Several years have passed since I graduated from grad school with my masters in speech-language pathology. After working in the field (in public and private school settings), there are several things I wish I knew back then!
When I was in grad school, there was no Pinterest. I don’t think TpT existed, and it if did, it wasn’t popular and there was definitely NOT any speech materials on it. The website, SpeakingofSpeech was like the ONLY speech materials site available! How did I survive?! (I can hear the current graduate students saying that to themselves). Below are some things I did to survive and things I wish I did more of:
- Look up ideas for general education, special education, and reading teachers. They have been sharing ideas for years! Although it is a different field, some aspects overlap! How do they teach vocabulary, inferencing, listening comprehension, graphic organizers, etc.?
- COLLABORATE! We had to work together as a department. We shared ideas, materials, and suggestions. I wish I used this reference more! I wish I wrote down everyone’s amazing ideas! I wish we came up with a message board (and now-a-days Facebook group) so we can easily share and ask for help.
- Who else can you collaborate with? Other educators in your placements! It doesn’t have to only be the SLPs! Meet the school psychologist, reading specialist, resource room teachers, occupational therapists and others. They can provide you with help. They can share ways to work on behavior management, handwriting, sensory, and incorporating curriculum. How do you collaborate without seeming too pushy?! Include yourself into conversations, either in a faculty room or photocopy room. Go to faculty meetings and staff development workshops the school is holding (even if it isn’t required). Sitting in on a CSE/IEP (whatever you call it in your districts) meetings?! Unsure of what was being discussed? Don’t want to ask in the large group? Ask your supervisor later or ask that person specifically later.
- Laminate! Want your great ideas to last over time? This is the best way possible!
- Save your money! I spent WAY too much money buying commercially available materials. Yes, I love having them today, but I did not know at the time what population I would be working with in the future. You don’t even want to know how much I spent! If I were to go back, I would spend only on more generic products that can be used with multiple age groups and levels. Like what? Board games! Things that can be used as a motivator/reinforcer.
- Dollar store, discount stores and Target Dollar Spot can be your best friends! I wish I knew this!! I go now all the time! Why didn’t I know back then to buy index cards, Popsicle sticks, dice, puzzles, construction paper, notebooks and so much more!
- It is OK to ask for help! No one expects you to know everything during grad school or shortly after. Years in the field, I am still learning and growing! Unsure of how to target a goal, how to analyze evaluations, or how to handle negative behaviors, feel free to ask. Ask professors, fellow graduate students, or supervisors.
- Seek out observation experiences. Ask to observe reading teachers, OTs, PTs, or other professionals. Observe in a general education classroom to see what children/students are expected to know and do at that age level. Unsure of which setting you want to work in? Call around and see if they will let you observe or help out for a day. You will be surprised who will be happy to help you and take you in. Ask around, you may have a cousin’s best friend’s babysitter who is an SLP who will let you observe them for a day. I have let coworkers’ daughters observe me several times when they wanted to learn more about the field.
- Have fun! It is the time of your life to live, learn, and grow. It may seem like the most stressful time of your life but it will come and go and you won’t remember why you were stressing! I promise!