Looking for ways to celebrate OT Month as a school-based OT? Even though April is often a busy month in the school system, it’s nice to be able to take some time to advocate and spread knowledge surrounding occupational therapy. So whether you have 5 minutes or 5 hours to spare, here are some ideas to consider!
1. Distribute Information to Staff
One of the best uses of our time as school-based OTs is educating staff about our role. The more our teachers and staff know about what we do, the more appropriate the referrals we get will be, which is a win-win for everyone. Distributing information could be as easy as sending an email with some simple facts about school-based OT, or printing out handouts and leaving them in high traffic areas like the teacher’s lounge or by the mailboxes. Don’t be surprised if this helps you foster more connection with your teacher coworkers – most are eager to learn more about what we do!
2. Decorate a Bulletin Board
If you already have a bulletin board of your own, this one is a no brainer. But even if you don’t, it’s worth checking with one of your principals to see if you could utilize one for OT month. From there, you have a few options – you could again use it to distribute information and fun facts, or you could design something like a self-regulation station, courtesy of the OT department.
3. Create a Sensory Path
This is a fun idea that’s taken off in the last few years. If your school doesn’t have one yet, it’s the perfect time to set one up to celebrate OT month! There are a lot of options if you’d like to install a permanent version, such as making shapes and words with a Cricut machine, or buying a kit from one of the many online vendors. But if you don’t have the time/space/resources for that, it’s totally fine to do it the old-fashioned way and design one with sidewalk chalk outside.
4. Post On Social Media
Beyond educating students and staff, consider helping the other people in your life understand school-based OT! I know many of my friends and family members still don’t have the best grasp on what occupational therapy is in general, much less how it looks in the school setting. So consider sharing a brief description of your job online, using non-jargon terms that are easily understood. Think your OT elevator pitch, except it can be edited and refined. 😉
5. Hold a Contest
I love competition, so I always think this is a fun one. You could do something like send trivia questions through email, or even create a short Jeopardy-style game for the beginning of a staff meeting. Consider putting forth a small prize (fidgets, Twist N Write pencils, sensory bottles, etc.). But if you don’t have the budget for that, I’m betting your coworkers would be happy to just compete for the glory of knowing the most!
6. Do a Giveaway
Do you love giveaways? (Who doesn’t!?) Your teacher friends do too, so if you have the budget, think about celebrating OT month this way! Ashley Menzies, a school-based OT, set hers up like this: she sent out an email about OT and our role in schools, including information about handwriting, core strength, and easy strategies teachers can implement in class. At the bottom of the email, she included a link to a simple form that asked for their name and what they learned. Once all the replies were in, she drew names to see who would win a Starbucks gift card! I love this idea for an easy way to spread the message of OT AND to treat a coworker to a cup of much-needed coffee.
7. Do an Inservice
I’m a big proponent of doing inservices for a variety of reasons, the biggest one being helping your coworkers understand your role. If you’ve never done one before, it doesn’t have to be super complicated! Don’t feel like you have to explain the entirety of school-based OT in your first inservice. Instead, pick a topic within our role that you could present on for 15 – 30 minutes at a staff meeting. Try to choose a topic that has immediate, practical applications for the group you’re talking to – like giving gen ed teachers ideas for fostering self-regulation in students.
Giving back can be a great way to celebrate our profession. Can you think of any volunteer opportunities in your community that would benefit from your OT skills? Maybe your public library has an opportunity for you to teach a quick child development class to expectant parents, or maybe you could get involved with your local Special Olympics chapter. Regardless of what you choose, it is really rewarding to be able to utilize your hard-earned OT skills for something other than work.
9. Teach OT Students About School-Based OT
If your OT school experience was anything like mine, you had 1, maybe 2 lectures that went over school-based OT. I definitely didn’t realize all that went into the role until I was actually working my first school-based OT job. Which is wild to me considering that around 20% of OTs work in the school setting, second only to hospitals. So, the more we can teach OT students about school-based OT, the better we’re setting them up for success. Try getting in touch with your alma mater to see if there’s an opportunity to guest lecture on our setting, or consider speaking with student OT associations after class hours.
10. Give Yourself the Gift of Continuing Ed
Celebrating OT Month doesn’t have to all be about giving back or helping others. Take some time to celebrate yourself, too! You are a wonderful OT and you deserve an investment in your profession. So if there’s a continuing ed course you’ve had your eye on for a couple months (or years!) take the time now to finally register for it. Learning more about the things we care about in OT keeps us passionate about our jobs and helps stave off burnout. Plus, many companies run sales in April to celebrate OT Month – so there’s a good chance you could save a little money, too. If you’re looking for continuing ed ideas, I’d be happy to have you review any of our offerings at The Dynamic School OT, but there’s a whole world of great school-based OT CEUs out there. Cheers to learning and investing in ourselves and our profession!