And I only passed out once from holding my breath and biting my tongue

Yesterday morning I had an IEP that I had been just dreading. (An IEP is a yearly meeting for a student with special needs where progress on goals, results of current testing, and setting future goals are discussed). Do you remember my sixth grader with Down Syndrome who sometimes has "accidents" at school? It was for her. Let's call her Greta this time.
 
The meeting had potential to be very contentious as we were recommending a different school/program for her and the parents are adamant about keeping her here. We only have a resource room here, not a self-contained classroom for the mild to moderately cognitively impaired (which is what she needs). She's been getting by with a full time one-on-one aide, but next year with four different teachers... she would end up full time in the Resource room! And that's good for nobody.
 
I hate leading the kind of meeting where you know at the outset that no one is going to get along. For days and weeks I had imagined an impassioned screaming match, with upset parents poking us in the eyes with pens or paperclips. I wanted to be sensitive to these parents: they are still in a kind of denial about what Greta can and can't do and I haven't felt like they've come to grips with the kind of education her future necessitates. You know... like they want us to make sure that she knows her science and history when she clearly has bigger fish to fry. Functional skills, anyone?
 
So there I was yesterday morning, feeling like I'm walking some kind of tightrope: trying to keep the peace, stay calm, stay objective. I wanted so badly to communicate to the parents that we care a great deal about Greta and aren't just trying to kick her out, and at the same time be assertive about what the team feels is the best placement for her.
 
In fact the meeting didn't turn out to be the World War III that I had imagined. Yes, the mom threw a silent temper tantrum (thinned lips, head down, brows furrowed, and body turned away from us). Yes, the parents made not so subtle accusations against me as well as the classroom teacher. Yes, there were tears from mom. Yes, there was shocking information presented at the meeting (such as she won't be able to get a high school diploma in the state of Michigan because she wouldn't be able to pass Algebra II and Chemistry). Yes, it was VERY tense when the principal explained that the only way they would be able to keep Greta here is if they took us to court. But ultimately? The parents agreed to go visit some different programs next week. A victory... of sorts.
 
So after a TWO HOUR meeting (a personal record in my four years of holding IEPs), we adjourned.
 
The mom pulled me aside afterwards and said: "I really appreciate the way you handled the meeting. You've grown a lot too this year".
 
Wait a minute... was that even a compliment?!?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

A back-handed one at most. Oh well. It's over anyway and I'm glad it turned out better than expected! Have a great weekend...after class! Love you, Mom

Mrs. K1 teacher said...

It can be very hard for parents to understand the whole concept of functional skills. I have students with IEPs that have extensive geography goals, including naming 50% of state capitals, but really we are working on giving personal data, like hello, my name is __________. I should also add that my students are three, four and five and already these academic goals are seeping in.

I am glad that meeting is over and that it turned out better than you expected.

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