“You’re here! I missed
you so much!” my elementary student exclaimed, racing over, his curls
bouncing, as he threw his arms around me in a hug. His teacher gave me a smile
and a wave from across the room as my student chatted about his current writing
assignment. A few classmates looked up form their work and greeted me as well.
This enthusiasm and the welcoming smiles are not unusual.
I’ve been experiencing something new this year- everything is just really working in one district. From the
outside, there’s nothing to lead a teacher of the deaf to believe that it would
be any different from any other district. It’s not a particularly wealthy area and
the schools do not have a lot of experience with hearing loss or with working
with a teacher of the deaf. But it’s become my TOD utopia. I’d like to take all
the credit for making these schools so ideal, but it’s been a real team effort.
Originally contracted for just two students, the district has
now increased that contract to include several more students in the school
system—meaning even more students with hearing loss have access to the support
services that they need in order to flourish in the mainstream. I made a real
effort initially to not just explain but also show what a teacher of the deaf
does. Consult times were scheduled on a regular basis and I planned lessons for
those the same way that I do for my students’ individual sessions (see my post HERE for more tips about making the most of consult
time). I invited support personnel and the administration into my sessions with
students so that they could see for themselves how what I do differs from what
the SLP or special education teacher does. While not every aspect of the
classroom or equipment use was perfect, I was able to focus on what was working
and easily weave in tips for improving access.
For their part, the administration in the district has
allotted time for the entire teams for the students with hearing loss to meet
quarterly, while also providing coverage for the regularly scheduled consult
time so that all relevant staff can attend. Teachers come to consults with
specific questions or requests for feedback from my classroom observations, which
makes my job easier and more structured! At the end of each consult, we create
an agenda for the next consult which was the SLP’s idea and I’ve started to
implement this in other schools as well since it includes the team and is not
just me deciding what is important. The district has prioritized the needs of
the students with hearing loss and we’re already seeing a difference in
performance and confidence!
Open communication, receptiveness to feedback, mutual respect
and a genuine desire to create an optimal learning environment for all students
between myself and my school teams have all contributed to one of the most
ideal TOD situations. I’d love to recreate this type of environment in all of
my schools and piece-by-piece, I’m learning how to do that.
How do you build
positive relationships in school settings?