I loved your training conference, but… I’m quite depressed, ready to leave my job, maybe even my profession. I am a school district Speech-Language Pathologist with an unbearably large caseload.
I just don’t know how we service providers can provide a higher level of service to everyone who needs it.
I see no real solution. Districts will continue to focus on a financial bottom line. Providers will continue to struggle with the decision to stay in their jobs.
We understand the dilemma you face. Pete and I both worked “in the trenches” for many years. Pete was a probation officer, I was a CPS worker, then a psychologist in a community mental health center. We faced issues that are similar to those you describe. Lessons learned…When Pete and I worked in the public sector, there wasn’t much money, much less than now (even with financial shortfalls). I earned $296/month in my first job as a protective services worker.
Lessons Learned: Valuing and Respecting Children and Families
Working in schools is different from working in social services or community mental health or juvenile justice – there is a different mindset and attitude toward children and families.
In the places I worked – social services and community mental health – administrators did not view family members who advocated for children as unreasonable or greedy or wrong headed. The administrators had enormous compassion for our clients and conveyed that compassion and respect to those of us who were new to the field.
I’ve never forgotten the lessons learned from them – to value our clients and treat them with respect, always.
At one point, I worked in a public school system as part of graduate school training. Too often, the attitude of the helping professionals in schools was not helpful. I was surprised at the parent-bashing and parent blaming.
This wasn’t helpful and it seemed to relieve school psychs and school social workers from their responsibilities to act as advocates for children and their families.
School Administrators “Crying the Blues”
You say you don’t know how service providers can provide a higher level of service, even if this is necessary to meet the unique needs of children. Put another way, you are stretched too thin. The solution is clear: the school system needs to hire more service providers. School admins will say, “We don’t have enough $$.” Don’t believe it.
School administrators have been crying the blues for as long as I can remember, and I’m 63 years old. Schools are “cash strapped” in good times and bad times. The problem isn’t insufficient $$ to provide services, but major problems in how dollars are allocated.
I’ll give you an example. As Pete mentioned during the program, we live in a rural county with a population of about 10,000. There are about 1,000 students who attend one of three public schools – an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school.
The high school has about 300 students — and SIX football coaches. But this school system “cannot afford” to have a nurse in each school or enough speech language pathologists, PTs, OTs. How many athletic coaches, speech language pathologists, and school nurses does a school need? I could give you more examples but you know what I mean.
Allocating $$$ Wisely
If the school budget is allocated wisely, with the goal of meeting the needs of students (not the adults who work in the system), there is enough $$. When schools spend too much money on extraneous things, like retreats for administrators and an abundance of football coaches, I’m not surprised that there isn’t enough left to meet the educational needs of the children.
I think the solution needs to come from within or it won’t be accepted. There is power in numbers. People who work in schools have more power than they realize, especially if they bond together in a group, study how funds are allocated, and educate their school board members about what needs to be done differently.
Thanks for writing. Thanks for caring about the kids. You aren’t the enemy. I can’t say that about many school administrators I’ve met, not all but many.