Never miss an opportunity to learn from another professional
College can give you a good foundation but the real learning comes once you start working. And if you’re smart you’ll learn from everyone you work with, colleagues and clients.
When I started working in early intervention 20 some years ago, I knew little about child development, family issues or caseload management. So I faked it for awhile until I was able to watch, listen and learn. Luckily it was a job where we talked and consulted a lot. We did arena assessments where one person facilitated and the rest of us observed. I was able to watch, listen and read the final reports of all professionals involved. Now that I look back I was lucky to find a first job where people really respected what you had to say and at least considered your recommendations.
During those years I watched and listened not only the other speech therapists on staff but the physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses and social workers. The information I gathered in those two years has served me well throughout my years of working in the public schools. The biggest lesson I learned in Early Intervention was to always listen to what other people have to offer, consider their view point and if the information makes sense use it or at least remember it.
These days it pains me when I sit in team meetings and see no one taking a note as the school psychologist gives her report and recommendations, I want to stand up and yell “Write this down, this is good stuff, it will help you understand the students learning style!” In team meetings it isn’t just classroom teachers that need to take notes. If principals and vice principals were smart they would be taking notes too, so when an issue arises they can refer to the notes when dealing with special needs children and parents. When you sit in a team meeting as a passive member you are missing out on a learning opportunity. Not to mention when you also look passive or even uncaring to the parents.
Within the public schools, services can often seem so fragmented. The team meeting is one of the few scheduled opportunities to listen to and collaborate with your colleagues. Beyond that there is often little time to consult with others working with a student. However, another thing I noticed is that everyone is often on their own agenda, “only do what I have to do with the student to achieve my goal.” When you walk into a classroom and see none of the recommendations that specialists have suggested in place, you have to wonder if the teacher was listening or even considering making changes.
More than likely four things may have happened that keep the teacher from implementing accommodations, either the teacher was not present when you made recommendations in student meetings, the teachers did not even take note of your recommendations, the teachers are so overwhelmed with what they have to do it’s impossible to carryout or remember even the simplest accommodations or they have little understanding of the child’s disability or needs.
I have worked in schools where they made the teachers an important part of the meetings (hiring a sub so they could attend) and in schools where teachers buzzed in said their piece and buzzed out. When the school allows or even requires the teachers to stay in team meetings they have a much better understanding of the specialists roles and recommendations. How can you expect teachers to understand a child’s disability or unique learning style when they weren’t even there to learn from the specialists. If I was the parent I would either question or at least wonder why my child’s teacher is not present to hear this valuable information.
Like I mentioned above. I’ve sat in many meetings where not one person (other than myself) is taking notes on what any the specialists have to say, nor did they take a copies of the reports. What does that say. It says they are not taking the opportunity to learn from another professional. When learning from other professionals isn’t encouraged, it not only disrespects everyone involved but in the end the child loses out.