It’s July 10th as I start this and I can hardly believe a new school year is almost upon us! This school year, in particular, has the makings of the most interesting one yet! I’ve been joking that, of course, my “last official” year as a school-based SLP (meaning only that this is the year I become vested and could technically take my money and run! not that I’m actually planning to quit) would be the school year of the apocalypse!
Really though, I’m surprisingly excited, while of course apprehensive, about getting back into the swing of things in a few weeks. There are so many things still up in the air and I’m expecting them to change on a dime, but it seems as though we will have some strange sense of “normalcy” in my district this year, whether that’s in-person therapy or a more structured form of teletherapy. I’m hoping that the summer has given everyone time to work out the kinks we encountered when thrown into the mire back in March.
With all that in mind, I’m starting to think about this school year and some ways that I want to prepare for it. I thought I would share my preparations here with you!
Office + Organization Supplies
I really enjoyed using my Bloom Teacher Planner last year, both as my planner for dates and lesson plans and attendance and data tracking. I did some modifications to the pages designed for classroom teachers to make them work for me. After several months of attempting a digital organization and data tracking system, I discovered that I really am a pen and paper kind of gal. BUT I still want to keep it streamlined, minimal, and less-wasteful. This planner helped me do that! When I started looking this year, I had almost bought another Bloom but decided to shop around a bit first. I landed on planners from Plum Paper. What I really liked about these planners is the ability to personalize it to your tastes. Although some of the features are standard, I was able to not only personalize my cover (one very trivial thing I disliked about Bloom was the bright, graphic covers that were very not me), but also some of the layouts. It began with being able to choose a middle school & high school layout to build off of, rather than a planner designed for elementary students. After that, I was able to add some of my own text, add in additional pages that I can adapt for my needs, etc… Another thing I was able to choose was the size of the planner. My Bloom was very large, which had its benefits, but was also difficult to transport between schools (I’m a traveling SLP). I chose an A5 sized planner this year so that I can easily slip it in my purse or bag. I also appreciate that they are U.S. made and handmade to order. I’ll likely do a full blog post on my planner, as well as how I adapt is as an SLP, once it arrives!
I’ll be writing more about this later, probably when I review my planner, but I’ve decided to take a different approach to data tracking this year. While I’ll use my planner for daily data, I still need a central hub for student data that I can easily use for writing progress reports. Basically, I need to transfer the information in my planner somewhere. In the past, I’ve tried both transferring it to something digital (Excel sheets, Google documents with graphs, PDFs on my iPad, etc…) and to something physical (like printouts of student data pages). Both work okay, but I really am a pen and paper gal AND I’m always traveling between schools, so toting binders of pages around is heavy and inefficient. Because I’m notebook and journal obsessed, I had the thought this year to have a data journal.
I haven’t worked out the kinks yet, but my plan is to use an A5 sized journal to keep notes on each student, as well as keep a section in the back for IEP and meeting notes. I’m working on layouts and such now, but I’m hoping that this will make it easier to keep data on hand at all times. And maybe it’ll feel a bit comfier too since I’m most at home with a journal in my hand?
Clear Face Masks and Shields
I haven’t chosen one yet (there’s a possibility our school will provide some for us), but if left to my own choosing I’m looking to support small business by purchasing this from Etsy (I love the plaid print that reminds me of Burberry!) or this from ClearMask. Jenna has some tips for defogging your mask over on her blog. Of course, I’m also looking into shields. Again, I haven’t chosen anything, but there are fun (and practical) ones available here. From what I can tell, there’s not a ton of difference in protection between shields and masks, but in our line of work, I can see the benefit of having both on hand. For those times that a clear mask/shield isn’t needed, I have loved my fabric mask from Otilia Boutique on Etsy. I misplaced mine for a week or so recently and bought a cheap fabric mask from Kroger. After wearing it for a day, I was done. Thankfully, I found my original mask hiding in a pocket of some sweatpants and didn’t have to re-purchase, but if I had, having 2 of these would be so worth it.
Home Printer and Ink
I had just bought ink for a gifted printer when the schools closed in March and it was absolutely my lifesaver. Although its primary purpose is home printing, I definitely intend to make sure I have ink on hand in case of another closure or reduced access to purchasing ink in the future.
Health + Home Preparation
My personal preparations feel a little strange this year. I’m beginning the steps to try to undo some health problems that have been plaguing me, so I’m working to develop routines that will be helpful once the stress of the school year starts back up. Here are a few things I’m looking into that might be beneficial for you too.
I really, really love my Monk Manual. It’s been extremely helpful in helping me prioritize my time and tasks by the month, week, and day, as well as focusing on things I sometimes ignore, like gratitude and recognizing the parts of my day that went well and the parts of my day that went not-so-well, with meaningful steps to improve. I also like the daily scheduler function (by the half-hour), which I use to record how I actually spend my day rather than how I plan to spend my day. I find this really helpful for accountability to things I really want and need to do (rather than wasting my time on social media). I still use the task checklist to keep up with specific things to be done and just plug a time in next to it if necessary.
That being said, I’m debating whether or not I will buy another in September when my current planner runs out. Monk Manuals are unique in that they are 90-day planners. Though I’ve found it 100% worth it, they are also a bit pricey considering you have to buy them over and over throughout the year. I have 1 more month in my current MM, so I’m going to spend that last month using it in conjunction with my Bullet Journal to see if I can devise a bujo setup that mimics what I love about my MM, but also includes things that it is missing. Whether I decide to buy another MM or DIY my bujo, I’ll continue to use it in conjunction with my teacher planner and Sacred Ordinary Days planner. (I use the SOD planner for my daily Bible reading plan, tracking scriptures that stand out to me on any given day, and keeping up with prayer requests, as well as doing regular examen for planning at more of a “soul level”).
Sunrise and Sunset Rhythms
This one may be a little weird, but I’m trying to get my body to adjust to the natural rhythms of the day in an effort to balance out my health. I spent some time on this website writing down the sunrise and sunset times for each month of the upcoming school year. Instead of making a rigid plan for morning and nightly routines throughout the year, I want to align my plans with the sunrise and sunset. My goal here is to get outside first thing in the morning and set myself up for the day well and then, as much as possible, unwind with the sunset. Writing down the times for the next 10 months was really insightful in helping me notice how daily rhythms change throughout the year. To an extent, our moods, personalities, and health wax and wane with the natural rhythms of the earth. Which is pretty fascinating!
Menstrual and Hormone Tracking and Cycle Charting
Similar to sunrise/sunset rhythms, I’m also paying attention to my cycle and my hormones. The health problems I’m experiencing are, I believe, rooted in some hormonal issues I have. I’ve started learning more about cycle charting with Claire Baker‘s free course and resources and have found it to be a fascinating endeavor. I’m strongly considering taking another of her more in-depth courses over the fall. I’ve also been going through some books on hormones and menstrual cycles including Woman Code, Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, and The Hormone Connection. In addition, I’m utilizing Let’s Get Checked to slowly self-test for some hormonal concerns that, so far, my OBGYN has been unwilling to test (I am, of course, still getting wellness visits and only do a home test if insurance won’t cover something). With this combination of resources, I’m preparing meal plans, daily routines, and supplements to have in place when the school year starts.
Decluttering and Organizing
For the rest of the month, I’m embarking on a declutter and organize spree to get the house in spit-spot shape for when my days are more consumed with work and less consumed with housekeeping. I’ll also be going through the fridge and pantry to start with a relatively clean slate for the new school year. I also want to get the decluttering done while donation centers are open, anticipating the possibility of them closing again at some point in the near future.
Along those same lines, I’m making the appointments that I feel comfortable making to have some of the basic health and self-care upkeep completed around the start of the year. For me, that includes a hair cut and my wellness visit. I’m a bit on the fence on the oral exam still (any thoughts?).
I’ve written pretty extensively on materials suited for teletherapy on my Teletherapy Research and Resources blog post. I’ll be identifying which specifics I need to purchase once I see my caseload for the year and find out who is opting for teleservices and who will be in school (students in my district have the choice).
In line with teletherapy materials, I’m starting to think about what upcoming materials and current materials can be developed both for in-person therapy and virtual therapy. Despite school starting back at least partially in-person, students have the opportunity to opt for digital learning every 9 weeks. Additionally, students (and staff) will be quarantined with exposure to or diagnosis of COVID, meaning I could be performing my job from home (if quarantined myself) or with students virtually, at very short notice. My district has chosen a combination of Canvas and Google Classroom for our virtual teaching this year, so I’m starting to familiarize myself with programs like Google Slides.
I’ve been thinking about investing in Smarty Symbols for years, and I’ve decided this might be the year. I’ve been looking at comparison charts for the various symbol sets (there are SO many of them!) and Smarty seems like the best bet for me as an SLP. I also use FreePik for photos and clip art, but it’s difficult to find representation for some very specific things utilized in speech therapy.
Those are the things I’m getting ready for this school year! It’s hard to believe I return in just under 2 weeks. The summer has certainly flown! What things are you preparing for the school year? Share in the comments or over on Instagram!