Clinical Quality Manager Karin H. Koukeyan, CCC-SLP, offers best practices for making school introductions, building rapport, and becoming a team member your school contacts can rely on. Read the full interview with questions and answers designed to help you prepare for the new school year.
Q: If you’re new to a school district, how do you go about making introductions when you work remotely?
A: It’s always best to start with an introductory letter that can be emailed to school staff. Be sure to include information about your professional background along with some fun personal facts and a photo to add a personal touch. Since you won’t be meeting in person, you should seize the opportunity for school staff to get to know you.
Q: Any tips for making a good first impression?
A: Be the first one to reach out to establish expectation for communication with the school. Set the tone for how you would like to collaborate during the school year. A common misconception is that you might over step by reaching out through multiple modalities, but as a remote contractor, it’s always best practice to over-communicate.
Q: What are some best practices for reconnecting with your school district at the beginning of the school year if you’re coming back?
A: During the summer months, there are frequently staff changes due to promotions or folks simply moving onto other districts. Even if you’ve worked with the same school district for the past several years, please be aware of potential staff changes and be sure to make introductions and work through procedures when appropriate.
Q: What advice do you have for building rapport with onsite contacts including other therapists, teachers, parents, and school administrators?
A: Approach your assignment as if you are part of the school team, because you are! Make a point to host virtual office hours and attend back-to-school night and other events as the school year progresses. These events are opportunities for you to meet with staff members as well as parents. Another way to build rapport and encourage ongoing collaboration with parents is to send a weekly newsletter and offer homework for parents to follow-up with their students. Some schools have parent portals. Talk with school administrators about adding your information to the district’s portal. Look into having your name and contact information posted on the parent portal, so parents can reach out to you directly if needed.
Q: How important is the role of the primary support person or instructional aide in facilitating a smooth start to the school year?
A: Aides are very important. Since teletherapists do not go onsite, PresenceLearning works with schools to ensure there are Primary Support People (PSP) available at the school level to facilitate with communication and logistics. PSPs help to coordinate meetings and escort students to and from sessions.
Q: What activities can you recommend for building team spirit and collaboration with school staff members and students?
A: If your school site has staff meetings and Student Study Team (SST) meetings, be sure to ask school administrators if you can participate remotely. Being part of these regularly scheduled meetings will ensure that you are part of the school team.
If you find out that your school has a Spirit Day, be sure to participate in creative ways. Wearing school colors and planning activities that incorporate similar themes will in turn build team spirit with your school site.