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If You Call Me "Speech Teacher" One More Time

by:  Jenn Alcorn, CCC-SLP 

So what brought me to this post was a conversation I had on Twitter.  I’m not sure how it started, or even where I got involved (it’s actually acceptable to butt in on a convo!) but it came down to SLPs being labeled, treated, and paid like a teacher.  Now.  Backspace.  I have the utmost respect for teachers…gen ed, special ed, music, art, I love you all.  My mom was a fabulous teacher and I am ever inspired by her.  I think teachers are amazing creatures and I could never never never never teach a class of 18 or 20 or 25 kids all day long.  Did I say never?  I really couldn’t.  Teachers probably feel the same way about us….although I do get told pretty frequently “I should have been a speech path!”.  I think they think I must play games all day.  Which I do.  But its more complicated than that, as you all know.  I digress….
I happen to work in a district where I am considered a teacher.  I am paid like a teacher.  I get no stipend for holding my CCC’s and no funds to pay my licensure or certification or CEU’s.  I am thankful I do not have to hold teacher certification, as some of my other SLP friends do.  I’m evaluated like a teacher.  I have a caseload of around 65, am a member of my school’s RTI team, have a revolving door of people to help, and never seem to have enough time to do many things I want to.  However, I love my job.  I am lucky enough that I get paid to do what I love.  It brings me incredible amounts of joy.  But sometimes I wonder…usually after someone calls me the speech teacher… am I shortchanging myself working in this setting?  Am I doing enough?
The plain and simple fact is:  we are not teachers.  I do not have an education degree.  I do not hold a teaching certificate.  I did not know a thing about curriculum and standards and literacy centers until I started working.  I am an SLP.  I know ASHA, the Big Nine, acronyms for a million dx tests, phonetic symbols, treatment plans, cranial nerves, and how to make any person say any sound in the English language.  I know what dx means.  And tx.  Point is, my skill set is different. I sometimes joke with teacher friends that I don’t teach, I pathologize (said with a dash of sassy, of course).   Fighting this battle almost seems never ending.  I know a lot of SLP’s don’t mind being called the speech teacher.  I am not one of those.  I do not think any of us should be.
I know the policy differs from state to state…even district to district.  I have friends in other counties in Florida that must have their speech-language teaching certificate to practice.  We definitely need more uniformity. It just is crazy that there are different sets of expectations when I cross a border…whether it’s county or state.
I read a great blog post recently on advocacy by a fabulous SLP, Mary, over at Speech Adventures.  Her thoughts on advocating for ourselves as far as our workload, spill over into this situation.  We have to continue to educate others about what we do and who we are.  Command the respect that we deserve.  I think the complacency that occurs is because we are tired.  We work hard and wear too many hats.  We like to help and do everything we can to make everyone happy. It seems like such a battle that isn’t as important as the 4 IEP’s I have to write and the lesson plans I need to make and the Medicaid billing I’m behind on.   But it is.  It’s important.
I am not asking for my name in lights on the school billboard.  I don’t think I am any better or more important than anyone else in the building.  I just want my title, the one I worked so hard for and earned in the master’s program that was required of me to get national certification so I can be here to play the games that make our children better communicators.  That’s all.
I would love to hear your comments on this one…  Are you considered a teacher in your district?  Are you ok with being called the speech teacher?  If you don’t work in the schools, what is your opinion of all of this?
Featured Contributor:  Jenn Alcorn of Crazy Speech World
Jenn Alcorn is a fifth year, school based Speech-Language Pathologist in Florida.  She currently works with students from grades PK to 8.  Jenn is also the author of the

PediaStaff hires pediatric and school-based professionals nationwide for contract assignments of 2 to 12 months. We also help clinics, hospitals, schools, and home health agencies to find and hire these professionals directly. We work with Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, School Psychologists, and others in pediatric therapy and education.


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