I got two different emails in the same week, and it made me sad to read them together. One was a link to an article titled “Tips for Teachers: How To Deal with Upset Parents.” The other email was from a group I belong to, a parent support group. While it sometimes is a good place to exchange information, but sometimes…not so much.
Now, first off, let me say that I will not name any names, and the person who wrote this legitimately believes it, and, as such, I don’t want to mock her or make fun or her in any way. Instead, I want to sympathize with her, and I wonder what it took to make her believe this.
Here’s a quick quote from the post:
“They [the school districts] think we should be grateful they even allow SE kids in school and parents should just be happy for a ‘break.’
“Advocacy of SE kids can be draining. You win one battle and they will hate you. You think if you win one battle the school will change, but they never will until some powerful force forces them to do so. I’d put the Office of Civil rights on speed dial. Don’t look to the state education board to be in your corner. The first thing they do is ask you what district you are talking about, and then they give the district a heads up.
“Each year, they have teachers and several school personnel go to a seminar put on by district lawyers who teach them how to get around the law.”
Now, I can understand her feelings, to some extent. Many years ago, we had a problem with my son’s school district. And we found out, after the “fight,” that the whole reason it was even a fight at all was because of one person – one person who was probably too scared to admit that she had made a mistake. People below her were willing to work with us. She, however, seemed unable to let them because it would undermine her perceived authority. It was a bad experience, and if we had continued to have bad experiences like that, we probably would feel like the person who posted the above message.
But…I have to say, I don’t believe that school districts are bad and evil. I don’t believe that schools seriously send their teachers to a session to learn “how to get around the law.”
What I believe is that there are bad people everywhere. You can have a bad director of special education. You can have a bad teacher. You can have a bad lawyer. You can have a bad police officer. You can have a bad barista. (Sorry, coffee is an important part of almost every SE parent’s life, amIright?)
As someone who “won a battle” against a district, I have to say that I have not felt hated. I have not felt like the school refuses to change. I have not felt like I need to constantly be in touch with the Office of Civil Rights. Maybe it’s because I’m lucky. But I don’t think that’s it. I think there’s something else there.
I think most people who are in special education are there because they care. Because they want to make a difference. They share things like the article written by Dave Wilson where he advises teachers to reflect on what parents say and what they mean, be open to ideas, ask for help, and communicate the positives. Does that sound like something that would be out there if these teachers and other professionals didn’t care? If they really went to training to learn how to avoid the law, why would they care about connecting with parents?
If you, as a parent, honestly feel that the school, the teachers, the district, even the state education agency is out to get you, you may need to stop. You may need to read that article and see if you can apply it to yourself. Do you need to learn how to deal with the school and its reps? Are you actually the problem?
I’m not a morning person. Not at all. My ideal time to get out of bed is sometime between 10 and noon. Or maybe a little closer to one. Either way, I don’t like 9 a.m. phone calls. Especially when I have a killer headache, and they’re phone calls that would easily fit onto a Top 10 list of early morning phone calls I don’t want to get.
This particular phone call was from my son’s speech language pathologist.
She immediately launched into an iteration of all the good things Simon had accomplished and how well he was doing.
I know that, right now, you’re probably asking yourself, ‘why is that a bad phone call?’
Because she followed that up by telling me that, since his current teacher is so awesome, she believes he can go from receiving speech services 10 x in 9 weeks to 5 x in 9 weeks. She says that she actually thinks he can go down to receiving no services – just let her consult with the teacher – but she thinks that lowering it instead of removing it will ‘help him transition.’
But wait, I say, finally interrupting her because she hasn’t let me get a word in edgewise. He’s only going to be with his teacher for another two months. We need to consider the future. What he’ll be doing for a year.
Oh, but she knows that her teacher next year will also be excellent because she works with her already, so it’ll be fine.
I tell her, wait, I need to think. We can discuss this at our ARD on Monday morning.
Ah, she says, I may or may not be able to make it on Monday.
Excuse me? I say.
Do you have time to talk now, she says.
No, I tell her, I don’t. (Which is true – I had a 10 a.m. appointment that I needed to get ready for.)
So don’t worry, I say. If you can’t make it, we can reschedule the ARD. It might cause problems or be difficult, but we will definitely want you there.
No, she says, it’s okay. I’ll be available by phone for you if you have any questions.
No, I say. It’s okay. We can reschedule it.
You know, she says, let me check my schedule.
I wait, and she comes back on the line.
I do have an evaluation scheduled for that morning, she says, but I can reschedule it.
Sooooo, I realize, she probably wouldn’t have been available to talk to by phone if she was doing an eval. But, I still gave in a little, and I made sure to mention that we could try to do the speech portion first so she wouldn’t have to stay for the whole meeting.
But a part of me was seething.
She knew she couldn’t make the ARD, but she didn’t call to tell me that.
No, she called to try to get me to agree to everything so she could more easily skip the ARD.
Not. Gonna. Happen.
Not even at 9 a.m. when I’m barely awake.
Not even when I have such a migraine that I can barely read my phone’s screen.
[I admit now that I wasn’t taking notes during the phone call, so the ‘she says’ and ‘I say’ are totally summaries of what was actually said…some of the wording may be slightly off, but I stand by the content of the phone call.]