Building a Rapport
Classroom teachers see and work with the students in their classes daily for nearly 6 hours (not counting recess, lunch, or specials). During the course of a school year, teachers spend hundreds of hours with their students. We work with our students anywhere from one to maybe 3 times per week, the times of contact ranging from as few as 10 minutes to up to 40 minutes, give or take, depending on what their IEPs say or how you're providing RTii interventions.
Over the course of a school year, our hours of contact with students are significantly fewer than those of a classroom teacher. You'd think that because we don't spend nearly as much time with students as their teachers we don't get to know them well. However, interestingly enough, I find that doesn't often seem to be the case.
We have unique experiences with our students' classroom teachers simply do not. Often we have students for multiple school years. Sometimes you might have a student on your roster the entire time they're enrolled at your school (so in a K-5 school like mine, it is completely possible to work with a student for 6 years). We also have the advantage to seeing students in a small, more casual setting. This combination (having a student for multiple years, seeing them in a small group setting) gives us the opportunity to get to know our student quite well, often even better than their classroom teacher.
Based on my interactions with parents at February conferences over the past 2 weeks, I really think parents know and appreciate when you take the time to get to know their children as more than just a "student on your roster" who you're seeing to work on particular speech-language skills. I know the students appreciate this too!
Kids always seem surprised about what I know about them - their birthdays, their siblings' names, their pets, the sports they play, their favorite TV shows - you name it! I think it makes our students feel valued when we take the time listen to them (other than for their speech sounds or grammar!) and remember what they tell us about themselves.
Each session I always allot some time at the beginning to let students talk - some talk about their weekend, others share the score of the soccer game they played last night, and this time of year someone is always telling me their sister is home sick with a fever. It may take up a few minutes of therapy time (but we can certainly data collect on targeted speech-language goals while doing this!), but it is important in developing rapport and good working relationships with our students over the course of their therapy. We SLPs are certainly talkers (there is certainly no doubt about that!); however, I really think it is equally, if not more, important that we're good listeners.