grow, however, unless I become active, there is no change nor growth.  To the future! Cheers!