Recently released from the throngs of graduate school, I sprinted straight toward the public sector to gleefully earn my second-rate salary. Within days, I swallowed my mother’s accurate prophecy — my job as a school-based speech-language pathologist was hard. It’s been a decade and a half, and I have tirelessly existed at the front lines of many public schools. Under the glow of fluorescent lights, I have witnessed moments of a school day that rattle my core:
1. A SLP comes earlier than the start of the school day to have a social skills group with students—because it’s the only time it can happen.
2. A SLP changes the life of one student by giving him the confidence to speak up in class.
3. A SLP sits outside her campus at 9pm to complete a report because she needs access to the paperwork system that is only available on school grounds.
4. A SLP puts on a theatrical performance for his entire elementary campus because he knows no limit to his role.
5. A SLP helps a child say, “I love you,” to his mom for the first time.
There are approximately 82K speech-language pathologists working in the schools. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 21% of children in special education receive speech/language/fluency support. That’s approximately 1.4 million children. Public schools must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to every single student.
• One out of every four children lives in poverty (that’s making less than $24,250 for a family of four). School-based SLPs serve those students.
• About 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). School-based SLPs serve those students.
• Approximately 4.4 million children speak another language other than English in the home. These children attend public schools, and school-based SLPs serve them.
Now, let’s talk about the noise. A SLP told me once, “I thought the not-so-good SLPs worked in the schools.” Another time, an entire graduate program looked at me when I asked, “Who wants to go into the schools?” Not one graduate student raised her hand. When I questioned their response, they said, “There’s too much paperwork. I don’t want to work alongside other professionals. I won’t make as much money.” I am not quite sure how this happened, but the current perspective regarding our school-based SLPs is inaccurate.
To work in the public sector is to support all children. School-based SLPs must possess the breadth and depth to serve children. Today, I want to honor our school-based speech-language pathologists. So, friends, I want to talk to you.
Please put a bubble in your mouth and listen.
I see you.
I see you getting to school at 6:45am to make sure you are set up for the 7:30am bell.
I see you working through your lunch to hold a Lunch Bunch group for your students.
I see you spending your salary on therapy tools because the school cannot afford more.
I see you drowning in paperwork to prepare for your IEP meeting.
I see you getting down to your student’s level and letting him know that he can do it.
I see you reaching out to your families from diverse backgrounds — and
I see you speaking to them in the language of kindness.
I see you staying after school to give additional support to your students.
I see you clapping the loudest as your students walk across that stage to get their diploma.
I see you championing your student with unique gifts and allowing him to be the best him.
I see you teaching about compassion.
I see you crying because, at times, it is too much.
I see you give and give and give some more.
I see them, too.
I see the students learning.
I see the students taking pride in their efforts.
I see the students living up to the high standards you set.
I see the students feeling safe when you enter a room.
I see the students believing in your proud words.
I see all of this because you are his speech-language pathologist.
I see all of this because you are her champion.
I see all of this because you made the right choice to work in the schools.
I see your awesomeness.
I see your love.
I see your meaningful work.
I see your great worth.
I see the IMPACT you make.
I see you, SLP.
I see you.
I thank you.
So, hail to our school-based SLPs. You have earned our respect, and it is the time for us to back you up. We will push harder to advocate for your needs. We will ensure that you have the resources needed to support young brains. We will shout your praises louder. It’s time. And, because I believe in the power of those who grace the laminate floors of our locker-lined hallways, I will be the last person standing and cheering for the greatness that public education yields.
Come join this party of almost 90K SLPs and students. It’s starts at 7:30am every weekday, and all are invited. Come dressed ready to work, ready to keep up and ready to make the biggest, most public, impact. Dear, SLPs, what is the best part of being a school-based SLP?