Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Beginning of the School Year: YOU'VE GOT THIS!

Where did the summer go? ASHA CONNECT was my summer vacation. I'm in the middle of a horrible kitchen remodel, so, after feeling like a prisoner in my own home, I was ready to get back to school.

After I read Gold Country SLP's post Happy New {school} Year!, I was struck by how similar our beginning of the school year is. Even though we're separated by a whole country, we had many of the same things on our list.

Every start of the school year is different. I'm beginning my 32nd year in the school setting (I worked for 2 years in a SNF) and every single year has been different. Even the years when I haven't changed schools, something is different. But yet, many things are the same.

Leave the faculty no doubt that you are one of them.
Meetings. We all have to attend meetings that have little to nothing to do with us. Put your big girl professional panties on and make the best of it. Everyone in the room is ultimately there for the same reason: the students. Pay attention; you may learn something you can use in therapy.
Socialize. Yep, that's right. Don't just hide out in your room. Make sure you meet the custodian...and make sure he knows who you are. I had a head custodian in one of my schools who made sure I was always comfortable...I brought him brownies every now and again and he took care of me. Really get to know your custodians: Ask them about their families and any hobbies they may have.
Meet the new teachers. We've all been the newbie. I remember how petrified I was when I started working in the schools at 22 years of age. Make it a point to introduce yourself and offer your assistance on anything they need. Look around their rooms and see if you can find something you have in common.
Office Staff. They can be your best friends. I don't think I need to say anything else about that. If I do, email me & we'll "chat"!

Make your room inviting...but not too distracting.
I've made a few changes to my room this year. Subtle changes, but changes nonetheless. Everything on my wall has an instructional purpose...except my banner.
Chevron Banner (PSSSTTT...It's FREE in my TpT Store!)
NBC News highlighted a short-term study on Kindergarten classrooms. One was sparsely decorated, the other was decorated to the max. While the students in both rooms were distracted (we're talking 5 year olds, here!), the students in the decorated room were distracted by the things on the wall (which may or may not have had instructional value) while the other students were distracted by each other. Decorate your room, make it inviting, but not too distracting. Make sure most of the "decorations" have a purpose.

Start out the year as organized as possible.
After the PD and meetings are all over, it's time to get down to business. One of the first things I do when I get to school is look at my caseload and note when the Annual Reviews/Re-evaluations are due. In my planner, for each month, I write the numerical due date and the student's first name on the side of the page.  I try to hold my meetings a month before the due date, because you never know when something is going to happen. If the student's due date is Oct. 15, I will pencil in the meeting around Sept. 15. Then, I pencil in "Send Johnny" 2 weeks before to remind me to send home the Invitation with plenty of leeway for the 10 Day Notice.
I keep a list from the screening the year before of those students who require re-screening. I pull that list up and write in the teacher's name. I have my screening forms ready with the student's name & birthdate already on the form before I head down the hall to rescreen.  After I rescreen and determine who needs to continue to be watched, who is ready for "Quick Speech", and who is ready for an eval, I make out the list for next school year and keep it in a folder on my computer, as well as Google Drive.
Very simple form that helps with organizing from year to year.
Scheduling doesn't have to be that hard.
Seriously. This is the time of year when Facebook and Speech Blogs are flooded with "It feels like I'm playing Tetris as I'm trying to figure out a schedule" posts. All I'm going to say about that is: find what works for you. What works for 1 person may not work for the other person. Our schools are different, our caseloads are different, we are different. I used Google Forms last year & will use it again. It works for me. (To find out how I did it, click here.) But, it may not work for you. Be creative! You CAN do it!

Therapy: Ready or Not
Nine times out of 10, I have not felt like I was ready to begin therapy when the required day came around. You know what? No one died.  Don't stress out about not being ready; not having the perfect "back to school" or "first day of therapy" cutesie activity. Take those first couple of sessions to talk to your students. Find out what they did during summer break. Pull out a board game that you may not use during the school year. Make mental notes of how his sound progressed in conversational speech, or how his story-telling skills evolved over the summer. Relax! It's going to be okay! Your students won't even know that you're not as prepared as you thought you had to be.

The beginning of the year is exciting; don't let it stress you out!

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