A major part of being effective as a school counselor or psychologist is working to build relationships with teachers. As a beginning school psychologist, I had no idea how to do this other than being friendly. I quickly found myself out of the loop, avoiding difficult teachers, and halfway through the year feeling like my interventions took a long time to get off the ground.
Over time, I learned a couple tried and true strategies to communicate and demonstrate my value to teachers. In turn, I received their 100% buy-in when I had idea or intensive plan for how to help those kids we love the most.
Over time, those seasoned, “I don’t need another behavior chart” teachers, were often the ones in my office after school bending my ear about Jimmy Sue with the fidgety hands.
Consistent and frequent communication is key to build relationships with teachers. I get in each morning and make sure I have 30 minutes to spare before students arrive. Then, I pick one or two grades to visit and focus on listening to what they need.
Remembering a casual comment about needing a sticker chart can build a relationship when I pop one in their mailbox later that day.
I typically do rounds in the morning because it puts an end time on it. Seeing my face every week or every other week was the quickest way I found to weave myself into the fabric of a school.
Starting out, I’d recommend not taking on too many grade levels and make sure you don’t walk away with a to-do list a mile long. If you are new, talk with your principal about how to prioritize grades.
When I am seeing a student for counseling, I will send the teacher a one-page sheet about what I am doing in counseling, strategies they can reinforce in the classroom, and consistent language we can use to prompt the student. I may also give examples of how to rephrase common teacher language to be more effective for that student.
I also note the student’s counseling session time and if I have a regular check-in with the teacher. As soon as I let them behind the curtain, they understand that what I’m doing is more similar to a reading teacher than Glenda, the Good Witch.
I am usually out at recess a few times a week because I find that it is ripe for teachable moments for my students who struggle with social skills. A couple times a month, I offer to run a recess game for a teacher during their classroom or grade level recess.
I find this often inspires them to be more involved in recess. Choose team building games. I don’t force any student to play, but find that most are playing by the end. Teachers appreciate how few tattles they hear during that recess block.
My newest favorite is Where Oliver Fits. It’s perfect for promoting acceptance of self and others.
If there is something teachers love, it is treats and extra time. Preferably both at the same time. 🙂
When teachers refer a student, I will usually drop some sort of treat in their mailbox.
When they are implementing a behavior plan consistently or working really hard with a struggling student, I will shout them out in my newsletter. Teachers who make it to my newsletter get me to cover a recess.
You know, like the ones your mother would make you write to your grandmother after your birthday. Seriously, a post-it to jot down a thank you or a recognition of hard work is so appreciated. Especially to kindergarten teachers during the first few weeks of school!
Teacher support to carry over skills from counseling, create a positive classroom culture, and communicate effectively with parents is invaluable. My support is amplified when a teacher uses the same language as me, checks in with a student or sends a positive note home.
Now get out there and build relationships with teachers!
Laura is a former school psychologist passionately trying to bring social-emotional learning to every student at every tier. Click here for hands-on resources for the classroom and counseling.
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