If you’re like us, the first week of school is nearly complete and you are wondering where the summer went. As the first couple of weeks of adjustment are tricky for students, parents and teachers, I think it is necessary to communicate who your child is to the teacher. The IEP fails in describing much about a student beyond deficits, needs, diagnoses, related services and goals. As a teacher, I tried to look at the IEP/cumulative file as little as possible until I got a chance to get to know my students. As most of my teaching experience was with students struggling with behavior disorders, their files were often full of negative experiences, behaviors and consequences. I had to look at the IEP to know specifics of what I would be held accountable for, but those stories about the student I saved until I had a chance to like them. I offered a fresh start for them without having my ideas of them tainted by someone else’s. Once I got to know the student, I read the file. They were often gut-wrenching and tear inducing.
I had one student who came to my school out of the department of correction and had been in and out of foster homes and residential care facilities. He had a very difficult first day because I did not know he was literally starving. He asked for seconds at lunch and I asked him to wait until the class in the lunch line went through and then he could get more. He then immediately asked my TA if he could get seconds and she said yes. He got his meal and I told him to make sure to go ahead and follow what the first staff says and not ask another when he doesn’t get an answer he likes. I explained calmly that it was disrespectful. He lost his stuff. He was out of control for the entire rest of the afternoon before he got on the bus to go home.
As my students at the alternative day therapy program for students with behavior disorders didn’t often have anyone championing for them from home, I didn’t get a chance to know much positive about them before I became their teacher. I expect that as parents who would read a blog about education, you are willing to advocate and champion for your student.
To that end, I created a worksheet you can print and fill out to give to your teacher. If you have a child with an IEP, this will provide quick highlights into your student’s life/education. It will give a quick peek into who your wonderfully unique child is! If I had known how to handle the student I described above when frustrated, we might have been able to reel him back in after he became upset with the underlying issue of hunger. Of course, it is doubtful that his mother actually knew how to deal with him or would have been able to communicate that there wasn’t enough food at home. You have that chance to potentially diffuse a situation just by communication.
Check out the page here. Let me know if you can think of more information you would like to share and I’ll add it to the sheet. I am developing another for students who do not have an IEP and a third for those with a 504 Plan or building plan. Look for those tomorrow.
In addition, if I have worked with your child and you want me to start to complete the page for you, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can talk about it.