Last May, we posted our COVID-edition End-of-Year checklist with a big sigh of relief. Maybe, we thought, we will wake up from this altered reality next fall and be able to return to a more typical school routine. Of course, we all know now that this fall is unfolding as anything but ordinary. Whether you are returning to last year’s assignment and caseload or joining a new team, whether your students are attending school virtually, in-person, or in some combination of models, uncertainty is likely your only constant right now.
Wariness has defined the spring and summer for many of us, and I feel relief whenever an organization announces any decision. No graduation ceremony? Great. School will be entirely online? Perfect. Yes, my heart continually breaks for all of the experiences we will not have. But my brain is mercifully relieved of the burden of having to make these impossible decisions on my own.
However, the powers-that-be making big decisions for us does not save us from the blinding multitude of minutia and logistics to manage their implementation. This year will be unlike any that has come before, which means that there are more areas than usual where we have to choose how to proceed. The opportunity to try new things can be exciting, but it can also be pretty stressful, especially under this kind of pressure. Here are three things I’m focusing on this fall to ease my COVID Back to School anxiety and forge a path forward.
Reflecting on what I know
With all the questions and unpredictability, focusing on the things we know and have control over can help. Take a look at your caseload list, spend some time reviewing last year’s progress notes, contact logs, and end-of-year documentation. Review and reflect with your team – what went well? What is in my control to do better? What do we know for sure that we can still do? What can we for sure not do? Everything feels unknown, but you might be surprised at what you do know. Taking time to write these things down will help us find the patches of stable ground on which we can start to build a (flexible) foundation for the year.
Being part of the solution
SLPs are in a unique position to make recommendations, ask for what they need, and let others know what they can offer. We bring critical thinking skills and invaluable clinical judgment to the teams we are a part of. This year, more than any other before, teams will have to try new things, evaluate, reflect, and adjust. Being an active part of this process will give us more control over what our jobs look like. We can be strong advocates for scheduling, workspace, PPE, and workload, all of which will allow us to prioritize services to kids and their needs.
If there has ever been a time to be straightforward and transparent with our team and supervisors, that time is now. Every team member, from senior admin on down, is reinventing their own wheel right now, leaving little bandwidth for much else. Communicating our concerns and priorities so that there is no room for misinterpretation will allow those with whom we are communicating know where we stand and how we intend to move forward with what’s important to us. We don’t have any control over how what we say will be received, but we can rest easier knowing that we’ve unambiguously communicated our stance.
Above all else, I am going to do my best to stay flexible, knowing that there will be change. Some of those changes will positively impact the things that aren’t working, but some of them will force changes to the things that are working well for me. I know that will be frustrating, but I am going to return to this list again and again and remind myself to do what I can and let go of the rest.