Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Poking the Mama Bear

I need to calm down. 

But, I also need to write. So, the calm can wait.  You can save your "Keep Calm and fill-in-the-blank" Brittish humor until I'm finished. 

I am a Mama Bear.  I love my cubs.  I am protective of them in every sense of the word.  I look out for every aspect of their existence, including their education.  In fact, I am adamant about their schooling and what they need to thrive.  I am a thankful Mama Bear because I have two wonderful, helpful, and willing schools with teachers who are driven to not only educate the minds of my cubs, but their hearts as well.  However, one of my cubs has an IEP.  And this means, by law, other teachers and staff who do NOT know my child are involved in planning his education as well.  Once a year, we are required to sit down with a panel and discuss Isaac with people who have never met him face-to-face, to discuss his services, progress, and update any other education needs he may have for the upcoming school year.  This, this is a love/hate relationship.  Especially today. 

Mama Bear has been poked. 

Up until this point, I have had no complaints about the school district with whom I have to, by law, explain who my Isaac is from a few sheets of paper and statistics.  Up until this point, I have been happy to sit in a meeting, smile, listen to teachers who have never met my son say things like, "Wow!  It sounds like Isaac is doing very well!"  and "He's reading at THAT level, ALREADY?"  After today, I am going to have a seriously hard time biting my tongue.

In order for Isaac to get services outside of our school district of residence with his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and to be eligible to choose where we want to send him, we are required to keep the district we DID NOT choose informed of his progress each year.  This means, a meeting to update his education and therapy goals.  At these meetings, teachers and therapists as well as a representative for the district we DO NOT USE present their paperwork (paperwork that is provided by Isaac's current teachers and therapists, as well as other staff who educate him at Julie Billiart). I know, it's a bit confusing and skewed, but that's the way it is.  We all sit down, chat a little bit, smile, laugh, sign a few things, and then we shake hands and part ways. 

The hard part is when the district we DIDN'T CHOOSE loses track of my cub.  He slips through the cracks of time and becomes just another kid with an education plan outside of their realm. If these meetings are not kept, and the IEP is allowed to expire, let's just say you DON'T want Mama Bear to get to that point.  And we are almost at that point--days away, in fact. 

Isaac's IEP expires the 27th.  Less than a week away AND over a long holiday weekend.  I was getting nervous...anxious even.  I haven't received a letter or email allowing me to choose a date of a meeting.  After calling various people and leaving unanswered messages for weeks now, my team at Julie Billiart had to step in and help me get information that technically, isn't their responsibility to get.

I understand everyone is under a lot of pressure.  Everyone is under some sort of deadline.  Every district is dealing with influxes of more and more children being diagnosed with special needs, and they are drowning in meeting state requirements and fulfilling all the paperwork on time.  I get it.  I do.  I just need to know that you're doing SOMETHING.  ANYTHING.  A simple return email  or call would suffice so I can at least get something on the calendar and have an option!  Because of a lack of planning and insufficient foresight, I am forced to be where and when you tell me.  So....

Hear this, district.  Please, get your act together.  I deserve at least more than a week's notice as to a meeting as important as this.  Isaac deserves more than that. 

When we sit down on Thursday (which is just 2 days away, and is the only time you can "fit" us in, apparently...) please don't take it personally if I don't chat in depth about how wonderfullly my son is doing, or how excellent he is in reading or math, or how "typical" he sounds.  Don't take it as a sign of disrespect that I just want you to write down the services he needs and to tell me truthfully what boxes I am checking and what I am signing for or against.  Be patient as I ask questions and read every paragraph, word for word.  Because this is my son.  You haven't met him, but if you did, you would marvel at how much he's grown and how far he's come by being at Julie Billiart, but you would also see he wouldn't fit in your classroom.  I don't need to hear you tell me I'm doing a great job, because honestly, I know that.  I appreciate you making time for me, even if it was down to the wire.  This is just another reason why I am glad Isaac is where he is. This is my cub's life we are writing... 

Keep Calm, and Mama Bear On.  

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