I work with wonderful speech-language graduate interns from a great program (University of North Carolina). These interns help me a lot and I try to help them. They come with a variety of skill levels---some have literally no skills (1st year) while others are nearly ready to graduate. This letter is addressing not the clinical skill level, but other areas which are not usually measured heavily on their evaluation forms.
Dear Speech-Language Graduate intern!
For the record, I love graduate speech interns working in my elementary school office. You all bring fresh ideas, current research, enthusiasm, and desire to do good work. This rubs off onto me! You help me be a better speech pathologist, and I'm grateful! Some of you come from other professions--I've worked with students who were in business, who were eye therapists, and who were artists. I've worked with students who were mothers, and some who had just left their own mothers. You are all very interesting and very smart. You have to be smart to get into the top notch program you are in now! You are, in fact, in a higher rated program than the one I graduated from, with lots more opportunities to do different things. I personally would like to take some of the classes you are currently taking, and I heard that some of you took a 'speech trip' to Guatemala. Take me with you!
For all of your smarts and enthusiasm, I do have a few tips to help you through the practicum experience. This list is based on what I've observed collectively---most of you do fine in most areas! No one is perfect, though, so these are general tips to make your practicum experience an even better one!
1. You actually may not want to ever work in a setting such as mine (elementary school). I get it! My life plan was to not work in a school---life plans don't always work out.
The practicum setting is what it is----you must show enthusiasm on your face when you arrive! I want to work with someone who wants to work with me. Force yourself to look like my school is the coolest practicum site ever and where you want to spend your career!
2. You may actually never want to work with children. You may really not like children.......however, when you are with a child, you need to act like that child is the most special person and the most wonderful person ever. You need to be five times more enthusiastic than you actually feel. If the child thinks you like being with him, then he will be reinforced by what you are wanting him to do.
3. We all have our 'stuff'.....in my case, I have car problems, four sort-of-grown kids, ants in my kitchen, sick relatives, gluten issues, fatigue..... the list goes on. You have your 'stuff' too. I understand; however, my problems are not your problems; and your problems are not my problems. We are in a professional relationship, so we need to focus on the job at hand.
4. Dress professionally. Cover midriffs, and don't show all of your distracting tattoos.
5. Show up to this practicum site in a timely manner.
6. Show initiative! During 'down time', please don't sit at the little therapy table and look at me expectantly. I often have my own work to do, unrelated to what you are doing. You are welcome to go into any classroom, observe, see how a speech kid is doing, make materials, read a therapy manual, or explore Boardmaker. In short, I love independence both with the kids I work with and my graduate interns.
7. Spellcheck your work. No additional comment needed here.
8. Keep track of your own practicum hours. Use a spreadsheet and do this daily!
9. Don't expect me to know all of the answers. I don't! I work with children from all walks of life and with various disabilities. I'm totally amazed all the time by some new disability or new variation on a disability. I don't have the answers----but I problem-solve. You need to learn to do the same. It's not something you learn from a textbook.
10. Plan your lessons and show me the plans. Google docs is a good thing! Write it all out, and share it prior to the school day. It then becomes my responsibility to read your plans.
So.....speech-language graduate interns-----it's not so much the coursework in my setting. Once you have the very basics, it's all about enthusiasm, professionalism, showing initiative, and the nuts and bolts of practicum.
I love you all and I really love it when you tell me that you have your CCCs! I hope you like my setting; I hope you learn something from me. I hope you become successful clinicians.
Ruth Morgan, CCC-SLP