My principal said at the end of my last IEP meeting, “IEP meetings are one of my favorite meetings to go to.” .03 seconds later, head turn and disgust filled my fifth graders face. The next morning this student came in and said, “you know how Ms. Daisy is crazy and Mr. Klutz is nuts? Well you are crazy and Mr. Jones is NUTS! You guys LIKE IEP MEETINGS!!!”
My thought bubble was instantly filled with laughs. I started reflecting. IEP meetings are actually my favorite meetings to lead and go to. This is a total 360 from two years ago. I use to see “IEP meeting” on my calendar and feel instant panic.
Sometime in the middle of last October when I realized the negative educational experience the students on my caseload had endured for years, I realized changing their trajectory was up to me. How often do you look at your class list and you see “IEP” and have a negative reaction? Now, think about seeing IEP with a BIP (behavior intervention plan) and an eligibility category for emotional-behavioral disorder. Where are your feelings at now?
The instant bias that comes with these labels– that are meant to support a struggling student, actually end up hurting them most of the time. It’s time for us to change that. For me, my journey towards making this shift started with their IEP meetings and the way I wrote about them and their education plans on paper and the tone of their meeting. Creating empowering IEP’s and holding empowering IEP meetings for all students is the first step in changing the bias of having students with IEPs in our classes.
Share your purpose when explaining the purpose of the IEP meeting with the team
Set the TONE!
Truly make everyone in attendance say at least one strength about the student
We view kids the way we believe them to be. Every person has strengths, positive character traits, and a purpose.
In each section, include strengths and positive instructional or support strategies for working with the student
Always has questions that focus on the positive! When you are presenting the information, everyone wants to know what’s working in the students journey, not what’s not.
Word behavioral or academic deficits, challenges, or concerns as areas of growth
I wish the words can’t and won’t would be erased from the teacher dictionary. Kids are growing every single day. Just like us.
Include student voice in the development of the plan
During the meeting, share their voice, make their voice be known and heard.
Facilitating Empowering IEP Meetings first starts with a strong purpose and the words we use to describe the student in the IEP draft. Are we creating a plan that empowers students to break through barriers? Are we leveraging their strengths and unique talents? When someone reads a students IEP for the first time, we begin envisioning this student and building our own personal connections based off experiences. Our tone matters. Our beliefs, our writing, our words, our empowerment– all truly matters when facilitating an IEP meeting. What type of IEP meeting do you want to facilitate or be collaborating in?
Click here to check-out my free special education casemanager tools!