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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 article.

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 buildings.

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 guidance counselors.

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 student, etc.

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 child.

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 district.

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 particular!

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 fall.

The following contributed these helpful suggestions: Sheila Amato, Joanne Gonn, Barbara Shalit, Diane Moshe, Janice Stallings, Mindy Demaris, Stephen Geu,Neal, and Ayala Ballonoff.

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