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.
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.