As a school psychologist or school counselor, your relationships with teacher are one of the most important factors in effectively supporting struggling students. I need their patience with getting behavior plans implemented. I need their confidence that the plans will work. I need their mindfulness to carryover strategies into the classroom. I need their grace with difficult parents. I need knowing nods when days did not go according to the intervention plan.
That’s a lot of things that I need to do my job well.
To get all this, it’s on me to strategically establish those relationships. To do that, I focus on transparency, responsiveness, communication, and respect. Plainly, I give my time, bake tasty treats, mention a teacher’s efforts to my principal, supervise recess, and listen.
3 MORE Ways to Build Relationships with Teachers
Check out my first 6 ways for other strategies.
Sit in on Difficult Parent Meetings
Everyone dreads meetings with difficult parents. An evaluation is being suggested, two students are not getting along, an incident happened with a substitute, there was bullying on the bus, poor grades on a project, food restrictions because of a student’s allergy. The list goes on. Five days a week we take in people’s children for the day and try to make sure we don’t break them. 🙂
When a parent is angry at a teacher, that meeting can color how the rest of the year will go. If you work with the student, know the student well, are in the classroom a lot, go to the meeting. Dread going, but go. The (stupid) times I elected not to go to a meeting, almost always resulted in a parent in my office or on the phone. The times I elected to go, the teacher almost always felt supported, the meeting was productive, and I had now had a closer relationship with a teacher and a parent to better support a student.
Data, Data, Data
“Every time I call on her, she is playing in her desk”
“The plan isn’t working, let’s try something else”
Schools are not always the best places for data analysis and rational decisions, especially concerning student behavior. As a school psychologist, I’m a data nerd and often feel like the cheese standing alone with my graphs and my antecedent-behavior-consequence data. I have built strong relationships with teachers and implemented effective interventions because of my love of data. Never, always, can’t, won’t are banned in conversations with me unless you have the data. I make a joke out of it, teachers respond, and rephrase. Send teachers behavior plan data summaries in a quick visual format twice a month. Bring the data to those dreaded parent meetings. Do observations and collect data for the teachers so we can talk about what behaviors are actually happening and some reasons why. Most of all, be steadfast in making sure people make statements they can back up with data.
Teachers don’t love this at first, so I often start by doing the heavy lifting. I observe, I make graphs, I ask, “How do we know that?” each time, I find the date to back up (or not) what they are saying. Then I teach them simple ways to collect the data so they can show off those skills at meetings with the principal or a parent. I teach them the rubber band trick for counting behaviors. I gave them excel templates to put data into. Quickly, I create a coalition of fellow data nerds.
You see a student once a week, you see their class for a guidance lesson, you write intervention plans, you go out to recess with them, you call home.
Get in the classroom.
Model how a teacher could carryover strategies that would make the student more successful. Deescalate a situation. Work with other students while the teacher supports the struggling student.
When I get a student referred for counseling or behavior plans, it almost always comes with some form of classroom support initially. In the classrom, I can cue strategy use, provide more reinforcement on a new plan, or provide the student with time to calm down. During my first few years, a fellow school psychologist and I realized that we should flood support to students and teachers initially and pull back support as the teacher and student improved. That almost always includes classroom support. In the end, it is the most effective and manageable model of intervention for me, and teachers develop new skills at the same time.
Being on the same team as a teacher you are working with is invaluable. Being a support and clear communicator of your role builds trust and a strong relationship.
How have you improved or developed a strong relationship with a teacher?