This column marks the end of a calendar year as well as the end of my tenure as a column editor for Bilingual Therapies. I can’t believe that it has been three years (January 2005) since John Consalvi, former CEO of Bilingual Therapies, invited me to be the company’s column editor, which I named ¿Qué Tal? (What’s up?). Since I began my charge, I have written 36 columns on various topics that I hoped would be of interest not only to practicing clinicians working with primarily ELL Spanish-speaking students but also, hopefully, to other professionals in the field including current students enrolled in speech and language pathology training programs.
I have enjoyed writing these columns. I have to admit that some required more creativity than others as well as additional thought and research. During these three years, I have received occasional feedback from readers, which has been gratifying.
It is always important to revitalize what we do. I came on board after Dr. Hart Kayser had led the column during the previous three years (2001-2004). Now, it is my turn to leave to enable others to refresh the mission and content of the column. As I am leaving at least temporarily, I thought that it would be inspiring to hear from students in the field who are about to embark on their student teaching or externship experiences. So, I invited them to share their words of wisdom, which I am proud to share with you:
“Starting out in any graduate program can be overwhelming at times, and our field is no exception. My main advice is to remember that, eventually, everything will make sense. Even though it seems like everyone in your class is smarter and more competent than you are, realize that the other students in your cohort probably share the same insecurities and fears. As time passes, you too will be fluent in the ‘jargon’ of our field, and all the new incoming students will feel anxious when they compare themselves to you. Work hard in your classes, but don’t forget to live your life as well. Many of us chose this field because we want to help humanity in some way. However, very often, we end up focusing so much on our books that the common human interaction is forgotten. Don’t lose sight of why you chose this major, because in the midst of studying, projects, and papers, that dream will be a powerful force that will keep you going. ”
“Collaborate with teachers, therapists, and other professionals, letting them know your role in reading and writing. Work together on setting certain goals for your students, such as increasing the foundations of language for reading and define your roles in this process. When assessing a child, remember to examine underlying proficiencies to identify where the breakdown occurs to know how to start helping the child. If you work with an ELL student take a careful language history. Also, observe the child in his/her classroom setting to gain additional insights. Once a better understanding of the child’s difficulties and learning strategies is obtained, work with teachers and other professionals in providing help for the child.”
“If asked to pass on words of wisdom to fellow peers in the undergraduate program for the field of communication disorders and sciences (CDS), I would have to share that the more I read outside of the textbook for a given class, the better I was able to achieve a deeper understanding of the information discussed. For example, reading journal articles about a specific topic presented in class provided more insight into the given topic, explained details about procedures/techniques, and made me aware about the current research that was undertaken. Throughout our graduate classes, professors are asking how to apply the knowledge that we have learned as undergraduates to a clinical setting. Reading journals and case studies aided in this process. Although our professors provide us with a vast amount of information, they cannot tell us everything that we need to know. I am a true believer that the more you read the more you know.”
“One important lesson I have learned during my training is to observe as many SLPs as possible who work in different settings. Not only will those professionals give you hints and tips, but it will also allow you to see the implementation of various techniques and visit several different work settings. Get involved with the National Student Speech-Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) and your state association as well as ASHA, as these associations will provide you with additional support services and educational opportunities. Knowing about resources that are available will enable you to become a better prepared clinician.”
“As a graduate student at San José State University the advice that I would give to other students who are going into the schools and who will be working with the CLD populations, is to get involved and be aware of the importance of a literacy team in your school. Make sure you include the parents and families in the process to ensure that you can get their support in implementing language and academic goals for their children.”
“Always keep in mind your commitment and effort will be rewarded with a great deal of learning.”
“As we go into our student teaching and our externship, I think it is important to feel confident about the things we know, and not to doubt ourselves in front of others. We definitely don’t know everything, but we know a lot. We want to make a good impression and appear competent. However, if we don’t know the answer to something, we should say that we don’t know and that we need help. Don’t be afraid of being honest! When you are working on your student teaching or externship you are still learning. As a matter of fact, you should continue learning throughout your career.”
“I think we need to listen and observe more before we speak and teach our clients. Even when we do speak and teach, we still need to listen and observe all the time.”
“It is important to remember that the essential conditions of everything you do, must be choice, love, and passion. These three important aspects most likely have led many of you to want to pursue a graduate degree in Communicative Disorders and Sciences. Join associations such as NSSHLA and become involved as a member and officer. These organizations will open doors and opportunities where you can network with other fellow speech- language pathologists, and gain more insight into our field. It is important to gain knowledge from the professors, join professional associations, volunteer and/ or obtain part time work in our field. All of these opportunities will allow you to become a more well-rounded, and better prepared clinician.”
“You might feel overwhelmed by the amount of information you are exposed to in the first year of classes, but do not be discouraged. The information you learned will be reinforced and will be used to build upon by subsequent courses and clinical experiences. Persist and you will succeed.”
“As you graduate and enter the work field of speech pathology, it is very crucial to realize and understand that you will be touching many lives. As a leader in your profession, you must work in a collaborative manner with other professionals and your clients to make the difference. Patience and understanding will carry you a long way. Remind yourself that every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it, and autograph your work with excellence.”
“Type your notes and save them in an organized, easily accessible way so that you can use them for reference and in order to study for the comprehensive exams. Only take as many classes as you can discuss, read and write for, because this is how you will learn the information – not by stressing out and cramming. If you are having trouble understanding or are interested in working with a certain population of clients try to observe that population, even if it is not an SLP that you observe. Graduate school is challenging and so is starting a new internship, externship, or career. It is challenging to learn any new task! Finally, some advice provided from a handout on writing anxiety, “most importantly, don’t try to do everything at once. Start with reasonable expectations. You can’t write like an expert your first time out. Nobody does! Use the criticism you get.”
As I am leaving as Editor of this Column, I would like to thank Carrie Slaymaker, Nate Cornish, Evelyn Hall and Heather Ranes as well as the staff at Bilingual Therapies for their support and encouragement throughout this time.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year 2008!
¡Felices Fiestas y Feliz Año Nuevo 2008!