I go to work every day with a smile on my face. I love my job.
But if I’m being honest, I can share that when I pause and really think about things, It’s easy to feel very down in the dumps about school-based OT.
Are you wondering why?
Because as a school-based OT, I work the same hours as the teachers, social workers, psychologists, speech therapists, and guidance counselors. I have the same education, responsibilities, and the same role.
But I don’t have the red shirt. And that means I don’t have EQUITY or PARITY.
Every Thursday the staff in my district wear their “Red for Ed” Teachers Union shirts. Every teacher, speech therapist, social worker, teacher’s assistant, school counselor, etc. You get the picture.
But not me.
OT is not included in the teacher’s union in my district (and many others), and it causes MANY issues of equity in the school setting.
Last week, one of my kindergarten students said to me, “Miss Jaime, you forgot your red shirt.”
I smiled ruefully at her. “I don’t have a red shirt, Victoria. Those are only for teachers.”
“But you are a teacher, Miss Jaime!”
I answered her sadly. “Thank you, Victoria, I think so, too.”
NY state education department doesn’t categorize OTs and PTs as “educators”. The other “related services” professions – social workers, school counselors, psychologists, and even school attendance teachers fall under the category of “pupil personnel provider.” Pupil personnel is one of the three categories where school professionals can receive teaching certificates.
This impacts PARITY for OTs and PTs in the school setting. We often do not have the same benefits, salary scale, or professional development opportunities. We aren’t allowed to advance to leadership positions. Many OTs and PTs don’t even get a lunch hour.
The exclusion of OTs and PTs from the category of “educators” in the education system is an outdated practice that needs change.
Are you impacted by this type of systemic discrimination?
Do you want to learn more about how you can help to change it?
If so, I invite you to join my Facebook group:
Also, for the month of April, I’m offering a FREE webinar about Advocacy for School-based Occupational Therapists. (NYSOTA CUEs included!)
If you have a story about how lack of equity is impacting YOU and YOUR students as a school OT, please email me! I want to hear your story. We’re in this together!