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.

Insurance
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.

Parking
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.

Stairs
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.

Culture
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.

Competency
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

12 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. I started a new job too this year after being at my school for 15 years! My new school has really put me on a HUGE learning curve, but it's a wonderful challenge and I was ready for it. Thanks for sharing your experience too!

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