Working in public schools has many pros. I currently work in a school and I am LOVING it! After considering all the pros and cons, it works best for me at this point in my life.
For MUST HAVE Material recommendations, don't miss...Speech Pathology Resources: Schools
Schools offer a FANTASTIC schedule compared to other settings. Summers off, holiday breaks including government holidays, and no weekend work. Matching my little ones schedules is important to me right now.
* I will make a side note here - I don't take work home with me. I just don't! I do the best that I can while at work and I am very efficient with my planning and report writing. It might not be perfect but it is the best I can do. This balance is crucial for me and I make it priority. Nothing is more important to me than my family time. If you take work home, then well, you will be working weekends :(
2. Team Environment
Compared to other settings I have personally worked in, professionals seem to be the most collaborative in schools. A speech pathologist in schools will be part of a grade level team, a student's personal IEP team, the special education team, and the speech pathology department team. If you become an active member on each team, you can really get a lot of out it. You can bounce ideas off others, learn from other professionals, and have the power to really help each student.
3. More evidence of carryover
Targeting goals in the classroom increases generalization of skills. This is missing from private practice and outpatient rehab. Also, being part of a team helps students make faster progress. Teachers and therapists are all working on the same or similiar goals. Each professional knows how to support each student's goal through use of individualized level of supports. It is pretty great to see!
4. No Productivity!
This one speaks for itself! Productivity is very stressful and can hurt your paycheck. If you have low productivity one day, you have to clock out and wages are less for that pay period. It is unfortunate that "free" time can't be used for team collaboration or reading up on the research.
This one is great IF your school caseload is manageable. If your caseload is too high, well, then, you are being very productive. However, if there is a field trip, assembly, and designated team time in a school, you don't have to clock out. You can use that time for billing, paperwork, or connecting with colleagues about students.
5. Overall, less stress
This is PURELY subjective. Currently, my job in the public schools has been the least stressful compared to all my other jobs. I have amazing co-workers and a manageable caseload. I love the age of the students and that most of my students are bilingual. A combination of all this has lead to less stress. This might not always be the case tough...
6. Working with children
Who would have thought (not grad school me) that my passion is working with children? But, it is! This is a BIG plus for me! I LOVE the energy of children. I love how learning can be so natural and inherently fun for them. I LOVE helping students develop strong communication skills and then seeing how they flourish in the classroom and in their social relationships. It is interesting, challenging, and rewarding for me.
IEP meetings, screening students, domains, evaluations, re-evaluations, collecting data....the paperwork in schools is lengthy and tedious. There is a lot of red tape, boxes to check, and specific formats to use.
Personally, I can't stand it! It is my least favorite part of working in schools. I understand the necessity of it but it doesn't make me like it. I'm not good at it. I always forget to check a box and I ALWAYS have a type. I would much rather spend my time working with students and helping out my teams.
2. Less flexibility with assessment
Formal assessments only happen every three years. I understand the reasoning behind it and even agree with it. However, I like to use formal testing occasionally to assess progress and collect data on various areas of need to help create new goals. I KNOW that assessing progress in the classroom, comparing skills to same age peers, and collecting data over time provides valuable information but sometimes I just like a standard score. Sorry.
3. Update goals only once per year
I prefer to update goals as frequently as needed and this can happen before the one year annual review. In schools, you create one main goal for the year and then 3 benchmarks to help measure progress. So much thought is given to this one goal and I find this guessing game very annoying. No one can know for sure how long students can take to achieve their goals, and then there is pressure to make sure each student meets all their goals before the annual review. Therefore, sometimes the goals are too easy and some are too hard. For language especially, it is hard to predict and write an accurate goal that spans one whole year. Student's language skills are complex and change based on a new classroom, levels of supports, etc...
Now you CAN update or change a goal at anytime but this requires meetings and a scheduling nightmare. It isn't easy.
4. Large treatment groups
Therapy groups can have 4 or more students in ONE group. Due to schedules and other factors, some children are grouped together who have VERY different goals. This BOTHERS me a lot! It takes a lot of skill to keep behaviors under wraps with large groups AND still work on each student's individual goal when some students are working on articulation, some are working on language, and some are working on fluency within a 25 minute time period. It takes a lot of energy and planning and it is not the best for the students.
5. Less contact with parents
Contact with parents tends to be limited to IEP meetings and conferences. This is my LEAST FAVORITE PART. Parents are so essential for progress. In schools, it is awesome to have access to teachers and school curriculum materials and be able to support a child in a classroom, but parents really need to be involved too. In private practice, the weekly check-ins with parents to discuss progress, home strategies, and changes in cueing techniques can make all the difference.
Do you more pros or cons to share? We would love to hear them!