Every new school year is stressful; despite the fact that I love and look forward to new beginnings. Stress, if not properly managed, easily causes me to feel incompetent and overwhelmed. There are just so many variables to consider at the start of the school year, and juggling is not always my forte. Managing new students (and parents) that are added to the existing caseload, new teaching responsibilities, scheduling meeting, learning new forms along with other IEP responsibilities, is daunting. I am out of breath and haven’t yet mentioned teaching and classroom management.
Over my thirty-years of teaching, I have discovered some strategies for managing the start-up craze. First of all, make contact with all the new parents on your caseload and share with them how to best get in touch with you. Ask parents how they are best reached and what form of communication they’d prefer. Always remember that parents aren’t your enemy, they are your partner. Next, begin to set a calendar of all meetings for the year. Confirm dates selected with providers and begin to provide parents with meeting dates and times. The goal should be that by the end of September, all of the annuals and triennials meetings should be calendared for the year. Committing to scheduling meetings will ensure a smooth school year and alleviate anxiety. I promise that less than one percent of your meetings will change if you provide parents with advance notice.
I provide all of my students and parents with an easy way to get in touch with me after hours. I’ve done this for years, so that parents who would like to share academic responsibility with me can. I post my home number! You may think that sharing my home number with parents is unnecessary, but I have only experienced benefit from it for over thirty-years of teaching: first, my students have access to me when they need me the most and that is when they sit down to complete their homework, second, I get to further develop a relationship with my students. Many times the phone call that I receive is from a student who just needs a quick minute of support. Again, that the phone call will ensure success in so many ways: homework getting completed, student feeling that he/she can do it, student is advocating for him/herself all of these are positives. Sometimes a parent will call and ask questions regarding the something he/she didn’t understand about homework that evening and occasionally, a parent will call with a concern. This too helps manage stress in that you are hearing from the parent before they are at his/her wits-end. In all of my years of teaching, it happened once, I did meet a parent on a weekend to address her concerns. By Monday morning, everything had calm down and it was business as usual.
Sure special education teachers have a lot of responsibilities, but I wouldn’t trade my job for anything! Next time, I look forward to sharing my training with positive discipline in the classroom.