232: Collaborative Model (Push-in) in the Secondary Setting

Show Notes:

Hey, there SLPs! In this episode, we talk with Robert (Bob) McKinney, a seasoned school-based speech-language pathologist with almost two decades of experience in secondary education. In this episode, Bob talks about how he went from being an ESL teacher all over the world to becoming a well-known SLP in one of the biggest all-secondary school districts in the nation! His distinct experience and deep involvement in the California Speech Language Hearing Association offer insightful perspectives on the efficacy of teamwork and practical approaches to working in secondary schools.

Here's what we learned:

  • Managing parental expectations and advocating for the most effective approach.
  • Collaboration with teachers helps maintain a positive and effective learning environment.
  • Overall positive experiences with the push-in model over the years.
  • Clear communication and advocacy for the push-in model to both parents and teachers.
  • Effectiveness of the push-in model through positive outcomes and practical benefits.


Learn more about Bob McKinney: 

🖥️ Bob's Website

📲 Bob's LinkedIn Profile

Learn more about Hallie Sherman  and SLP Elevate: 

💜 Speech Time Fun

🎧 Check out the Secondary Secret Podcast here!


Q: How do you know that an ocean is friendly?

A: It waves.

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00:01:58 Hallie: Welcome to SLP Coffee Talk, the podcast designed exclusively for speech-language pathologists who work with older students, grades 4 through 12. I am your host, Hallie Sherman, your SLP behind Speech Time Fun, the Speech Retreat Conference, and the SLP Elevate membership. And I'm thrilled to bring you conversations, strategies, and insights that will give you the jolt of inspiration that you need. Whether you're tuning in during your morning commute, on a break in between sessions, or relaxation time. I am here for you each and every week. Let's do this SLPs.

00:02:38 Hallie: Hey, hey, and welcome to another episode of SLP Coffee Talk. Today, I have one of our Speech Retreat guests here today. And we're going to be talking all about collaboration in the secondary students, because that's what he's going to be talking about at our July 26 Speech Retreat, our first Friday Speech Retreat, by the way. Robert, welcome to the show.

00:02:59 Robert: Thank you so much for having me. And thank you again for inviting me to the Speech Retreat. I'm very excited about taking part this year.

00:03:05 Hallie: Of course, we're always like I mentioned, we were just chatting before I hit record. I'm always looking for more speakers, content, inspiration when it comes to the secondary students because it is so hard to find. So, tell everyone a little bit about yourself and how you got to be doing what you were doing today. 

00:03:22 Robert: Yes, I'm Bob McKinney and I'm a full-time school-based SLP. And I work at the Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego, California. And we were chatting again before we got on here today about how that's probably the largest all-secondary district in the country, we think. It's certainly up there. It's not that common to have districts that are just all secondary. So that's what I've focused on for just about the last 20 years. I'm a career change. So I started off doing, I taught ESL for many years around the world. And that's why I think it kind of tied into the collaborative model because I was very comfortable in the classroom. And other than that, I'm very involved in my state association. So I'm the president-elect of the California Speech Language Hearing Association.

00:03:59 Hallie: That's so amazing. It's funny that you say that you worked with, you were first an ESL teacher because there's so much overlap in what we do. 

00:04:08 Robert: Absolutely. And my friends in the ESL world, I've encouraged some of them to try to make the jump and become an SLP. And not many have taken me up on that. But there's a lot of overlap. So, I think where we are different is that we really have that background about some of the more complicated situations. And again, like fluency, articulation, that type of thing. But when it comes to just working with kids on language, there's a lot of overlap.

00:04:30 Hallie: Yeah, so I was very close with the ESL providers in my school, and when I would talk about what I was doing with my students, like, wait a minute, that's what I'm doing. I use visual aids. I'm using graphic organizers. I'm like, yes, because we're all working on language. It's just a different need. 

00:04:45 Robert: That's it. And that overlap between teaching and being an SLP, and I think I've talked about that over the years in some of these presentations because I think in the broad sense, we are teachers. But a lot of times SLPs will step in and say, no, I'm not a teacher, I'm an SLP, and they make a distinction there. 

00:05:00 Robert: But I think we should really recognize that there's a lot of overlap that we have and a lot of the same goals that we're working on with the teachers. And I have so much respect for those classroom teachers. And I think that's part of what got me involved in this collaborative model because I just wanted to work with them and use their skills and bring what I could bring to the table. It works out really well when you work together. 

00:05:19 Hallie: For those listening that might not be familiar, like what is a collaborative model?

00:05:24 Robert: Well, really any time that you're working with other professionals out in your setting and in the educational world, that can mean working directly in the classroom. And that's mostly what I'm talking about in my presentation is when you're doing your speech services in the classroom, but it could take all kinds of different models. Sometimes it's just observing. Sometimes it is co-teaching really working directly with the teacher. Sometimes it's taking over the whole class and doing it. Other times it's working in stations. So there are a lot of different models, but it's really anytime you're working in the classroom and not in your speech office or wherever you happen to be outside or something. 

00:05:59 Hallie: How do you determine which student can benefit from this model? 

00:06:03 Robert: Yeah, I think really all the students can, but there are certain ones where it's much more common. And I think one way I approach that is really what type of placement are they in? Because I think that's one of the most important things. And this, they push-in model, we call it push-in sometimes as opposed to pull-out. But the push-in or collaborative model seems to work well when you have students who are in special day class situations. 

00:06:28 Robert: So it's a little bit harder to do it when you have students who are out in general ed or who are in collaborative classrooms or where you have like a co-teach type situation. In those situations, you might have three or four special ed students and you've got 40 general ed kids in there. It's not as practical. But when you go to a mild, moderate classroom, a special day class where you might have 10 or 12 students and half of them are in your caseload, that's really logical. 

00:06:53 Robert: Or when you go to moderate, severe, where really all the students on there could be on your caseload and maybe they not aren't all on your caseload, but they could be, and that's where it works really well. But I've done it pretty much everything at some point, except for just flat-out general ed, but even then I probably have done it to some extent just for quick, for a minute or two.

00:07:12 Hallie: And it's interesting that you said that it does work better with those populations because you do have more of them on your caseload. There are also probably more adults in the room that can help you, not just the teacher. There's a lot of paras and a lot more bodies that can help support. So can you talk a little bit more how you can utilize your other colleagues and how to get them on? 

00:07:31 Robert: Yes, that is so key. That is so key, because I think especially when you're talking about the moderate severe students, where they have a lot of support there, you've got the health care assistants in the classroom. And everybody's, there's a lot more support for those students so they're comfortable in that environment. So when you remove them from the environment, it really shakes things up and it's just a lot of practicalities involved. 

00:07:50 Robert: And I think going back to that other part of the question too is you're also looking at what you're working on. There's good evidence that the students with even with, for example, articulation, because people don't think articulation would work well in a push-in model, but there's good evidence that it does. But a lot of times when you come to something like fluency, there are a lot of advantages to pulling out and creating that kind of bond, one-on-one, or small groups of the kids who stutter. 

00:08:14 Robert: But in most cases, the language kids are going to work really well in articulation and anything like that. But yeah, involving those paraprofessionals, one of the great things about that too, and the teachers, is instead of coming in and trying to coach them, which can be a little bit overbearing at times, I think, when SLPs show up and say, well, here, I would like you to do it this way, or here's how you should do it. It works a lot better when you're actually just doing it and they start to independently say, hey, that's a good idea. Or you see them doing the things that you were doing without explicitly telling them to do it. I think that's when you have the best buy-in. 

00:08:48 Hallie: Totally. Especially like AAC. Like, what good is it if you're doing it in your speech closet? Like, if no one can see you. If we want our teachers and paraprofessionals to get buy-in and seeing the benefits of it, they need to see you doing it. I love that you said that them feeling like they came up with it and not just run it, right?

00:09:06 Hallie: Like we all know, I know I'm that way. If someone told me what to do, I'd be like, you're right. Like, don't stop telling me what to do. I'm with them all day. But I can see that pushback, but I love that you said. And can you give us some like strategy or an example of how you've gotten someone to like think of something on their own? 

00:09:25 Robert: Well, I think even when we were talking about lesson planning because of the overlap when you are up there doing a lesson and you've got it focused on language, and I think that just seeps through the classroom that the teacher and the aides will start to see how you approach that type of thing, how you're giving the feedback, and maybe how you're setting up the activity, and I think you can start to see that filter into what they've been working on. 

00:09:49 Robert: And it goes, the point that you made is very good for me too, I think from the other angle as far as I felt that a lot of times I was not able to explain what was going on in the classroom or I was less informed about it because I was doing work on my own in the speech room. 

00:10:02 Robert: So, when you were talking about the AAC device in the speech room, a lot of times in the early days of my career, I would say things at the IEP and the teachers would say, well, I don't see that in the classroom. Or they would say something and I would say, well, I haven't observed that in the speech room. So I started to realize that it's just so much easier when it all takes place. Where the education is supposed to be happening.

00:10:23 Robert: And we really have to keep an eye out for that because it is essentially a civil rights issue, really. I mean, these students are supposed to be in the least restrictive environment. So I think it's really important to keep that in mind, is that's where all of this is supposed to be happening. And you have to be very careful when you pull students out. You should only do it when that's really the only way to benefit or if there's an additional advantage to that. But in most cases, I do prefer to keep them in the setting where they're with their peers.

00:10:50 Hallie: So, so important. That's so true, especially our secondary students. They've been getting speech for years. They've been pulled down to the speech closet for so many years.

00:11:01 Robert: Yeah, exactly.

00:11:02 Hallie: We need to do something different at this point. We need we're always wondering how can we be more relevant. How can we be more effective and showing our students how what we're doing is beneficial to them? Well, by doing it in the classroom, they can see that. 

00:11:14 Robert: Right. And think of all those other students who are not on your caseload, but really are benefiting too. So, you have a broader effect on the campus as a whole. And then those administrators and teachers, they see you about much more. They understand what you're doing. I talk in my talk a little bit about demystifying and how I think beginning SLPs don't want to demystify. I think when you start out in the field and you're doing your CFY or the first couple of years, you kind of want to keep it mysterious that, oh, I'm just going to my magical speech room and I'm going to work in there.

00:11:43 Robert: And you're kind of maybe a little bit, you might have a little imposter syndrome. As you feel more comfortable, it feels good to be out there showing what you can do and then everybody can benefit from that. And so I like the idea of demystifying it for the staff and for the kids.

00:11:57 Hallie:  So, so true. What advice would you give to someone when they say, well, whenever I push in, I feel like I'm just an aid, a para. I'm just standing there. I'm not being utilized. 

00:12:07 Robert: That is a big issue. I think a lot of times it just depends on the situation. You could be put in a role where you're really not doing. You're not working at the top of your license, as people sometimes say, and so you're really just functioning as a tutor or another content provider. So I don't really have anything, well, I think you just have to play that case by case, and it's really about the relationship with the teacher. So I think if you can get in there and explain what you're doing, or really make sure that they understand what your actual role is, but at times you may have to adjust, pick a different teacher.

00:12:39 Robert: Over the years, I found that to be the case many times where there were situations that I thought would work really well as a push-in and they didn't, or the other way around. I might have a teacher where I think, this is going to be hard. She's going to be really micromanaging me or making me do things that probably are not related to what I want to get out of this. And then I find out, wow, they're really great in that model. So it's really just trying it out with each teacher and figuring out where it works best. 

00:13:04 Robert: But you do have to watch for that because you don't want to be in there just doing the work that another professional could do. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just, we wanna be in there doing the work that really we have the best skills at. 

00:13:16 Hallie: Love that you said that. Like it's okay to change it up. It's okay to say this is not working and recognizing like that's not, and that you said that someone else can do that. We can train someone to stand there, prompt the student, push them along, give them some suggestions, hand them a graphic organizer, whatever. It doesn't have to be us doing that. That it's okay to recognize this is not working. 

00:13:40 Robert: And the same that applies to discipline too, because I'm not a disciplinarian and I think that's why I enjoy being an SLP is that I don't have to handle a lot of the challenging behavior. When you're in the classroom, you are going to have to, but you can defer to the teacher and then that's where you also have the option, which the teacher doesn't. And I've done this over the years to say, well, I'm gonna have to discontinue this for now and we'll try to come back and regroup if we can figure out the discipline part. It's rare, but you do have that that you can pull out if you need to. 

00:14:08 Hallie: Do you have a favorite model? Like do you prefer like stations? Do you prefer whole class lessons? Which is your favorite? 

00:14:15 Robert: Well when I'm pushing the model or trying to get people to do it, I do start a lot of times with just observing, just going into observe and working from there and collecting some data. And then stations, that's a great starting point. For me personally, I do like the whole class. So when I go in, I just take over the class. I think there are a lot of advantages. The teachers prefer that. And I do the whole block when I can. And we have long blocks nowadays in my school. We have sometimes 82-minute, 90-minute blocks.

00:14:42 Robert: And I just take the whole thing because I don't want the teacher to worry about if I stop in the middle and then suddenly they have to be ready with their lesson plan. So when I'm coming in, they know that I'm covering that whole period. And I just like to take over the whole class. But I've done all the models. I mix it up, but that's probably my favorite. 

00:15:00 Hallie: Do you have a favorite lesson?

00:15:02 Robert: Not a favorite one, I think, just anything based on language skills. I have some that I love over the years or just ones that I'll pull out very quickly. A very simple one I could just outline briefly is I'll just sometimes stop in the library and grab a couple books. I love to travel, so I'll get some books on different countries. And I think it's great for the kids to learn about the world. So I think that's a great topic. But I'll just pick a couple of these basic books about different countries and I'll let the students pick which country they want. 

00:15:30 Robert: And then what I'll do is I'll take the outline from the front. And I'll pick five or six different categories like geography, history, people, culture, whatever it is, and write those on the board. And then they'll work in teams. And I do a lot of that in pairs or teams. And a lot of times we'll work with like a little mini whiteboard or tablet so that they're all participating. But what I'll do is I'll just tell them, I'm gonna read randomly from the book. I'm just gonna pick a page and start reading a paragraph. It's usually above their reading level because that's the point of this.

00:15:59 Robert: But then what I'll do is stop and ask them to pick which chapter they think that came from. So they're really not focused on mastering everything or understanding all of the vocabulary. They're not going to be able to do that. But they can start to pick out pieces and then we'll go back and analyze what made you think that it was in that section. And they'll remember a word or two and figure it out. But it also gives them those larger skills that they need about understanding how books are broken up into different areas. And you have content, you have the index, you have the table of contents at the beginning.

00:16:35 Hallie: Love that. I can see them being so into it. And they're also getting student choice because they're able to pick which book that they want to read about. So there's so much benefits to all of this that you're helping them, guiding them, supporting them, but they're also having that intrinsic motivation themselves to participate. 

00:15:59 Robert: Yeah, and that goes into a little bit more of the content model which I use because I talk about when I'm doing a whole class, that's not as common. It's much more typical, and I do a lot of this too, where the SLP will just come in and do a language-based lesson. So I might just go into the class and do something on facts and opinions or something, or maybe categorizing something or whatever it happens to be. But when I do the content-based, a lot of times I'm actually going off whatever their subject is. 

00:17:20 Robert: It could be geography, history, whatever it is. But I'll approach it as language-based. So even though there's some content in there, and they may learn a few things about whatever the topic is. Where in my mind, we're really focused on, okay, this is going to be something about putting a sentence back together or identifying vocabulary or something like that that's really a language goal that they can apply anytime they're working with language. 

00:17:40 Hallie: And I love that you said that. So my next question was going to be, because I know people listening are probably saying, what about the goals? What about the goals? And it's taking, and I talk about this all the time, is how about taking one activity and just adjusting the approach to meet the goal.

00:17:58 Robert: Yes, I think that's great for anyone and even people who do a lot of pull-out too. I think many people do it the same way where you have sort of one activity for the day and you just adjust it up or down or you just differentiate a little bit with each group and I think that can be very effective. When you're in there doing push-in, sometimes people will point out that the differentiation is challenging and it is. 

00:18:18 Robert: The evidence shows that that's one of the more challenging components, but I think all of us know in the backs of our minds, we know what each student's working on, and we're adjusting. We're adjusting those questions. Which one am I gonna ask to that student, and how am I gonna support that? Am I gonna give a little more scaffolding on that type of question? How am I gonna approach this?

00:18:36 Robert: So we are doing it individually too, but that, yeah, that's one of the major challenges. But it also goes to the point of nobody's saying that you have to stick to just one model. This is one thing that you do, and you can combine it with some pullout. So that, If you have specific discrete skills that one student is working on, you can do a little pull-out and work on that. And then you get that also that individual one-on-one time, which I think a lot of us recognize is so important, especially in the secondary setting, that one-on-one time with the students. A caring adult with the student is just so important sometimes in that one-on-one situation.

00:19:11 Hallie: Love that, the flexibility, being able to recognize, okay, this student needs some more support that's not being addressed in this model. Just out of curiosity, how is this written on like an IEP? Is it like listed like, because I know we would put like push-in, or like in the classroom, or is it like flexible setting? Is it, how is it listed on an IEP so that you can go either way? 

00:19:34 Robert: Well, I think we just put, we have it down as group, and then, but I'm always very careful to explain it to the parents. And then once you get that buy-in from the teachers, or you've been doing it for years, it just becomes what goes on in the classroom. So everybody in the IEP team there is very supportive when I explain my service and say I go in once a week and this is the types of things that I do, but I can also pull out. 

00:19:55 Robert: And we were very transparent about it because nobody's trying to, you're trying to be as genuine as you can about it. You have to really believe in it. And I really believe in it. And then it's really just the parents, a lot of times will also see the advantages there too. There are sometimes lines in the IEP that will talk about really being talking about the benefit that you have to be outweighing.

00:20:16 Robert: You're taking the student out, you're providing these services, but there's gonna be a cost, there has to be. So if you explain that this way, it minimizes the impact of that too, because you're in the classroom, we're working with the instructors, we're working with the peers, and it's the maximum benefit for the student. 

00:20:33 Hallie: So, so true. What are some other challenges that you've faced over the years with this model that you can give someone some advice on or to look out for?

00:20:43 Robert: Well, we've covered a lot of them. I think the one where you get in the wrong role is probably number one because it can happen and it can happen in a situation where you're really just doing something that's not, that is you're not using your skills the way that you would want to. So I think, it's that relationship with the teacher is probably the number one situation. Again, sometimes with the parents, it's rare for me, but I think you can be in some districts where there may be a little bit more pressure from the parents where they just think that individual is the only way to go.

00:21:10 Robert: And so they're going to fight for that. And that can be a little bit of a challenge. But when I'm actually out there doing it, and then we talked about discipline, because that can come up, it's rare. But again, you've got your teacher there to support you too. It'll happen occasionally and you'll have some situations, but you've got everybody there. So other than that though, I think it's all been very positive over the years. And the teachers love it and they look forward to it. 

00:21:32 Robert: I think that's a question we get a lot is, are the teachers going to be okay with this? And it really, it's the opposite. I think once they see it, sometimes they may not be if it's their first time doing it. But once they get it going, it's really the opposite where when I'm at a convention or something, I say, I can't do the push-in this week, and then you can see the disappointment because they're looking forward to that because that's a time where they can also focus on other things too. They're in there, they're involved too, but I'm okay with them collecting data or catching up on emails or if they have to run off and do something, that's fine too. It helps everybody. 

00:22:04 Hallie: So, so important. Thank you so, so much. This was so amazing. And if you guys are wanting to learn more about this and wanting to dive deeper, sign up for the July 26th Speech Retreat. speechretreat.com is all you gotta do to learn more about this because this is such an area. And even those in elementary school can still benefit from learning these tips and tricks and suggestions because all students can benefit from it. You said least restrictive environment. You wanna make sure our activities are relevant.

00:22:35 Hallie: And it's showing the teacher than administration what we do. We're always trying to advocate for ourselves and showing like, hey, we are beneficial here in the school. We're not just a person that randomly shows up and gives kids stickers or whatever, and then leaves. Like we make a difference. So thank you so, so much. Where can everyone learn more about you? They have any questions other than coming to speech retreat, of course, but.

00:23:00 Robert: Come to Speech Retreat. I'm excited about that. And again, you made a good point because even though this is going to be about secondary setting, really everything's going to apply to all K through 12 and even other settings. But yeah, you'll have my email and people can reach out to me. I'm very easy to interact with. So if you just send me an email, if you have any questions, I would love to connect.

00:23:20 Hallie: Thank you so, so much. I always end my episodes with a joke because jokes build rapport. And I always had in my speech room a joke of the week because it was some way to just a language-based activity while we were waiting for everyone to show up. 

00:23:32 Hallie: So, how do you know that an ocean is friendly?

00:23:39 Robert: I'm not sure I'm gonna get this one. How do I, an ocean is friendly. I don't know. 

00:23:44 Hallie: It waves. 

00:23:45 Robert: There you go. 

00:23:49 Hallie: But I'm ching everyone. My corny dad jokes, like my students would say, but they would come and bring me their own corny jokes. So it's okay. And again, you can talk about waves, multiple-meaning words, all that fun stuff. Even when you're pushing in and while you're setting up your activity, you can also tell jokes as well. 

00:24:11 Robert: I'll try it out with my son. I'm sure I'll get it grown, but I'll give it a go. 

00:24:14 Hallie: Okay, my children do the same thing. So thank you so much. I will see everyone listening at the speech retreat because it is the place to be on July 26. So until next week, everyone, stay out of trouble.

00:24:32 Hallie: Thanks so much for tuning in to another episode of SLP Coffee Talk. It means the world to me that you're tuning in each and every week and getting the jolt of inspiration you need. You can find all of the links and information mentioned in this episode at my website, speechtimefun.com. Don't forget to follow the show so you don't miss any future episodes. And while you're there, it would mean the world to me if you would take a few seconds and leave me an honest review. See you next week with another episode full of fun and inspiration from one SLP to another. Have fun, guys.