Last week when we were chatting after school you said you were concerned about my son's writing. You explained that he's having a hard time getting started and his handwriting isn't legible. However, this morning at his annual meeting, you didn't talk about these challenges or suggest changes to his plan. When I glanced in your direction, you quickly looked away.
You understand my son's strengths and weaknesses. And I know you care and want to help. Nevertheless, you remained silent on the topic of new difficulties and potential supports or services at the IEP meeting. I left the meeting wondering, what kept you from sharing your professional expertise in a public setting?
Silence hurts your students
I don't want you to lose your job. I hope you understand that the suggestions you share with me in private would be more effective if they were delivered by you during our meetings. A parent's request, although considered, is not as powerful as a teacher's data driven recommendation. How can you share your knowledge and advocate for your student without putting your job in jeopardy?
Sharing your expertise
- Collect and share data: : Your observations, work sample portfolios, grades and tracking sheets provide a wealth of information.
- Find allies: You are not the only staff member who wants to focus on your students' needs. Discuss how to handle situations where staff expertise is silenced.
- Educate yourself: If a team member isn't adhering to federal or state special education laws, learn which words or phrases taken directly from the law will help to create an appropriate program.
- Seek Observations: Have an outside expert observe the student and share their observations with the team. You can verify whether or not the expert witnessed a typical day and provide examples to help illustrate strengths and needs.
- Go public: Our kids are taught to be "upstanders" instead of "bystanders" when injustice occurs. Nothing gets better if no one speaks out.
- Address systemic problems: If your administration doesn't allow you to utilize your professional competence in special education program development, remedy should be available without a threat to your position. For some this could mean community organizing, for others, filing a class action complaint might be an option.
- Find a supportive district: Supportive and effective administrators and school districts exist. Research other schools and towns to determine if you could more easily share your skills and work collaboratively in a new setting.
Your student's mom