Friday, September 25, 2009

4:43 AM

This is how it goes down: Snug--our obsessive, neurotic sweetheart of a dog--starts worrying at something outside Em's window. She tries to call him into the house; no go. At just after 4 AM, she comes upstairs to whisper to Baroy that Snug's keeping her awake. This wakes me, too. We hear Snug pad into the house, so Em returns to her room, and Baroy and I return to sleep.

Or try to.

But it's over for me. The thoughts start flooding in, about the meeting I will have today with the principal at N's school, and how I really have to just go in and ask for a teacher change, and how much that goes against everything I normally am--the "normally am" part of me being generally willing to do pretty much anything so as not to potentially enter into a confrontation, not to god forbid have someone end up not liking me. But then again, when "normally am" comes up against "someone is doing wrong by my son," it's no contest.

And so I start thinking about how I'm going to put this. What should I start with? Should I start with how wrong I think it is of N's teacher to send N to the principal's office for something not "bad," but rather directly, immediately related to the issues that are laid out and emphasized over and over and over in his IEP? That would give me entree to explain to her just how downright mean it seems that the teacher, who soon realized that N likes talking to the principal, decided afterwards to start using the threat of sending him "to a room full of kids you don't know."

Or should I start with the fact that she might not even realize just how mean that is, because despite several attempts to get the teacher to read his IEP, she didn't even have a copy in the room when I met with her the other day to talk about it. She'd "looked at it" in the office, she told me. But it was clear that "looking at" and "reading" are entirely different beasts in this woman's world, since she not only didn't seem to know what his special accommodations are--the accommodations, just so you know, that she is supposed to be implementing in the classroom--but she didn't even know he gets Occupational Therapy. Which takes up three out of the four pages of written goals in his IEP. And is where all the strategies for dealing with him are laid out.

It's like being asked to read Pride and Prejudice and then, at a book club meeting, commenting brightly, "Oh, really? There's a Mr. Darcy?"

Or do I talk immediately about how he is either not being allowed (or is possibly simply too scared to ask) to go to the bathroom more than once between recesses, despite the fact that his accommodations include "frequent breaks; allowing N to get up from his chair and take a break; classroom jobs with require him to get up from his seat"--something she'd know if she'd ever read his IEP.

This not-reading and not-implementing of the IEP is, of course, my trump card. If you're a special ed parent, you know that trump card gets turned over with a single phrase: Out of compliance. Do I start the conversation aggressively, antagonistically, by simply stating that, because of the teacher's actions, the school is now so far out of compliance with N's IEP that I don't think the situation in this classroom is salvageable? Or do I start more slowly, conversationally, almost confidentially, with something like, "I have some serious concerns about Ms. Teacher's abilities to effectively handle N in the classroom," and let the principal lead me to what the options are, so she feels more in control? Should I hold my "out of compliance" trump card (and its accompanying "I might have to bring in a special ed advocate" card which is my card-that-trumps-my-trump-card-if-there-is-such-a-thing) for when and if I need it?

If you're a special ed parent--hell, if you're any kind of a parent--I'm sure you've been here, too. And you know how quickly this kind of practical mulling can devolve into all sorts of existential musings, worries, anxieties. Am I doing right by him? How can I do more right? What about Em? Am I doing right by her? What does she need from me that she's not getting? How can I give it? Where will I get it from?

And so, by 4:43 AM, I find myself here on the couch, writing about it, having given up on sleeping on it. And now, by 5:40 AM, I find myself here in this entry, finishing it, but not finished. And Snug, finally, is asleep by my feet, having given up worrying about whatever-it-was out there that started this all.

Stupid, sweet dog. I think I'll wake him up, just to get him back.


noah brant said...

I'd start more conversationally, slowly and see what options the principal lays out. You,of course, already know what you'd like to see happen, but you can work toward getting there with the principal that way. I've done it the more confrontational way (believe it or not) and it's harder and doesn't work as well. It frustrates me that the teacher didn't even read his IEP. We're dealing with the same thing with Sam's teacher and now they want to meet with us to figure out how to deal with him in the classroom. Um, read the IEP first?

Many hugs for strength today! You'll do fine for N.

noah brant said...

This is Diane, not Noah. I can't figure out how to change it though!

kristenspina said...

save aggressive and "out of compliance". Start conversationally, let the principal feel in control. It'll serve you better in the end.

I very casually used the words "out of compliance" in 1st grade when we had a similar clueless-teacher scenario and the entire building jumped into action. They still mucked it up, but there's something about those words, you don't even have to say them in a forceful, negative way. You can simply ponder them and watch the sea change.

Jane said...

Well, you know what I'd do.

"I'd like to start by saying that I am not going to tolerate my son's IEP being ignored. You and your employee are violating my son's rights and I will be leaving this meeting knowing how you are going to fix this."

And then I'd sit back and watch them scramble.

But I love confrontation and am sort of (ha!) assertive, okay aggressive. It hasn't always worked well for me, but with something like this? It's no time to be "nice."

Anonymous said...

I'm not a special needs parent, but I'd say the first thing you need to figure out is what would be an acceptable solution. Is the minimal acceptable situation for you to change classrooms? Is there a classroom that would work for N?

Your post seems to suggest that you do not see the situation with this teacher as salvageable. Your post indicates that you believe that this teacher has no interest in implementing N's IEP. If so, having the administrators suggest solutions that try to salvage the solution (training, feedback, etc.) probably aren't acceptable to you. If that's true, I think saying that straight out would lay cards on the table clearly.

Again, I have no practical experience; I'm just applying the rules I would in any interaction where I'm trying to get someone to do something I want (i.e. return a package, get a new airline ticket, whatever), and where I believe that I am right (rather than that the story is muddled). I don't always believe that, btw; sometimes I can see that a situation is complicated.

Meg said...

I started out thinking the conversation approach was the right way, but reading Anon's post made me realize that what you want (switching teachers) is not easy and the soft approach may not work. The teacher is ignoring the IEP and likely doesn't believe in it or the modificationis for N. The principal will stick up for her (he has to in a way) and will likely ask for more time for the teacher to be "taught" the importance and legal requirements of the IEP and to get up to speed. If that is not acceptable ot you (and I don't think it should be since you already spoke to her), you may have to cut to the chase and state that you have spoken to the teacher, she doesn't even HAVE the IEP and is clearly not the right fit for N. I would certainly ask why on earth the principal put N with this teacher. One caveat is to be sure that there IS another teacher that would be better at implementing the IEP. Good luck you are being proactive and that is a great thing.

Anonymous said...

I always save the atom bomb re accomodations (our version of IEP) until I have not gotten my way with civility and conversation. YMMV

Niksmom said...

I suspect that by the time you see this you will have already had the meeting. Just in case, a few thoughts:

1. Start by allowing the princ. to think s/he's in control. They will suggest "training/coaching" or whatever for the teacher. If they do, ask for a specified time frame and some specific benchmarks they will use and report to you on) for determining if she is successful. Make it clear that you are willing to work with them but not at the expense of your child's well being and education.

2. Be clear that you have a solution in mind and ask that it be implemented within a reasonable time frame (such as, immediately following the short trial w/current teacher.)

3. As for another IEP meeting to discuss the issues and how they will be addressed. (Was his teacher part of the original IEP meeting? If flag.) Consider including something about parental notification every time your son is "banished" (for lack of a nicer description) by the teacher. Ask that it be in the form of a written communication which details the reasons why. Ask for them to also include details such as: time of day, time relative to a break or meal, what activity preceded it, what activity did he miss as a result.

It's onerous but important b/c all of that could hold a clue about triggers. And can give you info/ammo about the educational activities he's being denied.

If all else fails, pull out those trump cards!

Good luck. :-)

mesh said...

I have absolutely no clue what the best way to go into that is, but I really, really like what Jane said! I'm not one for confrontation, but just the idea of watching them squirm would give me some temporary gratification. ;-) Good luck with whatever approach you use. Yes, you'll do just fine by N.

Ambre said...

Waiting impatiently for the update here.

I don't disagree with the conversational attempt, but assertive and aggressive are NOT the same thing! The conversation needs to start with "this is a problem that will have to be fixed. I'm here so we can talk about how you will fix it." Be nice, sure. But in your head, have your "minimum requirements" firmly in place- if that's a teacher change, OK, do not leave it at "oh, I'll talk to the teacher and have her look at his IEP, and everything will be fine!"

Because my theory of special education is that as long as parents aren't throwing out their ace in the hole, the school wants to continue to think they are doing just fine. And while the teachers/principals, whoever might think parents are "asking too much" when they DO throw down their cards, those are the parents who get the extra services.

po said...

Bleah! Who the hell makes threats to a child like that???

Okay, angry part past, down to pragmatics. The first thing you need to do is request an immediate team meeting. This is within your rights. This brings in everyone involved: principal, assistant principal, teacher, OT. Then you all are sitting there with his IEP in front of you, and you can go point by point and discuss each element.

If you want to go with a teacher change, you will probably have to demonstrate how another teacher will be able to fulfill the goals of his IEP when the current teacher has not. But I really do think that there is going to have to be some period of time that the current teacher has to continue to fail, once the IEP has been waved in her face in front of her bosses. I know it's sad and maddening, but it is still Sept.

I was appalled to learn that Matthew's 3rd grade teacher had not read his IEP when I saw her at Open House also. It was also clear that the 4th grade gym teacher and art teacher had not been told about his issues either, though I explicitly asked that this happen.

I also found that even throwing your ace in the hole, even quoting chapter and verse to them, even having the damn chair of the district SPED say that he shouldn't be getting suspended, did not stop the school from not only being out of compliance, but blatantly breaking the law. So even confrontational doesn't always work :(.

Waiting for your update!! And hugs!!