5 New Year Resolutions That All SLPs Should Make
1. Cleanse - I can't think of a better way to start a new year than with a clean work space. With snowballing schedules and staggered milestones, it is all too easy to accumulate clutter - that pile of papers that you dread processing or making decisions about; those conference bags that have mysteriously filled themselves with miscellaneous items. Even the tidiest among us can't escape the fact that some things become junk simply due to the passage of time (come on, you know you've seen the photo cards from the early 90s lying around - the calculator that kids call a cell phone, the perplexing rotary phone, the television with antennas and more border than screen).
- Don't be afraid to purge, especially when you can pass things on to people who might need them. There are many organizations that accept second-hand items (such as Goodwill, local schools, churches...). Remember that you can donate assistive technology (AT) items to United Cerebral Palsy's AT center - they also have a toy lending library.
- For items that you aren't sure you want to part with just yet, make a last-chance box. Put the items in a storage container and place it out of your way. Anything that you don't use during the next 6 moths can be donated in good conscience. Items that you do find you need can stay.
- If you don't have anything specific that you need, take that budget and browse for things that you don't even know you need; I promise they are out there. Some of my most favored materials came from unexpected discoveries in Ross' toy aisle. Which reminds me, don't limit yourself to fancy products. Lakeshore Learning and Super Duper have some wonderful and irreplaceable items, but that doesn't mean that everything needs to be purchased there. Be frugal where can so that you have more resources for those things that are unavoidably expensive.
- Consider keeping a running list that for lack of a better name we'll call the "I need a better way to work on this" list. For example, when you feel like an activity wasn't effective enough for a particular client, or when you don't feel like an activity ran as well as you imagined, try to jot it down. When it comes time to browse, review that list so that it is fresh in your mind. Items that wouldn't normally jump out at you might be perfect for helping the 3-4YO crowd stay engaged and love working on morphemes, or providing per-task reinforcement without being overstimulating.
3. Organize - Along with a new year comes new calendars! There are always ways in which we can better organize how we divide and monitor our time. What can you do to help make this year more manageable than last year? A list of IEP and progress report dates? A color coded system for time commitments? Reorganizing your schedule? Checklists/guidelines/do-to systems? These things can easily get out of hand if you don't periodically keep them in check. Pinterest has a lot of great ideas; I found that this board has many pins for the type of organization that I need to do.
4. Give back - There are endless opportunities to give back in our field, you just need to decide which one is most fitting for you in this next year. You could write a proposal to share your expertise at a professional conference, offer a teacher training to help support your students in class, take on a cause to support, find an organization that needs your time, get involve with CSHA, ASHA, contribute to legislation/policymaking... or any number of other options. Giving back feels good and can help make your work feel more valuable overall. More importantly, you are a valuable member of the community, and people want what you have to offer!
5. Make a plan for CEUs- Continuing professional education is required, which has both good and bad consequences. Time passes quickly enough that the need to meet a deadline sometimes precludes having a choice in the content. Without proper planning, people occasionally end up having to sign up for whatever is available rather than the education that they really want or need. Maybe there is a limit to the number of people your employer will allow to attend a conference simultaneously. In all cases, the early birds get the worm. The best way to ensure that you get to participate in the education that you really want is to plan ahead.
**This tradition of goal making is also a great opportunity for self-reflection. Try to take some time to consider the following and see what can be changed for the better this coming year. Not only does reflective practice help us to become better at what we do, it also aids in making sure that we are on a track that is sustainable as well as rewarding. In order to get on that track, you may need to set personal goals, advocate for yourself, or both.
- Reflect on your performance. Were you distracted, disorganized, sick too often, doing too close to the minimum, burning yourself out trying to do too much?
- Reflect on the compensation that you receive for your work. Do you feel supported at work, valued, fairly compensated and treated like a professional? Is there something more that you need in order to justify the energy and time that you put into your work.
- Reflect on your personal choices. Did you have good balance amongst work, time with loved ones, and quality time for yourself?
We wish everyone a fun and safe time bringing in the new year - and a successful, fulfilling 2015!
You don't have to be great to start - but you have to start to be great