Warning: The perfect job (career and setting) for me is not going to be perfect for someone else. We all have our own preferences and goals for the future. Plus, there really is no perfect job as we don't live in an ideal world. You just have to do the best with the options you are given. To me, working as a school-based SLP was the best option after a 6 year non-stop marathon of schooling.
The Pros of Being a School-Based SLP:
- Working with children. I know that children can be VERY honest ("You've gained a few pounds, no offense..." to quote one of my students) and VERY energetic at times. They may have some pretty bad behavioral issues. However, 9 times out of 10 they will do something that makes your heart melt. I also think that we have a ton of responsibility in the schools to set a good example for these students who may not always come from the best of backgrounds. They need a positive figure in their lives, someone who will inspire them to achieve their dreams and let them know that they are important. They are our future.
- Seeing a variety of delays. There is a HUGE misperception of our field and what we can do. Teachers know to come to us for speech sound errors, but many are shocked to hear that we can help with literacy skills. I get to see students who suffer from hearing impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Downs Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, receptive & expressive language delays, and articulation disorders. I also get to face the challenges of being a mono-lingual SLP in an English-Language Learning world. I cannot be an expert on everything that I encounter, but I learn something new with every day that passes. (I love life-long learning.)
- Inclusion therapy and collaboration. It's not everyone's cup of tea. I have encountered a few therapists that are really against inclusion. I love it though, because I get to learn new tricks from our Exceptional Children's teachers for my tool-box. It also makes feel like my therapy is really relevant to what they are learning in class. (Sometimes, you do feel disconnected when you rely on pull-out methods for everything.)
- Being part of a team. The IEP team. I really like being able to interact with parents, teachers, and other professionals.
- In-house professional development. I will admit that there are many meetings/training programs that are not easy to apply to speech. The technology ones aren't my favorite since I don't have access to many of the programs that teachers need. However, I like that we do have workshops that are on-site. My school district has held some really awesome workshops, such as Orton-Gillingham for example. They love helping us learn how to better help our students. We even have our own mini-conference for staff to present to each other. It's truly a blessing that we have the opportunity to be leaders in our own community.
- Getting crafty. Not everyone enjoys making crafts as part of their therapy sessions. I really love that I can be creative and make things with my students. I'm really only limited by my imagination.
- Off-site professional development. While budget cuts are impacting our ability to go to as many workshops as we'd often like to, I think that my district does an excellent job of letting us go to good programs. I've been to the Beckman-Oral Motor workshop, ASHA 2012 Convention, NC Summer Institutes, and will be going to NC's spring convention this year. The best part is that I get to go with my peers.
- Summers "off". You can't leave this one off of the list. It doesn't mean that I don't do any work whatsoever. I still think about work and make things for the next year. It's just on a much more laid-back schedule with my favorite television shows playing in the background. (And, I can stop for days and just read for pleasure.)
- Free weekends and holidays. I may bring work home occasionally on the weekends, but it is usually time for me. I need that time to recharge.
- The schedule. I am not the biggest fan of early mornings, but I appreciate getting off of work with the sun still shining outside during the winter. I also like that I generally have a routine in place. I'm one of those people who likes having an idea of what the day holds.
(I would also like to add that I work in a very small school district so it has a very personal touch to it. Larger school districts may be very different.)
- The paperwork, specifically billing Medicaid. You have paperwork no matter what setting you end up in as an SLP. It's just a fact of life. I really enjoy writing, but there does come a point where you wonder why you have to repeat yourself so much. My biggest wish is that someone smart will come along and fix the forms to reduce the amount of information duplication. It takes away time that could really go towards the benefit of our students.
- The misconception that school-based SLPs are somehow less qualified than private/medically based therapists. We all get the same basic education in graduate school and have to meet the same standards to get our CCC's.
- The general lack of awareness of what our role is in the school setting. (This is why it's important to present to staff.)
The most important thing to me is that I am where I need to be at this point in my life.