Mary Jo Pangborn, MA, CCC-SLP, and her family.
Going to graduate school for speech-language pathology is tough for anyone. For me, with a family and a job, the idea of returning to school was terrifying!
Did I really want four more years of school, including two years in post-bachelor’s classes and two additional years in graduate school? What if I didn’t get into graduate school—then what? Would it all be a waste of time? Nonetheless, I did not want to wake up a year from now and wish I’d already started.
I needed the chance, the challenge and the change. I was a nontraditional student with a husband, two children and a dog. I had a home, a job and less time to complete assignments and prepare for exams than when I was a traditional student just out of high school.
Would my family be supportive of the long nights ahead of me, writing papers and preparing for exams? Were they ready to have me resign from my job? To watch me pull my hair out from lack of sleep and a brain on overload? Would I still be a good mom and wife?
My family means the world to me, and I realized that in the long run, returning to school was going to benefit all of us in many ways. Once I made the decision, I knew the universe and faith would help me along the way.
No one said it would be easy—and it wasn’t! After classes started, my life changed. I knew I was in a remarkable field with enormous opportunity. I felt blessed and honored in my career choice.
However, it was a tough road. I had classes and internships all day with study at night … endless hours of preparing for exams, yet had to drive my girls to their sports … lesson plans for internships and papers to write, yet still had to help my children create PowerPoint presentations and make treats for classroom parties.
Although it was a busy and challenging time, one of the best things was the impact it had on my girls. They were 5 and 7 years old when I returned to school, and 7 and 9 years old by the time I was in graduate school. They would study spelling while I studied phonological disorders, and they would create flash cards for science while I made neurophysiology flash cards.
We studied together, and we worked as a team. My going back to school taught my girls amazing study skills. They learned the importance of education while watching me succeed in school, and they learned how to work hard to reach their goals as I was accomplishing a dream.
Hard work pays off—for everyone. My girls are now 10 and 12 and still work hard academically. They learned lifelong lessons when I was in graduate school. I had never considered how my studying and showing a desire to achieve something would affect them. It’s something I might not have taught them otherwise.
Going back to school was one of the best decisions I ever made. My family supported me every step of the way, my girls learned important study skills, and I learned how to work with people who cannot communicate effectively.
As a speech-language pathologist, I have the unique opportunity to teach one of our most basic human needs: communication. And for that I am grateful.