I remember being really nervous when I was getting ready for my first year as a speech pathologist. I was a career-changer so I’d already had work experience, but it was still nerve-wracking. My first year as a speech pathologist was in Chicago Public Schools. I was placed at a school where I had a small closet-sized space that was inside the art room area. I did not have a desk of my own, but I did have a table. Here’s how I managed:
1) Keep a Legal Pad with You
Before the day started and then again after the school day was over, I would set up my laptop so that I could keep track of my sessions with my students. One thing I didn’t have was a space to write a running list of “to do” items. Now I have a pad of paper that I keep a list of “to do” items in no special order. I just need a space to write everything down as it occurs to me. Right this moment on my legal pad, I have a note to chat with the occupational therapist about a student. Also I have a note to develop a meeting notification. I also use that “Post It Note” computer application on my laptop. That’s how I have organized lists posted on my desktop wall. That is useful during the day, but what about when you power down for the day? When you remember something you meant to do (this happens to me at least once a week), you can just add it to the list on the legal pad.
2) Have a Separate Work Calendar
I’m old school with my hardcover planner. But even if you have an electronic calendar for your home use, keep it separate from your work calendar. I keep my personal planner for my home stuff and I keep my work appointments on my Outlook Calendar at work. In my previous work, I used Google Calendar for work. They both work well.
The reason I suggest this is that your work calendar will be full. It can be overwhelming when laid side-by-side with you personal commitments. Additionally, it’s good to be able to gain some distance from work when you are not physically present. Simple check your work calendar and make note of the appointments coming within the following three weeks. It’s easy to stay on top of work, while still getting a break when you are at home at night or during the weekends.
3) Leave the Research Behind
During your first year, the American-Speech-Language-Hearing-Association gives you a break before they require you to start earning continuing education credits. Take a breather from reading research and focus exclusively on the practice of speech therapy: your treatment and evaluation skills. Don’t feel pressure to keep up with the research during your first year. You probably already know the latest techniques anyway, since you just completed your degree!
4) Don’t Create All Your Materials — Go to Garage Sales
When I started my CFY, I had virtually no materials at the school where I was working. Luckily, I knew that ahead of time so I spent the summer before my CFY year going to garage sales every weekend. I chose the wealthier suburbs near me and carefully selected the sales for children’s games and toys. I even lucked into a garage sale put on by a retiring teacher. My room was stocked for the fall and I didn’t spend a fortune. Another option is TeachersPayTeachers.com. There are many free resources or products for nominal fees. Creating materials for yourself is great, but sometimes you can create things that don’t work for certain students. With limited experience, it may end up not being that useful.
5) Use Your CFY Supervisor
I was lucky to have a terrific CFY supervisor who gave me lots of advice and has become a friend. Don’t think about the CFY supervisor as someone there to judge you, but instead think of this person as an invaluable resource available to you during the first moments of your new career. Don’t be shy!
6) Plan a Vacation for Your First Paid Summer
If you are school-based, you will have some paid time off over the summer. Since it will be your first paid summer, my suggestion is to plan a trip abroad during your first paid summer. You survived graduate school and your first year as an SLP — you deserve it!
Let me know if I missed anything about the CFY year!