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At the start of this past school year, I got a new job. It’s closer to home, allows me to work part time, and is wonderful. Both this job, and my previous job involved some travel. At my old position, two days of the week I did home visits for early intervention. Currently, I am hopping around between a clinic and two schools.
The moving around can be a bit challenging at times. Its hard to really settle in somewhere when I know I’m going to be packing up and heading out within the day or after a few hours. Here’s what I’ve learned so far in my years of living the SLP life on the road.
Maximize the In-Flight Experience
Ha! For me, that means trying to minimize the “wasting time” feeling of driving, and turning it into something than can feel productive. Entertainment counts as productive! I am OBSESSED with podcasts, so that’s my go-to. If you follow me on the ‘gram, I sometimes talk about my favorites there, but my current loves include The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, The Lazy Genius Podcast, How I Built This, and What Should I Read Next. When I used to drive further, I would sometimes do audiobooks as well! Now that my commute is much shorter, I’m thinking it would take me so long to get through a book, I might have trouble keeping up and remembering everything. When I was breastfeeding, I pumped while driving, which I have to admit made me feel like a multitasking rock star. I promise it’s not as scary or dangerous as it sounds–once you have a system, you won’t go back! That could be a whole post in and of itself 😉
Have an Essentials Toolkit
This is what goes with me everywhere. For me, I’m hauling it around in my Land’s End tote (I have size large aka the give-you-muscles size). I have one binder for everything–student data from all locations, lesson plans, clinic paperwork– and my planner, which are my “mobile office”. The rest is filled with my laptop, iPad, and therapy materials. Here’s where the essentials part is important. I like to have one language activity, articulation activity, and social language activity on me at all times–bonus points if the same activity can be used for more than one! These are the things that, if I forget to add in new materials, I have a last minute scheduling change, or the iPad’s dead, I can provide therapy to whomever I need to and have the basics to work off of. Interactive books are great to target language goals. I love mine from Love Speech Therapy. I always have my Inference Flashcards in my bag, which are great for social language goals. My articulation item might be a rotating game or Do-a-Dot daubers, perfect for making pictures as we work on sounds. And bonus, both would be great for any type of language goal as well. Fun reinforcers are for everyone!
Set Up Camp When You Can
It’s nice to have a set of materials that stays at each location. Some of these items don’t even have to be mine. All of my locations this year are shared spaces. One of the fantastic pros of that is shared resources! At one school, for example, the classroom has plenty of games and art supplies I am welcome to use. At the school I’m at the most, I have a little more space to myself, and even get my own filing cabinet and shelf! I can transfer therapy notes to my student files here as my binder gets full, and lighten the load I am carrying with me everywhere.
And last but not least…
I said I would never be that person who skips lunch because she’s working–on therapy notes, planning, running around like a crazy person, or whatever. Then as work got busier, home life got busier (ahem, baby), I realized I had to fight for those few minutes to sit down and nourish my body. It is such the simplest form of self-care, and hello, a basic need, but I am back to holding my ground and refusing to skip lunch because my day is crazy. I can’t give my best to my students if I’m not taking care of myself. It might not be fancy, it might be 10 minutes sitting in my car in the parking lot, but I am making sure it’s happening. I am also a huge fan of “snacky lunch”, aka lunch that’s mostly finger foods and doesn’t require a microwave. Things like crackers or veggies and hummus, almonds, hardboiled eggs, fruit, etc.
Have you ever had a mobile office?? I’d love to hear tips from the road!