After I hear the buzzer, I open the heavy front door and turn left. I need to sign in and get my visitor badge before picking up my student. I hear an excited squeal as I approach the office. One of my favorite receptionists stands in front, leaning over the front desk. “Let’s see what shoes you’re wearing!” she exclaims, grinning. “I heard those heels and I knew it was you!”
Because we work in so many different schools, the life of an itinerant can sometimes seem like a lonely one. But, with some effort, it is possible to build meaningful connections with teachers, receptionists, paraprofessionals, and administrators all over the state! I’ve grown as an educator by observing teachers of all grade levels throughout the day. I’m invited to the monthly breakfasts before school and the baby showers after. I feel elated! I feel connected! I feel like a member of a team! And — most importantly — because everyone knows who I am, my students get what they need in their schools.
As itinerants, it takes time and persistence to build connections with the numerous people in each school building, especially when we are only there once a week or once a month. Yet, when we are able to build meaningful relationships with the staff at each school, the benefits to our students are immeasurable. When a receptionist knows my name and the name of the student that I work with, she is more likely to help me arrange a quiet space for our direct service pull-out. When a paraprofessional understands my role, and his own support is validated, he is more likely to remember to text me when my student is out sick (and save me a long drive). When a classroom teacher views me as a colleague, he is more likely to implement my suggestions for providing visual access during instructional periods. When an administrator views my student’s in-service PowerPoint or iMovie (hand delivered by myself and my student, of course!), he is more likely to follow though on acoustical modifications in the classroom. When a principal understands my role and how it is different from that of the other service providers, she is more likely to suggest services for additional students with hearing loss in the building.
It’s never too late to build connections, even months after the school year has begun. If you have not been introduced to a key person on the student’s team, take a moment to seek that person out and introduce yourself. If administrators do not know your student by name, help your student set up an informal meeting where he or she can share a project or a piece of writing you are working on together. There will come a time when support is needed and having connections with school staff can help you get your student what he or she needs. Do you know everyone?
Special Education Director
Rarely visible in the school buildings, it may be easiest to call or email to introduce yourself and explain your role. Mention anyone on the team who has been particularly helpful to you. All administrators like to hear positive feedback about their staff!
Principal and Vice Principal
Introduce yourself by stopping by the office(s). Share highlights of your work with the student and, again, identify any teacher or paraprofessional who has made a difference in your work.
Receptionists and Guidance Counselors
The receptionists tend to know all the details of how the school is run! Be sure to greet them by name as you sign in. Guidance counselors have power in schools. If your student needs something changed or adjusted, it will be easier if you have a relationship with the guidance counselor.
The nurse can often be involved in the daily listening check and troubleshooting of amplification. Make sure you connect!
Cafeteria Workers and Custodians
A colleague recently shared a story about a cafeteria worker who was not aware of a student’s hearing needs and reprimanded a peer for walking over to speak to the student with hearing loss when the cafeteria rules state that students must remain seated. Everyone needs to know who our students are and how their needs may vary in each setting.
The IT Department
From enabling captions to helping you with splitters and audio adjustments, these are your go-to people in every building!
“Specials” Teachers and Paraprofessionals
Modifications may be necessary for art, music, P.E. etc. The Clarke resource, Have You Heard?contains handouts that can be shared with these professionals. Paraprofessionals often attend “special” classes with the students. If they are informed and trust your suggestions, carryover is more likely to happen throughout the student’s day.
Librarians are great resources for information and may also be willing to purchase books featuring characters with hearing loss for the school library. One of my students wrote a letter to her librarian requesting that these books be purchased as part of a project on persuasive writing. I met with the librarian prior to having my student deliver the letter so that I could explain the project. This librarian not only purchased books but engaged the student in every step of the process!
Classroom teachers, special education teachers, reading specialists, writing specialists… you should connect with every adult working with your student on a regular basis. Collaboration is key!
Speech Language Pathologists
We often collaborate closely with the S/LP on the student’s team — a strong working relationship is important.
Every Person You Meet in the Hall
“Hi! I’m Heather. I’m the teacher of the Deaf working with _______ this year. I don’t think we’ve met?” Take a minute to say hello – you might end up working with this person at some point in the school year!
How do you connect with key people at your schools?