Monday, October 8, 2012

31 for 21: #8 Tiffany's Top Ten Tips for IEPs: Confessions

Okay.  Confession time.

You want to know why I know all these tips?  I am a former inclusion teacher.  I used to be on the THEM side of the table.

I remember what struck me about parents.  I remember what made me respect them.  I remember the earnestness in their eyes as they pleaded for the best.  I remember the respect and support and tools they gave me to help me be the best teacher for their child.  I remember what made me realize that they were there, spoiling for a fight, and weren't really there for their child.  I remember what red flagged them as wanting to win at all costs, even their child's future.  I even remember what I told myself I'd do, if I was on the other side of the table.  And believe it or not, even now, 10 years later.  I am following my old notes. 

I also know what my old tricks were.  I confess there were things I did to parents, subtly, that made them think that my ideas were their ideas...that I used for the best for their kids, but I have seen less scrupulous teachers push things onto parents that were simply to lessen their load.  (It's like a sophisticated Jedi Mind Trick.)

There are ways that you can phrase a question or even their own words that backs into the door.  You take what they say and turn it just a smidge sideways to where the direction tilts, and they follow right through that door.  SO, if a teacher or principal or facilitator, uses most of your exact words but it's not quite what you said, listen carefully.  HEAR the direction in which it leads....make sure that's where you wanted to go.

When Elise was 5-7 years old, I had to battle our facilitator, who kept trying to tweak my words, feed them back wrong, and I saw exactly what he was doing.  I repeated myself without acknowledging what he was doing...for 2 meetings.  The third meeting, I called him on it.  I told him that I didn't want that, that I knew what he was doing, that I used to do it myself, but that I did it to benefit students, not to deprive them of their right to the least restrictive environment.  I told him, calmly, that the teachers had no problem with a trial period, and that if they were comfortable with it, that he should not mind.  I was never ugly.  I never raised my voice.  I never threatened.  I even allowed for them to push for Math full inclusion, when I wanted Reading full inclusion, even though I knew it would be an epic fail...but I requested that we do both if we did one...and ultimately, my call was correct...and the Jedi Mind Trick did not come up again, but neither did eye contact, support, nor any personal address again.  Not that it upset me.  But I have wondered how many parents he was successful with...for detrimental results on their kids...?

I will say though, in coming up on 7 years of dealing with the school system, only two people have have attempted to deliberately NOT provide the best for my Elise, whether it was what I specifically wanted or thought would be successful or not (my battle unfortunately continued to rage in the same spot with the same two people for 2 years...), try to assess the situation before you assume that everyone is out to get you...look for the best, while watching out for the worst.  Work with people when you can, before fighting with them.  Use them as allies, before addressing them as adversaries. 

Don't close your eyes, though, and be honest with what you see.  And certainly don't close your ears, and make sure you listen to their hearts...

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