Today I sat in an elementary school gym and watched a group of kids finish up their elementary school years and head into middle school. There were the usual speeches and songs. If I’m honest, I was only half listening. I was there because three students of families I have worked with over the years were graduating.
Now, I have been to many graduations, but on this day, sitting in that gym, something changed. I looked up (yes, I was on my phone getting some work done) and one of the boys I was there to watch sent me a sweet half smile. Nothing major, just a half smile, and all of a sudden, I was transported back to three years ago when I first met him and his family, to his story, his struggle. I remembered how hard he (and his family) had had to work to get him to where he was today.
Collaborative IEP Meetings Increase Success
The success he had was not exclusively because of his school or his family, but instead, was the result of a school and family focused on the child and working together to do what was right for him. It hadn’t been easy, not even a little bit, but together we got there.
That little smile conveyed so much. From my perspective, it meant that, as the adults in his life, we’d done what we needed to.
Students succeed when schools and families work together. Easier said than done? Sometimes, but just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it’s not necessary.
Here are four sure-fire tricks to get that small smile at the end of your journey.
1. Be the “Grown Up in the Room”
I’m sure you can remember a time when a meeting or conversation went south, and before you knew it, things had turned bad. I ALWAYS counsel the parents that I work with that the most powerful tool you have is “being the grown-up in the room.”
What does that mean? Does it mean you can never get angry or frustrated? No, but it DOES mean that even when you feel those things, you have to handle those feelings in a mature way.
As grown-ups, it’s obvious that we don’t get to throw ourselves on the ground, scream and cry when we get upset. Even if someone is saying things you might not like or, even talking to you in a way you don’t like, you have to handle it like a grown up. If you want positive change for your child, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard knowing that your power comes from staying calm and working your way through the difficult issues, whatever they may be.
2. Be Willing and Able to Take Others’ Perspectives
I find this is one of the hardest things for people to do, especially when their emotions are running high. It is so important to remember that schools are coming from one perspective, and families often come from a slightly different angle. That should be considered a good thing as the differing outlooks can be what makes the team so strong.
Ultimately, it’s key to remember to keep the child in the center of the conversation and respect everyone’s perspective. When we do that, we can be confident that the child is encircled in expertise, knowledge, and love, even when we don’t all agree.
Disagreement is okay and, very often, even better than okay! Working through differences by seeing everyone’s perspective, expands our thoughts and ideas, so it’s always a good idea to embrace collaborative IEP meetings, with an open mind. Who knows? Someone else might have the right solution if we just take the time to listen!
3. Understand How Your Emotions Impact Your Response and Interactions
As parents, almost everything we do comes from a place of emotion and in many cases, that is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, our feelings are the one factor that often gets in our way the most. Why? Because our emotions don’t always guide us to make the right decisions, communicate the way we intend to and frequently get in the way of us being able to look at all the possible options.
So many times, I find myself sitting with a family what’s supposed to be a collaborative IEP meeting and notice their emotions getting in the way of getting what they need and want for their child. Often I will ask for a break in the meeting and spend some time talking to the parents. Almost every time, parents start angry and then move to tears as they see how their emotions are impacting their decision making and their ability even to hear what others were saying. Rather than allowing your emotions to guide your decision making, be open to what others have to say and be willing to accept that their point of view may have value for your child. Remember: it’s all about your child’s success
Do you sometimes find your emotions taking you down a path you didn’t mean to go when you are dealing with your child’s school team? If so, download this power sheet to help you understand how your emotions may be getting in the way of getting what you want for your child.
4. Expect the Best from Every Interaction
I can’t emphasize how important this is (and I know this may be the opposite of what other experts are saying). There is always time to move into negativity, but there is nothing more powerful than walking into an IEP meeting with the expectation that things will go well and that the team will work together to find what’s best for your child.
I can promise you, having sat on “both sides” of the table, that when a family walks in expecting the worst, ready for a fight, that is what they get! If things end up going badly, you haven’t lost anything by expecting the best. Trust me, sending positive energy to your school team can make all the difference!
Collaborative IEP Meetings Result in Children Succeeding
Remember ~ none of this is easy, no one is going through exactly what you are going through, and you are the only one who knows what you need! One thing we know, though, is that when people work together, kids win!
That smile that changed my life might be your child in the future. You aren’t in this alone!
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below what has worked for you to build strong relationships with your IEP team!!