Today, Jenna Rayburn from is here to talk about one way she left her "SLP Comfort Zone."  (Check out other posts in the series here.)

Through blogging on Speech Room News, I get the chance to talk and work with other professionals from behind my computer. A few years ago, my state organization asked me to speak at our conference. Stepping out from behind the computer and onto platform in front of people was a big step out of my comfort zone. Stepping out of my comfort zone doesn't take much for me. I get very anxious about change and very nervous being in front of groups to speak. For me, overcoming these things has been a rewarding challenge. I rarely look back on new activity and think, "I wish I hadn't tried that." Speaking in front of groups was one of those times I'm glad I took the leap. Before presenting, I ran through an internal dialogue with myself. "I'm just a regular SLP." "What can I say that is worth the time of my fellow SLPs?" Maybe you've done the same thing. There are two major reasons to take the leap.

  Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

 ONE:: To make myself a better SLP. Presenting at a conference or presenting to your local SLPs can help you grow professionally. It challenges you in a way that doesn't happen in your day-to-day job. If you're presenting information to colleagues you're going to put your best foot forward. If you're preparing for that in a presentation you'll naturally carry that attitude into therapy too. Preparing to present can help you improve your therapy.

 TWO:: To make other SLPs better. Remember that things that come naturally to you may not come naturally to others. Your skill set is unique and your caseload is unique. SLPs go to conferences to learn practical treatment and assessment ideas. They want to hear from SLPs who are working every day. You can add value to their therapy. Even just one idea could make a major impact another clinician. Start small. Try giving a presentation to the other SLPs in your district. Then branch out to your local conferences! Before you know it, you could be speaking at ASHA!

- Jenna

One of the things I realized when I was preparing for my first evaluation this year was that I didn't have a good way to remind my students of what we work on in therapy or why.  I always try to talk about it at the beginning of the year with my students, but don't really think about it much during the rest of the school year.  When I was reading through the criteria that I would be evaluated on, that was one of the areas that stood out to me that I could improve on.

So, I decided to spend a session with each of my students to go over their goals and talk about why they come to speech-language therapy.  I came up with this idea:

I wanted to have something that each student could personalize, and then be able to refer back to later.  I had a space on one of my walls that I had thought about updating (previously my pirate ship "sailing on the sea of sounds"), and decided this would be a great place for it.

I had the students each fill one of these out.  Some needed more help than others, and only a couple remembered all of their goals.  We then spent time talking about why these goals were important, and then I let the students fill in the "why" section.  (For my youngest students, I helped them write this part.)  It was a very enlightening session for both my students and myself, as I learned what they thought of therapy, and they learned the reasons why they come to see me.

I plan on adding my new students to the wall as they join me throughout the year, and have each student fill out a new one next year with their new goals.  I'm really happy with the way this turned out, and plan to continue this in years to come!

In case you would like to do something similar, you can download this freebie from my TeachersPayTeachers store and make it your own!  I cut each one out after the students were done and mounted it to colored paper for more of an impact on my white wall.  I chose different shades of green and blue papers, and made sure to have enough extra for any new students that come on my caseload in the future.  I them laminated each one, and used sticky tack and/or sticky clips to attach them to my wall.  This would also work well on a bulletin board, or you could keep them in each student's working folder.  (Note: For privacy reasons, I would not display these in the hallway.  Mine are in my therapy room, and there are no names on them.)

What do you think?  Is this something you might use in your therapy?

On social media, I see many of my fellow SLPs feeling burned out by their jobs, overloaded with stress, and trying to find time to keep up with it all.  You see pictures of other SLPs with fabulous lessons planned for their students, with gourmet-looking dinners served seemingly every night.  How do they do it all????

I'm often asked myself how in the world I find time to create the therapy materials that can be found in my TpT store - some of which can take 50 hours or more to create - as well as have a family and a full time job.

Want to know my secret?  I DON'T do it all!  I'm not perfect by any means, and I still get stressed out sometimes - but what I have learned is the importance of being able to prioritize and say no to things that aren't as important, as well as asking for help when I need it.

My family - my husband, Kyle, and our cats - is a priority to me.  Since my husband is a teacher, we both know how exhausting the school year can be, and are on the same page about what needs to be done during the school week.  He also has his own hobbies, so we can quite happily spend time together on the couch, working on the computer (me) or playing video games (him), or both of us working on projects for school.

Reducing what stress I can and making things easier for myself is also a major priority.

When I was looking for a new job a few years ago, I specifically looked for a position with a reasonable caseload size that was within a shorter commute of my previous job (which was an hour away).  I also was looking for a population I enjoyed working with, preferably a typical elementary school.  I knew these factors were the most important in reducing my stress level and leaving me more energy to do the things *I* wanted to do outside of school.  I ended up taking a job that paid less than my original job, but for me, it was definitely worth it.

Finding a good job fit can take some time, and you may end up in some less-than-desirable positions as you wait, but I think it is one of the components to being happy in life overall.  If you are in a position that is less than ideal and can't move right now, learn to advocate for yourself.  If you are facing a ton of issues (Are there too many students on your caseload?  Do you need more time to get those ten evaluations done?  Are you assigned extra school duties when you really need that time to do Medicaid billing?), come up with some potential solutions and take them to your boss or administrator.

Another way to reduce stress is to set limits for yourself.  I go in to work 45-60 minutes early (I live across the street now, which definitely makes things easier!), since I'm ready to go, and I focus better in the morning.  I do my best to get done what has to be done in this time, as well as my plan time during the day.  I very rarely stay after school, because that is my time for home, family, and second job (my TpT store, blogging, etc.).  Does that mean I don't always have beautifully scripted, original lessons with tons of new materials each time?  Yes.  But that's not necessary to do my job well.

I do take the time to know my students and their goals well, and have all sorts of materials in my room to pull off the shelf and use in therapy.  I also can't afford to spend ten hours on every evaluation report that I write - so I've learned to create report templates, how to be be concise, and to block off longer chunks of time in my schedule to be more productive.  (Seriously, if you can write evaluation reports in ten minute chunks, more power to you!  I need at least 40-50 minute time slots to both test individual students or make a good start on a report.)  This means sometimes I have to have slightly larger groups than I would like, or student groupings that aren't my favorite, but it's also necessary for my sanity.

I do obviously make some of my own materials, but I can't do that for all of my students for every session.  My fellow sellers on TeachersPayTeachers have made that job SO much easier - I could spend every hour of every day making new materials for all of my students, or I could set a limit for myself, and spend a few bucks to get some great new materials right away.

There will ALWAYS be more than you can get done at work, no matter how much time you put in.  Decide for yourself what is the most important, and how to accomplish that in the most efficient way possible.  Don't stress yourself out over everything else.  Do you put off writing reports and doing paperwork until the last minute, then find yourself at school late the night before they are due?  Try setting a goal for yourself to come in ten minutes early every day that week, and use those ten minutes wisely.  (Turn off your phone and internet if you have to!)  Do you dread progress report time, because it takes forever to look at all your data?  Set up a new system for yourself - try a new binder to organize your things, separate your students' records by grade or days of the week that you see them, use something like my progress monitoring tools to keep data over time, try to avoid scheduling IEP meetings for the week progress reports are due, etc.  Ask a friend at work or another SLP to help you come up with new ideas or solutions to help you get things done more efficiently.

I set limits for myself at home, too.  I don't cook a full dinner every night during the school week - the crockpot and freezer meals make things so much easier!  (Also, kudos to my mom, who is awesome at making extra meals and leaving them in our freezer!)  When I do cook, I try to make sure there are leftovers to carry over for lunches, or to make my own freezer meals for later.  And yes, our house can get pretty unorganized during the school week.  But you know what?  The world doesn't end because of a messy kitchen counter, I promise!

My last secret?  Give yourself grace.  No one is perfect, and no one can accomplish everything.  Sometimes, you are going to need a night off, where you order delivery or have cereal for dinner and go to bed early without writing those progress reports or doing that load of laundry.  Sometimes, you're going to need to take that sick day just to sleep.  It's ok!  You - and your family - have your own needs, and you have to pay attention to that.

Tell me, how do you "do it all?"  What are your tips and tricks to make life easier?

Hi everyone! I'm Dr. Lyndsey Zurawski from Speech to the Core and I'm sharing how I stepped out of my comfort zone! Thank you Natalie for hosting a great series.

This is my 10th year as a practicing SLP. 10 years! To me, that's a milestone. Around my 7th year (think---7 year itch), I started wondering what else I wanted from our profession. I knew I loved being a SLP. Not just a SLP, but also a school-based SLP. The one area, that I take issue with, working in the school setting is there's not a lot of room for growth. I was beginning to get frustrated. Frustrated with my school, my caseload, my "no room" for growth, and not knowing exactly where I would be "5 years from now". I decided to apply to Nova Southeastern to the Doctor of Speech Language Pathology program (SLP.D); to my surprise and delight I was accepted. I met my husband at the same time I was accepted. Thankfully, he was onboard and supportive, although I don't think he actually knew what was in store for the next 3 years of our lives. That satisfied me for a little while. But, then I realized that even receiving my doctorate wasn't enough, I wanted more. 
One year later, I saw an email from ASHA offering a leadership development program. I thought that it sounded interesting! Again, surprised when I was accepted! A little extra information (for those of you that are curious!) about the LDP Program- Each year, ASHA runs 2 LDP cohorts (they change by the year). The year I participated there was the Early Career Professionals (the one I attended) and the School LDP. Last year, there was a health care LDP. The LDP program is set up so that you attend 1 live session either at ASHA Headquarters or during a conference. During this face-to-face meeting you have the opportunity to meet your other LDP cohort members and are placed into "break-out" workgroups. These workgroups become your support system throughout the program. I still keep in touch with the girls in my breakout group along with some others from my cohort. After attending the face-to-face session, every other month there are webinars led by two coaches. The webinar topics range from Emotional Intelligence, coaching, mentoring, leadership, and conflict resolution, amongst many topics. In addition, you are required to develop a leadership project. Your breakout group helps to keep you on track and is used as a sounding board throughout the process. The ultimate goal is to assist you with developing/enhancing your leadership skills to reach your own individual goals. You can apply for the newest LDP Schools by clicking here

A little sample of what my EI results looked like

The ladies in my breakout group!

I believe that participating in this program was the catalyst for change in my professional career. One of the major components of the program is discussing Emotional Intelligence. If you aren't sure what it is, you should Google it! It changed my life! I always considered myself to be "assertive". Turns out, according to my EI, results I was actually less assertive that I thought. One of our assignments was to take our results and discuss them with a mentor. I went and spoke with my principal. It was then, a pivotal learning moment, in which I realized I avoid conflict. I am good at being assertive when things are going my way. But, when things get sticky, I tend to shy away. So... now was the time to change that! Assertiveness here I come! 

In order to graduate from LDP I developed an Inclusion Mentoring and Training (IMAT) Program in my school district. I work in the 11th largest school district in the country. We employ over 380 SLPs (are you thinking, holy cow?!) so, I wanted to be able to tap into the potential of all of the SLPs we have in such a large district. So.... heres where the stepping out of my comfort zone comes in. 

In order to implement my program I needed to speak to my "big boss", the Speech and Language Impaired Program Planner. I scheduled a time to meet with her. But, not only was I wanting to discuss my IMAT program, I also wanted to discuss how I was feeling "stuck". I wanted a change. This is where my assertiveness had to come in. It all worked out, the following school year I became a diagnostician 1 day per week. I was also implementing my IMAT program. The change in my schedule was integral in changing my outlook on my future as a speech-language pathologist in the schools. 
I was granted what I asked for. Now, I'm much more open to asking for what I want. I know that I won't ALWYS get what I want. But, I do know now, that it will always be worth the effort to ask. What's the worst that happens? Someone tells me "no"... oh well! 
Sometimes, we think we know what we want because we're "dreaming" about it. This year I was presented with the opportunity to apply for a leadership position. I applied, but my interview did not go as well as I would have liked. However, I truly believe everything happens for a reason. While I did not get the job (you could see that coming, couldn't you?), I could not be happier in my role as clinician, CF supervisor, mentor, IMAT implementer, PLC leader and so much more! I learned that what I thought I wanted wasn't really what I wanted. I learned so much about myself because I took a leap...while I might have scraped my face on the way down; I'm no worse for the wear. 

To wrap this up... Over the past two years,  my comfort zone has expanded infinitely. I have presented at the state and national level. Co-presented with ASHA Staff, invited to present at the ASHA online Language and Literacy in Elementary Schools, became a blogger, and started developing products on TpT. Oh year, I also received my doctorate. I'm not sure what else our profession has in store for me. But, I do know I can't wait to dive headfirst! I still have my "comfort zone", but I'm not as terrified to take a step out. 

Try stepping out of your comfort zone and see what life has in store for you! I promise there will be at least 1 phenomenal thing out there! 

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