Sunday, September 2, 2018

Top 5 Strategies for Surviving the First Month Back to School

September is here already, and I'm having some pretty strong feelings about it.  If you're an established SLP or a brand new CFY September can be rough.  I'm in my seventh year now and have come up with a few ways to make it to October with a bit less stress.  Here are the top five strategies that I use:

1. Be realistic with your parent engagement. In the past, I bought a notebook for each of my students with the idea that I would write home or tape in an activity completed in speech on a daily basis.  This was insane and put so much unnecessary stress on me at the beginning of the year.  Instead, talk to your students' teachers and find out what system they have in place, then piggyback off of it. They probably have their own communication notebook or folder that goes home with the students every day.  Whenever you want to send something home, add it to the teacher's system.  Don't expect to send something home so often.  Set the bar low with an introduction note at the beginning of September and then one other note or activity during the month.  Make your goal be to touch base with the parents twice a month in some form.  It's realistic and will be appreciated by the parents.

2. Meal plan.  On Sundays sit down with a piece of paper (or an app, whatever, I'm old school), and write down your planned dinners for the week.  By doing this, you can then go grocery shopping on Sunday and you'll avoid having to run to the stores during the week because you'll have everything you need already in the house.  You also will avoid the dreaded "what should I make for dinner tonight" conversation with yourself on your commute home, because you'll have a set plan.  I also try to make two meals on Sunday, one for Sunday and then the second we eat on Monday.  Mondays are my long days at work so by already having a dinner made, my Monday nights are a little less hectic.  I also plan for at least one crockpot meal during the week to ease up on the after-school stress as well. There are actually a bunch of hashtags on instagram that you can use to find easy crockpot meals if you're looking for some inspiration: #CrockPotRecipes #CrockPotMeals #EducatorEats

3. Self Care.  You know what's worse than having to go to work in September? Having to go to work in September sick.  Take precautions before this happens.  Stock up on purell, clorox wipes, wipes that are safe for children's skin, tissues, and paper towels.  Make sure you use all of these things frequently.  Your hands may be dry but your nose will thank you.  I purell after every session, and have my students use it at the beginning.  I also use a clorox wipe over my desk before I eat lunch and again at the end of the day, in addition to any time there is an obvious need for it (think bodily fluids). This is also the time of year to make sure you are taking your daily vitamins and drinking enough water.  A lot of stores have cute water bottles out right now, so pick one you like as a motivator.

4. Don't Compare. You have instagram right? You go on pinterest and maybe facebook also?  I bet your feeds are full of pictures of teachers and SLPs showing off their gorgeous, clean, spacious therapy rooms right now.  Everything is color coordinated and brand new and that feeling starts growing in your stomach.  You know the feeling.  It's a mixture of anxiety and envy and uncertainty that you're good enough. X OUT OF THOSE PAGES.  As soon as you start having those emotions it's time to close your computer, take a breath, and remember that the way your room looks doesn't matter.  Your students don't come off the bus in September excited for a colorful classroom.  They don't learn because the room has a giant window in it.  You are all they need.  I bet if you stop and think back to when you were in school, you can't remember a single classroom or what it looked like.  I bet, though, that you can remember the names and faces of teachers who made an impact in your life.  Don't compare yourself to others, just be the best version of yourself.

5. Lesson Plans.  Shhh want to know a secret? I don't really lesson plan for September.  *gasp*  Want to know why?  Besides the insanity that is the first month of school, I feel like there is just so much more important than having structured lessons in those first few days of therapy.  I see most of my students only two or three times a week, and they are usually new kids to me.  I spend September getting to know my kids, following their leads and their interests, building rapport, taking a language sample, and informally assessing their skills.  It means more fun for them, less prep for me, and an overall more successful year because I know where they are in terms of their speech/language, and I also have a good idea of what motivates them.

Happy September everyone! (And for those days when you want to give up, check out this post -> I'm Just Not Where I'm Supposed to Be

To figure out what you should be doing for October, read here! -> SLP To-Do List for October