What have you learned from other school staff this year? As school based occupational and physical therapists, we can learn so much from teachers, teacher assistants, administrators, school nurses, school counselors and other staff members. We may know lots of information on fine motor skills, gross motor skills, visual perceptual skills, sensory processing and coordination but we are lacking in many other educational traits. Throughout the school year we may hop in and out of classroom seeing snippets of what goes on during a child’s day. Watch, observe and learn from all school staff. Attend all of your students’ IEP meetings if able. To hear all of the team members’ perspective on a student is invaluable. Here are what I consider the top 5 things school based therapists can learn from other school staff:
1. Use a plan book. Teachers are required to have their lessons planned in advance. Therapists should try this idea. I plan for the next session for a student(s) the week or night before but I do not always write it down. Read here for 5 reasons to use a Therapy Planner this year.
2. Group management. Teachers are amazing at managing large groups. Gym teachers are the best! Have you seen some of them in action with sometimes two huge classes at one time? They are organized and routinized for sure! Therapists frequently only have 1 student at a time. Watch and observe how teachers manage large classrooms. If they can manage 25 students at a time we can certainly manage small therapy groups. Read here for some tips on managing group therapy sessions.
3. Recording grades and data collection. Obviously we do not have to grade assignments but checking annual goals more often than on a quarterly basis is important. Teachers record grades and correct homework to make sure a student is progressing satisfactorily. Make sure your therapy students are progressing towards their annual goals in a timely manner by checking those goals at least biweekly and using progress monitoring tools (check out Progress Monitoring Forms for Fine Motor and Gross Motor Skills) . Administrators LOVE data collection. Ask them questions if you need advice on how to get started or improve your current methods of data collection. They are trained very well in data collection. Show them how your services help students to succeed.
4. Progress Reports and Report Cards. Teachers will frequently send home progress reports if a student is not performing as well as can be expected. If a student is not making satisfactory progress towards his/her therapy goals do you let the parents know before the quarterly reports come home? Communication is key!
5. Have a back up plan. Do you ever notice that good teachers and teacher assistants seem to always have a back up plan? If the class unexpectedly finished an assignment early they always have an extra activity planned and ready to go. Sometimes it is a traditional fun game or it is the next assignment. Therapists should have back up activity ideas if a student reaches the goal quickly, loses interest or fatigues.
What is your favorite lesson you learned from a teacher?