Monday, July 27, 2015

The Best Thing I Learned This Summer

I'm so excited to have been asked to be a part of "The Frenzied SLP" group to bring you helpful tips throughout the year to stay #SLPstrong, and excited to bring you my first post with these wonderful ladies, as well! 



The best thing I learned this summer... Well, I've learned a lot of things this summer-- like painting a fence by hand with a paintbrush is awful, and that potty training male puppies takes significantly longer than it does with females, for example.

But, the BEST thing I learned this summer?  

The best thing I learned this summer was how to find my balance between being an SLP, and being a person outside of an SLP.

The end of last school year was tough.  I really struggled the last couple months of school.  I had a higher caseload than I'd ever had before, with more significant-needs students than I'd ever had before, and had more meetings in the span of two months than I had ever had before.  58 meetings in 60 days-- YIKES! Tons of evals from screenings and Infant/Toddler transitions, and a plethora of annual IEP meetings rolled into kindergarten transition meetings for many of my students in those last two months.


#mylife
I was BURNT. OUT.  I had a really hard time compartmentalizing-- probably in part because I was writing reports at home every night, but also in part because being an SLP is such a big part of my identity that I was feeling like my self-worth as a whole directly correlated to my performance at work.  I know I was doing the best I could, given my caseload numbers, needs of the kids, and the number of evaluations I had to complete, but I still felt like it just wasn't good enough-- I knew that some of my students could be making more progress than they were, and even though the circumstances necessary for that to happen were out of my control, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was still a reflection on me.

I felt like I was failing.

As paperwork consumed my entire being, I was not feeling inspired to come up with fun and engaging therapy activities.  A lack of inspiration when you're a blogger, too, is never a good thing.  Most days during those last two months, I could barely bring myself to look through my Instagram feed (and guys-- I L-O-V-E LOVE Instagram!) because it would be chock-full of wonderful, creative, and fun therapy ideas from other SLP bloggers, and I'd feel like a failure for not being inspired enough to come up with something noteworthy of my own to execute in therapy sessions and subsequently blog about.  Womp Womp.  Talk about a double whammy!

Something had to give, and I needed to find more of a balance this summer.  I like to visualize myself as having multiple "buckets" to fill-- with each bucket being a separate aspect of my personality (if you're not familiar with the term "bucket fillers," go here).  The "SLP bucket" is an important bucket for me that needs to be filled, but does not need to be overflowing while other buckets go empty.  I needed to be able to come back and be my best self in August for myself, my coworkers, and my students.  So, here's what I did to help achieve that balance!




1- Less time providing ESY services:  I dropped down from my regular 4 day/week position providing summer school services, to the 2 day/week position, and let another SLP take the 4 day slot.  This was one of the best decisions I could have made.  It gave me a chance to still make some extra money while taking some time to be away from the building!  I also had the chance to try out some new things I hadn't had time to test out during the school year, like doing a large group lesson in a prek room (I always do small groups but haven't done large group yet!) and using music with my AAC users (side note: One of those AAC/music ideas is going to be featured in the August issue of the ASHA Leader! Look for it when you get it!)

2- Less time being creative on the computer and more time being hands-on creative:  I put blogging and TpT off to the side for a little while this summer to spend more time being creative in other ways.  I finished some Pinterest projects I'd been wanting to do for a while, and got started on redoing our front porch and master bedroom.  During the school year, often times blogging and TpT and all of the things that go along with it are enough to keep my creative side happy and engaged, but I was craving something different and more hands-on, so I switched gears!

3- Less time perusing Pinterest for actual therapy ideas to start the new school year, and more time perusing for organizational ideas to help me start off the school year:  This small change has actually made a big difference.  Rather than going into full-blown therapy mode, I'm spending more time getting inspired for tips and tricks on how to make storage and organization more streamlined in my therapy room.  Can't completely turn off that SLP brain (nor do I want to!) but this is a way of focusing that energy towards ideas that will hopefully help me all year long!

4- Spending time with coworkers outside of work:  Spending time with coworkers is something that might seem counter-intuitive when I'm needing to find more of a balance between work and my personal life.  HOWEVER.... It has been such a fun summer with these ladies.  They are hilarious and have such big hearts.  We've been having bi-weekly-ish coffee dates, trying out various coffee shops in our area.  Outside of coworkers, all my other friends and my husband are still working M-F during the day, so naturally I spend a lot of time at home on my own.  I get anstsy after a while!  Spending time during the week with my coworkers is an added bonus to having fun on the weekends, too.  It makes me feel like I'm doing more with my summer!

An additional bonus is that we all work with special needs kids, so these friends "get it" in the way that other friends don't--they understand my love of all things school/office supply-related (ha), they understand the emotional toll working with special needs kids can take on you, and they also completely understand the passion I have for what I do, because they have that same passion in the same or related fields.  I can be 100% supportive of an awesome project a friend is doing at work, or empathize with other friends going through stress at work, but I can't fully understand their excitement or stress in the way they experience it, and vice versa.  It's not a bad thing-- it's just different.  

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I love being a speech-language pathologist and SLP blogger/TpT creator, but I've been working hard to find a balance between all of my "buckets" this summer and am going back to school in a couple weeks feeling more refreshed than I have the last two summers.  I'm going to work really hard to keep a balance this school year, even if it means having to write out and schedule specific times in the evenings to help me stick to it-- for example, 
7-9pm: Blog & TpT
9-930: Read my book
930-1030: Watch a tv show with husband

It seems a little crazy but I think it just may work! 

What are some ways you are achieving balance between work and personal life? I'd love to hear your ideas! If you want to read about what some of the other SLP bloggers have found to be the best thing they've done this summer, click through to some of the blogs below!  And, if you want to link up, too, follow these instructions!





17 comments:

  1. I love your ideas for balancing everything! I will try to put some of those into practice!
    All Y’all Need

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  2. Balance is SO HARD! Thanks for sharing your experience.

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    1. It is definitely a challenge! Thanks for reading, Ashley!

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  3. Balance? Well, I barely produce anything for TpT, I only blog once a week, and when I'm home, I am home. Naturally, there are times I have to work at home, but I limit them if I can. I must say, 58 meetings in 60 days is over the top. Would you consider approaching administration for assistance?

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    1. I feel like I did pretty well for a good chunk of the year... I was actually took my 30 minute lunch away from my desk, and not bringing work home. I just got to a point in the year, probably starting in March where I just couldn't do that anymore-- Even writing reports at home, I was only getting them done a day or 2 before the meetings because there were so many! It was nuts. Preschool can be extra tough because of the Infant/Toddler evals that have to get done before the end of the school year for all those summer babies that turn 3 before school begins, and the evaluation referrals we get every month from our preschool screenings (typically about 3-5 evals come out of those).

      As far as approaching administration for assistance... The SLPs in my district put some numbers and figures together regarding our caseloads, but unfortunately nothing came of it. The state of Kansas has been undergoing major funding cuts to education, so I assume that's at least part of it. Frustrating, for sure! I just have to try my best to go into the new year starting out positive, and keep advocating for myself and my kiddos when necessary!

      Sounds like you have a good balance for yourself, though-- Hopefully I will be successful at it like you, Annie! :)

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  4. Finding a work/home balance is tough! It sounds like you are definitely on the right track! Enjoy the rest of your summer.

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  5. Oh my gosh! Your end-of-the-year burnout sounds like my summer burnout, especially the part about Instagram. I began this summer with high hopes for making my TPT shop more successful, but many days I feel more overwhelmed than inspired. Throw in some heavy family responsibilities and it is a recipe for a major meltdown. Thanks for your post. I am going to take it to heart and relax a little.

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    1. It can be SO hard! I always have high hopes for summer TpT-ing, but I rarely get more than 1-2 things done because I don't feel inspired. Family is always more important, though, and it's important to take care of them and yourself! I'm so glad my post was helpful for you-- seriously, don't feel guilty about taking some time away from it!! You'll create better things when you're motivated and inspired-- I never end up being happy with what I've come up with if I force it!

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  6. Finding a balance IS very hard. Great ideas! And 58 meetings in 60 days is crazy. Whew.

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    1. Thanks, Tracy! It's tricky, for sure! 58 in 60 days is in-sane! Since I have a preschool caseload, we have all the 0-3 service kiddos that turn 3 before the end of the year/over the summer that we have to have IEPs in place for (should they qualify), and have several new referrals every month from our monthly preschool screenings.. on top of the IEPs for our regular caseload! I love preschool, but the evaluation side of it can be killer!!

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  7. Boyyy I can relate. I have never had the kind of workload you mentioned (God Bless you) but I have had the days/weeks/months of feeling like I was failing, too. Failing myself, failing my students, failing my family. Everyone feels the burnOUT sometime. Don't believe everything you see on social media :) A break usually brings things back into perspective. I took some time this summer to find balance, also. Your other projects sound like fun!! Please blog about those sometime. Being an SLP is only a tiny part of who we are :) I like that you reminded us of that!

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  8. Despite the initial reason why you had to achieve balance, it is always good to reflect on areas that need some re-organizing! Love your ideas on how to achieve a less is more approach and be you!

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  9. Perfect advice on balance! Thank you Kari for a wonderful read!

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  10. Like you said, being an SLP is a huge part of who we are and it's very difficult to find that balance. Some years/summers I do better than others; some...not so much! It's so important for us to get away and be ourselves...the "non-SLP" self!
    oldschoolspeech.blogspot.com

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  11. I'm a bit behind on this post but am finally catching up on some fave blogs now. I learned a long time ago not to work in the summer, because it felt like break was getting 'eaten into' and I'd be resentful once school started. Summers are for pleasure reading, podcast listening, good food eating, and friends/family. I didn't do online CEUs this summer, shop secondhand stores, or read much email. It's good to step back completely. I feel you on the intensity of April/May with transition meetings and early intervention evals. I have literally not left my couch for the first week of summer break before I've been so fried. Our state does not have a caseload cap, and like you mentioned, budgets are such that districts aren't staffing as much as they should. It also helps me to keep other areas of life full- church, friends, hobbies, exercise, puttering. Posts like these are great. Good stuff.

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