I have been jammin’ to Colbie Caillat’s new album Gypsy Heart and it has some really awesome songs that have spoken to my heart lately. Her latest song “Never Gonna Let You Down” has been a great reminder of the person I want to be for my students and my own family. The song states in the chorus “I’m never gonna let ya down. I’m always gonna build you up. When your feeling lost I will always find you love. I’m never gonna walk away. I’m always gonna have your back.” I began asking myself “Do I build my students up? Do they have confidence in me that I will stay by them through ups and downs?” Those are some tough questions to ask one’s self!
As much as I would like to write that I have never let my students down would be a incredulous notion that I am PERFECT. We SLP’s are supposed to be that light that keeps shining when others want to stop believing in our students. Pretty tall order, huh!? In the depths of my heart, I always want to be the best for my speechies, but I have my days of doubt and frustration. You know those days, right?
Those days when you want to pass the job over to someone else and sit in a corner sulking because the job “just got too hard”. Those days when you planned THE MOST AWESOME lesson plan only to discover that the whole session was going to be about managing a giant tantrum. Those days when you didn’t speak up for your student in that IEP meeting because it would cause tension. Or those days when your little speechie’s teacher has nothing NICE to say about him/her at all. Or even worse, those days when your frustration level with a student’s behavior or lack of interest in therapy makes you snappy and grouchy with all your speechies.
When I have had too many of “those days”, it’s time for me to reconnect with my students, support them through the good, the bad and the ugly . I wanted to share 5 ways you can build up your students, so they know you have their back ALWAYS!
Learn to love the unlovable: I have always said that I LOVE all my speechies, but I don’t LIKE unwanted behaviors. Last year, I worked with a lot of non-verbal students that had short attention spans, moved around a lot and had many behaviors. Some days they loved my activities and some days my grandiose therapy plans were squashed due to lack of interest and behavior. There were days that I didn’t know how to connect with them and the frustration level was elevated to say the least! I had to remind myself to love the little successes and continue to try “new” ideas regardless of the outcomes. By the end of the year, some of my favorite kiddos were the ones that drove me to the edge in the beginning of the year. I had to tell myself a lot that God loves these little ones just as they are and he loves me the same as well.
Know your students: Working with middle school this year has taught me how powerful it can be to make connections with your students. I see their faces light up when I bring in materials that relate to their interests. It shows them that I respect them as people and that I am genuinely listening to them. Figuring out my students triggers for behaviors has also helped me to build them up. Negative behavior makes both parties frustrated and defeated, so I try to watch out for escalations in behavior before it leads to a giant explosion.
Give your students purpose: Most kids feel special and important when they are given jobs. My little ones help me with passing out therapy materials, being the line leader on the way to my room, getting to set up the game for the session and lots more little jobs. With my middle schoolers, I like to let them help me cut out stuff that I am prepping or allow them to choice what they want to work on in speech. Sometimes I have a great lesson planned, but they may have several language arts assignments missing. They seem to like having options especially when it can better help their grades in school.
Validate your student’s feelings: I have this little 1st grader who just doesn’t like having to transition from his classroom to the speech room. It used to make me grumpy and frustrated because I was never greeted with a “Hi Mrs. Clark”. I recently started validating his feelings like “I know you really wanted to stay in class.” or “Yes, it is a bummer to have to leave. I sometimes feel that way too.” When I approached it that way, my student didn’t have another negative comment to make. With middle school, it’s sooooooo important to validate their ideas and feelings. In the beginning of the year, I had many discussions with my students about coming for speech. Many didn’t want to come and I understood completely! Middle school is a social circus and going to speech probably isn’t the coolest activity you can participate on campus. In one particular situation, one of my 7th graders really just didn’t want me to come get her in front of her peers at PE. I was able to validate her feelings by working with her IEP team to find time to take her during her study skills elective. The rest of the year has been a breeze and I think she knows that I have her back!
Praise your students in front of other adults: It was always such an honor when my teachers would tell my parents something positive about me. It felt good to know when adults noticed something great about me. I try to call parents from time to time, just to let them know why I truly enjoy their son or daughter and if I don’t have time over the phone, I send an email or write a little comment in the IEP progress report. Letting their teacher know how hard they worked with the little one in ear shot would pump any kid up!
How do you build your students up? What strategies do you use when you are beginning to feel overwhelmed or frustrated with your students? (315)