Compiled by Susan Mangis
The question was asked on the AER list serve, “Do you have
any suggestions for a beginning itinerant teacher of the
visually impaired?” The following are some of the best and may be useful even if you do not travel from school to school. A list of contributors is at the end of the
1. Find out the names of the school nurse, building
secretaries, custodians and food-service workers. They will
be counted among your best friends.
2. Carry a small notebook in your pocket to write down
names, phone numbers/extensions, room numbers,
deadlines, etc. as you explore your new schools or different
3. Stay out of the toxic teachers’ room.
4. Take care of yourself. If you don't take care of you,
then you won't be able to take care of anyone else.
5. Avoid saying, "In my other school, we did . . .."
6. Collect building floor plans for all of your school
buildings. Collect fire drill and emergency drill procedures
for each building, too (if different from each other).
7. If itinerant, get email addresses of all teachers and
8. Get school calendars for each district you serve
(different districts have different holiday schedules).
9. In the northeast, Upper Midwest, Rocky Mountain, or mid-Atlantic states, find out where
snow (or other) closings are announced.
10. I carry, in the car door pocket, a very large-print
copy of frequently-phoned numbers, e.g. a school I may
travel to four times per week, so that if I'm running late, I can
(at a red light, of course) cast a quick glance at the list and
find the phone number I need.
11. Introduce yourself to principal, counselor, nurse,
etc. at each school with VI student(s) you will be working
with. I have found that this helps these contacts at schools
remember me and what I’m doing there later on in the school
year, especially when an issue comes up.
12. Get to know the bus drivers if you can!
13. If you can win over the paraprofessionals and/or
braillists, you've done something right.
14. If you like to bake, try treating a few colleagues to
their favorite goodies.
15. If a colleague is heading off to a big meeting in a
few minutes, consider buying that person a can of his/her
favorite soft drink.
16. Get some colorful stationery and write a colleague
a short personal note. Tell him/her how much you
appreciate his/her efforts.
17. Help your students write short messages in Braille
for sighted school personnel, and then include a print translation.
Students can write short thank-you notes, messages for
Secretaries' Day, Administrators' Day, Nurses' Day, etc.
18. If you are techie, PDAs are great for compiling the
many schedules, names, phone numbers, reminders, etc. If
you can, set it up before the school year starts with things
like the school-wide schedules that are usually available
online. Sync it to a computer program such as Outlook, so
that you have the information in more than one place. Some
districts actually are already using these systems, and you
can tap into them. As far as the PDA’s for those who are not
as savvy, a simple organizer from Radio Shack will help you
keep schedules, phone numbers, addresses and
appointments up to date. Keep that PDA close at hand.
People are constantly informing me of new times for IEPs,
special field trips & other schedule changes. I keep a
student list in the phone contacts & make notes each time I
call a parent on the list — this can be valuable to document
parent contact, when something first becomes an issue and
that you did/did not have knowledge of it.
Document parent contact & teacher contact! Document
everything! (That means at least write it down in your
running notes somewhere.)
19. Grab students' schedules as early as you can, to
get a jump on scheduling.
20. Make sure the teachers that work with your
students have a copy of the educational modifications, those
things which the IEP determines need to be provided in the
classroom as part of the student's instruction, such as
extended time for testing, large print materials, test read to
21. Rolling crates (collapsible) or rolling suitcases are
great for hauling those large print textbooks.
22. Equipment is going to break, usually on a Friday
afternoon, or, mysteriously, over a school break. School
personnel are going to confuse you with engineers. Learn
how to take apart and clean whatever can be safely
disassembled. (No, Big Mac switches don't work well after
orange juice is poured in them.) Have a list of the major
adaptive hardware and software producers so you can whine
pitifully for help because a mysterious "someone" thought
they had a better idea and pushed some keys they shouldn't
have. (This "someone" will never be found. You'll never find
out what they did. Don't waste time looking.) Your car or
office will be mistaken for a Home Depot. Give in and carry
with you electrical tape, a set of miniature screwdrivers, a
Leatherman (or something similar), a full size 5-in-one
screwdriver, an extra USB cable, an extra phone cable and a
variety of common batteries. Do not admit this to anyone or
people will be lined up with equipment you've never seen
before and requests for "a couple of seconds" of your time to
look at malfunctioning widgets. Learn how to say no.
23. Keep a change of clothes in your car — you never
know when there might be a spill or heaven help you, a sick
24. Find out how inter-school mail is sent & where you
can pick this up regularly. If teachers can send by inter-
school mail you have a greater chance of getting items that
need enlarging/enhancement/brailling in advance. Work
with the school secretary to get a mail box assigned to you.
If you can pick it up from one location this is a help.
Deciding how to do this may depend on how many districts
you work in, & if there are multiple schools served in a
25. Get the bell schedule for each school, including the
schedule for modified days.
Here’s One thought for the end of the school year in
26. Make sure that you deactivate all adaptive tech
software applications. And make a list of software,
serial/license numbers, any license KEY information that
may be needed to reactivate, and any related info. Often IT
will come through and wipe all hard drives at the end of the
year, or reimage them at the beginning of the year. Not
having deactivated can create additional headaches in the
The following contributed these helpful suggestions:
Sheila Amato, Joanne Gonn, Barbara Shalit, Diane Moshe,
Janice Stallings, Mindy Demaris, Stephen Geu,Neal, and
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