Work Collaboratively with More Success and Less Stress!
Working with our students can sometimes be easier, in a way, than working with our colleagues! I’m joining up with The Frenzied SLPs to give some hints we picked up over the years for working in collegial relationships.
Collaborating with teachers can cover a range of experiences. I find it usually helps if you are able to choose which teachers to work with initially and when to be present in the classroom, so that you have some feeling of ease about how to address the IEP goals before walking in the door.
For example, in elementary school I was comfortable with addressing all of the linguistic concepts needed for math word problems in the classroom, but I don’t feel that way about joining a middle school algebra class!
Even when you have a working relationship of mutual respect with a teacher, it takes some time to develop a co-teaching style that you both are comfortable with. Since this journey is different with every teacher you will work with, I’ll just give a few points to consider.
Collaborate with peers
Try to have a short discussion with the teacher to find out when she will be most comfortable having you in. For example, she might feel less stress having you in at the end of the week when her content has been covered and she is doing activities to review and pull it all together.
Alternatively, she may love to have you in at the beginning of the week when she is introducing vocabulary and basic concepts. It all depends on her teaching styles, your comfort level with the subject area, and the needs of the student.
Be prepared to do more observation than intervention in the very beginning. Watch the teacher’s teaching style, figure out how you can address your goals during that time period without causing a major disruption in her routines, and be sure to find out her comfort level with throwing out comments!
Some teachers don’t mind having you join in and speak, while others are very uncomfortable having their flow be disturbed, preferring that you be more involved at a specific point during the time. Coming up with visual supports and other strategies for the student to use, with minimal discussion, can be helpful in this situation.
Realize that, especially in the beginning, you won’t necessarily feel that the same amount of personal intervention with your student has taken place. Your first priority is to build a relationship with the teacher and observe how the student’s language needs are impacting his ability to do well in the classroom.
Once you have established these goals, the interventions you put in place will be more likely to be supported and used by the classroom staff even when you aren’t in the room, making up for the slower start.
Be flexible! Working with your coworkers demands the same skill set you use to adapt the work and the flow of the therapy session for each of your students. You have to fit yourself into the spot where they are and try to move forward together.
Do you like all of the ways you have to work collaboratively with others? What is your least favorite? Mine, quite honestly, was having student interns. I just didn’t know what to do with myself while watching therapy all day long!