I didn’t expect to learn much here, as Kim and I have had enough IEPs where we’ve negotiated hard, screamed across the table, accused the teacher of not understanding due to not having children herself, brought advocates…played good cop and bad cop.
We’ve also now moved into a place with the school and district where they (teachers, administrators, etc…) understand where we are coming from, what we are willing to do, and what we are not willing to put up with. That might sound ‘tough’, which is not what I’m really after with this posting, but they know we’ll go as far as we need to for Demetrius, and that we’ll be as involved as possible (see earlier postings about Kim’s involvement at the school, etc…).
What surprised me here is not what Ms. Marlatt said, it was what the rest of the people around were saying:
• You can’t challenge a prinicipal, they are pillars of the community
• The school system is right, because the educators are the experts
• The reason this is the case is because Boyle County (where this seminar was taking place) is rural, and if there are issues everyone knows about them, it isn’t like urban areas, such as where Ms. Marlatt lives (they assume she lives in Frankfort).
So with this defeatist attitude, one gentleman in the back asked, so if my kid is getting picked on and there is nothing that the school will do for him in terms of services? What should I do? A few of us said, “well, you can always move.”
This solicited a chuckle, but another woman said, “Look, we’ve had a bad experience with a school district not far from here, to get our child into the Boyle County school district before we moved, we rented a room at an apt. so that we could claim residency.
“Yes, there was risk in doing this, and we sure had to get up early to get our kids to school here, but it was worth it,” she said.
I mentioned that it isn’t always fire and brimstone, and that some of the lessons we’ve learned support exactly what Ms. Marlatt was saying. We’ve hired an advocate, and it DOES change the dynamic in the room and even if the principal or administrator is being adamant or obstinate, having that other person changes the tone, usually from controversial to some level of conversational.
In Fulton County, we quickly realized that if the district administrators were going to drive up to Alpharetta from their main offices, they were going to challenge everyone, and if they found the principal/teachers/special needs assistant off base, they were going to call it like they saw it. Their goal is to get everyone in the room on the same page – EVERYONE.
I also said we realized that the IEP wasn’t a one time document, it was a living document that could be adapted to Demetrius’ progress, or lack of progress. Teachers are willing to try something we suggest if we are willing to revisit it if doesn’t work, and vice versa. We had IEPs practically every six weeks his second kindergarten year at Abbotts Hill. We made progress this way with some of his goals and objectives, and it gave us a chance to get to know the teachers/administrators and special needs assistant, and them us. I believe this tactic paid off for everyone.
Ms. Marlatt did mention a Website that might help some of you moms: http://www.mothersfromhell2.org/.
It is hard to tell someone in an experience that isn’t the same as yours that it is okay to challenge authority figures. Right or wrong, Kim and I challenged, and though we actually were one of the families that were willing to transfer schools when it didn’t work out for us at Lake Windward Elementary (we made mistakes, we admit that), we learned from it and, I like to think, became better at this negotiating and IEP process because of it.
No principal knows better than Kim or I what’s best for Demetrius. What they know are better techniques and skills than we may have or are even aware in our arsenal. To a certain level, they are more objective and can provide ‘non-emotive’ feedback on what is working for him, and what is not working. We need them to teach him, and teach us, to be better when it comes to helping out with homework and assignments at home.
But none of us can ever forget that we have a right to speak up, and if we don’t agree, it is okay to say so, and some times dig our heels in…and if we have to, take the situation to the brink… and even transfer schools if need be.
Don’t ever give up folks. Advocate, try every tool in the shed to get what your kid needs and deserves, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. But mostly, don’t ever doubt yourself when it comes to focusing on getting what you need for your kid.