New Year. Same me. I actually hate setting personal New Year’s resolutions or SLP New Year’s resolutions. It’s too much pressure. I always feel like a failure when I don’t meet them. BUT, there is something about the blank slate of January 1 that makes me want to go buy another planner and a few packs of flair pens. 🙂
Though I don’t necessarily set resolutions, I do like to do things that get me re-motivated to work and take actionable steps to set myself up for success. I want to make sure I’m staying on track with my habits that will make work and life easier.
Here are some basic dos and don’ts to help SLPs going into the New Year and spring semester. Maybe some of these habits will ring true with you and make the rest of your school year go more smoothly!
1. Review your speech rules and procedures with your students
One thing that I always do the first week of a new semester is to remind students of the speech room expectations. We go over the rules and routines that we have set in place. It’s important to give grace with behavior this week. I find that the younger the student is, the easier it is to forget what they are supposed to do when they come back to speech.
2. Fine-tune your paperwork routines
Now that it’s the second semester, know that the paperwork is NOT going to get easier. If you don’t have good paperwork habits now, you’ll be drowning when March rolls around. Take a look at your routines and try to pinpoint things that aren’t working.
Is your sticky note system working for you? Are you making daily to-do lists? Do you have piles of papers on your desk you need to tackle? Go ahead and make sure your systems are working for you. Tweak anything that needs to be better. Check out this post and this post if you’re looking for paperwork tips.
3. Prioritize your tasks
There are days when I feel like I work in circles. Like, I’m constantly moving but nothing is really getting done. At the end of the day, the stacks of papers are still there and there is only one check on my to-do list. If this is ever you too, it probably means we need to prioritize our tasks.
Take a step back and choose three things on your to-do list that are the most urgent. Then, make sure you do those things first. If something can’t be done in one day, break it up into a few days. When you have a plan, you’ll feel more productive, I promise.
4. Leave room for white space in your sessions
Something that I want to do more this year is leaving a few minutes of empty space in my sessions. It’s ok to not have every minute of your session planned out. I want to be better at having spontaneous conversations with my students or following the child’s lead. White space also gives me wiggle room if I want a certain activity to go longer or grab some extra data.
5. Nurture relationships with your students
There’s a quote that says, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” (James Comer) I have a tendency to focus on drilling and taking data and getting as much done in a session as possible. That’s ok sometimes. But it’s also important to talk to my students. What’s their favorite color? Who is their favorite superhero? What is their home life like? Carryover will ALWAYS be better if you can relate your speech tasks to something that affects them personally.
1. Don’t take work home
OK, I know that we all have to take work home at different points. However, if this is a daily practice for you, then stop it. You get paid for the hours you work at the school building. You don’t get paid for the hours you sit in front of your computer at home.
For most of us, it’s a matter of tweaking the schedule or prioritizing our time. If you are sure that’s not the case and your therapy schedule during the day is so jam-packed that you can’t fit even a little paperwork time in, I’d be having some conversations with admin and supervisors. Fight for your time, friend. It’s not worth it. (see number 5 below)
2. Don’t waste your data
So, we take data on the daily. We write down qualitative comments and take numerical data. But, then what? It sits in our data binders or computer program until progress report time, right?
The beginning of the new semester is the perfect time to take a hard look at student data and maybe even let that data drive some decisions. Why is Suzy still not making progress with answering WH questions? Did that visual cue help at all? Maybe we need to revisit question words or change the prompts.
When I do analyze my data, I often find that I’m not taking specific enough data, or I need to add better notes. All of that is part of analyzing, so don’t waste that data.
3. Don’t spend too much time venting
First off, be careful who you vent to. After many years of working in the schools, venting to the wrong person can lead to lots of drama. Take my word for it.
Our jobs are hard. There is definitely a time and a place to vent. We want to be heard and have our frustrations and feelings validated. That is perfectly ok and even needed. However, we can’t live there. If everything coming out of our mouths is voicing frustration, we’ll rob ourselves and others of any joy left in the job.
4. Don’t be afraid of changes
When you work in the schools, be ready for changes. You can go from SLP to teletherapist with only hours of notice. The procedure for handing in evaluations can change for the third time in a year. You have to wear a mask to work; never mind, masks are optional. What’s the new schedule again? Seriously, it’s enough to give you whiplash.
Change doesn’t always have to be bad, though. It can be annoying, but it’s often just different. Don’t be that therapist that can only do things one way and can’t adapt to change. You’ll find yourself pretty miserable. When change happens, roll your eyes, grab your coffee, put your hair in a ponytail, and figure out the new way.
5. Don’t let your overwhelm lead to burnout
Sometimes the frustrations and changes and demands are such that we get overwhelmed with our jobs. It happens to the best of us. When you get overwhelmed, two things can happen. You slowly come out of the other side of the tunnel, or you get burned out.
Help keep that overwhelm at bay by:
- Saying no
- Having a plan
- Staying focused
- Being positive
- Remembering your why
I’m not going to pretend that doing those things will always fix every situation. There are circumstances, especially in education recently, that can’t be remedied. If you’ve gone to your administrators, voiced your suggested solutions, talked to your supervisors, and tried to figure out ways to make things work but can’t, let me tell you, friend, it’s ok to walk away from that setting.
Burnout is a real thing and so is anxiety. Don’t let it get the best of you. One thing great about being an SLP is that there are SO many different settings to work in. 🙂
OK, now that you’ve had feisty, no-nonsense Lauren for this entire post, I’ll leave you with something fun. How about a freebie?! Grab this free digital to-do list from my resource library to help keep ya on track!
What’s your SLP advice to stay motivated this new year?