As of the middle of May, I completed my clinical fellowship! I am just waiting on the official notice from ASHA! This year flew by, but I learned a lot.
A little background information for you:
I was in an elementary school setting where I was the only SLP. The school had had 2 SLPs the previous year (one 5 days, one 4 days). This year, they had decided to go down to one. The number of students did not decrease, however. I started the year around 70 students. Holy moly. I knew caseloads were higher across the nation due to budget constraints, but I did not expect that. Needless to say, I somehow figured out a way to see all 70 students in a week. Side note--most of those were not students with IEPs.
One of the first things I had to learn was how to do effective group therapy. At one point, I had to put 6-7 fifth grade students in a group. Fortunately for me, they had similar IEP goals. I also had 5-6 articulation students in a group at some points. That was the hardest for me--how do you come up with an activity where each student gets 100 productions in a half hour?? I learned to speed up games, have students say things at least 10 times, if not more, per turn, and how to do centers.
Along with the large caseload came a large amount of paperwork. I learned to start things early. One of my biggest goals was to not take paperwork home if possible. I learned very quickly that starting IEPs a couple weeks early and working on them slowly during plan times helped accomplish this.
The paperwork forced me to be really good about time management. One of my grad school supervisors told me that this was one of the hardest things to learn. I learned pretty quickly that I could spend a long time looking at TpT during my plan time, or I could write those IEPs. If I wanted time at home with my husband, I would need to write those IEPs at school.
Another thing that saved me in terms of paperwork was relying on my co-workers. We would work together to complete an IEP so that it wasn't just one person writing the whole thing. If I had a few extra minutes to write it, then I would write more of it and visa versa.
I learned to ask questions. I asked a lot of questions. I asked a lot of probably really dumb questions. But that is how you learn, and that is what your CF is for. I learned that assuming things wouldn't get me very far. The state doesn't mess around with its requirements for paperwork, so
Another lesson that jumps out at me is this: you can plan all you want, but sometimes they just don't work out. I would spend hours prepping materials at the beginning, just to have my students complain about it and want to do something else. OR sometimes you plan a great lesson just to have an assembly get planned. I learned pretty quickly that having a cabinet of games and other materials (Super Duper, anyone?) is necessary. Knowledge of what materials are in your closet and what you can whip out on the spot is necessary.
Finally, I learned that a work-life balance is important. Yes, work is important, but so are family and friends. I have seen first-hand how a less than stellar work-life balance can hurt a family. I was determined not to allow that to happen. Having a good balance allowed my stress levels to remain in check. Part of this balance is allowing yourself some days off. My co-worker had to sit there and convince me to take a personal day because I was feeling guilty about it. In the end, it was a much needed day.
So there you have it. I have learned a lot of lessons, some of which I shared above.
What lessons did you learn during your CF?