Be the Change...

I originally wrote this post for Felice over at The Dabbling Speechie as part of her Monday Motto series.  I thought that with the start of school this week for myself and a lot of you, it may be a good time to share this post here.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."  -Mahatma Gahndi

Working as a school based speech-language pathologist can be really hard sometimes.  Our caseloads are huge, the students have so many different and diverse needs, and the paperwork (oh, the paperwork)!  But, seeing my kids make gains in any of their goal areas just makes my day all the better.

Getting kids to make gains in their goal areas is change.  We help make changes every day.  Nothing gives me more joy that hearing from a former student or parent that I helped make a change for the better in someone's life.

Another difficult part about working in the schools is at times it gets a little negative.  Teachers and staff are overworked, and at times under appreciated.  This can lead to some negativity.  I have heard people say that they won't go into the teachers lounge because it is too negative.  I haven't heard this at just one school, but rather, at every school I have worked at.  I do go to the teachers lounge.  I find it to be a great time to connect with other staff and teachers which in the end, I believe, helps our students. The one thing I do try to do when I am in the teachers lounge is to not engage in negative talk.  It is so easy to get sucked in- trust me it has happened to me.  But I thought, if I want to see a less negative teachers lounge, maybe I should be the change first.

Now when I go into the teachers lounge, I go in positive.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be Pollyanna throwing rainbows and glitter all around the room, but I don't get sucked into the really negative discussions.  I understand that people need to vent, and that is ok.  I just don't engage when the conversation goes in a negative, absolutely not constructive way.  I try to find a positive, or provide an idea that may help.

One last way that I try to be the change every day is in the hallway.  Every day at my school I stand at the entry hallway with two or three other staff and greet students as they come into school.  I get to see these energetic beings bounce in every day mostly with smiles on their faces.  Sometimes, however, we get some really sad friends come into school.  We don't know what has happened before they came in that day.  To be the change, we try to greet as many students as we can.  I can't even count how many kindergarten hugs and fist bumps we get!  But, it is those students who don't come in with a smile that we can actually make a big difference with.  I can't even tell you how many times we have greeted a student with a frown on their face and then stopped to talk with the student.  Many times something little has happened either on the bus, in the car with a sibling, or just a generally rough morning.  Letting our little friends get it out many times helps turn that frown around, and they bound away to their class ready to start their day.  Other times, we find out about really bad things that have happened.  This is so hard, but we are able to find them help in the way of their teacher, principal, or other staff that can help them for more serious situations.

I know that these 10 minutes in the morning aren't "in my contract" but I wouldn't change them for anything.  The days when I have a meeting or something else going on at the time the bell rings, I miss my little friends.  What I have realized is that I am not the change, they are.  They help me so many days when I have come in with the weight of family things in my head.  They help me smile on tough days.

I have now come to realize that the reason I have been so drawn to this quote is that I feel like we all live it every day.  Every day we have a chance to "be the change."  Whether it is by working on therapy goals, bringing some positivity to a discussion, or simply helping bring a smile to someone's day.  Big or small, we can all be the change.

5 Tips for Progress Monitoring for Speech and Language Skills

Progress monitoring is something that can haunt you all year. In the past, I have felt like I was constantly scrambling at progress report time, trying to scrounge up data that I had taken to present on my reports. When I started out, I didn't think ahead to how I would compare this data over time to show the growth that I knew I was seeing. Now, I have realized that when I use the same tool each time I progress monitor, I can get a much better picture of how my students are learning and changing over time. Here are 5 tips for getting great progress monitoring data:

1. Be Consistent
I think this one is pretty important.  When I am doing progress monitoring, I want it to be a snapshot that I can compare with another snapshot.  Whenever possible, I try to use the exact same items when progress monitoring.

For story retelling or answering questions about stories, I try to stay consistent with the types of stories that I use.  For example, I may use a Fall Matt and Molly story in September, and then use a different Winter Matt and Molly story in November or December.  Because the stories are very similar in their style, I am not worried that the results will be radically skewed.  I know that there will be 10 yes/no questions and 10 wh questions that all target similar details in the stories.  There are four pictures, and simple text, which make these great for early story tellers.

For articulation, I use items from my Articulation Progress Monitoring Kit.  With these pictures, I can use the exact same target words, and watch progress over time with the exact same words.  This has helped me out tremendously.

2. Don't teach to the test 
The last thing I want to do is completely skew my data into showing growth that isn't really there.  I may work on synonyms as a goal.  If I only focus on the same 10 synonyms over the course of 8 weeks, chances are pretty good that my student will make some pretty good progress on those 10 words.  I don't want to only focus on those words if I am going to be tracking data over a whole year.  I may focus on 10 words in those 8 weeks, but my progress monitoring will not be only those words.  I will have a set of possibly 25-30 words that I will progress monitor over the year.  As the year goes on, it will show progress over time.  If I only progress monitor the words that I teach those 8 weeks, my data will probably always show 80% or greater accuracy.  I won't be able to show progress that way.

3.  Make yourself a progress monitoring schedule
I like to put progress monitoring right in my planner.  I simply remind myself that I have to progress monitor my students during that week (typically the week before my reports are due).  When I plan it out this way, I am less likely to miss a student because of possible missed sessions.  I will still have time to grab the student if I miss them.

4.  Use what you have
Progress monitoring doesn't have to be fancy.  A great example is when I work on increasing sentence length, working on pronouns, or working on verbs.  I have a set of Autism and PDD Photo cards for WH questions that I love to use to target a variety of goals.  I made a simple chart for the What Doing section of these cards.  When I want to progress monitor, I simply pull out my cards, and check off the table as I go through the cards.  On the top of the page, I write what my target goal is.  For example, sometimes I may work on the pronouns he, she, or they.  For another student, I might work only on the verb +-ing structure.  I can use the same cards for multiple reasons, as long as on the top of the page, I make sure I know what the goal is.  If you have these cards and would like to use this chart, you can get it HERE.

5.  Keep it simple!
No need to make this difficult on yourself!  Follow the above tips to help you keep it simple.

You can follow this linky to grab a lot more tips for how to progress monitor!