Archive for the ‘parenting’ Tag

“I’d rather be smart than pretty any day” and Other Tidbits of Wisdom from My Granny   1 comment

As kids, we often heard little sayings from older people, like ‘A hard head makes a soft a$$’ or ‘I can show you better than I can tell you’ or ‘You don’t believe fat meat’s greasy!’ More often than not, we didn’t even understand them but we knew that we had done something wrong and were on the verge of getting in trouble. I remember a lot of things Granny said to us as kids and now that I am an adult and parent, most of them make perfectly good sense. I often think about the wisdom she imparted to me, in particular, because I am sharing a lot of those lessons with my own kids.

Today was a fairly quiet day at work, as we are into the third week of the semester.  That means: no registration (late or otherwise), no explaining financial aid intricacies (even though we clearly are not the financial aid office), and very little advising. None of the drama I wrote about a few weeks ago. But something happened today that got my dander up (yet another one of those sayings). A student came into the office because she needed to complete an assignment for the college’s new College Skills class, akin to the Freshman Seminar or Intro to College course offered on other campuses. The mere fact that she needed help is not what bothered me, but rather the fact that I helped her with the EXACT SAME ISSUE last week! GUess what she needed help with??? Microsoft Word! No  need to adjust your screen or grab your reading glasses (for my over 30 crowd)…you read that correctly. And she is younger than I am. I can’t blame Smartphones, cell phones, the boogeyman, or Mr. Charlie. She is responsible for this deficiency. I have an almost-8 year old who has been a master at PAINT since she was about 4. I can’t even use that damn program. I can’t blame lack of access to computers either because they are available in the public libraries. And the reality is that she is not the only student who lacks basic computer skills.

But here’s the real reason(s) I am pissed:

1. She’s a young, Black woman

2. She has a child

3. She has a cell phone (much nicer than my pay-as-you-go)

4. She has hair the color of Wendy from Wendy’s

5. I ALREADY HELPED HER WITH THAT LAST WEEK!

Somewhere along the way she, and many other young women, have been complimented on their beauty, booty, or a combination of the two. And somewhere along the way she, and those countless others, came to the realization that they didn’t need to be ‘smart’ (or have common sense for that matter) because they were cute. Sure enough, as I am sitting there steaming and biting the hell out of my tongue, my late grandmother’s voice resonated in my head: “I’d rather be smart than pretty any day.” As a little girl I didn’t understand why she said this, but it always stuck with me. Brains last forever but beauty fades…I get it, I get it. She pretty much ‘programmed’ me to excel academically because she knew that it would take brains to succeed in this world. No, I did not know that as a kid but hearing her say that repeatedly, had an impact. So I struggled to remain professional while working with this young lady even though something or someone inside of me was yearning to take her and shake the hell out of her. Yes, that’s the level of irritation/ire I felt. But I have no desire to go to jail so I opted to sit and think about how I could express my feelings in this post.

I started doubting whether I could actually do anything for some of the students. Am I too hard on them? Is expecting them to come to school, i.e. a college campus, with their pants pulled-up, breasts covered, sans midriff tops or anything exposing their chest tattoos and stomachs too much to ask? Am I expecting to much for them to understand what it means to be a college student? Or that people died fighting for their right to be able to step foot on any college campus? When a student comes to me and says that s/he doesn’t know why an instructor dropped him/her from a class do I really have to ask if they have been to every class? Are or should the expectations at a technical college be lower than a 2-year or 4-year college or university? Here lately I kinda feel like I went into this thing blind. I mean, I expected to ‘advise’ these students on being successful in college but I often feel as though everyone around me has been bitten by the ‘This is how it’s been because people don’t like change and all you can do is advise them to the best of your ability’ bug. Some days I feel like I am still in K-12, or working for people from the same family. Apathy is both contagious and potentially deadly, depending upon the situation/environment.

I don’t know…maybe my boss was right: Maybe I do take things too seriously. After all, we can’t all be on time for work, care about the quality of service we provide to students, or advise them correctly right? Or maybe I am in this environment to learn a lesson (or two). I do know this: I am beyond making excuses for people. I, too, was a first generation college student. With regard to getting ‘homework help’ in high school, I was pretty much on my own, as I am sure a lot of people were. I am not knocking my family in any way but rather demonstrating that, at some point, we have to take ownership for our learning. Stop the excuses. Stop the ignorance. Stop the finger-pointing. Or at the least, pray that someone will intervene on our behalf and either show us the way, give us a stern talking-to or shake the hell out of us.

I will end this rant-gone-awry with this message, from one glasses wearing, book-reading, violin-toting, late bloomer to all the kids experiencing the same thing: It gets better. You’ll get smarter. You’ll outgrow your awkwardness. Even if you don’t, remember what my Granny said: “I’d rather be smart than pretty any day.”

Don’t Make Me Angry…..You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry   1 comment

Yes, I am channeling my inner 80s child..but I am oh-so serious right about now. Let’s just be honest: I am a lot pissed right now. That is part of the reason why I haven’t written since my last blog about why I do what I do as a mamma. Sometimes it may seem that most 99.9% of my writing comes from a place of anger, but it really doesn’t. Ok, maybe a little bit. But there are three things of mine that I caution people NOT to mess with: 1. My kids. 2. My family. and 3. My money. And yes, I am serious. So as I logged in to write this post, I noticed that I haven’t written anything on more than 2 weeks. Yikes! That’s a long time considering how much I used to write, but then I have to remember that I am actually employed now but still…..I don’t know. Anyway, the reason why I decided to write….

I have spent almost 3 weeks going back-and-forth with the school and district about his damn credit recovery class my son had to take because he failed Integrated Geometry the first semester. I had finally decided to let them (educrats) sweat bullets for a while and I left the issue alone..that is, until two more things happened. Yesterday I had to take Boy Wonder to B.F.E. to take his ‘performance final’ for the credit recovery class. (BTW: WTH is a ‘performance final’ any damn way?) So we get to the testing location early, which for me means 15-20 before any scheduled event. Not only was it hot as hell in the building, but there were a lot of people there and the educrats weren’t even ready. They didn’t start checking-in kids until 10-15 minutes before the tests began. ‘Why is that a big deal?’ you might ask. Well, the final was scheduled for 4 PM. Like I said, I. DON’T. DO. LATE. Since I knew a lot of running around and being given the runaround would be involved (otherwise it wouldn’t be the Gwinnett County Public Schools), I decided to spare myself a little grief by not working yesterday. (Nope, I won’t get paid either) I picked-up Boy wonder at 1:00, after driving around Alcatraz the school to get to the Attendance Office. Yes, you have to go outside the main building and drive around, past the football field and across from the scoreboard to get to the Attendance Office. After we left his school, we headed over to the elementary school to pick-up two little old ladies. Yep, I had to check them out of school early because: (1) I do not have family here to babysit; (2) I only work part-time and cannot afford after-school programs; and (3) the largest school district in the state, which also won $1 million from the Broad Foundation, does not offer any after-school programs. Not even at the Title I schools. Did I mention that the testing site is about 40 minutes from my house? Almost forgot that point.

As we were standing in line (and sweating), I noticed that there were a large number of kids taking credit recovery classes. And not just black and brown kids either. There were a lot of white kids, with money, there too. Yeah, I knew they had money because they drove more expensive (and newer) cars than me. SMDH. And guess what? A lot of the kids with resources were also taking credit recovery for Integrated Geometry. Interesting. But here is the reason why I have been steaming for the past week: Not only did I have to drop $100 for this credit recovery class, for a subject in which a lot of kids are failing and blowing their chances of getting the HOPE Scholarship, but I found out that the Georgia Department of Education provides an entire credit recovery curriculum to all districts for FREE. I don’t think I need to let that marinate with you all…free is free. After speaking with a knowledgeable little birdie, we came to the conclusion that Gwinnett likely contracted with an outside software/curriculum company to get curriculum for their credit recovery program. Basically, they are passing the cost of that program on to students. Black, White, Brown. Rich, poor, etc. I am not ashamed to say that $100 is a lot of money to me; it can go a long way if you are careful about how you spend it. I have come to the conclusion (and I keep re-visiting it) that Gwinnett County can pretty much do whatever the hell it wants to do and no one is willing to call them on their SHAT. Well, like the saying goes: All crooked good things must come to an end. And who better to put an end to this crap than me?

I will spare you all the details of the gazillion emails I exchanged with the talking-head principal, Math Curriculum Coordinator (or whatever the heck his official title is), and some other unqualified, overpaid, and apathetic district official. Long story short: I started asking questions about money, specifically Title I money, and I may have mentioned something about contacting the U.S. Department of Education. Suddenly I get a response from the above-referenced underqualified, overpaid person about a refund. I never asked for a refund, but instead, I want someone to explain to me why I had to pay for the class in the first place when they knew my financial situation. I guess I need to wait two more weeks for a response to that question. In their defense though, they are dealing with these allegations of shady land deals. My little $100 contribution is of little significance right now. And besides, I think I included enough links to make a point without risking the eye safety of my legion of five blog readers. Besides, I’m sleepy.

Over and Out. *Cues ‘Incredible Hulk’ theme.

Losing My Edu-ligion   3 comments

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight, I’m
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

‘Losing My Religion’ – R.E.M.

I can’t explain what’s been going on with me lately. I haven’t written as much as I did in the past or as much as I promised I would shit in weeks or months. I don’t know; I haven’t bothered to check the date on the last entry. It’s not that I don’t have anything on my mind. In fact, the contrary is true: I have a lot on my mind because there is a lot going on. I even started writing blog titles and notes in my little composition book. Yeah, that’s the teacher-in-me. But the passion/spark/fire is gone. Or as B.B. King would say: ‘The thrill is gone baby/It’s gone away from me.’ I guess I am just tired because I feel as though I am saying the same things over and over again. And no one is listening, or they just don’t give a damn. Maybe it’s the fact that I am one of millions of parents who feels both voiceless and powerless in this freakshow they call education reform. And by they, I clearly mean the people who don’t know shit about what it takes to teach a class of 15-30 students, where they all have different learning needs/styles and come from different backgrounds (READ: They got stuff going on to which educrats will never be able to relate). Add to that the fact that teachers are no longer teaching for the love of the profession, but because they are scared shitless of some bureaucrat taking away their collective bargaining rights (if they had them to begin with) or harrassing the hell out of them for no other reason than, well, they don’t have shit else to do (because they can’t effectively do anything else). Let’s also throw in the fact that teachers, the people who spend years in training, are being scape-goated for everything that is wrong with education even though they DO NOT make any decisions regarding curriculum, school day/calendar, etc. That’s akin to blaming a patient who dies on the operating table for a mistake made during surgery. That makes sense. I won’t even start on the perceived powerlessness of parents. I will save that for another day because while we are all enthralled by the revolutions in other countries, we are not yet ready to start our own.

Yeah. Like Kelly Price, ‘I’m Tried.’ And I have lost the respect I once had for some of those on the front lines of education. If it takes bashing single parents, kids, and dedicated teachers to sell books, make movies, and get a segment on CNN, then I guess I will continue to get my black ass out of bed every morning and be like the rest of the working stiffs. At least I will be able to look at myself in the mirror everyday and actually like what I see.

In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions on how to best recharge my mojo, I am open for suggestions.

Do I offend your sensibilities when I talk about race?   3 comments

So (late) last night I decided to embark on a 24-hour Twitter fast after reading a testimony from @CandiceNicolePR. She openly shared how so many things had gone wrong during the past fews months, but then, almost suddenly things started to work in her favor. As I thought about her and her refusal to give up (even though she came close), I thought: I really need to take a break, sit and reflect on some things because I have been waiting for answers/direction for a very long time. And that’s exactly what I did today: No logging in to Twitter or Facebook. Instead, I rested and thought. For those of you who don’t know me, that’s code for I slept. All day, save for the few disturbances by the ringing cell phone. (FYI: You will see this post on Twitter, but I won’t be online until 12:01 AM)

When I finally got out of bed, I checked homework then logged in to check my email. Despite my protest last week, I read the contribution to the Huffington Post by my friend @TheJLV. Jose honestly tackled an issue that has become a talking piece amongst psuedo-edreformers, such as Arne Duncan: Increasing the numbers of Black and Latino male teachers. What’s really interesting is that I engaged in a conversation (not debate, not argument) with @rugcernie on Twitter last night on the same topic. But Jose’s piece made me think of the bigger picture: Race and its role in education, edreform, and everything ed-related. I couldn’t help but think about the blog post I wrote after I was shafted overlooked by the Huffington Post. Why are some people so obviously uncomfortable with talking about race? Better yet, why do some people get offended (defensive) when others discuss it?

PSA: If my frank discussions about race and class offend you, STOP READING! For those with a healthy and realistic view of the way things really work in this country, grab a seat and a snack because this one will be a little lengthy. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on my perception on what I (key word) perceived to be a dismissive/rude/unprofessional handling of my request to write for the Huffington Post’s Education Blog Special. Like other recent news and media outlets, like Education Nation, the online news outlet decided to dedicate a section of its web to discussing issues related to Education. To its credit, however, the Huffington POst did do a much better job at selecting a few good writers (@TheJLV and @TeacherSabrina). On the other hand, they mirrored the Education Nation’s efforts (or apathy) in selecting some parents (with actual school-age children, who attend public schools) to contribute to the dialogue. In every recent debate or teacher-union bashing event, the voices of parents have been silenced. More specifically, the voices of Black and Latino parents. I can’t help but wonder if, I were a parent with less than a college degree (or three) and a proclamation that I am willing to do whatever necessary to ensure that my kids attend college, would they have accepted me? Silly me! I thought someone was genuinely interested in hearing diverse perspectives, even those from single parents, a.k.a., the downfall of the family unit and public education. I guess not.

I continued to think….then felt that there were a few things I needed to say, in reference to some of the comments left on that blog post.

1. At no point in that blog did I say that the Huffington Post did not choose me because I am Black or a single parent. I simply inferred that they are no more interested in the parental perspective than Education Nation, Rhee, Klein, Duncan, or Gates… Black teachers, a little. But Black parents, not so much. The same applies to Latino teachers and parents.

2. The title I chose for that post, ‘Ain’t I a woman…’ was a play on words and one of my (many) attempts at sarcasm (Definition: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual). By the way, my insertion of the definition of sracasm was also an excellent example of sarcasm. That’s how I roll: Go with the flow or get ran over. (Seriously) More importantly, if you didn’t recognize from whence the paraphrased title came, STOP reading this blog and go read this! I felt that my Blackness and my status as a mother were of little to no significance to the organizers of Education Nation. Being overlooked by Huffington Post magnified those feelings. So yeah, I was a little pissed. I had and have every right to be. How dare anyone assert themselves as leaders in Education, the ones ‘chosen’ to educate my kids, but not give any consideration to my viewpoint or what I can contribute to the discussion. The unmitigated gall!

But here’s what really ires me (I promise, I am almost done): People, Black, White, Latino, and everything in between, who refuse to acknowledge that the educational disparities we witness in present day, are in fact, directly correlated to race, which is directly correlated to the history of this country and every institution within it. Believe me, it’s a vicious cycle and it will not be broken until we have the courage to openly acknowledge and challenge what’s wrong, how we can fix it, and who needs to be involved in rebuilding it, whatever ‘it’ may be.

So, my question still stands: ‘Ain’t I a Black parent who wants to improve education? Or is that not good enough for the Huff Post? But in all fairness, I will make an addendum and include the U.S. Department of Education, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Joel Klein, and that woman. I guess if I decided to rile up some other ‘militant’ Black parents and start our own forum on education reform, someone would take me seriously. Doesn’t matter because I know what they spend millions to figure out. For the time being, that’s entertainment enough for me. So yeah, I’m a whole lotta woman.

It’s official: Some people really don’t know what they are doing   1 comment

Yesterday (and the day before) I kinda ranted about the latest debacle at South Gwinnett High School (population ~2,800), where my oldest is a 9th/10th grader (will explain that later). He came home Wednesday and started his usual routine: Homework, snack, and asking me random questions that seem to come out of nowhere (he’s a Gemini). So I am sitting on the couch watching tv and he walks into the room and asks:

Boy Wonder: Hey Mamma, do colleges look at whether or not you take the PSAT?

Me: Why?

Boy Wonder: Well, because they took it today and my name wasn’t on the list.

Me: What? (More of a ‘You have GOT TO BE F*&@%$# kidding me’ tone) How do you know your name wasn’t on the list?

Boy Wonder: The teacher asked the class if they knew where they would be during testing and my name wasn’t on the list.

Me: Well, I emailed the school back in August to find out the date and whether or not you would be able to take it. They told me as long as you were there on testing day you would. Don’t worry about it, I got it.

So, in my usual form I started researching and re-reading my email communications with the school. [SIDE NOTE: For those of you who think email communication is too impersonal (or are worried about how you will be perceived by school officials, all I can say is…whateva.) An email paper trail can be the difference between your child(ren) getting screwed or getting the things to which they are entitled. You choose]. Just as I thought: I did send the initial email in August because I wanted to know about both the PSAT and End-of-Course Tests (EOCT) that my son would have to take. Because he was home schooled during his freshman year, the district requires him to take the EOCT for both Algebra and Physical Science in order to get credit. I don’t have a problem with the policy as much as I do the manner in which the counselor spoke to us during registration. Read this post to see what else South Gwinnett got wrong that day.  In fact, when she told us that he would have to take the tests, I looked at him and said, ‘Don’t worry about it. You know the material and you can ace those two just like the one you took in 9th Grade Literature.’ Unfortunately, the school couldn’t get their at together: I asked for EOCT testing dates on more than one occasion and was told that they would let him know when he would be tested. Guess what? He was supposed to test in August and September. The school sent home a tint square piece of paper, stating that they forgot to get him for testing and, with my permission, he could test in October. Well, today is October 15 and he hasn’t received any information about testing yet. I sure wish I could make $60k+ for half-arse developing a school-wide testing calendar/system.

Now don’t get me wrong: It may seem like I nit-pick over the little things, but I don’t. If I did, I would have something to blog about everyday-on this particular school alone! I let a lot of little things slide because sometimes it’s just not worth the headache. However, when you speak to me (one of my kids) or interact with me in a manner I deem condescending or disrespectful, you damn well better have your SHAT in order because if you don’t, I will check you. Both publicly and privately. But as I said here and on Twitter, people make assumptions about others based on the manner in which they are dress, where they live, the color of their skin, and especially if their children do not have the same last name as their parents. Yes, petty but people do it everyday…and more so if the mom is not wearing a wedding ring. But that’s o.k. because I enjoy watching people turn five shades of red when I start responding and asking questions using the education lingo…. Then they start fidgeting when I tell them I used to teach (in Georgia) AND I have my Ed.S.; most of them have a Master’s, but I digress…..

Needless to say I copied and compiled all the email communications regarding testing and sent a message to the principal…and the assistant to the superintendent. So I wasn’t very surprised when I received an email at 8:49 PM from the principal, stating ‘…We will then move forward with trying to resolve the issue.’ Not sure how they can resolve it since the PSAT is only administered on 2 days the entire year, but we’ll see.


Ain’t I a Black parent who wants to improve education? Or is that not good enough for the Huff Post?   14 comments

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So I had the weekend (and part of today) to work through my frustration and anger regarding the manner in which staff at the Huffington Post handled my request to write for their Education Blog special this month. The initial email and ensuing responses are below.

From Me to Them:

Good afternoon,

A Twitter friend ( @ReadyWriting) suggested that I contact you regarding writing for the upcoming Education section of the Huffington Post. Could you provide some additional information on the guidelines and criteria please? I am very interested in this opportunity, as the parent-teacher voice has been silenced in recent Education dialog efforts.

Below are some links to a few blogs/articles I have written:

My personal blog: https://educationceo.wordpress.com/

Contributions to Race-Talk blog (Kirwan Institute);

‘Black women in Education: Do our voices count?’

”Don’t blame the drop-outs, blame the outdated education system’

Examiner.com: Atlanta Education Reform Examiner

I would also like to add that I have approximately 2,300 followers on Twitter. Not quite celebrity status, but not bad for an unemployed single mother (and former teacher) who only started seriously tweeting earlier this year!

Thank you in advance for your consideration!

Sincerely,

~Monise

An email sent from D.G. to T (with a Cc: to myself):

T

Let me know any next steps to take with this one. Thanks!

– Show quoted text – (The initial email I sent, which is above.)


D.G.

Associate Editor

The Huffington Post Impact

Causecast.org

Second email from D.G. to Me (same day):

Dear Monise,

Thank you for showing your interest! People interested in blogging for the Education section are asked to send in a brief bio for review by our editorial staff. If we feel you could contribute to our section we will get back to you as soon as possible.

To familiarize you with the expectations we have for our section and our bloggers I have provided you a bit of information below. If you have any other questions or concerns please feel free to contact me.

Best,

D

_____________

HuffPost Education, launching Monday, October 4, will serve as a hub for prominent educators, celebrities, politicians and other influential voices to discuss successes and failures in the American K-12 public school system. This is a great opportunity to share your opinions about education and education reform and to encourage readers to get involved. We want to inspire thoughtful discussion about education, spur innovation in the field, recognize great teachers and provide tools and information for ordinary Americans to make a difference for their local schools.

Like the Impact section launched last fall, Causecast has partnered with The Huffington Post to develop the Education section.

By providing unique content (text or video) either regularly or as an occasional guest contributor on this platform, bloggers will be able to share their message with millions of active Huffington Post readers who are looking to be inspired and get involved. HuffPost Education will feature blog posts from teachers, students, education reformers, nonprofit leaders, politicians and celebrities and provide clear calls-to-action for readers looking to get directly involved with the issues discussed. Contributors will include Arianna Huffington, Davis Guggenheim, Rosario Dawson, Geoffrey Canada, Joy Bryant and numerous other individuals passionate about improving education in America.

HuffPost Education presents an exciting opportunity to build a community centered around education topics on one of world’s most active news blogs. To build a strong relationship with your HuffPost readers, we encourage you to contribute regularly. This is the best way to maximize your effectiveness on the platform.

So here is my issue: First of all, I didn’t quite appreciate to the reference ‘this one,’ regardless of the intended context. For the record, I don’t like ‘You people,’ ‘Those people,’ and any other derogatory terms/statements. Second, look at this line (yes the response was canned, but it speaks volumes about the lack of respect that everyone has shown for the parents):

HuffPost Education, launching Monday, October 4, will serve as a hub for prominent educators, celebrities, politicians and other influential voices to discuss successes and failures in the American K-12 public school system.

Did you happen to notice who was missing from the line-up? The same group that was missing from Education Nation and the talk show circuits during the past 2 weeks: Parents. No, not the kind like Guggenheim who can afford private schools for their kids, but the kind like me who sacrificed a lot to buy our first home within a school district known for its (supposedly) excellent schools. Me, who when backed into a corner and threatened to choose my job or my child’s well-being, chose my child and now cannot get another teaching job in the state of Georgia. Me, who is suffering because I cannot do what I love-what I was called to do. Me who realizes that I would rather struggle alone in calling attention to the Johnny-Come-Latelys who don’t know a damn thing about Public Education, must less how to relate to people like me. Like I said before, money does not buy you the experience. Sleeping with a Black man does not buy you the experience. There is no substitute for experience. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. It is what it is.

But despite the elitism and condescension, I knew that I could count on someone (@readtoday) for support and a little hell-raising. To her words and constant support, I say this:

‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And in keeping with who I am and knowing whose I am, I will embark upon my own little boycott of the Huffington Post and any other media rag that choose to continue to ignore the voices of those who have the most at stake in this game of Russian Roulette disguised as education reform. Yes, I know I will be alone but that’s how I came into this world and I am sure that is the same manner in which I will leave. But you know what? I am ok with that because when I have to answer for what I did/did not know do, I know that my actions/words will not have been in vain.

An IEP is not a free pass, and other misconceptions about Special Education   5 comments

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in Twitter’s #SpEdChat (READ: I actually remembered it was taking place and added my two cents). I have a special place in my heart for Special Education; I made it through 4.5 years teaching without laying hands (CODE: Channeling Madea) on any students. More importantly, I managed to only mildly inform colleagues and administrators of their ignorance of Special Education’s purpose and when they directly violated any component of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act). But I digress because this post is about something else. It’s about teachers being proactive in gaining knowledge to do what’s in the best interest of their students. And I can always support that!

I noticed a theme during the #SpEdChat: A lot of General Education teachers are genuinely interested in learning about ways to help those students with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), as opposed to ‘passing them’ simply because they have an IEP. My buddy @TheJLV and I were discussing the arrangements at his school: The majority of the kids served by Special Education participate in Inclusion classes, where students are essentially mainstreamed into Regular Education classes. (NOTE: This setting, as with any other, is determined by the child’s IEP team – parents, teachers, psychologist, administrator, etc. and his/her area of disability. This is covered by the FAPE – Free Appropriate Public Education- provision of IDEA.) He shared that the staff attended an IEP training workshop, facilitated/led by the Special Education Department. That’s certainly a good first step, but I am sure some of the people were overwhelmed. Why? Because I was overwhelmed with writing IEPs for the first two years; reading them was much easier! In order to better educate teachers, both General and Special Education, it is absolutely necessary to for school’s to offer ongoing professional development regarding IEPs, IDEA, Inclusion, etc. One-shot workshops don’t usually work well for other education-related topics, so it’s no wonder why they don’t fare well with regard to Special Education.

So a few people asked questions about IEPs, including how do you write them, how do you understand them, etc. As I stated above, writing IEPs is a difficult and sometimes daunting task; however, when done correctly, a well-written one makes delivering quality instruction and assessing student growth a proverbial cakewalk. I cannot, nor will I attempt, to do a drive-by blog on writing IEPs because there is a lot that goes into that, but to start I will give you a quick run-down of what an IEP is/is not, and what it’s supposed to do-when followed.

What the heck is an IEP? (Not to be confused with EIP – Early Intervention Plan/Program)

  1. First and foremost, an IEP is a legal document; it’s contents & directives are protected by IDEA;
  2. An IEP is a confidential document. You should only discuss its contents with people who directly interact with the child;
  3. An IEP is required for any child diagnosed with any disability that impedes/affects (not stops) his or her ability to learn at the same rate or in the same manner as peers;
  4. An IEP is not a free pass for students to ‘skate’ through the system; do not let anyone tell you otherwise. You will do students a great disservice if you don’t hold them accountable;
  5. An IEP does not excuse (the majority of) students from learning the same standards/content. It does, however, provide for accommodations/modifications based upon the IEP team’s recommendations;
  6. A well-written IEP requires input from all stakeholders: Student (if appropriate age-usually 14); parent(s); teachers; psychologist; Lead Special Education Teacher (terminology may differ by state); administrator; school counselor; therapist, SLP, etc. when appropriate. This is a group effort and the child will only be successful if the requisite amount of time and knowledge are applied to writing and following the IEP;
  7. An IEP is integral to the success of any student with a disability. It should not, under any circumstances, be filed in some cabinet and ignored during the school year;
  8. By law, an IEP must be updated every year, on the anniversary date. Err on the side of caution: Schedule the Annual Review 7-10 days prior to the anniversary date. I have seen school districts sued by knowledgeable parents because the district failed to conduct the Annual Review. I have also seen students with 2-3 year old IEPs. Yes, the system is broken but we are still accountable for meeting the needs of our students.

In response to concerns voiced by some teachers and administrators during the chat: IDEA states that teachers who have direct instructional contact with the student are required to attend IEP meetings. Attendance by a building administrator is also required. I would suggest that the Special Education Department Chair collaborate first, with the principal to develop a master calendar of potential IEP Annual Review dates. Then, work with other department chairs and inform all teachers of their responsibilities. I understand that teachers now have 1,001 things on their plates, but I am sure they would much rather make time for meetings than be named in a lawsuit.

When in doubt, follow IDEA. Every state/district/school must use IDEA as a foundation for developing their respective Special Education programs. Anything above and beyond IDEA is up to their discretion, but the federal guidelines cannot be altered as long as federal funds are involved/accepted/spent.