Three Easy Ways to Thank a School OT!
by Stacy M. Turke
on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog
If you are reading this blog post in April, are you ever lucky! April is Occupational Therapy Month, and had you waited to read this in May, you’d have missed the opportunity to say “Thanks!” to your School OT for the work he or she does to support the students in your school and in your life during “our” celebration month. I feel so blessed to have been able to work alongside the intelligent, creative, authentic OT staff at Ingham Intermediate School District over these past 30 years, who daily support my growth as a clinician and as a human. In this post I say thanks to them and offer suggestions for creative ways to say “Thanks” to your own school OT staff!
(Caveat: we will accept cards, flowers, and chocolates at any point during the month of April in celebration of OT Month! However, keep reading for cheaper and more meaningful ideas…)
Three Easy Ways to Thank Your School OT
Perhaps you have a student who struggles to complete written work or to copy sentences from the board. Or maybe you’ve noticed that one or two of your students have more difficulty than their peers staying focused during large group lessons, especially on “indoor recess” days. So you’ve called your School OT for help. After offering several possible fixes for the challenge, your OT goes on to the next classroom or school and you embark on trying out these ideas within your classroom. Saying thanks for these efforts is easy. After a week or two, simply share your feedback with your OT about how things are working out! You have no idea how much we appreciate getting this kind of feedback from our teachers and parents! Truly, hearing that a strategy is the answer that you’ve been looking for really warms my heart and is all the thanks I need. And if the strategies AREN’T working, or if part of the problem is resolving and you want to bounce new ideas off your OT, please share that feedback too. We have access to all sorts of Evidenced Based Practices and often know what typically helps most challenges that kids face at school. But we don’t work with cookie-cutter students and neither do you. The data you collect and the feedback you offer helps us to help you and other kids like your students. Help us help you and WE are the thankful ones!
Please invite us into your classrooms! This can be as simple as asking us to observe how a particular student is engaging with a piece of equipment or learning tool that we provided. Maybe one of our mutual students has just experienced some type of breakthrough and you want to share. Or you might want to bounce an alternative seating or classroom arrangement idea off us. Oh my goodness, do we ever love these kinds of opportunities! I have worked with several schools this year, at their request, to assess and help redesign classrooms to increase movement opportunities and enhance learning for kids. I was initially overwhelmed with the thought of getting into all the classrooms and providing inservice to an entire school staff given the high workload already in place. But the impact that this service had on the school cannot fully be measured in time or in increased test scores alone. I’m able to support many students in a rather short amount of time and I’m feeling valued as an OT and as a colleague. A “thank you” coffee is nice…but valuing someone’s work goes such a long way.
How about that student in your room who has Direct OT services and who has suddenly started to soar using the strategies you and the OT have mutually put in place? PLEASE share copies of that student’s classroom work with the OT so that we can share in the joy of success too! I recently had just such a thing happen and I will not quickly come down from that heartwarming experience. I have a third grader on my caseload who has always been a very reluctant writer for a variety of good reasons. This child has been on caseload for several years, and while the work within the OT setting has improved, this has not transitioned easily to the general education setting. This child has been very reluctant to give up the one-on-one time to allow “push in” services, again for a variety of good reasons. Typical classroom-based writing assignments for this child yield a page of writing at most, though usually the work completion was much shorter than that. So imagine my surprise when this teacher colleague of mine approached me a couple weeks ago with a paper in her hand and a twinkle in her eye. She said, “You’ve got to see what our student wrote for me today!” I glanced down at the stapled pages in my hand and saw this particular boy’s name at the top and his very familiar writing all over the page. I flipped through ALL 5 PAGES, completely full of text, and looked up at the teacher who was just beaming. I checked out the title of his paper and immediately felt tears come to my eyes. The title? “Working with Ms. Turke!” This boy wrote 5 full pages about what going to OT was like. He described in (mostly accurate) detail what we do and why, and he ended it with, “She is always nice to me, and I love her!” I think this teacher knew what a tremendous impact this paper would have on me. Her smile and hug said it all. Celebrating this child’s new found confidence with his teacher was one of the greatest “thank you” gifts I have ever received.
I’ve been blessed to work with some of the most generous, knowledgeable, creative OT colleagues over the years, all of whom have contributed to my ongoing growth as an OT. The folks I work with are quick to share therapy activity ideas and information on current research articles. Without sharing identifying information, we consult with one another when a student isn’t making the progress we had hoped for and we are looking for other intervention ideas. We mentor one another in district procedures and processes. We celebrate successes together. And we do what OTs do best: we help each other complete the occupations of the job with greater ease and efficiency. To Jennie, Jane, Cindy, Angie, Donna, Jodie, Mya, Ellen, Paula, Trish, Sue, Leanne, Liz, Cheryl, Amy, Allison, Kari, Ken, Tammy, Kelly, Jessica, and Marge, (and any others who worked at Ingham but whose names I’ve missed), I say Thank You. From the bottom of my heart. Happy OT Month, Friends!
Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L: “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.” Stacy has been a school OT for 30 years with the same school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.” Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas. She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!” You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @stacyturke.
“Thanks” image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Stick Guy Graphing” image courtesy of Clipart Panda.
“Chalkboard Smile” image courtesy of geralt on Pixabay.com.