I am a hell of singer. You wouldn’t think it from my look- but I have got pipes. Or, at least, I am a hell of a singer for primary kids. They think I’m pretty great.
Where would we be without our colleagues?
I, for one, know that I would be much worse off.
Follow me along on this short little story about a girl you will hear more about this year. Her name is Abby (name changed of course).
Here we are singing “5 Little Ducks” and doing the finger plays and the teaching assistant, Olivia, models going to the “numbers” page. From there, Olivia sings and puts in the pauses so that Abby can count down from 5 using her iPad with Snap + Core. Not the first time I have seen it in therapy, after all, we have created pages for “Wheels on the Bus” and “OT” and “PT.”
The beauty of it is in the teamwork and support from Olivia. She KNEW to build this bit of language into the activity. She KNEW to model and show it. She KNEW that this was what we needed to do with the child.
As therapists, we are in a unique position. We are experts. We know what to do for our students. We are also facilitators and need to know how to get the best out of the people who also work with our students. Working in isolation on tasks is a recipe for no carryover.
Here we are singing along to “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”- I love the version of this song in book form by Jane Cabrera. The visuals are colorful, it allows me to get Abby to turn the pages too. We are clapping, making eye contact, and engaging throughout the book. Where’s Olivia? Clapping along, singing along, and even following along when I go off on riffs to do finger plays, dance, or add a question of 2
I could boast and say this therapeutic relationship works with Abby and Olivia because I facilitated it. We could also discount any work that was done on Olivia’s part or my part and say that Olivia has “intangible” skills that allow her to know when to jump in. The reasonable explanation is that it is both- I have worked with a number of teaching assistants and saw “buy-in” of different types.
There are some people who “get” what I do and some who don’t want to be bothered. They “know” the kid and are going to do things that make sense to them. It’s clear that Olivia knows what to do and will continue to grow and help educate children in a variety of ways. But without the facilitation, the buy-in, the coaching, the independence, and the communication, we would be in a different place.
What do you do to facilitate relationships with other teachers and teaching assistants?
Here’s my thoughts:
LISTEN: Listen first, listen often, and stop talking so much. Share something about yourself, but also listen to the other person. Quality listening sets up the working relationship. If the other person does not feel heard, they are not going to listen to what you have to say later.
BE PRESENT: As school therapists, we can get pulled in many directions. One day, you are a substitute teacher. Another day, you are in 6 CSEs and need to catch a student before the end of the day. It is too easy to let these work-related distractions pull you from the critical work with some of your most needy kids.
BE REGULAR: Once again, it is too easy to get pulled in all of directions that the job requires. At least in the beginning, check in with the teacher after every session. What’s working? What needs to be changed? What are they seeing? (Don’t forget to listen!)
Ask the teaching assistant to come along to sessions. Some teachers want their teaching assistants to stay in the class, another set of hands can make work easier, I get it… But ask for the teaching assistant as often as possible. Between listening and modeling, you are setting yourself up for more success.
When you are using AAC, have pre-verbal children, or are working through challenging times with a particular student, it is critical to have the support of the classroom team. It’s hard to facilitate those relationships at times. When you LISTEN, BE PRESENT, and BE REGULAR, you can facilitate the relationship much easier. When you get a little help from your friends, you can continue to make magic happen in therapy.