Why Meeting with Special Education Teachers is 'Just Business'
Planning for the next parent teacher conference can be exciting, but when a child with special needs is involved, the thought alone can leave parents feeling anxious and agonizing over the stress of it.
As the meeting date draws near, we prepare our documents and take notes on what we plan to discuss. We are focused, energetic and ready to tame the world. Soon the meeting date is here. We all file into the conference room and take our seats while making small talk about the weather. Then, silence; one could hear a pin drop. Once this meeting gets rolling, we know exactly what we will say. Our confidence is uncontrollable.
Without warning, we break into a cold sweat. Out of the blue, our palms are sweaty, and we can barely speak. We recall the regular communication with our child's teacher. At times, it has been disagreeable, so it is no surprise we feel tension in the air. Suddenly, we blurt out some ridiculousness, and the next thing we know, the ball is rolling. Tempers flare and dander is up; all because we want the best for our child.
Let's face it, these type meetings are tough. Especially the Individual Education Plan (IEP) team meetings. There are a variety of disciplines at the table, and everyone has his or her own opinion. This situation can be downright intimidating. The teachers and staff seem to know the rules that we don't know. We feel left out and desperate to learn the "what ifs." Emotions run high. It is a small wonder why we walk out of there with our heads spinning and ready to scream. We leave the meeting second guessing ourselves and realizing we may not have had the best interaction with the one person who is in the company of our child more than anyone else during the day.
Clearer Heads Prevail
As parents, we understand what works for our child while they are in our care. The teachers know which educational plans work during the day. Putting on a brave face and allowing the teacher to make decisions for our child is not an easy task. Sure we know that these are supposed to be "team" decisions and we should all work together, but the reality is, there are just some goals and accommodations that we simply can't let go of. I like to think the teachers and staff work hard for the special education students. They are short staffed, low on funding and the rigors of the curriculum make it nearly impossible for teachers to do the job they've signed up for: to teach!
While we want what is best for our student, many times, it seems as though there is always some type of conflict. Understanding all these challenges makes it easier to come together for the optimum learning experience our child needs and deserves.
Emotions are Not Invited to the Party
Once we have a better indication as to the goals and accommodations that we would like to see prevail, implementation is the next step. This requires savvy ideas and a clever approach. Think of it as a business plan. Keeping emotions out of the meeting and off the table allows for more opportunities to provide the best possible outcome so we can put those strategies into play.
When working with your student's teachers about your child's goals, challenges or accommodations, being straight forward is easiest when the emotion has been removed from the scenario. Stay calm and remember, it's just business.
C.C. Malloy is a special needs advocate and the mother of three fantastic young adults. A freelance journalist, C.C. writes about the challenges parents with special needs children face from the start of elementary school through college. Her blog focuses on helping parents cope with the functions of their child's educational accommodations. Please visit her website, Bizigal's Exceptional Blooms.