Wednesday, March 20, 2019

You Should Never Work with Children

Once upon a time, at the end of my first year of grad school, a woman who was assigned to be my mentor told me "You should never work with children. You don't have the right personality."  It was during our last meeting of the year.  This meeting was supposed to be a final discussion about everything I had learned over the past year working with my mentor and the client I had shared with her.  That's right.  I had ONE student with her, and she felt that the hour a week we spent together with that child was enough for her to make that statement.  This meeting was supposed to be an end of year confidence-boost before going off to the assigned externship locations to earn the hours needed to graduate and begin my clinical fellowship year.

It hit me like a brick.  If this had been said to me during my first month of grad school, rather than my tenth, I would have probably nodded in agreement.  My goal when beginning the journey towards becoming an SLP was to work with stroke patients in a hospital setting.  I was terrified of children.  I didn't know how to speak to them or play with them.  Growing up I had never really been around them.  But that's the great thing about having to go through 6 years of schooling plus a 9 month CFY- it gives us almost SEVEN years to change our minds, better ourselves, and to LEARN. 

A statement like my mentor's could have ruined someone's spirit.  It might even have been enough for someone to start doubting their capabilities and their career choice. 

It may have done that to me, except for a few things. 

1.   I am privileged and was raised to believe I can breathe fire.  Many people, however, are not as lucky.  As SLPs, we need to remember kindness above all else.  We, above many others, should understand the influence of words.  If you are in a position to boost the spirit of another SLP, do it. 

2.   I had another supervisor that same year who I shared 5 students with.  She was incredible.  On the first day, I was honest with her and told her that I didn't know what I was doing, and that I was afraid.  She listened, showed me compassion, and helped me develop into a strong and confident pediatric speech therapist. I was blessed to have her as a supervisor.  Many others are not.  If speech pathology students are assigned only one supervisor that first year of their master's program, when they are especially vulnerable, they could be in trouble.  If you are a CFY mentor, or an externship supervisor, understand and respect the gravity of that role and the affect you could have on your intern's career.  You may be the one person in their life who is rooting for them to succeed, graduate, and become a rockstar therapist to help hundreds of people.

3.   At this point in my schooling, I didn't want to work with children.  I was completely determined to work in a hospital setting.  So, yes, her words hit hard and it felt like crap to hear, but she wasn't crushing a life-long dream by saying it to me. If I was another student in my program, who had dreamt of working in a school by whole life, I probably would've cried the whole walk home.

This is my seventh year as a school-based SLP working with students from preschool all the way up to 10th grade.  I love my job, and I love my students. 

SLPs, SLPAs, and students, hold your dreams tight and don't let anyone pull you away from them.  Remember why you started this journey.  Find a support system.  Look for your people, your team, your tribe.  They want you to succeed and so do I.