I usually love the excitement of the back-to-school season. It is a fresh start for everyone, filled with optimism and epitomized by clean notebooks, sharpened pencils, and new bulletin board decorations. This year, it seemed like it would be extra special. We had somehow made it through last school year, as tough as it was. Here on the west coast, many students would be returning to buildings for the first time since March 2020. So understandably, I find myself feeling off-balance in the shifting sands of recent weeks — the news filled with new risks, new rules on masking and vaccinations, and new worries about how the school year will play out.
But. We have done so many hard things over the course of this pandemic! Professionally, we have learned new skills and broadened our horizons on new ways to share information, connect with co-workers, and meet students’ needs. Just like students who have learned new skills and strategies, we may be surprised at all the opportunities we have to use them.
As SLPs and special educators in public schools, we are experts in supporting students in accessing their education. This requires creativity and flexibility and cooperation, along with an ability to identify barriers and systematically test solutions. We can rely on these skills to make the best of any situation. Consider these 3 tips to approach uncertainty with a level head and keep you moving forward:
There are some things you have control over. Focus on those. For example, I have a lot of autonomy in creating my schedule. Sometimes it feels crazy, but it’s a puzzle I get to work out myself. I have lots of freedom in how I manage and plan the clinical parts of my day. If I want to collect language samples differently or try out some new books or weekly themes for therapy – I can!
You have more tools at your disposal than you think. Use them. If we learned nothing else over the last year, we certainly practiced flexibility. We learned that there is more than one way to do what we have always done. We learned about remote assessment and Boom cards and messaging apps and YouTube shorts. Our teams are ready to use streaming video to hold meetings and connect with parents. We know how to incorporate multiple sources of data into eligibility discussions.
There are people around you to help. Find them, rely on them, be kind to them. At some point this fall, you’ll probably have to cooperate with others and maybe even rely on someone else to get your job done. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself in a position to help co-workers and colleagues from time to time, as well. Dig deep for patience in both situations.
At my most fragile moments, news about local spikes in infections and changes in school policies can feel like defeat. Instead of feeling defeated, I’m challenging myself (and you!) to do what we do best – break down barriers into manageable tasks and work together to find the strategies to overcome them. Bring on back to school!