Friday, February 4, 2011

Questions, questions, questions

I recently sat in on an IEP where a parent brought a long list of questions. While I know some special education teachers deal with this regularly, at my school it is sadly rare. We are use to the parents nodding along as we go, occasionally asking simple questions, and then signing at the end of the meeting. We've had difficult meetings before, but I've never experienced anything quite like this. The parents had put a lot of thought into their questions. They wanted to understand and truly wanted the best for their daughter. They didn't just want to be told "this is how we do it", they wanted to know why. Why did we word a sentence in one way, why is that considered routine, and what does that routine mean for their child?

As daunting as it was (and it was a relief there were so many of us in the meeting to answer the questions!) it was also refreshing. There was something reassuring about knowing a parent was so invested in their child's progress. It's not like we didn't know the answers to the questions. Sometimes it was hard to find the words to explain something that comes second nature to us, but it was an excellent experience. Why do we word something one way and not another? And could we explain it without using the ed-speak we're so accustom to?

I was recently at a routine doctor visit and was asking questions. My grad school research had me questioning some assumptions I'd previously made and I wanted to know why medical practice leaned one way when the research I was reading leaned another way. The doctor was trying very hard to refrain from rolling her eyes as she curtly told me that's just how it was. (I wont be going back to see her anytime soon).  I wasn't questioning her out of malice, or because I didn't trust her, I just truly wanted to know- She was the expert and I wanted to get her opinion. I realize it makes her job harder to have me ask questions like that, especially when they are not routine questions patients come up with. But I wanted to know. It's my health, after all.

I felt the same way with the parents at the IEP meeting. It certainly didn't feel like they were attacking us, although we easily could have let ourselves feel that way since it seemed they were questioning what seemed to us like small details. But they wanted to know. They wanted to understand why on earth we were going over so many papers and exactly what all those papers and ed-speak words would mean for their child.

I wish more parents would come to use with such thoughtful questions. As a society we need to stop seeing questions as a sign of 'lack of trust' and instead as a way participants show their involvement and their desire to understand. I hope the parents left feeling confident in what the school could do for their child, and more confident in the IEP process as a whole.


Trina said...

I absolutely agree. I'm a general education teacher, but I've sat in on many an IEP meeting and feel like sometimes the parents have absolutely no idea what's going on. Similar to P-T conferences, it would be nice to receive those questions just so we know that they really want to understand the student is supposed to achieve and how to get there.

On another note, I have been reading your blog for about 5-6 months now. I have to say, it has been the best I've found so far because you have been the most inspiring. With your entries about collaborating, innovating, adn implementing, it makes me want to constantly improve myself. Thanks!

Mrs. A said...

I agree with you as well. I had an IEP meeting with two parents and this meeting was like no other. The IEP meetings in the past was short with the parents knodding and agreeing to everything. These parents had a question for every statement the specialist read off to them, and I was so happy that the parents asked so many questions. I know me as an adult I sometimes shy away from asking too many questions from those in a higher position or profession than I am. My feelings of questioning always felt like disrespect. I know I shouldn't feel this way because this is what they get paid for.