Clinician Tips & Tricks for Starting This School Year Confidently
It’s almost September and the summer is ending—you know what that means! The new school year is right around the corner and as a school therapist, you are about to hit the ground running. Whether you are working in a new school district or beginning the year in a familiar place, you can always prepare yourself to start the first day with confidence. We’ve put together some best practices for you to build rapport with fellow staff members and manage your caseload efficiently right off the bat. Check them out!
1. Identify all the most important people and introduce yourself
Determine who you will report to and oversee your work at the district—this could be a Lead SLP at the District, a director, a Regional Manager, a Special Ed liaison—and say hello! You may meet them in a group setting, but it is always a good idea to follow up with an introductory email to let them know who you are, who you work with, and tell them how excited you are to start the year. This way it will be easier to approach them throughout the year with any questions or concerns that may arise.
Teachers and Staff – determine who all your student’s teachers are and introduce yourself in person if possible; if you are not able to meet in-person at the start of the year, email or call to introduce yourself to let them know that you will be the SLP working with 1 or more of their students; follow up with an email if you were able to meet in person to let them know you are working on getting together your schedule!
Parents – Sending out an introductory letter that goes home with all your students is a nice way to let your parents know who you are, what your experience is, and that you’ll be working with their child for the 21/22 school year. If you happen to have your schedule and know when you’ll be working with their child, you can let them know what days you will be seeing their child.
2. Meet with your new colleagues
A great way to start off on the right foot is to set aside time with the School Psychologist(s), Special Education teachers, OTs, and other professionals to discuss schedules. Classroom teachers and Special Education teachers will provide you with an overview of their days which will be helpful to see when you can and cannot work with their students. School Psychologists, OTs, and other providers can work with you on scheduling IEP meetings for the year, as well as when they will plan to be working with your students. If co-treating is permitted, you can also figure out when you can co-treat with other professionals.
3. Stay organized
One of the best ways to start the year off right is to make sure you are well organized for the year. Spreadsheets for Annual Review and Triennial meetings and due dates will help you stay on top of what is coming up. Using a daily and monthly calendar can also help you stay on top of what meetings are coming up.
TIP: at the beginning or end of every week, look ahead a month to 2 months to see what meetings are coming up so you are preparing for them and adding that work to your daily tasks/schedule
A schedule that allows for flexibility/adjustments (any schedule that is established at the start of the year will change multiple times before the end of the year), but make sure you prioritize your time – leave enough room in your schedule for assessments and ask if the time blocked off for assessments can include analysis of data, report writing, and IEP writing.
4. Coming back to In-Person Learning
We recognize that we are all still navigating COVID-19 and now the Delta Variant. It may be overwhelming for some students who are just starting back with in-person learning after being remote all last year—these situations can vary greatly. The start of the year is an adjustment for everyone, and this year could be a bit more difficult. Give yourself and your students grace and patience while everyone works through it all.
For the latest updates from ASHA, please visit their website
These are some of the fundamental ways for you to get off to a strong start this upcoming school year. Like any new year, there will be challenges at the start so remember, you have resources through your travel company—don’t be afraid to ask questions or voice your concerns to your support team!