If you don't like your fate, change it!

I know I've told some of you about this but I thought I'd share it again. Just 6 months ago, I made a big change in my career path as a speech/language pathologist.

For 4 years I had been working for the largest school district in my state. I can sincerely say that my experience there, as a brand-spankin-new SLP, was invaluable. I owe so much to the many SLPs who taught me the ropes. Yes, at times I felt like I was thrown into a maze with a blindfold and asked to find my way out, preferably doing a series of cartwheels or other acrobatics of choice. But somehow, with the help of many friends and colleagues, I found my way through that daunting maze of scheduling, IEPs, laws and regulations, therapy techniques, and organization, and even came out with a few clumsy somersaults. I loved working in the schools with the opportunity of approaching therapy in so many different contexts. I might have stayed with the district forever, if not for the economic downfall of the country, which highlighted some issues.

You see, most people can expect some sort of increase in pay for years of experience. But in my unfortunate timing, every year that I worked for the district, there was a budget cut in education. So we took cuts in pay (in the form of furlough days) and freezes in pay-steps. Funny enough, my trend in yearly pay showed a gradual decrease every year. I was "okay" with it. Really, I didn't go into the profession for money. But then I had a baby and went part-time. And that's when I started feeling abused by the system. I was expected to work extra hours every week (therapy hours, not prepping hours) "for the good of the students" (direct quote from a district meeting). I was required to attend meetings without getting paid for them, even though the full-time SLPs sitting right next to me were getting paid to attend. I was not getting benefits or retirement. Most importantly, while I was only working 2 days per week, my caseload was almost as high as a full time SLP in most states. It wasn't fair to me, or my students. But despite all the negatives, I really did like my job. When the end of the school year was near I requested a decrease in hours for the next year. This was attempt to decrease my caseload size. The district denied any decrease in hours. That was what convinced me to at least try to find another option.

I spent hours making and delivering resumes, writing emails, calling, even flat-out walking in and introducing myself to prospective employers. It was slow and there wasn't anything very promising, so I settled with the idea that I would just stay at the district. I guess I could hope for a better situation if the economy ever recovered. I enjoyed a fabulous summer off with my baby boy. Then 3 weeks before the school year was to begin I started getting calls and emails for other jobs. A month later I had multiple job offers. I was able to choose an environment that was better suited for me and my therapy style. I was able to negotiate my own contract.

It wasn't easy, in fact it was seriously hard! But I managed to change my situation to a much happier one. I was reading my journal from last year and I am amazed comparing my entries from last year to this year, how much of an impact this change has made on my life. I am so much happier in my new situation.

I think it's a valuable life lesson in itself. If you don't like your current situation in life, you have the power to make changes for yourself. I'm not saying go crazy and quit your job or ditch your life partner to go frolic in a meadow of flowers. What I'm saying is, step back and decide if change is necessary. It might be something as simple as a reminder of why you got into it in the first place. Or you might need to make steps toward more drastic changes. Those decisions are up to you. Life is about choices after all. But it's nice to know that sometimes, those choices really do lead to a happier you.

Here's hoping that we all find a happier version of ourselves as we weave through this crazy thing called life.

*FYI: The title of this post is a quote from the musical AIDA. Bonus points for those of you who got that reference.


Ruth Morgan said...

Great post! Our state has had the same series of budget cuts resulting in the same thing as your state. It's a bit harder to change, though, if you are vested in the retirement system.

Kristen Miller,M.A.,CCC-SLP said...

Love your honesty and refreshing insight in realizing it is up to you to make sure you are in a happy place : - ) It is very difficult to be in a helping profession when you are being taken advantaged of by your employers : ( I think your post is an excellent reminder of why we need to respect ourselves and each other enough not to allow that to happen!! Your little girl will reap the benefits of your tough but ultimately great choices.

Lindsay said...

I loved your post, I'm glad you shared it.

Alissa Holloway said...

Annie... I just stumbled onto your blog via Kim Lewis' blog on Activity Tailor. She featured this blog post and just recently featured one of the projects I have been working on. I saw your familiar face and decided to check out your blog. I loved this post and am glad you found an environment you liked to work in. My employment path was very similar to yours. I too cut down to part time in the school district while my caseload continued to grow (I had almost 100 kids on my caseload working only 2 days a week). It was frustrating/exhausting and I felt my focus on my students dwindling as I could barely keep up with the paperwork. The only problem was that I did love my job - no matter how frustrating it was. That was what led me to starting my private practice and I love it. It has been the most rewarding experience ever. Anyway - sorry for the long comment but it would be fun to catch up sometime since we have had such similar experiences. I just started my own blog as well (www.speechchick.com) so you should check it out sometime. Hopefully one day it will be as polished as your blog.

Alissa Holloway