What Should I Take to the IEP Meeting?

It’s a question I get every year…

Parents, wanting  to set the stage for a positive, productive planning session, will ask, “Should I take cookies to the IEP* meeting?”

My answer? “Sure…if you feel like baking or stopping by the market to get a treat for the team…”

And then I tell them some things they’ll really need…
Parent_Teacher_Conference

Take a picture of your child. Some of the staff  may not have met your son or daughter…and even if they have, it’s easier to discuss goals and objectives when we remember that we’re talking, not about policies, but about a person.

Take information from your child’s doctor or therapist. Many parents tell me that they don’t want the school to know their child is getting therapy to address behavior concerns or taking medicine for a mental health issue. In most cases, though, the teachers can better understand and help when they have ALL the information. It feels risky, but sharing this information can result in better continuity of care for your child.

Take a calendar. Planning often requires follow-up. Take your calendar with you to schedule future meetings or remind yourself to follow through on anything the school has asked of you.

Take your dreams. At the beginning of the meeting, the team will begin to discuss future plans for your child.  Share your hopes…and be willing to accept feedback on realistic ways to help your child achieve these long-range goals.

Take your fears. When a child needs special education services, many parents experience tremendous anxiety, as new questions bubble to the surface…”Will my child be able to read? Will he have any friends? Will she be able to get a job someday?” Sharing those fears with the school team can make you feel vulnerable, but it helps  them understand some of your reasons for wanting certain services.

Take your tears. So many parents tell me, “I read a bunch of articles, so I know that I DEFINITELY shouldn’t cry…I’m afraid I’ll break down, though…” I’m not sure why this has become standard advice; in my estimation, it lacks wisdom. No one likes to cry at a meeting, (and some folks just aren’t criers. That’s okay!) If you do get teary, know this:  Those tears  help you release and communicate grief, anger, and sorrow. Let them flow. They’re born of a great love for your child.

Take a friend. Or your spouse, or an advocate. It’s hard to listen to everything when you’re nervous.  Having someone accompany you allows you to process what happened after the meeting is over. (Be sure to tell the school ahead of time if you’re inviting a guest…it’s just good manners.)

Take your front teeth. You might need them to bite your tongue, if someone says something inaccurate or insensitive. Also take phrases like, “Can you help me understand why you would say that?” or “Would you care to put that in writing so that I can reflect on that later?” Those phrases can help to refocus the meeting. (And, as a back-up, take your humility…because you might say something you wish you hadn’t, too.)

parentteacherconf

Take your heart and head. Your love for and knowledge of your child is a tremendous asset. Don’t underestimate your ability to convey how your child’s unique strengths can be valued.

Take your faith. As you plan, remember that your child was created for a purpose by a King whose love will never, ever fail.

So, there you have it…Those are the things you’ll need for your meeting.
They’ll go great with the cookies.

_________________________________________________________
*Individualized Education Plan
Photo credits: thechristianacademy.org;engagenkcschools.com

 

 

 

 

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Playing With Fire: Social Media and Communication

photo credit: stayinsavannah.com

photo credit: stayinsavannah.com

Fire.

We’re drawn to it, aren’t we? It’s warm, inviting, and peaceful. It casts a soft glow. We use it for toasting marshmallows and warming our toes after sledding. Fire can help us send signals for help and warning.  It refines and heats and draws us together.

And it’s dangerous. It can spread rapidly, causing destruction and injury and loss.

photo credit: fatwallet.com

photo credit: fatwallet.com

It occurs to me that social media is rather like fire.

We can use it to warm others–and warn others. It can draw us together around a cause, or just for fun. It can connect us.

And, just like fire, it can be dangerous. It can spread rapidly, causing destruction and injury and loss.

Perhaps the most dangerous part is that we can say things online we might not say face-to-face. The internet gives us an imaginary sense of security. But just like tossing a match onto a pile of dry leaves, a fire can start quickly, causing scars that will never, ever heal. And sadly, no smoke detector will warn others, and even copious amounts of water won’t be able to drown the damage.

Today, I’m asking myself, “Will my words cast a warm glow, or will they be a weapon of mass destruction?”

After all, it only takes a spark to get a fire going…

What kind of fire am I building with my words?

photo credit: blog.kevineikenberry.com

photo credit: blog.kevineikenberry.com

 

My Peanut Butter and Mustard Theory: Student-Teacher Relationships

Peanut Butter is great on a sandwich.

ifoodtv.com

ifoodtv.com

Mustard is also great on a sandwich.

pennlive.com

pennlive.com

But on the same sandwich?

vimeo.com

vimeo.com

Ick.

Not a good combination.

In my years as a teacher, consultant, and mother, I’ve discovered that teacher-student relationships are very much like sandwiches…

Sometimes, we have peanut butter and jelly years…The student’s personality fits well with the teacher’s temperament. They complement one another. The student thrives, and the teacher shines. Meaningful learning  takes place.

amazon.com

amazon.com

And sometimes, we have peanut butter and mustard years…The student and the teacher, both fine, worthy people, each with unique talents and interests, just don’t make a great pairing. Learning still happens, but it’s not as palatable or pleasant.

blog.smithsonianmag.com

blog.smithsonianmag.com

Those peanut butter and mustard years can be really hard…especially when some people you know are talking about how fabulous the teacher is, and what a great year their kids are having.

It’s also difficult when someone says, “OH…your child has Mrs. Jelly? That’s too bad. We had the WORST year with her…”

And then it’s a delightful surprise when Mrs. Jelly is just exactly what your little peanut needs…and you have a fabulous year.

Of course, there are those rare times when a combination can be toxic, and the sandwich needs to be quickly remade to prevent illness. Those times call for wisdom, discernment and proactive communication.

nydailynews.com

nydailynews.com

Usually, though, we can tolerate a peanut butter and mustard year, by focusing on what is good and fortifying, and just learning to swallow (or throw out) the rest.

It’s important to remember  that nothing is bad about either peanut butter OR mustard…It’s just that together, they’re  not a great combination. Peanut Butter and Mustard are both unique creations…valuable and versatile and worthy.

Wishing you lots of peanut butter and jelly years, along with the ability to swallow–and grow from–a bite of peanut butter and mustard now and then.

~Katie

emergencyfoodshelf.com

emergencyfoodshelf.com