Sometimes the things I experience in my job infuriate me from the standpoint of a parent. Have the two roles–parent and teacher–certainly creates challenges for me for many reasons.
I am a Special Education Teacher. Because this is my job, I am aware of the ins and outs of the program. I am also acutely aware of what budget cuts mean to our precious kids. What infuriates me more than anything else is how focused we are on numbers. And by “we,” I mean the profession. And by “the profession,” I mean the bureaucrats who decide what goes on in our school systems.
For instance, there is a certain percentage that the government funds in the school system for special education students. Let’s say, for instance, the federal government has set aside money and decided that if the school system’s percentage of special education students is 15% of the student population. What that means is that if 16% of the student population is composed of special education students, the remaining 1% comes from the local budget. With this being the case, the school system wants us to be “really careful” when deciding that a student is eligible for special education services. If our percentage of special education students is above that cut-off point, they start making it out like we, as special education teachers, are basically making students eligible who shouldn’t be.
But, honestly, just because the federal government won’t fund past a certain percent doesn’t mean that there isn’t a higher percentage of students in our school system who truly need services. Why should students have to pay because the government won’t? Now, on some level I totally understand our budget woes. You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, right? I get it.
As the parent of a special needs child, it irks me. I have had to fight each time my child has needed more than they deem necessary. And I work for the school system he is getting services from. I can only imagine how many children don’t really get their needs met because the parents don’t know their rights. Because the parents don’t know how the system works. In this case, I always recommend getting an advocate of some kind to come to the meeting with you. And if you know what you’re talking about and you know your child needs more than their getting, you fight for it.
I will say. In my particular school system, we have some really phenomenal special ed teachers who truly care about the children they are working for. They advocate for their needs. They’re not afraid to tell the people higher up, “Screw you. This child needs these services.” I mean. Obviously, they don’t say “screw you.” At least not to their faces. But you get my drift.
I do my very best to advocate for my students, especially now. I get so angry at staff meetings where I hear nothing but dollar signs. I know the budget is important. But so are our children. So is MY child.
Let me tell you the most asinine thing I heard at an IEP meeting for my child. Last school year, we created a (Behavior Intervention Plan) BIP for my child because he had some behaviors that needed to be addressed. These included aggressive behaviors (hitting, pushing) toward classmates and aggressive behaviors (head-banging, etc) toward himself. During the course of the year, he had several changes in teachers. At the end of this school year, we had an IEP meeting where this BIP was brought up. My son’s teacher mentioned having never seen or been aware of this BIP. My advocate mentioned this being a problem. The person in charge of the IEP made a comment that was something along the lines of, “Well, the BIP was only created to pacify the people at the meeting anyway.”
My advocate promptly put her in her place, stating that this was not the point. This lack of communication when transitioning to new staff members was part of the problem. I was just angry that she had the nerve to make that comment in front of me. A BIP is a part of the IEP. It is not something that should be overlooked. We spent a lot of time creating that document and it should have been followed. That being said, my son had a really great teacher the last half of the year, and we communicated really well, so I knew that she did everything she could to help moderate his behavior.
Well, I have the privilege of knowing that the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) basically requires that if you check “yes” for behavior getting in the way of learning on the IEP, an FBA (Functional Behavior Assessment) and BIP should be in the file. We didn’t draft a new BIP at our last meeting, just created behavior goals. But we did check “yes” for behaviors.
Honestly, this is not a big deal in preschool. But if you have a school-aged child with behavior issues, your school system should have a BIP in place. If your child gets suspended more than once because of these behaviors and the BIP wasn’t followed and you contact DPI, they will want to see that document. It should be there. The purpose of a BIP is so that the parent and the school employees are all on the same page with what should be done to help the child behave appropriately.
I feel that I’ve gone off course.
Here’s what I want you to know: I have a list of Helpful Links as a separate page. In those helpful links you will find things like IDEA and Wrightslaw. Become familiar with your (your child’s) rights. If you have a special needs child in these times, where money is tight in the school system, resources are limited in the schools. That’s a fact. Work with them. see if you can come up with an agreement that accommodates your child that they can provide. But whatever you do, don’t stop fighting for your child. And if you feel your child’s needs aren’t being met, know the appeal process. I want to go on record to say that most special education teachers are in the business because they truly care about children. I know I do. So be nice. But be firm.
Yes, I have two roles. But my primary role is that of a parent. A mom.
Your child is your number one priority. The school system has to think about the thousands of other children they serve. But you have your child to worry about. You have invested a lot in your child already, emotionally and financially. Make sure they’re also invested in your child.