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Each day I come home from work spent.  I am grouchy, worn-out, tired, and I don’t have the energy for my husband or my dogs.  Basically, I’m so fed up I want to punch a kitten.  Don’t get me wrong — work’s not all bad.  I have pleasant interactions with many children; I get to feel special as they all crowd around me in their chaotic classroom for a little piece of order and preschool magic.  I have pleasant interactions with many of my coworkers; we brainstorm new ways to support the kids and work around the paperwork jungle that threatens to engulf us more each week.  Overall, though, I can’t take the good with the bad.  I’ve blogged about my commute, the time-clock, the soon-to-be-locked supply closet, the stupid new paperwork and policies that take the emphasis away from supporting children with special needs.  I’ve bitched about it all, and I just can’t take it all in stride.

I want to be that worker who toughs it out when things are icky, the one who barrels through new transitions with an eye towards what good will come from re-organization, the one who proves herself with iniatives and innovations and the one who makes her own path.  I’m just not.  Or just not here, at my current place of employment.  I don’t feel enough loyalty to stick it out through the tough times.  I don’t feel the good is enough to overcome the rotten.  I had a breakthrough with helping a little boy write the first letter of his name today.  I faded support as, together, we went down, and around to form the capital D, over and over again.  He looked up at me in pride, clapping his hands together as we both shrieked “YAY!”  I don’t care that I’m not the occupational therapist.  I dragged her into the classroom to witness the breakthrough — she was so proud.  Yet sitting through a 90 minute staff meeting chock full of the usual too-little, too-late policy changes, bullshit new regulations on time cards, time clocks, health appraisals, performance evaluations, staffing arrangements, and state recertification, I just shut down.  I couldn’t hear well enough over my tittering neighbors and the air-conditioner, so I stopped trying.  At least 95% of the meeting doesn’t apply to me as  therapist anyway — it’s meant for classroom teachers — and the therapists end up feeling, at least as though our time were wasted, and definitely unacknowledged for our contributions to the school anyway.  I stormed out of the meeting with two minutes left to punch out of the assembly line they call being a speech-language therapist, and drove home with no internal resources for how I’m feeling. 

I cannot detach, nor can I expend enough energy to care.  I’m left in some no-man’s land of apathy and resentment.  I guess these are all symptoms of why I have submitted my notice of resignation.  I have a new job starting mid-September, one that I hope is very different from this one.  I’ll be working with older children — adolescents mainly — in a different setting.  I’m hoping the majority of the teachers know what they’re doing.  I’m hoping the entire staff is highly trained and educated and treated by the adminstration as adults.  I’m hoping I get to be treated like an adult. 

In this state, my resignation period, I’m just counting days left.  I’m scratching tally marks into some imaginary cinder block wall, until I can pack up my desk and fully detach.  Until then, I’m stuck caring, but not caring, listening, but not processing, angry, but without recourse. 

I’m also incredibly fearful.  I do not like change (hence my reaction to endless new policies), and I do not seek out risks, employment-wise.  I want to understand what’s happening, in a predictable fashion. I like to know where things are, and where things go.  None of that will happen right away at my new job.  None of my desires line up with jetting off to seek other employment.  I’m scared to leave what I know and start something brand new.  I’m scared of all the new things I will have to learn — names, faces, paperwork, policies, regulations, communication, e-mail, dress-codes.  I’m scared they’re going to have the kids call me Mrs. SLP.  I’m scared of all these things; yet I must move on. 

I know that getting a new job will not solve all the problems.  I know that a person who has continual problems in relationships, living situations, jobs, and daily interactions is probably herself the problem.  I’m hoping I’m not that type of person.  I desperately need to believe, though, that this new job, whatever promises it may hold, will allow to come home feeling like a human being, not a spent cog in a decrepit machine, and be able to greet my husband and my pets with the joy they deserve.  I often say that I don’t like working, that work is something that keeps us away from those we love, so that we can earn the money that allows us to be at home with those we love.  It helps if it’s something meaningful, something one enjoys, or at least can tolerate.  It’s no good, though, if it chews me up and spits me out ready to rampage at the first sentient being I speak to after 4:00pm.  It defeats the purpose. 

I hope my new job treats me like an adult, and allows me to feel like a human.

It’s so hard to talk about work.  There’s the intentional vagueness, the fear of being identifiable, or identified, the desire to at once expose the daily insanity and yet still keep my job at the end of the day.  I try.  For my own sanity, I try.

Changes are afoot at work, and responsibilities are being shifted around.  Certain positions have been, shall we say, outsourced, so we’re all struggling to put the pieces back together and fill in the blanks left by those essential players on our team.  While the parent agency feels the important duties have been re-delegated appropriately, they have not.  Other parts of the job have been abandoned as non-essential, or they took on a wait-and-see approach — we’ll just wait and see if/who picks them up.  Yesterday at an IEP meeting, we finally found out.  No one did.  We sat across the table from the person who is supposed to have taken over the bulk of the responsibilities and listened as she told us it was on our shoulders.  And then we exchanged a few words.  Which is very responsible to be doing in front of a parent.

“Where’s the folder you guys always prepare?”

“Um, the woman who did that is no longer here.  We though it would be your job now.”

“No, if it’s going to be done, it would be you guys.”

Awesome.  And the shit hit the fan.  Which leads me to the bigger point.  On the continuum of slack-picking-up, where do I lie?  I noticed last year, when we were short another speech pathologist at my old center, my caseload seemed to grow and grow.  They weren’t any closer to hiring anyone else, and yet angry parents whose children weren’t receiving services due to our shortage were being placated so they wouldn’t sue.  Placated by having Junior assigned to my caseload.  Which grew.  And grew.  Beyond recommendations for a center-based speech pathologist of any experience, let alone a first-year clinical fellow.  In 3 days of center-based treatment per week, my caseload maxed out at 38 children.  It is recommended that a caseload for a center-based clinician not exceed 50 children per week, or 10 per day, or 30 in my 3 days.  Oops.  And who picked up the slack?  Me.  Who prepared for 100% of the scheduled IEPs despite being on campus 60% of the time?  Me.  And why did I do it?  Because I felt the children needed to be seen.  I didn’t want to punish them for the lack of speech therapists.

Imagine my intense jealousy when I found out they now have 8 days of speech therapists assigned to the same caseload I was drowning under in 3 days.  Well, I guess the new hires finally came through. Grrr.

And now, at my new center, we’re seeing the thousand little jobs our former coworker did, and we’re all wondering who is going to do them.  If we all pick up the slack, and take on things that aren’t in our job description, then the center may run smoothly, and we’ll feel her absence less keenly.  On the other hand, if we stand by and let the pieces fall where they may, it will hopefully send a message to the parent agency that we cannot do this by ourselves.  We need the support system we used to have.

I’m all for working together to make the best of what we have.  But what if what we have is not enough?

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July 2020