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My Middle School Madness: Part Two

Thank you so much for following along as I talk about how I landed my middle school SLP job, the struggles, and the triumphs! If you missed part one check it out here!.

First day of school/work picture!

Worrying about a new job in a new place was quickly replaced by excitement and the apartment search. I took time over the summer to follow as many middle and high school SLP instagrams as possible. As soon as I received my new work email address, my new credentials, MA, CF-SLP, went after my name. I learned that I had my own closet room at the middle school, but there was not a place for me at the high school that I would be covering one day a week. At time time I didn’t care, I had my very own desk to store my profesional things! I was finally achieving the goal I had spent five years working to achieve.

Picture from my room. I tried to start off the year by writing on my board what each area was going to do for the week.

Then it came to the first day of school, well for new teachers anyway. We went through the introductions and all the niceties that come along with starting a new job. I quickly realized that I was the only new staff member that shared my time between the middle and high school. Also, I realized how no one knew what a Speech-Language Pathologist really does. This is not something that they prepare you for coming out of graduate school. That was not the last time I would come to that realization. I sat through days of professional development that felt like it had nothing to do with me, but as a new profesional I thought that I was just behind and had a lot to learn. Over time of countless PD days I have now realized that most presentations and topics are teacher focused. The lonely island of being an SLP was slowly starting to come into focus.

I used the Monae’s Speech House Big Mouth Posters for my first bulletin board. Find it here!

I spent my weekend and any free time before school started trying to make the perfect schedule. I had a caseload of ~55 students and needed to schedule my time between two buildings. This was difficult as we have A/B schedules and the high school and middle school are on completing different schedules/times. I color coded, made notes for the students when they come, and even had lists for teachers what hours I needed their students. Honestly I thought why does everyone complain about making schedules? That was so easy to do! (I admit now I was wrong).

I met my other SLPs in the district. Each are placed at the various elementary buildings, and each with their own personalities. My mentor, another SLP in the district, was very helpful getting my room at the middle school set up. The other SLPs donated some materials to help get me started as I was a new position hire for the growing secondary speech/language population. Luckily my handy stash of materials I thought would be used for elementary students had several board games I could use! I thought maybe I was prepared for this after all!

In our district the SLPs do not start seeing kids until after all the K-5th grade students are screened/recreened. Although I was not an elementary SLP we all joined forces to screen students. This allowed me to ease into my role in the district, gain confidence with the age group I’m familiar with, and have more time with the other SLPs.

All this was great, but I was ready to start seeing MY KIDS.

Push-In To Stop Pulling My Hair Out

Push-in therapy goes by several different names (in-class service, classroom-based services, integrated services). I use the term push-in for this post. I also understand that push-in therapy may not be the right fit for every student or therapist. 

Push-in therapy isn’t something that is taught as often in our schooling career. For many of us during undergrad/graduate clinicals we saw one to four clients/students at a time for 30 minutes. We would grab our students, take them to the therapy room, and send them on their way. Great?! Yes, for some students. At the same time we are taught pull-out services, we are also taught to work towards generalization of skills and carryover of their progress to other settings. How can this happen if we are only servicing our students in the same room, with the same group of their peers, on the same day, for the same amount of time?

Centers can include a range of activities! Story cubes, synonyms, antonyms, and idioms pictured here.

I don’t want you to think that my journey of providing push-in therapy was something that I just magically knew how to do coming out of school. It actually happened a little by accident, and a lot by my relationships with teachers. When forming my crazy schedule for the middle school I noticed that many of my language impaired students had the same resource english language arts class. At first I brushed it off, and went along scheduling my pull-out sessions. Each group I scheduled was 2-4 students, normally having at least two different goal areas.

Well the school year starts, and I started pulling out my students (or at least trying to). Many of them would forget to come, teachers weren’t sending their students even with a reminder, or my students would get “lost” on their way to my room. When I did have students, many of them had little motivation to work as they have been in speech/language services since early elementary school. Honestly, I couldn’t blame them for their lack of motivation to work. When I had my larger groups, we did not have enough room in my room for use to all comfortably fit (middle schoolers aren’t little).

So after about three weeks of the struggle, I went back to scheduling. What could I do to help not only myself, but also my students? This wasn’t working. When going back to try and move students around I noticed again that many of my students were in a language resource class. I reached out to the teacher, as we were friends outside of work (Miss. R), and we decided on a day for me to start seeing my students. I would teach a language lesson and assist with any other tasks. Miss. R and myself became co-teachers on the days I pushed-in. Once a month we would do centers in order to collect data easier and monitor progress. Guess what?! The students LOVED it. My students started to show progress.

Now, not all of the students were my language students, but they still learned from some of my language lessons. These students would also help those with language deficits, and could communicate with their peers in ways I never could. Often class would start with a 5-minute language warm up. We did worksheets from Speechy Musings, research projects, and one sheet grammar lessons. At times I felt like a paraprofessional, but if that’s what my students needed for the day, then that’s what I needed to adapt to.

I didn’t always know if I was doing it “right”. I started researching all the push-in materials I could and slowly gained confidence. If you want to see ASHA’s stance on school-based service delivery check out their website here! They have some GREAT research, and list the various types of push-in services.

Push-In: ELA Famous People Research No Prep

This past week I started a research project over a famous person with one of my push-in groups. Often times I am providing the graphic organizers and leading the activity. I wanted to flip this activity. This will be a four part activity, but I will explain it all here! Targets: articulation, summarizing, important vs. interesting information, main idea, details, and social skills!

Students create their own graphic organizer questions.
  1. Give the students a sticky note for each question. Ask these three questions. Who can we research (e.g cooks, football players, famous women)? What can I research about them? Where to find information? See the picture to the right. After each question talk about what the students decided. Students then decide, after talking through the questions, who they will research. This will take about 30 minutes with all the discussion time after each question.
  2. Next, create a graphic organizer using the questions the students came up with. Students can then students will research their people. This will be done on the computer and in the library. Students can practice looking for interesting versus important information.
  3. Student will then summarize their information/findings into a presentation. This can be a poster, google slides, or something else.
  4. Finally, students will present over their people in front of the class.

Be on the lookout for more push-in ideas, as this is something that I am very passionate about. This semester I push into two resource classes, a co-taught ELA class, three social skills advisory classes, and high school life skills. As I stated above, I understand this service delivery model might not be perfect for everyone. I will be talking more about this in future blog posts. Do you have any questions? Feel free to reach out.

My Middle School Madness: Part One

When I was attending graduate school I thought I would end up working with elementary students. My school externship was with Pre-K through 5th grade and I loved it! I started collecting as many picture books as I could find. My parents were quickly starting a storage pile for my materials as my studio apartment at the time had zero room to spare.

Earning my MA

Then it came time to apply for jobs after school. All I knew was I wanted to stay somewhere in the midwest, preferably a larger city area. I grew up in rural Illinois and I wanted something different. I applied outside of Chicago, STL, and Kansas City. Honestly I was applying to any and all SLP jobs that I could find. I was not really focusing on what grade placement it would be. To my surprise I heard back from a school district only two days after applying. They asked for an skype interview later on that same day. I quickly rushed back to my apartment, took a shower (dry shampoo was not going to cut it), and found the nicest shirt I could find.

For my interview I had all my cheat sheets out in front of me since they couldn’t see it. I printed off my resume, any questions I had, and the school salary schedule. I also printed off the school’s mission statement. I would recommend this to anyone applying for a job. You can use the same language and terms that they have in their mission statement. It makes it seem like you are already apart of the team and a perfect match for the school. Anyway… back to the interview. They asked me a few questions about testing and how I would set up my groups. My favorite question was if I could have my dream speech room what would be included and why. During the meeting they also asked if I had looked over the salary schedule and were surprised when I held it up for them on my end (so happy I had my notes)!

My youngest brother and me at grad school graduation.

After my interview with the special education director and another SLP in the district they mentioned that they had two positions open, one for elementary and one for secondary. I stated that I have more experience in elementary, but that my youngest brother was a middle schooler so I could “vibe” with the kids. They said they would be in contact in the next couple days as their board meeting was the next day. I couldn’t stop shaking after the interview was over. It finally hit me that this was happening. I wasn’t going to go back to work at Dairy Queen, my high school/college job, I was going to become this SLP that I had been working so hard to become.

Well those next two days seemed to last forever. On the second day I kept telling myself I didn’t get the job. My mom was encouraging me saying that it may take many interviews to land a job. It was like something out of a movie though, because while I was talking to her I missed a call from the school district offering me the job. When I called back and asked for which position, they said it would be for the middle/high school position. I told them I would need some time think about it and get back to them…

Was I ok with working with this age group? This was not something that I had been preparing for. What would I do with all the materials I had been accumulating. Was I even ready to work with the higher language levels that come with this age group? I kept doubting myself.

After visiting the district, since it was five hours from home, and many hours of soul searching I accepted the job. I was excited to move to my new city, start making new friends, and get myself established. But was I ready for middle schoolers?