5 Mistakes I made in my CF year as a speech therapist should probably be 100 Mistakes I made in my CF year as a speech therapist, but that would be a loooooonnnnnnggggg post. My first year out in the field during my Clinical Fellowship Year was a deer in headlights sort of experience. It is crazy to think that I am starting my tenthish year out in the field (I started in January 2007)!
I want to share five mistakes I made in my CF year as a speech therapist to help pave the road for all the up and coming SLP’s. We are always more successful when we get tips on how to do it right when we first start! Pssst…..here’s the spoiler alert…..I am still making mistakes. I am still working on find systems for how to do things quicker, smarter and more effective. Every year I have to learn something new. IEP changes, report additions, new assessments, new assignments, ways to take better data, and the list goes on and on. Your CF year is the foundation for many more years out in the field, so learn from me on how to get a head start in this career!
5 mistakes I made in my CF year as a speech therapist
1. Making time in my work day to stay organized
When I first started out, I used all the forms that my SLP internship supervisor gave me. They were really great for getting me through my first year. My biggest regret was that I never really invested the time to figure out an organizational system that worked for me. I was overloaded with paperwork, servicing students and attending IEP’s, so carving out chunks of time devoted to organization did not exist. I am still work on staying organized. It is much easier to do now because I know what systems work for me. I also set aside time in my work schedule to maintain those systems.
2. Advocating for a good speech room
I was stuck sharing a square box of a room with the school psychologist at one of my sites. The psychologist and I worked opposite days, but the room was filled with all of his test batteries and paperwork. That meant I had zippo room for my materials and paperwork. My other site was located in the lunch room. It had paper thin walls. The walls didn’t go all the way to the ceiling, so all the ambient noise from lunch time could be heard from 11-1pm. I could never do therapy during those times, unless I took the students outside. When I was given these rooms, I never complained. I just dealt with it. Looking back, I wish I had spoken up and shared the inconvenience that this created for serving my students.
3. Asking for help
Anyone else out there afraid that people will think you are incompetent? I was so afraid about looking stupid in front of my colleagues. I also didn’t want to impose on other professionals time, so I didn’t ask for a ton of help. During staff meetings, I would soak up every single word my colleagues said because I was dying for help in so many areas. It was rare for me to say out loud, “I really feel lost in this area. Can anyone help support me?” Guess what ladies and gents!? I have yet to meet a therapist no matter how long they have been out in the field who hasn’t felt like they needed support from time to time. As I slowly realized that most SLP’s need support, and started reaching out when I needed guidance. Best. Decision. I. Ever. Made.
4. Investing in therapy materials
When I showed up to my two sites my first year, I was provided two shelves of speech materials. I clearly did not have enough resources to serve my caseload of 60, so luckily, my district allowed me to order some more materials. That year, I refused to spend my own money on materials because I felt like it was the district’s responsibility to set me up for success in my job. I still feel that way (that’s a whole different blog post). I realized now that if I had taken the time to invest just $100 of my own money on books, games, toys, workbooks, etc., I would have been less stressed when planning therapy. Less stress means a calmer, happier person. So, if you could buy a resource for $15 on TPT or a game from amazon that will save you hours of time planning therapy then buy it! If the resource will keep you feeling inspired in your job, it’s worth the investment!
5. Giving myself grace
My first job was at two schools that didn’t have a speech therapist from September to January. I was told to hold all the IEP’s from September to January as quickly as possible. From day one there were so many “tasks” expected by me. That hasn’t really changed, but it is much easier to digest. I thought I would start an amazing RTI program, create lunch bunch social skill groups, push into classrooms to provide additional support, and do all sorts of things my first year. Didn’t happen. True story. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do a great job! Remember to give yourself praise for the small victories you see with your students and growth as a clinician.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, then come join an Exclusive Facebook Group- Dabbling With Speech Fun that Hallie Sherman from Speech Time Fun and I host! We share tips, inspirations, giveaways and celebrations for all SLP’s! Those are my BIGGEST 5 mistakes I made in my CF year as a speech therapist. All you veteran SLP’s out there, what were your mistakes? I would love to have more feedback for all our fabulous CF SLP’s starting out this year!