A Newbie’s Journey

I’ve moved around, a lot.  After college I spent a year teaching in Haiti, then moved to California for grad school (the first time), to North Carolina, back to California, and then finally to South Dakota to be near family.  And I knew, every time I moved, that the first year would suck.  I would have to try to meet people and build friends, figure out where to find a doctor and dentist, and just generally be kinda lonely.  And somehow, knowing that ahead of time helped.  It didn’t change the fact that the first year was hard, but I knew I could get through it.

Having once been a first year teacher, I wondered if being a 1st year SLP would be similar.  In some ways it was.  I started off the year overwhelmed with all I had to learn: (Taken from my personal blog, before I started this baby)

The Way to Eat an Elephant

They say the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  Well, that doesn’t really work for me.  I’m a planner.  And I like to do things well.  Not necessarily perfect, just better than everyone else.  So in order to do an adequate job of it, I’d really like to know exactly how tall and wide the elephant is, how many bites it takes the average person to finish, whether it will be cooked or raw, what age the elephant is since babies will be significantly smaller and more tender, where the elephant has come from and why I’m eating this particular one, and oh, yeah, exactly what we hope to accomplish by eating this specific elephant.

Which is why I did not sleep last night, at least not well.  I saw midnight, 3 AM, 5:30, and finally got up around 8:30.  On my last possible day for sleeping in…and the only thing I like to do more than sleep in is eat elephants.  Seriously.

Every time I woke up and looked at the alarm clock, my brain was barraged with thoughts about school starting.  Not complaints or fears, just unknowns.  How do you fill out a prior notice?  Where exactly will I find my students’ phone numbers? Should I bring hanging file folders to put the student folders in, or are they good like they are?

It’s all good stuff.  Great stuff, in fact.  I’ve spent a couple of days working in my therapy room and love getting into it.  And a few months from now, I’ll know exactly how to eat this elephant, trunk to tail.  For now,  practicing patience and knowing without a shadow of a doubt I am not in a control.  Which is a good lesson to learn.  Over and over and over again.

And slowly but surely, I figured it out.  I asked my boss a million questions.  I filled out 3…4 copies of a form to make sure I had all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.  I spent the majority of the 1st quarter of the school year asking questions, sometime the same one over and over again.  And now, 10 or 11 weeks in, I’m breathing again.  More than that, I feel like I’m getting a handle on the paperwork, and having some time to be creative in therapy, which I love!  A week or so ago, I wrote a post about why I love my job:

So at the beginning of the year, I was a tad bit overwhelmed with my job.  Okay,pretty much panickingbecause I like to know everything and do it all perfectly (or at least as good or better than everyone else), and I like to know WHY we do everything.

And after 9 weeks of school, I feel like I’m getting a handle on things.  And more than that, I’m loving what I’m doing.  Not that I wasn’t before, but with some of the chaos in my brain sorted out and filed into categories, I feel like I have more space to figure it out and appreciate it.

I also have something to compare it with…when I left teaching, I was so glad to be finished, and to go into the business world and have a “real job.”  It didn’t take long for me to realize how good I had it as  a teacher in terms of how I like to work and what I like to do.  So this time around, I have perspective.

I’ve also been reading 1,000 Gifts, which certainly helps with perspective.

So, in no particular order, some of the reasons I love (and am thankful for!) my job:

  • My supervisor.  Oh my goodness, the woman is a saint.  I ask her a bazillion questions.  About really minute details.  And I ask for reasons…why do we check the box on the left instead of the right?  If we do this, then could we do that?  But what if we don’t do that, then does x happen?  Seriously, I want to know everything.  And she has been so gracious…she answers my questions, never makes me feel dumb, and sends me links to resources that answer why.  I’m not sure if we think alike or what, but I don’t seem to be grating on her last nerve…at least not yet.
  • My colleagues.  I work for a cooperative, and from the beginning people have been helpful.  And not just helpful when I ask them questions, but proactively, even when I’m overwhelmed and reverting to my task-oriented nature and maybe not being superfriendly, asking if they can help me.  And I can’t count how many times they (SLPs, OTs, PTs, Early Childhood peeps) have said “We all help each other out.  We really do.”  And it’s true…I am SO glad I listened to a friend on Twitter’s advice about checking out a Cooperative as a place to work.  Maybe they’re not all like this, but it has been such a blessing.
  • People care about how the work gets done.  You know how you can either just get a job done, or not really care about it being done but care about what it is you’re working on?  Like instead of just getting a report written, you care about what the scores mean, and how they impact treatment, and how best to explain a full scale IQ to a parent…my colleagues are like that.  I sat in what could have been a difficult meeting today and watched our school psych just do an amazing job.  And it’s one of those things where you can tell it’s not because she has to, or she’s just putting in the time…she cares. About the content, about the kid, and that is who I want to be.  So to be surrounded by others who think the same way is such a blessing.
  • My caseload.  Oh my, I can’t say this enough.  I. Am. So. Lucky.  Don’t get me wrong…I’m still busy.  I don’t have a lot of “free time” in my day, but I have enough time to see all my kids for as long as they need to be seen, and individually if they need it.  And, I have time to test and write reports.  Since that is part of my job.  When I was subbing as an intern, with 80 kids, that was an impossibility.  A travesty to the job, really.  And I love working for an organization that understands the value of doing your job WELL, not just being in compliance with the law.
  • The Colony.  I get to go to a Hutterite colony weekly, and I find it fascinating. Seriously.  I had a discussion about dating today with a teenage girl while I was waiting for a kid.  So. Interesting.

It’s not all unicorns and rainbows, there are some frustrations.  But not that many.  And for that I am very, very thankful.

Coming into Speech Language Pathology as a career changer was a bit of a risk…I thought I would enjoy it, but knew I couldn’t be sure until I did it.  And I’m so grateful to say I do…I love it.  I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing.  And apparently I’m not alone.  I’m the first of at least 3 people from my M.A. TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) class who have or are becoming SLPs.  Which says a lot for our profession.

If you’ve switched careers, or just finished grad school, how did you get here?  What was your journey?


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