In the Beginning

Country road


Photo by Dominic’s Pics

As the year begins drawing to a close I find myself taking trips down memory lane. Not normally given to dwelling on the past, I suppose having to update my vita during the past week has spurred these interludes of recollection. Being in the business of teaching tomorrow’s professionals, my recent thoughts have frequently returned to how it all began for me…my decision to become a speech-language pathologist.

In high school I was not the most studious of individuals…it’s not that I lacked intelligence, I simply lacked “give a damn.” Fortunately my high school was willing to assist its students in charting their course in life, having each of us take an aptitude test designed to help choose a career. I can still remember sitting in Miss Crabbs’s English class during my junior year and looking at the results…the test indicated I was ideally suited to be a speech therapist.

So that afternoon of my junior year I decided I’d become a speech therapist. Never mind that I didn’t know what a speech therapist was or, in fact, had ever heard of such a thing…if that’s what the test said I should be, well that’s what I was going to be. I resolutely stuck with this decision throughout my senior year…though I never actually took the time to figure out what a speech therapist was (I’ve already mentioned my lack of ambition haven’t I). Undeterred, I applied to the Speech Pathology and Audiology program at Clarion University of Pennsylvania and was accepted into the class of 1987.

Despite going to orientation during the summer, I was still unclear what a speech therapist was when the start of classes rolled around that fall of 1983. With all the confidence of a blissfully ignorant 18-year-old I strolled into my first “speech therapy class,” Speech Science I, and was struck dumb by what I saw…every seat was occupied by a girl. Yes…I had won…I had correctly chosen a career (or at least the test had).

Fortunately, during that first semester of college I also came to learn what a speech therapist was and, in the process, realized that this was the truly profession for me. The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve spent the past 20+ years in a career I find endlessly interesting doing a job that I more often than not don’t regard as work.

Now here’s the kicker to this whole story… Remember that aptitude test that set me down the road to becoming a speech-language pathologist? I looked back on it several years later, after I’d earned my graduate degree. Much to my chagrin I found that I’d read it WRONG…I had looked at the “female side” of the test instead of the side that provided the “male interpretation” of results. Though the world missed getting another mason, I like to think it got a fairly decent speech-language pathologist in return.

Kenneth Staub, M.S., CCC-SLP, is an Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He will be a regular contributor to ASHAsphere and welcomes questions or suggestions for posts.

Comments

  1. Richard M. Megela says:

    Wonderful article, Ken. Your thoughts helped me reflect upon my own career.

    Fortunately, I was never given an aptitude test in high school, but was administered one at freshman orientation at Clarion. I was disappointed at the results. Those around me were proudly stating their results suggested all kinds of glowing, aspiring careers. I was somewhat embarrassed to talk about mine. It didn’t quite match my aspirtations of becoming a secondary math teacher.

    This year, after a thirty-six career of teaching 5th and 6th grade, I retired. Like Ken I found it “endlessly interesting doing a job that I more often than not don’t (didn’t) regard as work.”

    Sometimes, careers find us rather than us finding them. In my case, after portraying a local department store Santa Claus at a job I had while attending classes, something about working with young children caught my attention. I switched from the pursuit of a a secondary degree to an elementary degree. That made all the difference. It was the best decision I had ever made. And like you, Ken, those classes had a majority of women in them.

    And that aptitude test? Although it wasn’t entirely right, I guess it was right in a sense. It suggested I was best qualified to be a house painter. In a sense, I didn’t end up painting houses, but I ended up helping “paint” something more important, and that was the lives of children.

    • Rich…I really enjoyed this story and learned something about you, as my former middle school teacher, I never knew. In particularl I liked the comment about how careers sometimes find us…you can’t discount the power of what turn out to be happy accidents, fate, or what-have-you in shaping our lives.

  2. I always love reading about everyone’s journey/decision to become an SLP. There are so many paths to one end goal…thanks for sharing!

    • Reading about how people choose the careers they do can be facinating. There are semesters where, as I call the initial roll for each class, I’ll ask the students to share why they chose to enter the field of speech-language pathology. This can be very interesting indeed and sometimes gives wonderful insight into the individual.

  3. Thank you for your thoughts. Isn’t reality wonderful and enduring.

  4. Leisa Harmon says:

    The field and your students are much the richer for your misinterpretation! I wonder if the aptitude test still has a male and a female interpretation. Sounds archaic–are we really that old Kenn?

    • Thanks for the kind words Leisa. Old…not you (you’re at least a year younger than me)!!

      • Mary Pat McCarthy says:

        I like your article and found another topic for research… you and I should discuss…This is serious!!

        MP