Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the phone and the iep

My dirty little secret is that I really hate talking on the phone. I'm far more comfortable with email and will sometimes go out of my way to use email or written communication instead of calling people on the phone.

This is a problem with my new role as a special ed teacher, because I HAVE to call parents to set up meetings. Don't think I don't try to do it through written word. I'll email if the parents have email (which most at our school don't) and will first send home a written letter months ahead of time, just hoping the parents will read it and return it before I have to call home.

But, inevitably, after a week of checking the book bag every day to see if the parent answered, I have to realize its time to call home.

I don't like using the phone with people my own age who speak English, and I'm even more uncomfortable with using the phone to call people who don't speak English, or speak English with a very heavy accent. Some parents do great speaking in English in person, but when you're on the phone they aren't able to read your body language and so it opens up all sorts of communication battles.

So you call home and just start speaking in English. If the person that answers utters something in another language and hangs up the phone, you wait for a day and try again. If that same person answers the phone and repeats their answer, then you hunt down a Farsi/Vietnamese/Urdu translator and hope they'll be able to deliver your message. It is always likely though that someone else will answer the phone. Many of our children live in homes with multiple families, and so if you call a home number you're never sure of whose parent/grandparent/teenage sister might answer. It can sometimes take awhile to communicate with the person on the phone exactly whose child you want to talk about. Remembering that all of this is suppose to be confidential and you should never utter the child's name and the words 'IEP' in the same sentence if you are not speaking to a parent. Which is hard to prove over the phone.

So on Friday I sucked it up and made some phone calls. Smugly hanging up, I was very pleased with how well my fury of calls went. I went into our computer program and entered the meetings, confirmed the dates with the teachers and administrators, scheduled a location, and went on home for the weekend.

On Tuesday morning, around 7:10 a mother was wandering our halls looking for me.
"Oh, Mrs. L! I want to schedule meeting?" she said clutching the paper I sent home two weeks ago.
ok... but we scheduled it. on Friday. When I called. Which I tried to explain nicely.
"No... I work then. Who talk? No? Not me. Not my number. That time? No, that not work for me. I work."

So, some poor soul answered the phone on Friday and agreed to come meet with me at a certain date and time. She even asked questions about what the meeting would be about. And I repeated the child's name again. And my name. And they said, "OK, see you then!" Never mentioned this wasn't their child or that they didn't understand why I was asking them to come to a meeting for a kid that wasn't theirs.

I have scheduled an IEP meeting with an unknown parent about an unknown child, who frankly, might not even go to our school.

This is why I don't use the phone.

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