July 22, 2011

How To Work With an Itinerant Teacher

This is from my personal experiences working as an itinerant teacher going into my third year.

How to work with an itinerant teacher (for classroom teachers and staff members workng with a student who requires services from an itinerant teacher):

  • Make sure to get the itinerant teacher's contact information and be sure that they have your contact information.
  • Talk with your principal about letting you have access to your phone or email during class hours in case the itinerant teacher needs to get in touch with you or if you need to get in touch with the itinerant teacher. If this is not possible, arrange for your paraprofessional or aide (if you have any) to be able to contact the itinerant teacher and receive information from the itinerant teacher. You can always have the itinerant teacher talk with the principal about this, if it is necessary.
  • It helps, if you can or have the time, to let the itinerant teacher know (through email, text, or phone call) when their student is absent or will be late.
  • Have a copy of the student's class and school schedule handy and give one to the itinerant teacher
  • Provide copies of the student's work samples and agendas. Let the itinerant teacher know about the student's progress in class and what areas you think they could work on.
  • Don't be vague about the student's progress. Instead of, "Oh, he's doing just fine," it would be better to elaborate, "He is doing well academically, A's and B's, however, I notice that he struggles with writing complete sentences and he does not seem to have a good understanding of idioms.
  • Please be aware that the itinerant teacher's schedule can change at the drop of the hat. They should let you know when this happens just as you will try to let them know when their student is absent.
  • Itinerant teachers’ schedules can change several times throughout the school year. They may have to increase or decrease services with another student at another school or they may lose a student (student moves, no longer require services, changes school, etc.). The itinerant teachers should inform you of any changes made to their schedules.
  • Try to meet with the itinerant teacher at least once a month when class or school is not in session.
  • Be honest. If the student is having problems or if you do not understand the itinerant teacher's role please ask and let him or her know.
  • If you are having any problems with the itinerant teacher, please let the itinerant teacher know. It is better to address the situation in person with the itinerant teacher than to go straight to the principal or their supervisor about the problem. If you want their supervisor or your principal involved, set up a meeting and invite the itinerant teacher. Sometimes the issue is due to a simple misunderstanding or misinterpretation that can be solved quickly by going to the itinerant teacher first.
  • Do not gossip or spend a long time talking to the itinerant teacher about your personal life. If the itinerant teacher starts gossiping or talking to you about his or her personal life please try to discourage it (unless it is not during instruction or planning time). Use you best judgment.
  • Please allow or encourage the itinerant teacher to visit the student's classroom to do a short presentation and Q & A so that the student's classmates can learn more about the itinerant teacher's job and the student the itinerant teacher works with. I find that students love this and it is a great learning experience. It helps dispel some myths and it gives them the chance to ask questions they may have been afraid to ask the student. It also makes the student somewhat of a celebrity for the day.
  • Let the itinerant teacher know about any special events or celebrations that the student and his or class will participate in. If you let the itinerant teacher know ahead of time, it may be possible for him or her to change their schedules or make arrangements to attend.



  1. great reminders! thanks!

  2. Great resource for all Itinerants: The Itinerant Teacher's Handbook by Carolyn Bullard, Ph.D. published through Butte Publishing. Butte Pub. has a website you can order it from...

    She was an awesome Professor for Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Lewis and Clark College here in Portland, Oregon

  3. I don't work with itinerant teachers, but I do work with many different OTs, PTs, Adapted PE teachers, audiologists, speech therapists, and nurses that come in throughout the day. I can't stand when a specialist comes up to me (especially if I don't have paper and pen with me) on the hectic first day of school, introduces themselves, says they'll be here at such and such time, and then leaves. I then sit down and ask "when did she say she would be coming???" I know it should work both ways, but since you are the visitor, it'd be helpful if you come prepared with paper and pencil to write the information down.

  4. It is frustrating when you ask a teacher, "How is little Johnny doing?" and she says, "Oh, fine..." and then you find out that he's been teasing little Suzy and hasn't passed to a new reading level in five months. But I've come to take responsibility for getting accurate, useful information from general educators by the way I question them.

    It seems like many teachers hear this question as, "Are you doing a good job with little Johnny?" They see the child's progress as a reflection on themselves. Although they have an impact on the child's progress, it only goes so far. She feel guilty saying the child is struggling, like they should be doing more. Or they just aren't thinking. So I help them think.

    I might ask things like, "How is he doing with following directions?" I continue with examples, "... like keeping his hands to himself in line, finishing his work as directed..."

    I might ask things like, "What is her biggest challenge with reading?" or "How is his writing in comparison with little Joey and Benny?"

    I might ask, "Is grammar more of an issue or vocabulary?" Choice questions like this are often effective in eliciting useful information, because although they occasionally say, "Really, both are fine," more often this will lead to an honest summary of the child's weaknesses. Which are what I need to hear about.

    I might ask things like, "How can I help you with behavior?" Or reading. Or writing. Or answering questions.

    Or I might ask, "Which area do you most need ideas for: reading or writing?" Or "Answering questions or interacting with peers?" Again, choice questions can be very effective.

    I also have learned to ask these questions at the beginning of my visit rather than toward the end... I used to blow my schedule regularly with that rookie mistake! Live and learn.

    Another live and learn: I document these conversations.

    And to follow up on what Anonymous July 23 10:06 am said, I ask the teachers for their email addresses and then send them a reminder email with the time I will be visiting the child. That way they have my email.

    I do not rely on teachers to let me know when students are absent. I've worked in schools--there's no way they have time for that. I put that responsibility on parents. Of course, some parents are flaky, and I know who they are. For those kids, I call the school an hour or so before I go. Usually when I'm on my way to the child before that child. The secretary at the school should have the attendance.

    Working itinerantly is challenging in many ways, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I love seeing so many different faces every day! :)

  5. SurfinSLP,

    thanks for your suggestions and sharing your experiences and ideas. Great point about how to ask questions to get specific answers. Maybe I should not rely so much on teachers to let me know when the student is absent. I do understand that sometimes they are not able to or will forget. Totally understandable. I will try calling the school ahead of time for some students as well. Good idea. Some parents are really good about this. I think I will change my suggestion about letting
    itin. teachers know if a student is absent, make it more reasonable.


  6. I changed it to: "It helps, if you can or have the time, to let the itinerant teacher know (through email, text, or phone call) when their student is absent or will be late."

  7. I think these suggestions work just the same for itinerants to keep in mind! I know in my third year I became sooo much more aware of how much I could do to make my gen ed teacher's lives easier - starting with a little introductory memo to all staff at the beginning of the year. Let me know if you'd like a copy...I think I still have it around somewhere...

  8. Jennifer,

    If you still have the memo on you, I would love a copy. That would be helpful. Always looking around for new ideas.


  9. thank you for sharing your experiences. I was having a rough day and googled "itinerant teacher woes" and came across this. Sometimes we are all alone out there and forget there are others! :)


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