By Kodey Toney
I found an article recently on Pintrest called “10 Promises Every Special Educator Should Make To Their Students’ Parents”. While there is some great information on there for educators, I think it can relate to the parents as well. I thought I would share a few of the thoughts and give some examples.
The first promise talks about not calling parents who have high expectations and advocate for their children “high maintenance”. I’m going to throw another term in here, “Cadillac mom”. They both mean basically the same thing, and to a certain extent they are not a bad thing. However, you must know a few things. A parent that asks for what their child needs is a great thing. We are our student’s biggest advocate, and as so we have to ask for what they need, but we also have to know what to ask for and what we can’t have. The problem is, with any parent, we want EVERYTHING we can get…and then some. Pete Wright talks about the education system as a vehicle. Through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) we are promised a “Chevy” education. So often we ask for a Cadillac though. We are only promised what we need, no more, no less. Cadillac moms are those who ask for more than what they are promised by law.
However, we should always have high expectations for our children. Ask for whatever you want, and if you get it that’s great, if you don’t then make sure what the law says.
The second one says that you should always presume competence. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this working with schools, and sometimes families. They assume that because the child has a disability they can’t do something. WRONG! Never assume that just because of a label. In fact, I would challenge you to prove those assumptions wrong. If you have a child who you think can’t do something, as a teacher and parent, it is your job to make sure that you are working hard to push your child to do the impossible. You would be surprised at what they can accomplish with a little help and some encouragement.
There two promises that go together. They are to ask the parents for input on their children before the IEP meeting, and to remember that the parent is the child’s first teacher and the expert on that child. This is so important. The IEP team is just that…a TEAM. You must work together to help the child. The parent is with the child more than the parent, has known them longer, and will be with them longer in the future. It is important to get the parent’s input so they know what to look for with meltdowns. It is also vital to understand what the parent wants the child to learn. Is the main concern reading, writing, and arithmetic, or is it that the child can ask the teacher or a peer for their pencil when needed? These are both equally important for a child with a disability. In fact, it may be more important in the future for the latter.
Stop using “What is he/she going to get out of this?’ or “They’re not ready” as an excuse to not include a child in general education. This goes with the previous one. The child’s inclusion in the classroom and being around peers is reason enough for any child to be in the general education room. You never know what they are ready for if you don’t allow them to try.
There is a promise to never assume you know what’s going on at home, or blame a child’s behavior on parenting skills. You don’t know what happens in a house with a child with a disability. You don’t know the strain that puts on a parent, family, and relationships. You don’t know what it feels like unless you are in that house with them. Never assume anything.
Promise to be communicating with the child, especially on the positives. You have to acknowledge the children for their good things, more so than the bad. Always let them know that you are proud of the things they are doing well. Let them know what they could do differently when they are doing wrong.
Never assume that what works with one child works with all children. I would add that you want to try different things with a child too. If you tried something yesterday and it didn’t work then try it again today. You never know. Think of it as a bag of tricks. If one trick doesn’t work reach back into the bag.
I’ll just leave you with the last one because I think it is a great one. It may be the most important one because everyone involved needs encouragement. “I promise to always have high expectations for your child and never give up on them…or you.”