Friday, October 21, 2016

Things an SLP Learned when Starting at a New School

In August I made one of the biggest decisions of my life, in a period of 24 hours.  I decided to leave my job where I had been working the past four years, and begin working in the public school system of NYC.  Let's be clear.  I loved my job.  I worked at the school I would have described as my dream job ten years prior.  So, making the decision to leave was incredibly difficult, but I was excited and anxious to start a new journey. I knew that changing schools would be a large adjustment, however, besides the obvious change of populations, I really didn't think of the many other differences that I would be facing.

Here are a few things you should be aware of if planning on changing jobs.

At my last job, I had one insurance card.  This was the insurance card that I would use for anything and everything.  Hospital visits, walk-in doctors, prescriptions, trips to the dermatologist- I'd whip that insurance card out of my wallet and hand it over.  This is not the case for all employers.  I had to learn and figure out that I now have a couple of insurance cards.  One is for doctors' appointments or going to the hospital.  I actually have two different, separate prescription cards now.  One is used if I were to need injectable drugs or chemotherapy, and the other is used for common medications like antibiotics.  It's important to look into how your health insurance will work prior to dropping your old insurance, to make sure you don't get behind on filling/ordering prescriptions because you tried to use the wrong insurance card.

Short and sweet - don't make assumptions about parking at your new school, based on parking at your old school.  You may need to walk farther.  Or parallel park.  Or rent the driveway of someone's house for you to park in during school hours (this is not a joke - NYers will understand).  Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time those first few days to find parking, if there is no parking lot for your school.  If there is a parking lot, make sure that A. You are allowed to park in it, and B. That you don't need a parking sticker to park there.

I'm not trying to be funny, but when I left my last school, which only had one glorious floor, I never thought about how many floors my next school would have.  Invest in a good pair of walking shoes that also look professional, because you cannot assume your new school will have an elevator, and you should assume that your speech room will be on the highest floor and all the students you need to transition will be on the lowest.  I just found a few pairs of really comfortable, but semi-professional looking shoes from Sketchers.  I highly recommend them.  If your feet aren't happy, then your not happy, and then your students won't be happy.  It's a dangerous cycle.

Every school has it's own culture.  My last school had an exceptional and strongly defined culture.  One where all members spoke a second language, frequently code-switching throughout the day in a way that made you feel like you were part of the same tight-knit family.  If you are coming from a school with a similar environment, you may feel a little bit isolated when you start at your new job.  Everybody at your new school will probably be very friendly and welcoming, and you may absolutely love your new students, but when you want to whisper something funny to a friend that just doesn't translate correctly in English, you may feel a little lonely as you laugh to yourself.  It's good to prepare yourself in advance and realize that every school has it's own culture, and it may take some time for you to feel like you belong in this new one.

Everyone at your last job knew how awesome you were, right?!  You rocked those IEP meetings!  You totally integrated your student's AAC device into every part of their school day!  You helped that student initiate conversation with a peer for the first time ever!  So, now that you're at a new school, make sure you don't forget what everyone at your last job knew.  You are awesome! You are competent! You treat your students with respect and help them achieve their communication potential!  Walk into your new school with this knowledge, so that you don't forget how great you are.  At the same time, though, be sure to enter your new school with the humility to know that you are in a new place, and you need to learn the ways of that school.  Ask questions.  Shadow other staff members.  Push-in to classrooms to observe and see your new caseload in action.  Find a compromise between showing that you are excellent at your job while also being respectful of the fact that you are new and have much to learn.

In conclusion, it's okay to be scared, excited, eager, nervous, stressed, and confused all at the same time.  Take a deep breath, close your eyes, count to ten, and then open your eyes and start making a difference in the lives of all these new children who you are blessed to now work with.

PS. Here's some hints about surviving September, even if you're staying in the same school as last year! -> How to Survive September - SLP Style

Monday, October 3, 2016

Communication & Cupcakes - A Delicious Combination!

Last June, as I was running out of novel games and activities to pull from my shelves, and my students had stopped trying to hide their yawns, I decided to make something brand new.  Before I put time into creating something, I try to make sure that it can be used with as many kiddos on my caseload as possible.  I wanted it to be something I could use individually or with a group for articulation, language (requesting, describing, communicative exchanges, answering and asking WH questions), and I wanted to make sure it was a topic that would be exciting for my english speaking students or signers.  So, after thinking for awhile, I decided on ....


Everyone loves cupcakes!  Regardless of age, language, or background, cupcakes are a big hit.  So, this is what I came up with.  

First, decide whether you would like each of your students to have their own cupcake pan, or if you want them to work together to fill one pan that they share.  Next, set up your spinner. You can go simple, like I did in the picture, with a pencil and a paper clip, or you can use a fastener and the arrow that I included in the resource.  As you can see, the students will spin the spinner to determine if they need to select a cupcake liner, frosting, topping, or decoration.  Here's a quick photo of all the choices spread out on a table.  For students who will be overwhelmed with this large of a selection, narrow the field in advance with the pictures you would like them to choose from.  If working on colors, base your decision on that.  One critical element? Remove all of the pictures that have frosting AND sprinkles, etc.  

 MMM just looking at that picture makes my stomach start growling!  Depending on my students and their goals, I will at times turn this into a barrier game.  So, each student has an identical set of cupcake pieces, and a pan.  They take turns spinning the spinner and then choosing what they want.  Then, they need to describe the piece to their peer, so that the peer selects the same exact cupcake piece.  This continues until each student has an identical pan of cupcakes! Let the students make mistakes - it makes for a wonderful language experience at the end of the game when you lift the barrier and the students realize they are not the same after all! They can then discuss the differences that they have.  

For students who are working on following the directions and turn taking, I included these game cards.  

Your students will need to take turns selecting a card and then either reading the directions aloud, or following the direction that you read aloud, to chose the described cupcake piece!  

By the end of the game, your students will have a tray that will look something like this!

One of the great things about this activity is, if your students fill up their tray and you still have some time left to your therapy session, you can then have a cupcake party!  Sooo many ways to pull language out of a cupcake party! How does it taste? Which one do you want? Do you need a plate? A napkin? Ooooh you have some frosting on your chin! It goes on and on :)

You can find my cupcake resource by clicking on the link here -> Build Cupcakes - Build Language!

I hope that if nothing else, I motivated you all to go out and eat a cupcake!  Wishing you all a great month of October :)

Also, the beautiful stock photo up top was purchased from: Dollar Stock Photos