#023: Teacher Communication Strategies

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In this episode, we’re continuing our series about starting the school year successfully and talking about how SLPs can successfully navigate communicating with teachers, because they can be some of our best allies when it comes to our students.

This isn’t always an easy topic to handle, and I’ve heard stories from both sides of the spectrum — sometimes the relationship with a teacher is amazing, and sometimes it feels downright dismissive. But, I think it’s so important that we have these conversations and learn how to improve because our students will reap the benefits when their teachers and SLPs are on the same team. 💪

So grab your beverage of choice, put your feet up (or get your walking shoes on!), and listen in.

Key Takeaways

– How SLPs can show up in the school
– Get clear on attendance requirements for staff meetings
– Time integrity with students’ sessions
– Communicating schedule changes so there are no surprises
– Being visually present at the school
– Providing education
– Let the staff know what your role is and how you’re there to help
– How to share information in a way that actually sticks
– Reviewing the goal + target setting process
– Creating an IEP at a Glance
– Conducting IEP check-ins with special educators
– Using a red folder to ensure teacher compliance
– Making probe data fun
– Supporting goals that the teachers are working on
– Keeping the relationship going strong all year long

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

Templates on Teachers Pay Teachers
Using SLP Now for data organization

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Transcript

Teacher communication. On a scale of one to five, one being you strongly dislike teacher communication to five you love communicating with your teachers, how are you feeling? Drop your number in the chat if you're here live or if you're listening to the replay, just do a quick memory check and see how you're ... do a quick check in on how you're feeling about that. Okay, awesome. So in the live chat we've got people who are feeling pretty good on lots of threes and fours and fives. So that's exciting. Let me know what's keeping you from being a five, like what makes it a little bit challenging for you or what do you feel like the hurdle is there. What would make it a five and just think about that too. And as you're doing that I will just share a quick story.

And I've had pretty successful teacher communication overall, but I've heard horror stories from other SLPs and so I wanted to kind of share that combined experience because it's so incredibly important especially if we're working towards that embedded practice. Like we really need them to let us be a part of their team to make the biggest impact for our students. But it can be a challenge because we're all very busy. Teachers have really large class sizes, we have huge case loads. We're running around, we have duties [inaudible 00:01:42] all of these different things that we have going on and the emotions can get pretty intense sometimes and especially if there's something that we don't totally agree on in terms of how to serve a student that can bring about some different tension. And I've heard of a lot of younger SLPs struggling just to be respected by the teachers. Like one SLP told me that some teachers would just turn their back on her and she was straight out of grad school and she looked a little younger and maybe that was part of it. I don't know. I wasn't there.

So it's hard to tell, but we can definitely come across some conflicts as we're navigating the schools and working with our teachers, but it's not a reason to give up just because we find or we come across a more challenging teacher or a more challenging administrator. We are problem solvers and we're not going to let that get in the way of doing what's best for our students. And I really think that's ultimately what motivates all of us. And sometimes we just have to find a way to get to the core of that and to make that happen. And if you are in a situation like maybe you didn't put your number down in the chat or maybe you weren't here live and you were giving that a one because you're experiencing more of those situations, my best advice before we dive into the specific strategies is to start small. So if you're meeting a lot of resistance for whatever reason, just start with one teacher. Start with the one teacher who seems to be the most receptive and start practicing your skills and implementing the strategies with that one teacher.

But if you're feeling like you're at a four or five, start implementing these strategies if you're not already and just keep improving and refining that process. And either way we're going to continue making progress and moving forward one step at a time. And we all have different things that we're working on and different strengths and weaknesses or areas for improvement. So yeah, hopefully this will give you some good strategies. So we've got five that we're diving into today and the first one is to show up. So I've come into a couple of schools where the previous SLP, according to the staff, I don't know what actually happened, but they felt like the previous staff person didn't show up or they had different feedback around that. And I think that, I mean, and it really varies if we are contractors versus district employees because I think one of the biggest differences was that as a district employee, I had to attend the staff meetings in one of the examples and the previous employee was a contractor and I don't think they were even allowed to attend the staff meetings. So that was one example. I think they kind of really honed in on that.

And that's something that they talked a lot about. But I think that ... I don't think we have to show up at staff meetings necessarily to show up as a speech language pathologist and just show up for our students. I think that the first thing is just to get our students at their assigned time. But you guys all know that. But that was something that the previous teachers mentioned, they don't always come get the students when they're supposed to and sometimes we wouldn't see them for a couple of weeks and we didn't know what was happening. So get your students during their assigned times and then if there's a schedule change, just communicate that and be present in the school in that way. And I think showing up in that way is huge and just communicating if there's a change in that. But then there's also just showing up around the school. So eating lunch in the teacher's lounge for example.

And sometimes that can be a little bit of a toxic environment but definitely feel it out and see if you can find a group of teachers there and just check in on your students. Even if you're not doing the social components, if you see the teachers in the hall and just say hi to them there and then take that as an opportunity to check in on the students because that's the best way to show that you care and that you're there for the students and you're really wanting to see them make progress and being able to report some changes that you've made based on conversations is incredibly helpful too. So then the next step is to provide education. Because I think with a lot of the teachers, they didn't understand my role or the role of previous speech therapists and they were missing a lot of important pieces and they didn't really understand even like which goals were supposed to be targeting or anything like that.

So you can do one on one ... Like education with teachers you can send out that handout for example. But I think it's most effective because if they get a handout they might glance at it, but they're not really going to retain that information unless you're just sending out quick little snippets over time, which could be a fun strategy. Like I saw one SLP who would send little snippets of information and she would attach a little treat to it. So that's a good way to get their attention. But I've had a lot of success presenting at staff meetings and all I had to do was ask the principal and all of the schools that I've been at they allowed me to do that. One of the principals was the little resistant and I had to explain why I thought it was important. And just be prepared when you go to ask be able to explain the why behind it. But as soon as I explained my rationale, she's like, “Oh yeah, of course that totally makes sense. We'll share five minutes with you.” And then I went into that and that made a huge difference because I was able to share education around the things that kept causing issues or lack of understanding.

So just like a quick overview of the goals that we actually target can be a good one on how the referral process works because that goes hand in hand with knowing what we actually target. So explaining how goal districts referral process works and what that looks like and just being able to explain it to everyone at the same time and making sure that everyone's on the same page and bonus points if you have a handout is incredibly helpful. And then it's just a really great time saver cause you're able to address everyone at once. And I have some different templates that I've shared in terms of different things that I've shared at staff meetings like that. So I will share that in the course notes as well. But providing that education is huge. And then I follow that up with the students' goals. So I like to create an IEP at a glance and all of the districts that I have been in have a ... the IEP system just has that built in where I can select all of my students and then just print the IEP at a glance.

If your system doesn't have that, there are tons of templates on teachers pay teachers to, or if you use a digital system, like with SLP now there's a way to print out your students' goals and any notes you would want to add or ... So you have lots of different options there. And then some things that I really like to include in that IEP at a glance are the students' goals. Because there's nothing worse than going to an IEP meeting and the teacher think, “Oh I have no clue what they've been working on.” And sometimes they'll actually admit that in a meeting, which is, that's always fun. So I want to list their goals and make sure they understand what the goals are. I list the accommodations, any other services that they're receiving.

In some schools I partnered up with the special education teacher and I would just go deliver my IEP at glances for the students just on my caseload. And then we would either go together or split up the goal or the IEP at a glances for the students that we shared so that we could have good conversations around those students with the teacher. And it's just like a really quick check-in. But yeah, so those are helpful things to include, the goals, accommodations, other services, the scheduled time and the different templates that you can find in the different systems will have that. And my strategy for success was because I did it one year and I just printed it out on regular paper and I gave it to the teacher, but I still didn't have quite the attraction that I wanted. The second year I tried this, I put it because this is technic or it is confidential information and it's actually our responsibility to make sure that that information is still secure and all of that with all the HIPAA rules and all that.

And so I put the information in a red folder and I wrote confidential on it and I had the teachers sign that they received the document and I told them that they would need to bring it to the next IEP or I would collect it at the end of the school year depending on kind of how the timeline fell. And so then that raises a flag in their brain for a number of reasons because they're seeing this red folder, it's confidential, they signed for the folder and then their attention is suddenly peaked. And when I'm explaining what the goals are and kind of having a discussion around that, it's just a much more meaningful conversation and I think it's more likely to register. And then in the future they'll see that red confidential folder and it'll just stand out and they'll keep it in a safe place and then if they ever need to reference it, then they'll know where it is. But that system has worked really well and it's just been a really great strategy to use with the teachers. And during that discussion I'm able to, because it is one on one, I can make sure that they're understanding and offer any clarification maybe even give some examples.

If I already collected the probe data, I can show them where they're at and that is such an amazing way to show up and make that happen. And you can make it fun. Like I'm all about bringing different treats and things because I want them ...I probably work too hard to get them to like me, but it seems like it works. I have had successful communication and have had really good teamwork so I don't know. There's always room for improvement, but I think that's a way to make it a little bit more fun, especially when they are stressed out and just to show that we appreciate them sharing their time. And then one thing that I like to do when I'm sharing the students' goals is that I offer support because a lot of times teachers have their professional learning goals or their professional growth goals and they have to ... if they're using the Danielson framework or any, I don't know what other frameworks there are out there, but they have to document different strategies that they've used and different communication and working with you can meet one of the requirements for their evaluation.

And they also have to document student progress towards those goals a lot of time so it can be a great way to partner with them. Like the example that I gave in one of the earlier modules was I knew that all of the third grade teachers were working on this math story problem goal and they were kind of stressed about it. So they were really excited when I offered support because the students that I'm working with are the students that need the most support and that they were the most worried about meeting that goal. So I was able to offer my expertise and offer support towards that goal in something that they were already working towards. So they were really motivated to share those math problems with me. Whereas the previous year I really struggled to get anything from my teachers. I really wanted to implement curriculum based therapy, but it was like pulling teeth.

So once I started aligning with what their priorities were, and of course it has to match up with what the student needs to work on too, but like in this case it was a perfect fit and they were ... we made a really great team in working towards that. And so that's just asking them and taking that like, okay, so we just shared the students' goals. Like I'm curious what are your professional learning goals? And if you're not familiar with that process, talk to one teacher that you're comfortable with and ask them if your principal requires your teachers to write goals like that and what that looks like. And maybe come up with a couple ideas on how to start that conversation depending on what your school's set up is. But I think that's so incredibly valuable and helpful and they all remember that and they'll want to be able to document that as evidence towards their goal. And if you're able to help it's a game changer.

So it's really helpful. And then we'll want to check in with our teachers along the way. So it's not that we ... because we could start off super strong. We could have this amazing staff meeting where we provide amazing education and handouts for them. We share their IEP goals and we have an amazing discussion. We offer to support them with our goals and then if we just drop off and don't follow up with that, then that won't be setting ourselves up for success or our students or the team. So we want to make sure that we check in and there are a number of ways that we can set this up. If your school uses Google, there are some tools that you can send automated emails even, or you can just jot a note in your planner of like, okay, so on the first week of the month, I'm going to check in with the kindergarten and first grade teachers. The second week, I'm going to check in with second and third. And you can come up with a system for that or if you're good at just naturally checking in, then that's amazing. But if you need a little bit of extra support, definitely set that up. But I think a quick little automated note can be amazing. And I know the inboxes sometimes get pretty full, but if it's just something super short and sweet, you typically get pretty good responses with it.

So that's what I've got. But like I said, there's some different templates that I'll share in the notes with different resources that you can use there.

 

marisha-mets-about-mobile

Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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