Like many of you, as a school speech-language pathologist, I left graduate school ready and excited to jump into classrooms. I realized the benefits of reaching my students in their own environment and so I set out to reach them there by “educating” teachers on speech and language. And then… reality hit. With all the added responsibilities, how do I go about adding one more task to my ever-growing list and collaborate with teachers?
Are you like me? Often, school SLPs feel lost when it comes to reaching their students in the classroom. Typically, we fall into one of two camps. Either we feel the need to completely take over the classroom lesson to “teach” the teacher something about language or we become too afraid of looking like a “know-it-all” and so do not offer any suggestions. Neither of these offers a solution. Here are three easy ways to collaborate with teachers that provide a balance between the two:
1. Provide a monthly newsletter. This is one of the easiest ways to stay in touch with teachers. If you have monthly themes, give them an idea of what you’re working on. Provide a “vocabulary word of the month,” a tip on how to serve students in their classrooms, a good resource or website, or even a practice sheet stapled to your newsletter for teachers to provide to students. Teachers will appreciate the time you took to reach out to them and will also gain information on both their students and how we service them.
2. Give a student snapshot to your teachers. This is most beneficial at the start of the school year. Unfortunately, with all of our responsibilities, important information is often not communicated and students’ services often suffer as a result. Relay any accommodations on students’ Individual Education Program (IEP) that the teacher is responsible for providing in the classroom and make sure they understand what each one means. It is also helpful to provide an overview of the goals you are working on with their students. For example, a simple statement such as “During Johnny’s speech and language session, he is working on increasing his vocabulary and reading comprehension,” would give the teacher an idea of what he works on with you.
3. Hop into the classroom during independent reading. Many classrooms now schedule a chunk of time devoted to practicing independent reading and writing skills. My district uses a structure for this called “The Daily 5” created by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. When I walk into a classroom during Daily 5, I can immediately sit with students and listen to reading, ask questions about what they are reading, teach vocabulary and assess and monitor articulation skills while reading. What does this type of intervention mean for us as SLPs? We can easily monitor and work on skills within the classroom setting all while requiring minimal if any planning time. This type of intervention also sets the tone for easily working with the teacher on their turf without taking over the entire classroom.
I hope this next school year finds you rested and ready to try new ideas. Reaching out to teachers often feels like one more to-do, and can fall to the bottom of our priorities. By making a goal each year of trying just one new idea, it can seem less overwhelming. I guarantee it: by reaching out to our students in their environment, we will be making a huge impact on their lives.
Nicole Allison, MA, CCC-SLP, has a passion for creating materials that benefit the school SLP, especially when it comes to data collection and the Common Core State Standards. She currently works in a public school as the only SLP (yes, that’s right, all 13 grades and loving them) and is the author of the blog Allison’s Speech Peeps (speechpeeps.com). She also serves on The Ohio School Speech Pathology Educational Audiology Coalition as secretary. Her and her husband recently had a baby and are loving parenthood. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.