Establishing successful communication with teachers can be quite the undertaking. There are so many reasons why it shouldn’t work, right?
Everyone is too busy.
No one understands my role as an SLP.
Teachers don’t want to collaborate with me.
Communicating with teachers takes too much time.
Teachers don’t care about what I’m doing or what I have to say.
The list goes on and on!
Let’s just imagine that we can magically remove all of those barriers. Let’s imagine a school where the SLP and teachers work together to meet their students’ needs. Teachers understand what the SLP does, and the SLP understands the dynamics of the classroom and is able to offer invaluable support.
That sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?
It’s totally doable, too!
I’m not the most articulate SLP. I’m not the most experienced SLP. I also didn’t walk into the perfect school. (In fact, I was told multiple times that I had the most challenging school in the district.)
I could continue, but the point is that I’m not special. If I can do it, you can, too!
Here are six strategies that helped me win over my staff and make a difference:
1. I show that I care.
We all care about our students. That’s why we do what we do!
That said, because of the nature of our jobs, it’s easy for teachers to imagine what our days are filled with if we aren’t present on campus. They’re busy running around, trying to manage a room of 20+ students. They sometimes see us with small groups of students, and they hear that all we do in speech is play games. Sometimes we don’t even have kids in our room! (We must just be sipping our coffee and browsing Pinterest, right?!) That’s clearly not the case, but they don’t know that.
We can clear up any misconceptions by showing up and giving the teachers a chance to get to see us in action. We can participate in staff meetings. We can provide services in the classroom. We can show up to school events. We can eat lunch with the teachers. We can check in with teachers. There are countless options!
We don’t have to do all of these things, but stepping outside of our comfort zone once in a while can significantly change teachers’ perceptions of us. They’ll be more likely to follow through on requests and collaborate with us. This, in turn, makes our jobs a lot easier and allows us to better help our students.
2. I hosted a scheduling party.
This was the best way to start the school year! It made my job incredibly easy, and the teachers raved about the process. (They loved being involved, and the schedule was made in a matter of minutes.) I also brought some treats, which never hurts!
Check out this post for all the details on how to set up your own scheduling party.
3. I provide education.
I presented at a staff meeting and shared resources as issues came up.
If presenting to the staff makes you nervous, then you’ll love the communication templates included the SLP Now Resource Library!
4. I make sure they know their students’ goals.
At the beginning of the school year, I print out an IEP at a Glance for my teacher. (Your IEP system should be able to automatically generate one. A copy of the goals page could do the trick, too!) I provide them with all the information I think they need to know about their students, especially when it comes to accomodations written in the IEP.
I spend a few minutes reviewing the goals and explain how I’m going to target those goals. I also make sure they understand which accomodations their students need to be successful in the classroom.
It only takes a few minutes for each classroom, but it makes a world of a difference. I have the teachers sign off that I reviewed the IEP at a Glance with them and that I gave them a copy. This increases their accountability, and I don’t get quite so many “Oh! I didn’t know he was working on THAT in speech!” comments.
5. I offer to support them.
When I’m meeting with the teachers to review the IEP at a Glance, I also ask them what their goals are for the year. (I’ve always worked in schools where teachers had to set professional growth goals.) I offer to support them in that area, which the teachers really like! Teachers may request support in another area (based on students’ needs), but that is totally fine, too! We’re still making their jobs easier.
Getting this information at the beginning of the year makes it incredibly easy to implement curriculum-based therapy!
For example, one teacher set a goal to increase students’ performance on a state reading test. She was using a set of ReadWorks articles to teach critical skills. She even had the articles planned out for the entire school year! She shared her list with me, and I was able to pull those articles and use them in therapy.
One year, the third grade teachers set a goal to improve students’ performance when solving math word problems and explaining their answers. It was a very language-heavy task, and my students were struggling. I was able to target my students’ goals (e.g., vocabulary, grammar, inferences, summarizing) using these activities. The classes completed one problem a week, and the teachers shared them with me ahead of time. By using these activities as the context for our therapy sessions, my students were able to participate in a lesson that would normally be too challenging for them. This was also a perfect opportunity for generalization, because what we worked on in speech was directly tied to their work in the classroom.
6. I check in.
I send quick emails as students make progress or if I have a question. I try to make sure I touch base with each teacher at least once a month to make sure everything is going okay. Being proactive makes it possible to identify problems early and to make adjustments to the therapy plan as needed. Checking in also prevents those awkward conversations during IEP meetings, which is a fabulous bonus!
You might already be doing a lot of these things. If so, take time to celebrate! *insert 30-second dance party*
I also assume that you read this because you feel like there’s something missing. Improving teacher communication can feel like an impossibly huge project to tackle. I encourage you to set one goal. What is one thing you want to change this year? Don’t overthink it. Just pick one thing and make it happen!
Once you’ve got that down, come back and pick another goal. By tackling this one step at a time, I know you’ll make huge gains!
Let us know what your first action item will be in the comments below!