Those first days back….
Those first few days back at the end of August are almost never yours to do with what you want. They are going to staff directed activity from admin, meetings with parents, and connecting with teachers about supports and in general, answering questions people have. There is not really a ton of time to map out your own big picture. Teachers want information and answers about the most challenging kids and you need to be ready to give it.
6 things I do to prepare for the first days of school
Share my introduction letter
In order to share the letter, I usually have a little updating to do. My letter gives a brief history of my experiences and shares out important information for the upcoming year, like Information Day or Back to School Night dates. I also include any new things parents need to know, like additional staffing or a change in policy that’s kind of big. I also have a google form for parents so they can share more about their child with me.
Once the letter is done, I collect all parent emails and create a contact group for them on g-mail. I email the letter to myself and then blind copy it to this parent group, which I use routinely for other things. This way, I can send one email and get it to 10-20 people, without worrying about confidentiality. Easy peasy.
Schedule transition meetings
I try to batch tasks as much as I can. Because I’m in already in email, I send those few individual transition meeting emails next. For confidentiality reasons, I do this separately from my intro letter.
Create an IEP/Eval Due Date document
It’s best to get the whole year’s view of where annual IEPs and evaluations are going to fall for the year so I can see where meetings are clumped up and where there is some breathing room. I create a one/two page document that I can reference all year. Because I know there is an option to go earlier, I feel free to change things so they fit better in my calendar.
I tend to move my IEP dates earlier where there are clumped up times. Your IEP due date is a guideline for the latest possible date you can meet, so changing it to earlier is perfectly fine. I also coordinate evaluation and IEP dates so the evaluation is completed before the annual IEP is due.
Overall, I don’t get too stressed out for having 3 or 4 meetings on one student because that’s just how it goes sometimes, but why do that if you have an option to adjust it?
Cross-check that supports are in place for each student
I check snapshots, actual IEPs, and schedules, to ensure that everyone is covered. If they aren’t, I talk to someone who can do something about it. For me, this is my student services coordinator. These are the biggest things I look for:
- are one on one all day students covered across the day? Do they have adequate space to be one on one?
- are behavior needs covered in a manner that can actually happen and work well? How are breaks going to be handled?
- are there students together who shouldn’t be?
- do students who need pull-out classes have them? Or the opposite?
- do students who have para supported classes have paras in their classes?
Share snapshots with staff and answer any burning questions
I have a separate post for Writing Stellar Snapshots, if you want to know more about those, but at this point, my snapshots are done. My last step is to actually share with everyone who needs it. This includes paraprofessionals and teachers. Many people like paper copies so they can make a file or leave it with their sub notes, but others prefer the email version. I share both and I make several extras. One set ends up in my own sub binder.
Get ready to meet students
I start meeting students and families during those few late August days back. Prior to that, I make sure that I have any introductory rules and facts about myself also prepared. Because I work across different classrooms and spaces, I make sure I’ve got the resource rooms organized and set up for what we need for the year. I also touch base with teachers and join in with whatever introductory activities they do. Some do power points, some do 2 truths and I lie, some just talk. I’m ready for whatever they do.
That’s pretty much it for me. What other things do you do to get ready for that first week?