Monday, August 24, 2015

The Frenzied SLPS: Data Collection (and a freebie)

Summer vacation is winding down! I refuse to even consider that summer is over, because it isn't! Technically, of course, summer isn't over until September 21st and I'm holding on tightly! However, it does appear that my restful vacation is coming to a close and I have to return to work on Tuesday. I am mindful of how fortunate I am to have this time of rest and recuperation, but I will miss it nonetheless.

As our minds shift from relaxation to school speech language therapy the Frenzied SLPs decided to share data collection techniques and freebies. My data collection is cut and dry: no bells and whistles, no clip art, data,  just data. I also prefer paper. Some tricks old dogs just can't learn. :)
When progress report time comes I simply collect the percentages corresponding to the trimester I'm reporting, find the median score, and report the data. I use a median score rather that an average in order to eliminate the outliers. To find the median score arrange the data in order from least to greatest. The number that is halfway into the set is the median. If there is an even number in the set, take the two middlemost numbers and average them for the median score. As I collect the percentages I mark each box with an X or check, color-coding by trimester so I don't report the same data twice! I take data for every session. It's just the way I am. I also write an anecdotal. It makes progress reporting, parent conferences, and staffings so much easier. I only write a line or two. When I print, it's double -sided.
Sample data collection

I have included my preferred form. It is in a PowerPoint platform so it can be edited to your hearts delight! You can grab your data collection freebie here.

Now I'm off to the porch with my coffee and book (Noooooo, I won't go back!).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer Linky with Sparklle SLP

Here is the story of my summer linky! This is not your typical blog linky, this is a story of how two bloggers became close friends and linked up. For real. In person.

There are so many internet horror stories, but this post is not about the evils of the internet. It's about what it can be that is good! I have written before that social media has provided me with some of the "best friends I have never met!" I have made countless connections and established professional and personal relationships, but some of these connections are special.

I began following Sparklle SLP  quite some time ago, I think by first connecting with her TpT store. I then moved on to her blog, Instagram, and then her Facebook Fan page. We began chatting through email, Facebook messenger, and Instagram sharing ideas, materials, life events. I will admit, Sparklle shared more materials than me because she is MUCH better at materials creation, but I shared more of my life, because it is an open book. Sparklle chooses to remain anonymous, however I had come to care deeply for this person. Actually, I have come to care deeply for many of the men and women I have "met."

One day this summer I was reflecting on these relationships and considered that life is too short. I have met some SLPeeps face to face (Erik Raj and I "link up" whenever we can), but I want to meet some more of my friends in person. I want to bake with Mary of Old School Speech. I want to hike with Pam of Chit Chat and Small Talk. I want to watch a Doctor Who marathon with Heidi. I want to simply talk long and leisurely with Amy of 3D SLP. So I texted Sparklle and proposed a crazy idea: Jim and I wanted to drive 1600 miles round trip to camp with Sparklle! To my relief she didn't think it was crazy!

It was a texting frenzy to prepare, but when I finally saw my friend on her bicycle with her three beautiful children I almost wept! I felt as if I had known her all my life. We are at different stages of our lives, she, in full blown mom mode and me much freer as the Mom of older teens. I must say, I longed for those mommy moments as I watched her with her children. She and her husband graciously gave us the tour of their beloved beach community, took us for the best ice cream EVER, provided boat rides replete with tubing (OMGosh that was fun!), and shared her life and family. Jim and I also had a chance to enjoy each other and I was introduced to some delicious drinks in cans!

Our home away from home. I love camping!

What became clear to me is that most people are good and represent themselves authentically. Social media can be scary, but more often than not it can be a gift, bringing people together to share ideas and lives. It was hard to leave them and I wish we lived closer together. I am comforted in knowing that this was just the first of many more opportunities for a "linky." In between we will have to be content with sharing emails and messages, photos and phone calls, but one thing is certain, I am a better person for having made these relationships and I am grateful.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Frenzied SLPs: Surviving the First Week

D-Day is quickly approaching! August 26, 2015 is the day the teachers in our SAU (school administrative unit) return for our staff breakfast and in-service. Summer vacation has flown by, but it has been wonderful. I have spent blissful days leisurely drinking coffee on my porch, puttering in my garden, reading, and generally relaxing. I love these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer and wish they would never end, but end they do and back to work I must go.

My first few weeks are chaotic. It seems my brain completely shuts off in June and when I return to school I feel like I've never worked as an SLP before!
Here is part of my week one to-do list:
  1. Unpack and inventory materials purchased through speech budget and delivered over the summer.
  2. Collect teacher schedules.
  3. Update caseload database with frequency of services, grade, teacher, reeval date, IEP date, etc.
  4. Update student lists to include any Special Education student who moved to the district during the summer.
  5. Determine, with my new SLPA, how to divvy up the caseload.
  6. Begin scheduling being sure to include preparation periods as per contract. Ideally this is done in concert with the OT and PT.
  7. Screen K-5 students new to our school.
  8. Check database for IEPs and evals that need to be done A.S.A.P.
  9. Send note to teachers asking if they have articulation concerns about any students in their class  (I just want to be sure no one has slipped through the cracks).
  10. Create a new homework tracker template.
  11. Plan a generic, no-prep first week of therapy.
  12. Find an ice cold corona and a tart lime!
Unfortunately, I also need to be prepared to revise my schedule again and again and again as the glitches in teacher and student schedules arise. In years past the first week of school has been difficult, but I was a different person and I'm praying for a smooth uneventful start. I can do this...again and so can YOU!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

We Can Do It...Again!

Photo credit: Nora Doyle
It's August 4th. I don't return to work until August 26th and students return August 31st. I am still solidly in summer mode. Last summer I wrote a post highlighting my goals for the 2014-15 school year. You can read it here. I can happily report that I was able to stick to my plan, so I really don't think I need to reinvent the wheel and cook up a new batch of goals. It worked for me. Overall, I had a decent school year and so my goal for the 2015-16 school year is to emerge unscathed!

I am aware through social media, that many, many SLPs have already returned to school, some with considerable anxiety, some choosing silence, some already feeling battered. I thought perhaps some suggestions from the personal and spiritual perspectives were warranted.

Here are my thoughts, for better or worse. Truthfully, my anxiety often stems from a feeling of not being in control. In this context I sometimes enter into a power struggle. That can quickly morph into defensiveness between all parties. My strategy is, when I start to feel that anxiety rearing it's nasty head, I reframe my thinking to "What is the value of pressing my point," or "Why does that statement threaten me, what is MY thinking?" Shazam! Anxiety in check. This also allows me to practice acceptance of others as I choose not to control them or the outcome.

I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating; don't personalize. I practiced this one in earnest and experienced success toward the end of the year when a parent called me and SCREAMED at me for providing services to her child at his regularly scheduled time during the last week of school. This was a problem because his class was playing board games. I'm choosing not to go into the specifics because there is no value in dredging it up again. Suffice it to say, I was triggered by the assault, but was able to engage in self-talk that reiterated that the parent's behavior was about her. I was able to exit the situation with both my professionalism and grace intact by not personalizing. It works!

Our jobs can be a theatrical event. Sometimes the drama outweighs the educating. I do my level best to steer clear of the histrionics, gossip, and general *%$# stirring. When approached or drawn in I ask myself, "What is the value for ME in this conversation?" If there is no value, I listen with a compassionate ear and make my escape. Sadly, I am not always successful in avoiding the drama, but I am practicing and every day I become more proficient.

I know we are SLPs, but do we always have to talk? In the last year and a half I have been listening more and more. The benefit is, when I actually do have something to say, people listen. They begin to expect some sage suggestion, some speech language pathology chestnut. I don't like to admit it, but in the past my big 'ole ego would get in the way, and these days I know where my significance comes from and it ain't from the people at the table!

As recent as last school year, I found myself ruing Sunday night, getting anxious for the following day and the week to boot! I hear myself saying,"It's almost Friday," "Two more days," "Six more years." It occurred to me just this week that I'm not living for today! I'm not living in the moment! I'm wishing my life away! For what? I gave this some thought and tried to view it from a spiritual bent. I want to work for today doing kingdom work. I want to reframe my thinking so I'm not focused on working for "the man," but for the Lord.

To do so I must see every colleague, every student, every parent as a child of God. I once heard that we should look for Jesus in the eyes of everyone. Doing that on a cognitive level will go a long way in creating an atmosphere of peace where I can behave with compassion. Yeah, not always easy, but this thinking will keep from getting triggered and bearing down on myself.

I'm more optimistic for the new school year to start than I have been in years. Each start is becoming a little easier as I practice my hard won skills. I hope sharing my thoughts will help you approach the start of school with a new energy and a sense of peace and I wish all of you a wonderful 2015-16.