I’m so incredibly excited to hear from six amazing SLPs volunteered to share their experience when overcoming a challenge. These posts are filled with practical tips and tricks.
First up is… Arianna! She’s sharing how she made teacher collaboration work for her.
Tell us a little about you! Where are you from?
I lived in Florida most of my life and went to college at the University of South Florida. I made Texas home when I decided to attend grad school at University of Texas at Austin. I juggled grad school and planning my wedding within the first year of my program and later graduated while five months pregnant with my perfect son. I enjoy the hustle and bustle of life, but I have also recently begun to appreciate the quiet times with my husband and now 1-year-old.
Tell us about your experience as an SLP! Where did you go to school? How long have you been an SLP? What settings have you worked in? Where do you currently work (e.g., setting, quick overview of caseload)?
I’ve known I wanted to be an SLP since about 10th grade, when I volunteered at a special needs charter school. Since then, I have tried to gain as much knowledge as possible to better serve those I work with. During undergrad, I invested myself in research, and I attended UT specifically for their bilingual training. Now, I am finishing up my CF year at a public bilingual elementary school in the district in which I always dreamed of working. This year, I am heading the Estrellitas program in my district, a 2-hour class designed for our bilingual 3-5 year olds with phonological and language goals. I also really enjoy working with some 4th and 5th graders. It’s a nice balance.
Describe the problem you faced. Tell us a little about the situation and how you felt tackling the problem.
Although I love working with the upper elementary students, I know it is much more challenging when it comes to scheduling, due to many of them receiving other special education services and the academic curriculum. Therefore, there are not many open blocks of time left for speech.
When I went to introduce myself to the upper elementary teachers, I was aware that it would most likely not be easy to schedule and was pretty nervous. However, they were incredibly receptive and willing to work with me to put each student’s needs first.
Which resources did you use when solving the problem?
The teachers! One thing I tend to forget is that I do not have to plan each session by myself! Actually, I feel like I am doing a disservice to my students if I plan my sessions solely based on a theme or an idea that I want to carry out. What they really need, especially my upper elementary students, is some “real-life” application so that they don’t feel completely lost when they’re tasked to do the same assignments their peers are. So, I asked for a copy of their textbooks and started studying what they’re studying.
What did you try that worked really well?
Every few weeks, I stop by during the teachers’ conference time and ask them what ONE concept I can work on with their students. It can be any subject. Surprisingly, it is usually a science or social studies topic. Then, I read up on that subject, find out what they’re expected to know, and start brainstorming ideas on how I can present that in a “speechie” way.
What did you try that didn’t work?
Before I narrowed it down to one concept, I tried to teach them the entire chapter they were working on, and I felt pretty burned out real fast! Honestly, science and social studies have never come easy to me, and it was not fun trying to memorize all that information. I was ready to give up and just go back to picking a random book off the shelf. But, I had to remind myself that I am not a tutor, and I’m definitely not a teacher. It is not my job to teach them everything but to give them the strategies and tools necessary for them to be able to learn.
What did you do when things didn’t go as planned?
I set limits for myself and made it clear to the teachers that I was not a substitute for instruction time or responsible for teaching them all the information. We worked it out so that I only use one concept as a means to guide my sessions.
What was the end result? Was it what you expected?
It was MORE than I expected! The teachers really thought hard of what they wanted me to work on. They often choose more abstract concepts, such as “matter,” which are harder to grasp for my language kiddos. I really feel like we are doing what is best for the students now, and it makes planning a lot easier.
What did you learn?
Where do I start?! I do not have to do it all on my own. The great thing about being a school-based SLP is that there is a whole community of resources right down the hall who have the same goals you do — to see those students succeed. It has also brought me out of my shell and given me the confidence to start conversations with my teachers. Some teachers even approach me and say, “So-and-so is really having a hard time grasping this. Do you have any ideas on how I can make it easier for her?” WHOA! This kind of collaboration makes my heart happy and continues to challenge me, which makes being an SLP so much more enjoyable.