Wednesday, April 2, 2008
You Know Who You Are
I was a guest lecturer last week at Virginia Commonwealth University for a class in the severe disabilities consortium. The consortium is a partnership between several universities in Virginia, and classes are taught through distance learning. My class was on deafblindness, and is one I have done for four years now. The students are primarily teachers already in the field who have decided to come back for an additional endorsement, one in severe disabilities. I really enjoy doing it because I get to interact with the teachers outside of my typical interaction, i.e. IEP meetings.
One benefit to me from doing these classes is that my perspective has changed on how difficult a teacher’s job actually is. When I am sitting across the table from a teacher and many other administrators from my school district for an IEP meeting, the entire focus is on my child (as it should be), and how her needs will be met. It’s easy in such an environment to set aside thoughts of the other children in the class and their needs. It’s easy not to think about what accommodations the teacher must make for those other children. It’s easy not to imagine how difficult it must be to have to make unique accommodations for many children in one class. I believe the really good teachers contribute to that ease.
As parents, our first responsibility is to our own children, of course. But the next time you are sitting in an IEP meeting, try to remember that maybe 10 other parents of children in your child’s class have also been sitting in an IEP meeting. Some of those parents will be agreeable to anything suggested by the school district. Some will oppose anything and everything the school district suggests. Some may not even show up for their child’s IEP meeting, leaving the teacher and administrators the task of deciding an appropriate program. Some parents may speak a different language than the teacher. Some parents may not understand why they are even there, and some may not care. Through it all, we parents expect the teacher to be professional and compassionate, understanding our child’s every need, and having the same expectations for that child as we, their parents, do. The mere fact that we do sometimes run across a teacher just like that is incredible.
So I would like to thank the teachers that have done such an excellent job of being exactly what every child needs and partnering with their families in the process. I know your job is extremely difficult, and I have so much respect for you and your commitment to teaching.