It’s almost that time of year again. As the long days of summer end, it means it’s time to head back to school. For school-based occupational therapists, that might mean a new caseload and new students to work with. It’s always helpful to get off on the right foot from the start. Consider some of the following suggestions and tips for when you head back to school this year.
Learn about the students you are working with.
Although you’ll have information on each student, their file does not tell the entire story. To get a clear picture, spend a little time talking with your student’s teachers. It’s also helpful to get a look at your student’s curriculum. Knowing what the standards are for students on your caseload is useful to help students reach their academic goals. If possible, observe the students you are working with in their classrooms. Classroom observation can help you determine what modifications need to be made to the student’s environment.
Establish goals for yourself.
At the start of the school year, we all have the best intentions, but it’s easy to fall behind and have a hard time catching up. Establish goals for yourself, such as keeping up with charting, completing student IEPs on time, and having meetings with the treatment team regularly. Setting goals from the start of the school year may help you stay on track.
Build a strong relationship with other team members.
As soon as possible, introduce yourself to other team members, such as aides, physical therapists, and special education teachers. Make keeping lines of communication open throughout the school year one of your goals. Building a good working relationship with team members early on is priceless. It won’t only help your students be more successful. A supportive, collaborative environment helps you work more effectively.
Get to know parents.
Talk with parents of the students you are working with as soon as possible. Your first opportunity to meet parents may be at a back to school night or IEP meeting. Consider scheduling a follow-up meeting a few weeks into the school year to talk with parents on anything that may be concerning.
Develop a system.
Figure out a system that works best for you to keep track of everything you need to do. For example, if you work at more than one school as an OT, use color coded files for each school. Whether you use an excel spreadsheet or go old-school and use a planner, develop a tracking system that keeps things organized.
If you are returning as a school-based occupational therapist, you may already have a system in place for how you do things. You may also know some of the returning students, but don’t completely rely on what you did last year. Developing new therapy techniques and trying different approaches may be something to consider. Your experience can be useful, but a new school year is a great time to take a fresh approach and set new goals.