Monday, February 22, 2016

Decluttering My SLP Brain

My winter break officially started today. I spent the weekend lazing with my kids, binge watching BBC's Doc Martin and relaxing. Today, through some strange metamorphosis, I started a rampage through the house in a pitiful attempt to declutter. I suspect I felt compelled to be productive to make up for relaxing over the weekend, as if relaxation was a bad thing! I was like a whirling dervish grabbing at extra dishes from the cabinet, clothes from the attic, loose books, extra tote bags (many collected from vendors at ASHA conferences), and throwing them into piles. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to just cry! I began to think of the clutter as a metaphor for my life and became truly disconcerted. I sat for a moment and picked up my cell phone to check Instagram, for probably the 15th time this morning, and saw a post by Amy of 3D SLP referencing the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. Coincidence? I think not!

I asked Amy about this book and she said, "Call me!" In her book, (which I have just ordered and have not read), the author provides an approach to letting go of the stuff that clutters your home. Amy shared that the items that are kept are those that bring joy.

This gave me the opportunity to look at other parts of my life within the same context. I naturally landed smack dab in social media-ville. Social media has it all, the good the bad and the ugly (insert whistle here). Every day there is another new-fangled way to put my life in the spotlight. There's Snapchat, Periscope, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and things I have never heard of. There are places to buy clothes, make-up, furniture, books, toys, home goods, and antiques. There are ways to gain support for every cause imaginable: donors choose, go fund me, and more. There are more and more avenues for selling our own goods: Etsy, E-Bay, and Teachers Pay Teachers to name a few.

How does how my participation in social media clutter my life? When I joined the teacher-author bandwagon it was to stretch my limits. I wanted to try something new and scary. I will also admit I wanted to be a part of a talented and diverse group. I somehow convinced myself that I would magically become a member of an elite group and my value would increase exponentially with each new product I created. I joined a plethora of groups for SLPs. Groups for TpT sellers, groups for school-based SLPs, groups for CAS, groups for peeps and RtI, and Language and Literacy. I get thirty notifications a day at least! I joined Periscope and now I can watch videos on how to use products in therapy. I follow more blogs than "Carter has little liver pills." Every week I have to catch up on 99+ posts. I can get sucked into Pinterest and spend 30 minutes looking for an activity where a die and plastic chips would have worked fine.

The excess and time lost are anxiety producing. I am so susceptible to the frenzy. In my attempts to remain current, to have the most motivating and fun games, or the best no-prep packet I have over consumed to the point of not even knowing what I have. I have seen a product on Instagram and clicked over to TpT only to shudder when I realize I already own it. I have purchased materials I have never printed and even worse are still in my downloads file. I have ordered professional books, with the best of intentions, yet still haven't found the time to read them. I have perused the blogs and Pinterest boards reinventing the wheel. I have spent eight hours on a product that I charge $1.50 for and have sold ONE. Yes, I have purchased materials that my students enjoyed and that have made my job easier. Most are well researched and fun. I have even created some pretty swift products myself, but it has come with a cost. I have fallen into a time sucking abyss trying to keep up. After creating my latest little gem with my face stuck in a laptop I asked myself,  "What could I have done in those eight hours?" I could have read. I could have played a game with my children. I could have had conversation and a cup of tea with my husband. I could have visited a friend. I could have done a crossword puzzle. I could have called my brother. I could have prayed.

Why? Who am I comparing myself to? Do I get more street cred if I make more stuff? Am I somehow a better speech-language pathologist if add to my already overflowing speech files or my already jam packed schedule? In a recent conversation with another SLP friend, we remarked that when we started in the field we hand colored our materials. We did a lot with a little. Those of us in the schools were the MacGyvers of speech therapy. We were low-tech and creative. We could make a game out of a band-aid tin and a pom-pom. Oh the time I have lost!

This is what I have concluded, I can't keep up and more to the point, I don't want to. I want my time back. I am going to remove myself from most of the groups AND I am finished pushing myself to create materials for TpT. I set a goal to create twelve new products this year. After asking myself what my motivation is I realize I don't have a good answer. Does it bring me joy? No. No it doesn't. I feel proud of my products, but not joyful. I want joy. I want the joy that comes with simplicity. I want to declutter my SLP world.

I have made remarkable friends through my endeavors and those friends are not going anywhere. They are smart, funny, creative and diverse and I simply love them. They are real and if I can find joy in this, it is that I have I established relationships with those practicing in one of the best professions there is. With that I have decided to leave creative materials production and periscoping and Snapchatting to the young, tech-savvy, energetic SLPs. For me I will happily satisfy myself with my blog that few read, my Instagram posts that are so fun, and a little Facebook time with my family and friends. Ahhhhh, I feel lighter and more joyful already :)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Love Hurts

Valentine's Day is quickly approaching and thoughts turn to flowers, chocolates, jewelry and oh yes, sadness, disappointment, expectations. The Frenzied SLPs thought we would explore Valentine's Day from a different perspective; that of the SLP and how there are times "love hurts" quite literally.

If you are anything like me you take your job to heart. In fact, you view it as so much more than a job. It is a passion, a choice, so when a student or client goes for the soft white underbelly, it hurts. I have been clawed, kicked, scratched, bitten, insulted, belittled, and mocked. Ahhhh, memories! It's no wonder I go back to work!

Back in 1986 or 87 I was fresh out of graduate school and a newly ASHA certified SLP. The world was my oyster and I felt pretty good about the direction my life was heading. I was working in an inner city in a primary school, only K-2. There were 12 kindergartens in that school in addition to 7 each of first and second and four self-contained special education classes. I had over 80 students on my caseload, but I was young and idealistic.

I had one feisty little girl who was physically and verbally aggressive. One day she was in a particularly foul mood and was not having any speech therapy. I cajoled and encouraged and did my speechy thing when all of a sudden she hauled off and swung at me. I was 26 years old and fairly quick so I was able to move back. Unbeknownst to me she had wound up with another shot with the other hand and landed a closed fist punch on my jaw. That was followed up with some very colorful language. You can fill in the blanks, "_ucko a_hole!" Remember, however to substitute /th/ for /s/. This one screamed all the way to the principal's office, "Miss Polizzi's a b_____," (again, insert lisp, it makes me laugh).

At the time I was devastated. My jaw hurt, because she packed a wallop, my heart was broken and my confidence shattered. It was the first time I had been so physically and emotionally abused by a child. Sadly it wouldn't be the last time.

I learned from this experience though. I learned that for me it was over quickly. For a parent it is day in and day out and I have to remain compassionate about their lives with children who have behavior difficulties. I learned that when a child acts out it is never about me, but more likely something that happened at home or in another class or a thought or feeling that I have no control over. I learned that neurology is HUGE and sometimes these children are not making a conscious choice to be confrontational! I have learned that more often than not the trauma a child experiences happens from birth to age five, and it will impact them forever. These are the children with addiction and substance abuse issues, diabetes, heart conditions, anxiety and so much more. Their trauma makes them sick, literally. I learned I may be one of only handful of people who is kind to them on any given day.

While I can look back on this experience and chuckle and like the Rain Man, add it to my book of personal injuries, I often wonder what happened to this little girl. She would be 37 years old and may be a parent (or grandparent) herself. She may have continued the cycle or she may have healed. I pray for the latter, as I do for all my students with behavioral challenges, every night. Yes, love hurts. But it is only temporary.

How about you? When has #SLP Love Hurt? How did you deal with it? The Frenzied SLPs would love you to link up and share your experiences.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Groundhogs, 100th Day of School, Super Bowl, Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras, Valentines, AND Leap Year!!

It's crazy! February is the shortest month of the year and it is chock full of holidays! Add to the holiday frenzy our winter break and we have three weeks to holiday it up! As I have made very clear I love to milk a theme. It makes lesson planning easy and therapy fun and different.

To "add a little lemon juice to the paper cut," as they say, I currently have ELEVEN evaluations in progress, our NHSLHA Spring Conference to help plan, a Medicaid in-service to coordinate, and a new group I am part of that is working toward building a track at our high school. Then there is the matter of family and remaining mindful of my needs. I am overwhelmed, but still want to keep to my commitment of blogging weekly. What's a stressed SLP to do? Keep it pithy!

Here is a only a small sample of the Groundhog Day activities happening in our speech room this month. I hope they inspire you (for next year)!

I whipped up some cards with vocabulary related to groundhogs and the corresponding definitions and we played go-fish and memory.

It was fun for my students to use these cards as an alternative to Sara Smith's Expanding Expression Tool beads.
I did a Google search for "funny groundhog photos" and hit pay dirt. I used these photos to develop narrative skills and sentence formulation. My students from first grade through eighth grade had great success formulating sentences using wh-question prompts. My eighth grade students further expanded their sentences with adjectives and adverbs. 

This craftivity was perfect for my articulation students. We made this craft over two sessions to be certain practice was the priority, not coloring. Again, Google came to the rescue in finding a groundhog worksheet and speech bubble. Ten words on the speech bubble times ten productions is one hundred productions!

Fortunately for me, Cajun girl, Mia McDaniel of Putting Words in Your Mouth has plenty of Mardi Gras materials. These are two of my favorites. Click the picture to go to Mia's Teachers Pay Teachers Store

It was probably 1986 when I created my original heart-o game using individually colored hearts! I gave this "beloved" game a facelift this year and cannot wait to play with my students. It is an all time favorite. You can find it here or by clicking the photo above.

Well, that's it for now. I suppose that wasn't very pithy, but there is a lot happening in our little speech room! What are you doing to celebrate the February holidays? Comment below; I am always looking for fun new ideas to share with my students.

Leap day clip art from: <a href="">Clip art image by</a>