Saturday, August 31, 2013

Scheduling in the Schools...UGH!

It is before 6:00 AM on a SATURDAY and here I am writing about another aspect of our jobs-for those of us who are school-based SLPs. This is my 30th year and I have seen just every possible situation in the school system! This year, I am working at 2 K-6 elementary schools, one of which also houses a state-funded pre-K class AND I have a high school with some very challenging students. I have some tips for you regarding scheduling, though the overall challenge truly does not get any easier with experience (in general). In other words, I have the same challenges that the newer clinicians have--some things just do not change just because one has more experience. So here is my list...

Teacher communication

1) Have the teachers meet you in the staff room one day BEFORE school. You can have a list of all students and your time slots. Assign students to a time slot based on teacher preference.

2) Send each teacher a note with their students(s) listed and ask for time slots they do NOT prefer or that absolutely will not work. I find this more helpful than simply asking what times they do want.

3) Go personally to the teachers who are more challenging to accommodate.  If you have worked for more than a year or two at a particular school, you will know what I am talking about! Sometimes you just have to talk to some of the teachers individually.

Working Around Other Schedules

1) One of my schools has a LOT of extra programs during the day including music, computer lab, PE, a traveling storyteller, etc. This school also has two 40-minute periods during which I can not schedule kids. One of those periods restricts the time I can work with 1st-3rd graders and the other restricts access to 4th-6th graders.  AGHHH! Get the schedules for all of these ahead of time. If you are located near one of the rooms where one or more of these programs take place, pull kids as the end of that scheduled time.  For example, I am next door to the library at one of my schools. I schedule students who are from the class furthest away to they come to speech right after library.  Saves time for everyone. When you are ready to tear your hair out, remember that IEP services take precedence over everything else...our district folks understand this.

2) If any of your students also receives PT or OT, consider doing therapy together WITH those folks.  It is a BLAST!  Last year, our OT came in to the speech room and we worked together with a group of students. Her schedule was insane and I was happy to accommodate both her schedule and the needs of our shared students. I have also worked together with our adaptive PE teacher...what a a hoot! He set up the game or physical activity, I joined in and added the language goals as we all played together.  FUN, FUN, FUN!  I highly recommend you try this!

High Schools and Middle Schools

High schools and middle schools are much more of a challenge. If you serve one or both, you know what I mean. I have significant experience at both.  Class schedules vary widely.  Some schools have a straight-forward multi-period day that does not change from day-to-day. Others, like the high school I currently serve, may have something called a rotating block schedule where four class periods happen on the "A" day and a different set of four class periods happen on a "B" day. The A/B days rotate every other day.  No, I am NOT kidding.  Now, just imagine you have a student who is at the top of his class academically and can only be seen during ONE particular period...on a "B" day in the get my point. Nightmare!!

1) Get to know the school academic counselors! These are the people who schedule classes for your students. If you can talk to them before the end of the school year, they can accommodate you to some degree when looking ahead to the next year. One counselor actually contacted me at the beginning of this school year when looking to change a speech student's schedule. Take this time to get to know these people!

2) At the beginning of the school year, send an e-mail or leave notes in the teacher's boxes explaining who you are, what you do, and which of their student(s) you serve. Even though a high school can be intimidating, you will find most teachers will be accommodating and appreciative of the service you provide. Having this information will also lead to greater flexibility in scheduling and improved communication.

3) Pull from PE class!  Let me tell you that one year I had a middle school PE teacher track me down and verbally tell me off (in front of a student!) for pulling someone out of PE.  Guess what...that was about 20 years ago and I STILL pull kids out of PE whenever possible.  Sorry, but academics take precedence over PE--every time! Pulling students out of academic classes is to be avoided as much as possible! Most parents will totally agree with this approach. Talk to your school administrator (and the student's parents) about this if you have any difficulties.

Grouping Students

I just have to say that at this point, I group students by classroom NOT by disorder. Yes, you must be ready to address multiple goals at once. Frankly, I find that a significant amount time is wasted trying to fetch kids each day with similar goals from different classrooms. It also drives teachers crazy when kids come and go frequently.

In my TpT store, you will find that most of my products are designed to address MULTIPLE goals simultaneously.  Now you know why I design my materials in this manner! My store is located HERE.

Happy Labor Day!!


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