Along with new smiling faces, a new school year brings our special education teams new co-teaching arrangements, new assessments to give, and more. In order to help you be as effective as you can with your new students, we’ve put together a list of back-to-school tips that we hope will make managing your caseload a little easier.
Organize all that paperwork. Special educators handle lots of paperwork and documentation throughout the year. Try to set up two separate folders or binders for each child on your case load: one for keeping track of student work and assessment data and the other for keeping track of all other special education documentation.
Start a communication log. Keeping track of all phone calls, e-mails, notes home, meetings, and conferences is important. Create a “communication log” for yourself in a notebook that is easily accessible.
Getting your therapy space secured. We often get juggled around and if you are starting fresh in a school, you may want to be sure you have a room that the office staff is aware of. This way, if you happen to have a room that is usually a miscellaneous use room, someone knows when you are there (or at least) help to have room scheduling mix-ups!
Get to know your IEP team and collaborate. IEP is the cornerstone of every child’s educational program, so it’s important that you have a clear understanding of each IEP you’re responsible for. Make sure all IEPs are in compliance (e.g., all signatures are there and dates are aligned). Note any upcoming IEP meetings, reevaluations, or other key dates, and mark your calendar now.
Meet the staff and principal. It's always important to know the school and teams, but the custodian or office manager are the ones that you will be able to count on to get you through the new year! Be sure to reach out, and make friends fast!
Send parents and teachers an introduction letter. Take the time to introduce yourself with a brief letter before school starts. You’ll be working with these students and their families for at least the next school year, and a simple “hello” from their future teacher can ease some of the back-to-school jitters!
Touch base with related service providers. It’s important to contact the related service providers — special ed, school psychs, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech/language therapists, or counselors — in your school as soon as possible to establish a schedule of times for your students who need these services. The earlier you touch base, the more likely you’ll be able to fins times that work for everyone.
Meet with your general education co-teachers. Communicating with your general education co-teachers will be important throughout the year, so get a head start on establishing this important relationship now! Share all of the information you can about schedules, students, and IEP services so that you’re ready to start the year.
Scheduling your sessions. When setting up your schedule, remember to make an accurate, up-to-date caseload list including full name, grade, teacher, area of treatment and service time. Inform all general education teachers which students in their classes have therapy services. Send an email to the teachers informing them that you will be requesting their input for when to take their students for services. Let them know how many students from their class you will be pulling out. Make sure the teachers know that they need to double check all recess, prep, and lunch times for their class.
Start and stay positive. As part of a special education team, you’ll have lots of responsibilities this year, and it may seem over-whelming at times. If your focus is on the needs of your students and their success, you’ll stay motivated and find ways to make everything happen. Being positive, flexible, and organized from the start will help you and your students have a successful year.