How Being an SLP Has Changed How I Vote

Politics. It's a dirty word. We aren't supposed to talk about it at the dinner table. I have it on my lists of topics to avoid when I review "touchy subjects" with my social skills groups. It sits in the same group as religion and money. But today... I'm putting the rules aside and talking politics. I'm not going to tell you how to vote or why you should vote a certain way. But I am going to talk about how being an SLP has changed how I view politics.

As an SLP, I work with a variety of students from preschool through 8th grade. I see students from every walk of life. Some students have significant disabilities and are in self-contained classrooms. Some of my students are extremely intelligent but happen to stutter. But the students who I think about when I lay awake at night are my kids who look "normal", my students who are in general education classrooms who work alongside their peers, but find learning to be very difficult. Some may have "Learning Disability" as their disability category at school, while others may have "Other Health Impairment". Either way, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that school is always difficult for these students. What other kids easily pick up on, my kids work tirelessly to grasp. They are always 3 steps behind while the teacher has to keep plowing ahead in order to cram in everything before the end of the year state tests. Most of my students seem to never be able to catch up, yet they are held to the same standards as their peers.

I think there is a perception held by some people that people who hold minimum wage jobs, jobs that appear "easy" or jobs that "anybody could get", must be lazy. But here is the thing. No job is easy. While technology has made things easier, you still have to know how to read that fast-food order, you still have to know how to count back the correct change in the check-out line, and you still have to sequence the steps to place that order in the computer system. The skills that I work on with students are not just impacting them at school, they are impacting their ability to participate in real life. They are going to grow up to be adults who have to work just like you and I to make ends meet and they need skills to do those jobs. This perception of the "American Dream" where anybody can get ahead as long as they work hard seems pretty unreachable for my kids sometimes. My students work ten times harder than any of their typically-developing peers. They work on their assignment with their teacher, then again with their special-education teachers, then again with their parents, and probably again in the morning before class. We celebrate their successes of making a 10 point growth over their state test score from the previous school year, even though the state will only see that they failed the test yet again. If my students can go on to hold a job where they can read the orders of the tickets, where they can remember the multi-step directions given to them by their boss, or where they can give back the correct change, I will be so thrilled for them because I know they will have worked extremely hard to get there.

When I used to think about politics, I used to think about how the policies or the candidates would impact me. What can this candidate do to make my life different or better? But now? I also think, what plans does this candidate have that will make life for my students better? My students deserve a chance just like anybody else. My students deserve to be able to support themselves and live independent lives in which they are valued members of their communities. They deserve a living wage. They deserve to be happy. They deserve their shot at the American Dream.

 photo Signature_zpsgrobum7h.png

1 comment

  1. What a thoughtful post! Our students do impact how we view the world!