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Welcome to the show notes for the Episode 73 of the OT School House Podcast.
Today, we are going to talk about 10 things that you can do right now, at the end of this school year, to make NEXT school year a little bit easier. Some of these are going to be pretty straightforward and you may already be doing some of them. But some of these are going to be a little bit more reflective in nature. I'm going to ask you to go a step deeper with me and think about how you can make your next school year better by wrapping up this year in an organized manner. It's just you and I today, so let's jump in to it!
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Hello and welcome to the OT School House podcast, your source for school based occupational therapy tips, interviews and professional development. Now to get the conversation started, here is your host, Jayson Davies. Class is officially in session.
Hello, and welcome to episode number 73 of the OTs school house podcast. My name is Jayson Davies and I have to get this episode started with one thing, it's gonna be May! Alright, it actually already is May, but I'm recording this in April. So it's not quite there yet. So the N'Sync - Justin Timberlake meme was just blaring in my head right now. So enjoy, that is the one time you're gonna hear me sing since like, I think I sing in like Episode Two or something like that, I think I Rapped. But anyways, it may not happen again for a while. Welcome to May, with may comes the end of the school year is coming soon, some of you are going to wrap up this school year, this month, right at the end of the month. Others will potentially go into June a little bit one week, two weeks at most, probably three weeks. And then you have extended school year, right. So we're going to talk about that, we're going to talk about 10 things that you can do right now, at the end of this school year to make next school year a little bit easier. Some of these are going to be pretty straightforward. And many of you are probably already doing many of these things already. But some of these are going to be a little bit more reflective in nature. And I'm going to ask you to kind of go a step deeper and thinking how we can make next year better. Alright, so again, real quick, we're gonna go over 10 different items that you can do right now, or at the end of this school year, to make life easier when we come back in August or September whenever your district comes back. Alright, so stay with me, let's go ahead and do this. It's just me and you today. So let's get started. Alright, so let's go ahead and get started with the first of 10 things that you can do right now in the month of May, maybe June to make your life easier when we come back in the fall. These are in no particular order, I'm just going to go through and list all 10. And we'll see how long we go for. All right. So here's the first one. When it comes to assessments, you want to try and get any assessment that had the assessment plan signed 30 days or more before the end of the school year, you want those assessment plans wrapped up, you want to have that assessment done, you want to have the report written. And I know it's not completely in your control. But if you can even have the IEP, that is even better assessment plans that may have been initiated within 30 days of the school year, you can potentially wait on those until the beginning of the next school year. By all means if you have time to get them done, get them done. Because we all know that the beginning of a school year is hectic with scheduling and whatnot. And so if you can get those assessments done, do so. But there is a little bit of a leeway at the beginning of the school year, you have about 60 days depending on what state you live in, in order to get those assessments done. So if you use 30 days, and you don't get it done at the end of the school year, you still have 30 days at the beginning of the next school year. Now, I know you might be wondering what about if the student goes to extended school year is that part of the 60 days, typically No, that is not considered part of the normal school years. That's extended school year. And so he is why days would not count in regards to the 60 days timeline that you have to complete an evaluation. In addition to getting all the assessments done that were initiated prior to the final month of the school year, you also want to make sure that you document all of the assessments that did come in potentially in the final month of the school year, those are going to be assessments that you need to get done or whoever is the OT at that student's new school or at that school, maybe you're no longer there, those IEPs those assessments are still going to get held within the first 30 days of school initiating back up. So be sure they're documented. And also be sure to document anything that you actually did toward that evaluation. Maybe you already sent out a questionnaire to the teacher, maybe you already sent something out to the parent, maybe you already had a conversation with the parent, be sure to document whatever is done. So whoever picks it up after you or even you at the beginning of the next school year has that information ready to go.
Alright, on to the second tip, and that is to ensure that every student has had an annual and a triennial meeting if needed. Now, I know this may not completely following you as an occupational therapist, you are not typically a case carrier for any of your own students. Typically it is the speech therapist and or the case carrier, the special education teacher that is the case carrier and in all fairness, technically, yes, it is their job to make sure that all the animals and triangles happen when they're supposed to happen. But we all know that life happens. They get busy and maybe something slipped their mind if any of you Students, and this only takes a minute to check, just go back and look at your students, if any of them haven't had an annual, be sure to send an email to the case carrier and say, Hey, you know what, remember Johnny? in your class, we never had a meeting for him this year. Or maybe we had a an amendment earlier in the school year, but we never actually had an annual let them know. Likewise, are there any triangles that you were expecting to come up and didn't happen? Again, let the teacher know, say, Hey, you know what we need to do an evaluation, it's due now. And, you know, maybe you don't get it in by the end of the school year, but at least you help them to remember, hey, we need to get this done right at the beginning of next school year, which kind of goes back to the first tip that we had, get those evaluations done that you can, why is this important that you help out with this? Well, you know, you just want to be a good team player and you want to help everyone else out, you want to do what is right by the kids, what is helpful for the teachers as well as for your administrator, you want to be there to support them. And you know, Ida as well as every state says the IEP must be done every year. And a triennial if the team decides to do full testing needs to happen every three years. So make sure that you're being a team player and helping everyone out, it only takes a quick minute to kind of go down your caseload and just in your mind, say, Yep, we had that annual Yep, we have that annual. And you might have to check your IEP system if it comes to a name that you're not sure about. But it doesn't take too long. And it can really help. If you have your own documentation system in place, you might already haven't marked whether or not the child had an IEP. So that makes it really easy. And it's very helpful for the teachers when you're able to provide them with the assistance that they might need. Alright, so the third item on my list of 10 things you can do right now to make next year easier comes to the treatment and treatment notes side of things. As you're wrapping up your final treatments, maybe the last two or three weeks, your your final one or two sessions with a kid, I want you to just to write a little bit longer of a note than your typical Daily Note, you can do it as part of your daily note, or maybe even do it as a separate note in your own private journal, where you have access to it. So when we come back in September, whatever it might be, you have a little extra, a little something that reminds you, Hey, this is what I did the last few sessions in May or June. And also this is what my plan is when we come back from break. So start off this note, maybe again, just the last one or two notes that you're going to do with the kid for for this school year. Start off the note with in May or June the student dot dot dot, what did you guys do in May or June, and then go into in August or September, OT needs to focus on this. This is just going to help your brain have a little kickstart come August to jump back in and to know alright, yes, with Johnny, we were working on visual spatial skills. And we wanted to work on now in the new school year up in the game a little bit making things a little bit more difficult. And maybe we're now working on integrating those visual spatial skills in with some other functional school activities such as copying from the board or cutting out more complex shapes. If you'd like you can also add some data in with that extra note or just be sure to note where the data is so that you can access it next year when the IEP comes around. Alright, I believe that brings us to number four now. And number four is to update your caseload or workload document, whatever you call it, and add any necessary notes about the students. So if you already have an Excel spreadsheet or a Google Sheets file for your entire caseload, go ahead and just make sure you have a column at the far right that has notes. And what you're going to go through is just look at each student and look at the grade level, maybe look at
the classroom that they're in and kind of anticipate what may happen. Any moves that could potentially happen over summer, and then add notes based on that. Johnny sixth grade. Oh, well, since he's in the sixth grade, he's probably going to be transitioning. I don't know where yet, but he's going to be transitioning. Jennifer, she's in the sixth grade as well. But in this note, I can add that I know she's going to such and such Middle School. Alright, such as such middle school that OT there is Jessica. I'm going to make sure that I need to send this file for I think I said Jennifer was the name I gave the good need to send Jennifer's file over to Jessica. Things like that will help you again, make September a little bit easier. Other things that you can also add there is just notes about maybe things the kid might have mentioned such as, Hey, Mr. Davies, I think I might be moving over the summer. Well, we may not be certain about that. But that is something that we can put in the notes. Just to keep in mind. Hey, when we get Back in September, I need to see if that little kid is still here. Or if he's gone, if he's gone, I need to make sure I send an email to special education to let them know, Hey, he's gone. Can you help me figure out where he went. So I can send the file to wherever he might be. Other notes that you might want to add, or any conversations that were important during IEPs, or with the teachers such as a, maybe john is getting pretty close to being exited from OT or special education services in a hole. So maybe in September, or maybe give it an extra month, and maybe October, let's look into asking for an evaluation to see if they still need services. Or maybe you know that the parent is going to want to have a meeting at the beginning of next year. Right that in there a note to sell, Jonathan's mom loves to have a meeting every August when we come back to school. So you know, it's going to be there, just mark it down. So you have that little reminder. All right, on to number five. Number five is a fun one, it's a little more engaging, and it has the potential to make a huge change in the way that you see students over the course of your lifetime as a school based occupational therapist. So if you haven't done this already, maybe you don't do any RTI right now, I just want you to reach out before the end of the school year to one teacher, maybe two, if you're feeling really ambitious, with just one teacher, the one that you work the most with the one that knows the most about OT that gets it the understands what you do with the kids and ask them, How can I support you next year? That's it, how can I support you next year, maybe you can make a lunch date out of it or something but sit down or shoot them an email and say, Hey, I just want a moment with you. I want to I want to have a chat with you. But I want to make sure that you're kind of, you know, ready to have a conversation. So maybe set up a time don't just do this over a casual meeting in the hallway, set aside some time to ask this teacher? How can I support you next year? What can I do to not just help one kid in your classroom, but what can I do to support you and your entire classroom next year, you'll be amazed where this might go, the doors that it will open, the opportunities for collaboration will just they'll just open. Like I don't know what else to say. But they will open opportunities will present themselves when you make an opportunity to support a teacher. Again, only start with one, maybe two if you're feeling really ambitious. But I always tell occupational therapists start small. Start with just one teacher, maybe you get to one in August. And maybe you get to a second teacher in December. And before you know it next school year and the 2022 school year, or whatever that might be when you're listening to this podcast. Who knows maybe you'll have four or five teachers by then. But you want to start small? How can you support one teacher next year to support their entire class? Who knows, you might find out that they really need help with their students handwriting, you might find out that another teacher or the same teacher really wants help with teaching their kids how to use text to speech or speech to text. Maybe they want to work on an emotional regulation program with you. Maybe they really want you to come in and provide sensory brakes a few times a week so that they can learn how to do them on their own. It's just amazing what can happen when you ask a teacher how you can support them. So if there's one thing you take away from this podcast, I know we're only on number five, there's still five more items I want to get to. But this is the one I want you to take away from this. Reach out to a teacher and ask them how can I support you in your classroom next year. That's it. I almost want to stop the podcast right now just and with that, but we'll keep going. Before we do though. I want to take a quick break. And I just want to say hey, you know what, if you are enjoying this podcast, if
you're enjoying what I'm saying we've gone over five things already. Go ahead, jump on Instagram real quick. Shoot me a fist bump, a high five something in a DM. And I'll be sure to get back to you. And so I know that you're listening, and I know you're enjoying all this content. All right. I want to do more solo episodes like this, but I want to hear that you guys are all enjoying it. All right. So send me a quick dm and yeah, let's go ahead and keep going. All right, number six, collect and document any materials you might have given out this past year. I've been doing this for a while I know things get lost. And they go from being the OT departments sit and move cushion to teacher A's move and sit cushion. I get it. They don't have a lot of funding. They are more than happy to accept anything that we're willing to give them. And sometimes we never get it back. So here's what you need to do. Create an Excel spreadsheet, Google Sheet, whatever you use your weapon of choice, I guess I could say and you're going to mark down a few different things. You're going to go into the classroom and you're going to grab the item you're going to mark down what is the item so give it a name you Might even give it a color so that you kind of know exactly what you want it is even you can mark it, get a sharpie and mark it item three C. And then you can write down on your spreadsheet, item three seat, whatever that is. Then add also, where did it come from? What classroom? Did item three c come from? What student or students? Did that item support this past year? And yes, it's totally okay for one item to support several students, maybe not in COVID time so much. But typically, yes, something can support more than one student, maybe there is a yoga ball in the classroom and several students throughout the day, use it to roll on it, it's important to mark this down. Because if maybe two of those students transition to middle school, but three of the students that used it are still in the elementary school. Well, now, we can't get that ball to just one or the other classroom, we may have to ask special education for support and providing a ball to both the elementary classroom as well as the middle school classroom, if it's still relevant. Also ask the teacher for any feedback on how it went and how it was used. What exactly were they using that yoga ball? or whatever it might be for? Were they rolling it over the kid? Are they having a kid roll over the over ball was the kid sitting on the yoga ball during work? When was each kid using it? All of that is important because again, when you go back to special education, and you say, hey, I need another yoga ball. They're gonna ask why? Why do you need another item? Well, you see, Johnny and Stacy moved on to middle school, while Don Carlo and I don't know, I'm blanking, I've used too many names today. We'll go with Amanda are still in elementary school. And look, they were both using it for this and this, but now they're in different classes. So it'd be really helpful if there is one in each classroom, because they both need it for different reasons. You may also want to add, was it too big or too small? Was it just right? I feel like I'm reading Goldilocks to you right now. We want to have the just right material in place. So we need to know this past year. Was it just right? Or do we need to alter it when we get that item back out at the beginning of next school year. I already mentioned to note down if a student's going to be moving, you might want to also note that down on your caseload sheet Hey, students move into middle school. By the way, item three C was for that student in the classroom. So just let whoever the OT is at the middle school or if it's still yourself. Just a little reminder, hey, an item may or may not be going or coming with that student. You also want to mark on your cheat sheet if we want to call it that where the item is stored. So mark down item three, see, this is what it is, this is who it's for. This is how it benefited them. This is what the teacher said about it. Oh, and by the way, it is stored in the closet by the door. because too many times things get moved, or they get lost. And we just don't know where they are. So at least if something gets moved, it's not your fault you put down where you put it, and maybe someone moved it over summer, well still have to track it down, potentially. But at least you know where it should have been and you haven't documented. Now I'm sure there's a lot of other information you could add to this form. But I don't want to make your life too complicated. Yes, we want to be ready for September. But we also don't want to be over exhausted from this year. So I recommend actually making a Google form and sending it out to the teachers, letting them fill out as much of the information as they can first. And then you go back in and add some of the specifics to occupational therapy, and such like where the item is stored. And maybe a few other parts that I said there. But if you prefer a pencil and paper go with it that way. If you like Google Forms, feel free to create a simple Google form that helps you out.
Alright, number seven here is very simple only takes a few moments to do but it actually can help you quite a bit. And that is scheduling. I don't expect you to create your schedule for next year. I don't even expect you to have any idea about your schedule for next year. But if you know anything about your schedule, let the teachers that you will be working with know just a little bit. This doesn't need to be anything specific. It might just be as simple as Hey, Mrs. so and so. Mondays worked great at this school. I plan to keep Mondays going next year, or Hey, Sunday's Sundays, what is the Sundays or Hey, Mondays don't work this year was really tricky for me. I felt Mondays were not great, because they're just too many holidays on Mondays and I need to see your kids consistently, whatever it might be. Let them know that way when someone else reaches out to them about Mondays next year. They already have in the back of their mind. You know, I'm not sure about Mondays, Mrs. Amanda Oh already claimed Mondays for OT, let me check in with her, before I get back to you on if switch therapy would be good for Mondays or not. Again, you don't need to let them know exactly what good you're going to see at what time or what day. But if you can give them a general idea, you'd be surprised at how well they do and kind of blocking off that time for you. If you don't know at all, that's okay, you can skip this. But if you do know, it's great that you can do it. Which kind of brings us now to our final three tasks that you can do now to make next year easier. These last three are more reflective, to make yourself better, and to potentially even consider where you should move on from here. Alright, so number eight. Number eight is to reflect on how you were able to handle your caseload this past year. How did you do with handling the fluctuation in kids from the beginning to the end of the school year? How did you deal with the fluctuation of evaluations? Did you note High Times and low times or fast times in slow times? Who knew I could get some rhyming in today. But take a good hard look at that evaluation list that you compiled up over the year, take a look at how many kids came in or left your schools. When referrals came in, when referrals didn't commit, did things pick up in January, or were they slow all the way up until May and then all of a sudden you got a bunch of referrals in May. Typically, I see an uptick right at the beginning of the school year. And then another uptick right after Christmas break or winter break. That's what I typically see. But that may be different at your school. So kind of track that a little bit. Also take a moment to do a little self evaluation of your skills. How did you feel as an effective or ineffective occupational therapist this year? Did you feel like you were able to get items met? Get goals met with your students? If so, why? What helped? What skills Did you have that really supported you in that? Or maybe for a part of your caseload? You didn't feel competent? You didn't feel like you have the skills? Or maybe you didn't feel like you have the time mark that down? What was it that prevented you from being the best occupational therapist that you could be and helping the most students that you'll get help? You can even take that a step further. And once you're done with this little reflection, go ahead and just do a quick Google search. How can I get better at sensory? How can I get better at promoting handwriting? How can I get better at RTI, just Google that and you're going to come up with tons of resources, your districts going to be more likely to support you in some sort of training, if you can kind of give them a reason why that training is going to be beneficial for you. If you can share with them and say, Hey, I felt really good going into 90% of my classrooms. But these 10% of kids that I see, it was a real struggle for me this year, because I just don't have the training and autism or whatever it might be that I really need to have in order to support those students. Likewise, if you're looking back at the year, and you look back at your calendar, and you realize, man, it was really tough getting through the month of February and March, because I had so many evaluations in January, well then share that with your OT team. share that with your administrator, share that with the people that actually can do something to help you out. It's one thing if you share your trouble with your administrators or your team, and nothing happens, it's a complete other thing. If you're having difficulty and you don't ask for help. People can only help us if they know we need help. And so I want to encourage you to go back, look at your calendar and see. Realistically, look,
did you survive that month? Did you get all the students in that you needed to get in for the month of January and February if those were your tough months? If not let people know. You know, maybe nothing happens this year. But maybe next year is also tough and you let them know at the end of next year. And then the year after that's also tough. And you'll have to know the year after that. Well, hopefully over time, it will start to get better because people are going to hear Hey, you know what, Jessica, she's a great OT. But every year she's asking for one thing, a little bit of help with her caseload. Well, maybe over time, they'll be willing to listen to you. All right. So go back, look at your calendar and see how things went. And along the lines with reflecting on your caseload. I also want to ask you to reflect on the difficult times that you had within IEPs themselves. Where did you get tripped up? Did you have a struggle with writing the IEP itself? Did you have a struggle with actually presenting your assessment results in your goals and your services within the IEP? Maybe it was more of questions that you were asked by a parent or a teacher and those just Were you off? What was it this year? That kind of caught you off guard? Was there a theme? Was it a bunch of small little things? What was it that got you tripped up? And then again, just like in step number eight, or Item Number eight, I guess I can call it. What can you do about that? Where can you look to make IEP s a little bit easier for you? Heck, maybe it was simply that you just weren't getting invited to the IEP is? Well think about that. dissect that break it down. What can you do to ensure that next year, your teachers Remember to invite you to the IEP is, what can you do to maybe get your IEP done a day earlier to have your goals, your services, everything into the IEP IEP system one day early? That way, maybe you're not getting emails from the case carrier to get it all in? Or what can you do about when you're at an IEP and you have everything just set? Right? And then someone asked you a question that just throws you off your game? Like why do you think it's sensory, not behavior? In the moment, I know that can be a really tricky situation to handle. Even if you are really good at understanding sensory, that can still be an in the moment difficult question to answer. So make a plan plan for that to happen next year. What can you do now, to make that question easier, come next year, attending the back to school conference, or the A to Z school based OT course, you can never go wrong with one of those options to make you a better school based OT. But there's so many other courses out there that you can look at as well, I just want you to get the training to help you in your career as a school based OT. Alright, and that brings us to our final item for this podcast today. And you know, this is a tough one to talk about. Because I know there's some of you out there that you felt like this year, just flat out sucked. I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, you just, it was hard. I mean, even without COVID going on, you might have really struggled this year through COVID. On top of that, and I know some of you don't even want to be a school based OT anymore. And you're listening to this podcast, because you want me to convince you to stay here. And yes, I want you to stay here. But I also want you to be in a school based OT job that supports you. So this might be the time if things are really that bad. This might be the time to start opening up your search to look elsewhere. So what does that mean? And where do you go? I would recommend starting by reaching out to friends that are occupational therapists, speech therapists teachers in other districts and asking them what it's like in their district. And do they know of any OT positions that might become available in the next few months? Right now in May and June. This is the time that schools are hiring for August and September. There are jobs out there, I know it can be few and in between in some parts of the country. But you have to go online and you have to find where educational type of jobs are posted. Out here in Southern California and most of California in general, we use a website called Ed join Ed join.org. And that's where you can find most educationally related jobs, teachers, OTs, etc. However, I know that's not always the case, you might have to go directly to the districts in your surrounding area, look on their website, they might have a tab specifically for careers check there, I have not really found some of the larger job boards to be very helpful. But you never know in your area, maybe that's the place to check. Also check in with your state board of occupational therapy or your state Occupational Therapy Association.
Sometimes they will have a job board that you can look up jobs in the area, I really do want all of you to stay within the school based OT career, I don't want you to leave school based OT we need you, you are a OT that has dedicated themselves to learning more about school based OT, and it will be a huge loss for me as well as your district. If you leave the fields, I really want you to stay here. And I really want you to find a job where you're going to be supported and feel like you belong there. So if that isn't the position you're in right now, it's okay to look elsewhere. I'm going to be very honest with you right now, that website I was just telling you about Ed join.org out here in California. That is like therapy for me, I go on that website, at least probably like once a week just to look what's out there just to see what school based OT jobs are out there. You know, it's nice just to know, hey, if something really popped up that just like shouted at me like, hey, I want to go there. Well, at least I know about it. I don't want to miss that opportunity. But if you don't at least know what's out there, then you're going to miss application and you're never going to know and you're going to be stuck in a job that maybe doesn't feel right for you. I really hope that you are at the perfect job right now that you Love it that you want to stay there forever. But I know that's not the case for everyone. So that is just another option. All right, well, that is the 10 items that I wanted to cover today to think about right now to make next year as well as all subsequent years a little bit easier on yourself as a school based OT. I hope you've learned a little bit from these 10 items. I hope it will make your life a little bit easier. But please, if I miss something, if I forgot something, let me know shoot me a DM on Instagram. Leave me a review down in the apple podcast app or use a simple email carrier pigeon probably won't work. But any other form that you had to get a hold of me. Let me know what I missed so that I can help more OTs share the knowledge that you have and how to make every year successful year. Thank you so much for tuning in to today's episode and cheers to a fantastic end of the 2021 school year and a blessing of a 2021 22 school year. Take care.
Thank you for listening to the OT School House podcast. For more ways to help you and your students succeed right now. Head on over to OTSchoolhouse.com Until next time, class is dismissed.