It's back to school for me... TODAY! Summer got away from me and it seriously feels like I just wrapped up my last IEP a week ago, not 12 weeks ago. Regardless of whether or not I'm ready for the start of the new school year, though, it's coming, and I need to be prepared! I want to help YOU be prepared, too, so I'm joining The Frenzied SLPs again to give you some tips!
Tip #1: Expect the Unexpected (#amiright "Big Brother" fans?!)
Be prepared to have at least one unexpected thing thrown your way. You will probably get emails about new move-in students throughout that first week, so your caseload will be fluctuating a bit. You may be asked to provide assistance for something that's not normally part of your work duty.
A couple years ago, one of my dear teacher friends had a funeral to go to and missed the first day of school. She was new that year, and had brand new paras and a sub with a class full of special needs 3 year olds. It. Was. Crazy Town. My principal came to my room and asked if I could go down and help manage the classroom, so I did. I didn't have her morning kiddos on my caseload because of how the SLPs split the prek load that year, but that first week is all about jumping in and helping each other survive, so I helped anyway!
Really, just know that one or two things will probably be thrown your way. Problem solve/go with the flow as best you can!
Tip #2: Be extra nice to your secretaries and custodial staff!
Bring them cookies or brownies or some other little treat! They are going to be crazy busy the first week, too. Secretaries will have class lists and the Master Schedule, as well as info on transfer students. Custodians may help you move a piece of furniture in your office or procure an extra bookshelf for your space, etc... and if you're nice to these people at the beginning of the year, they'll be willing to help you out throughout the year! They might be two of the most underappreciated positions in the building, so show them some love!
Tip #3: If you're new (to the school, to the district, to being an SLP.. whatever!), find someone who can help show you the ropes!
This is pretty self explanatory, but find someone that can help explain building-specific procedures, building politics if there are any (which, let's be honest, there almost always is), IEP paperwork, the procedure for setting up meetings, etc... This may be another SLP, another therapist, or maybe another SPED teacher!
Tip #4: Get a caseload list from your SPED secretary, and make a few spreadsheets:
Your SPED secretary (or equivalent person) will have a list of students on your caseload. Get that list, and if you're a veteran and see new/unfamiliar students on that list, ask for a copy of move in IEP paperwork if it hasn't been given to you already.
Once I get my caseload list, I input everyone into Excel spreadsheets with the following information:
-Name, DOB, IEP date, # of days/minutes per week of therapy (or however yours are set up-- weekly/monthly/etc), related services, brief summary of goals, and classroom teacher.
You can sort the lists in Excel in whatever ways you find helpful, but I find the following helpful for me:
-Alphabetically: I have one spreadsheet of students sorted alphabetically. If I need to look up a piece of info like DOB or IEP date for a specific student at a glance, I can accomplish this quickly.
-By IEP date: This lets me see at a glance how many IEPs I have due in a particular month, or if there is a cluster around the same time, so I know to try to plan ahead.
-By # of days per week they get therapy: This helps me when I'm ready to start making my schedule!
By putting the info in an Excel spreadsheet and sorting it, I can add new students throughout the year and just re-sort it without having to create entirely new lists.
Tip #5: Make a spreadsheet to track evaluations throughout the year
A spreadsheet with students' names, ages, eval/IEP dates, amount of time spent on testing, reason for referral, and whether or not the students qualified will be helpful to track an aspect of your caseload that can't always be seen just by tracking caseload numbers. If you need to go to administration about needing help, having various types of data other than caseload numbers can help your cause. If you track this info from year to year, you can show trending data, as well, over time!
Tip #6: Plan an EASY activity that can be used with almost EVERYONE for your first therapy sessions:
You probably won't see kids the first few days of school as you get teacher's classroom schedules and get your caseload sorted out, but once you DO start seeing some kids, plan an activity that can be used across all of your students. The first week is crazy with all of the administrative things going on, so make this one easy! I work with preschoolers, so with 99% of them, I can ask them draw a picture of what they did over the summer and then I have them tell me about it. You can get a little bit of info for areas like vocab, MLU, articulation, and grammar with this activity and it takes zero time to prep except by getting some paper and crayons!
Were these tips helpful for you? I hope so! What are some things you do during your first week?