I love teamwork.
I believe that the special education classroom is dependent on teamwork, and teamwork with related service providers is no different. Here are my tips on how to establish a relationship with your related service providers to help build teamwork and take a collaborative approach.
I know scheduling is every special education teacher’s worst nightmare. Fitting everything in from multiple different general education teachers to specials, lunches to recesses… it’s a LOT to fit in. Now, imagine being a related service provider and having a million teachers telling you when you can and can’t pull students, what you have to work around and what times you can push-in. If you can, be flexible in your related service provider’s schedule. Keep doing what’s best for kids, but don’t make it hard on the adults you work with. I am in awe every year that our amazing OT puts together the most perfect schedule. She’s flexible, she works around roadblocks like recess and general education time, and she always finds a way to squeeze in students around what I have planned. Talk about a treat!
This giant calendar hangs in our hallway with all of the different school events we know about on it. We use them year after year, but anyone can add things to the calendar and the entire special education team and all related services use this. It’s primitive, but man it works! Consider it a life-sized shared Google Calendar.
I quickly learned one way I could show kindness and professionalism towards our related service staff was to respect their time as much as they respected mine.
Sometimes we teachers forget that there are other schedules outside of our own classroom, and flexibility in our schedule to accommodate others schedules (especially if it services the kids we work with) is just fine. Here’s some things you can do to be respectful of time:
- Share schedule changes (parties, dress up days, etc)
- If the service provider is contracted, make sure they get any school newsletter/weekly updates
- Share if a student is absent so they can fit in a make-ups session
- Be willing to collaborate outside of your scripted plan time
Outside of an IEP meeting it probably sounds crazy to have OT, PT, Speech, Social Work, general education and special education teachers all in one spot planning for the week…. but it WORKS! I know not everyone gets this kind of time (and to be honest, I get to plan with my SLP once a week!), so here are some ways you can better create a collaborative approach with kids and related services:
- Create a google doc where everyone can plan together. It’s like those college assignments where everyone pitches in using a different color and font, but better! I start us off with a theme for two weeks, our books, big topics we are going to cover in morning meeting any hands-on projects I’d like them to push in for and what day/time. Then we all jump in from there. Just this week my SLP came in for pumpkin carving and trick or treat practice!
- Allow related services to shine when planning- part of collaborating is that you are learning from the related services as they push in so you can see how they are working with your shared students.
- Support related services in the classroom. This isn’t downtime for you or your staff. It’s time for you to support each other. Be present in what is being taught and help support students.
Magic happens when highly trained professionals all work together in the classroom in a group! The language and skills elicited are outstanding. Even if all you do is create a google document and pick one or two skills for everyone to work on collaboratively, the outcome will be worth the effort! Try to find a time to make this happen and get to supporting each other! Team work makes for successful students!