Thursday, November 14, 2013

Guest Post: The Table

You've been with me over the past weeks, or even the past years as I've gone through IEP meeting after IEP meeting- some good, some bad, some leaving me celebrating and some leaving me in tears but through them all, the emotions leading up to each and every meeting have never changed. IEP meetings are hell for the parents, there's no question about that. But, I did have a question.... what are those meetings like for the teacher? What do the teachers want to say? I asked some teachers. First up, my friend Shanell from GoTeamKate.

Shanell Mouland is a teacher/blogger from New Brunswick, Canada. She can be found blogging here, on Facebook here, and on Weebly here. When she's not blogging, she living and loving life with her wonderful husband and two gorgeous girls- Grace and Kate.

The Table
I dread making the call, you know. The one where I have to tell a parent I need to organize a meeting to discuss their child's individualized education plan. If I am being honest, I will often ask the homeroom teacher to make the call, for fear that my voice will shake. The call, for me, is often more painful than the meeting. I guess I empathize with those parents and the anticipation of something can often cause more angst than the thing itself.

I am a special education teacher and I also have a daughter with autism. I guess I have a pretty unique perspective because I sit on both sides of that table.

When I sit on the parent side of the table, I am ready for a fight. I come armed with legal documents and a fierce attitude. My mantra keeps repeating in my mind: My child is paramount and her needs must come first.

I stare at the people around the table and wonder if any one of them has any earthly idea what it is like to have a child with a disability. Do they understand that we wake up and go to bed fighting? Do they care?

I won’t elaborate because you know all about this side of the table. You could write the book about this side of the table.

I would like to share with you a little perspective from the other side of the table. I can’t promise all of the educators you deal with feel the way I do but I can share my experience and you can take it for what it is; one teacher’s take on the IEP process.

Like I said, I dread making that call. Want some seriously honest and potentially career damaging testimony? I always feel like I am faking it.  Who the hell am I to call these people and ask for a meeting to discuss crucial goals and outcomes for their child? Am I seriously considered the ‘expert’ in the room? Me? The one who left the car running in the garage last week? The one who went to work wearing two different shoes and only one was a heel. These people are going to let me weigh in on what is best for their child? I cannot screw this up.

  I have the formal education; the Master’s degree, a stack of books beside my bed to supplement that knowledge and a desire to do a good job but I have never felt truly prepared for one of these meetings. Even though I recently, ‘joined the club’ when my daughter received her diagnosis I still don’t feel like I truly deserve a seat at that table. Here is why:

I am not an expert on autism, or special needs education or the school system. I am expert on my daughter, and her behaviours and needs and I hope in some small way this knowledge transfers and allows me some understanding of what your child needs.

I am not an expert on child development or current and progressive autism therapies or inclusion but I aim to be and I want this to be encouraging for you. I am not an expert on parent/teacher relationships or teacher/student relationships or any relationships for that matter but I implore you to trust that I have the best interest of your child at heart.

When I sit across from you with my notes and documents I am nervous and I fully realize the significance of this meeting for you. I fully realize that the things that come out of my mouth might not be what you want to hear. It is ok to tell me that. I will stutter and become flustered because I have a lot invested in this meeting but I understand that I will never have near as much invested as you do...

Until I am sitting on the other side of the table.

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