Scheduling. . .Does it Have to be a Nightmare?
I'm writing this blog in the evening after the end of the first day of school for the 2012-13 school year. Some of you have already started school, others start this week, and even more will be starting next week after the Labor Day holiday. There are so many things on a school-based SLP's to-do list at the start of the school year that I can't even begin to list them all; however, one of the most important (time-consuming, stress-inducing, hair pulling out-causing) tasks we have to do is to make up our speech-language schedule for the year.
I've always disliked scheduling. Every year I feel like it's never going to work or come together. Thank goodness email is now a part of our school day. It definitely has made scheduling much easier over the years. Each passing school year scheduling gets slightly (I repeat slightly easier) due to experience and being able to develop a system that works for me. I'm sure there are as many different systems of scheduling students as there are school-based SLPs. I thought I'd share some of the strategies and procedures I use to develop a speech schedule at the start of the year.
Get a copy of "building" schedules - this includes the times for lunch, recess, specials, and teacher duties. I'm fortunate that during our beginning of the year faculty meeting my principal gave me all of these.
- Start with a blank schedule template on your computer. I know some people prefer Excel, but I choose to do mine with columns in Word.
- Fill in any assigned teacher duties (i.e., bus duty, lunch duty, recess duty) first.
- Email all teachers of speech students to find out any and all possible time ranges that you can pull students. If you travel to different buildings, make sure to let teachers know which days you'll be in their building.
- I create a master schedule template once I start getting teacher responses with times. I do it in Microsoft Word and have a page for each cycle day. I start filling students' names into every possible time slot that the teachers have emailed me. For example, if a teacher said I could pull the students in her class any time from 10:30-11:45 I'd list their names next to the 10:30-11:00, 11:00-11:130, and 11:15-11:45 time slots. I'll also make a notation if the teacher said certain time slots work for push-in. It looks overwhelming at first as you might some kids names listed numerous times on numerous days; however, I promise it will come together eventually!
- Once all students are listed on all time slots, I then print out the Word document so I can cross out, write, and highlight on it (yes I know you can do this in word, but I prefer to do it that way).
- Make sure you look for a lunch slot and a planning time slot on EVERY DAY. You are entitled to this by your teacher's contract. It needs to be a priority!
- If you have students who get other related services (i.e., OT, PT), try to consider those providers schedules in your buildings and avoid duplicating services on the same day (if possible). Unless you are co-treating of course - then you want your times to overlap!
- Don't forget to leave time for screenings, observations, and assessments. Some SLPs try to block out an entire cycle day for these, but I typically have not had the luxury of that much time. I always leave some AM time slots and some PM time slots to allow some flexibility and accommodate for half day kindergarten.
- The tedious part - figuring out which kids get which slots. I could write a whole other blog on this, so I won't go into too much detail about how I do it. You know your kids, who they work best with in groups, and what times of day would work best. The next step involves highlighting slots that work for certain groups and crossing names off slots until each kid gets the right number of slots in your schedule.
These are just the general steps I take to make up a schedule. Every year I always think it'll never come together and never work, but in the end it always does! I'd love to hear from other school-based SLPs about this topic. Do you make your own schedule? Does your district assign days/times to you? If you make your own schedule, how do you do it? Have you found a method that works for you? Please share on ADVANCE's Facebook page or website. We all could use new and creative ideas making scheduling less of a nightmare!