We did it. We finally got through the 504 review and hopefully it will be last meeting of the school year. Each time I have to sit down face to face with this group of 6 people, my heart grows a little more heavy. Do people not know what they say? Or is it some things are just too hard for me to hear?
We didn’t start off the usual way. The counselor informed me that the principal did not show up for school and so the 6th grade principal would be taking her place. Why is this a problem? Well, for two reasons. First, we have dealt with this one years ago and when there was no resolution to a problem because of the way it was handled, I pulled my daughter out of the school. So, we established since we already have trust and mishandling issues, it would be better for us to have the 8th grade principal and start fresh. The other problem is we now have a new face that has not been brought up to speed, walking into an important meeting without any background or what has lead us to this point in the first place. If you ask me, I believe that should have warranted a phone call allowing me the option to postpone until our principal returned. And, why I was told it was necessary for an administrator to sit in on this meeting when there wasn’t one required the last time just two weeks ago? Who knows.
It’s all still a blur and I have to admit I’m still shaking my head as to what went on. I realized as I sat there that this will just never, ever, really be about Chase and his needs. This is about a team or to be fair, part of a team that is strongly digging their high heels into the mud because they think the accommodations are personal and they really don’t see the need to follow them through. At the end of the day, I heard the one heartbreaking thing that no parent even wants to hear. We were discussing the electricity unit and we couldn’t even agree about what to call it. I had a teacher sit there and tell me they were starting the hands on portion of the unit this week while she insinuated they hadn’t done it yet. So, I struggled as to how I would word the question the right way as to why the kids read several pages on their own from the book on the topic of electricity, why they spent weeks filling out answers on an electricity packet, and why they had been tested before spring break. Did I miss something? Was I losing my mind or was she going out of her way to make me look stupid while being extremely difficult? Call it a unit, several pages from a book, several chapters whatever but let’s agree we were tested on the concept of electricity period. We talked about how the kids might have learned more if each section of electricity was broken down and the kids corrected that section of the packet until they understood the information and then moved on with the next section, instead of being totally confused at the end of the packet as a whole. The principal seemed concerned that some kids had little if any understanding and suggested they readdress the packet as a class. The teachers response, “what difference would that make? We’ve moved on so what would be the point?” That’s when I did it. I laughed and gently hit myself in the forehead. Do you seriously say to a parent “what difference does it make if the child doesn’t learn anything.” I almost had to clutch my heart that was ready to throb right out of my chest when I mentioned that most parents actually do care whether their child is learning. How do you work with someone who clearly has goals so different from your own? She went on to explain most of the kids were successful and did very well on the test. I reminded her that the kids brought in a cheat sheet filled with the definition of every term and that I wonder how well they would have done without the magic little piece of paper. Her very snide response, “I guess we’ll never know will we?” Nope, lucky for her we never will but the parents know, believe me WE KNOW.
If that wasn’t bad enough the counselor tells me that the principal who has not followed up with me over break like she was supposed to so that we walked into the meeting on the same page said that SHE, yes she, had decided to remove the accommodation that reads Parent Portal for parent to be able to see what assignments are due and have been turned in.The reasoning? That accommodation is for parents and not the student. The way I see it is this. They are supposed to be using parent portal for the benefit of all kids in the district. It is only when I am aware that Chase is missing work and not completing it or handing it in, that I have a heads up that maybe the dose of medication he is on is not working. And if I find out 7 assignments in that so much work is missing, imagine how he falls behind. And this accommodation is for me how? Wait, explain that again. Oh yeah, you can’t because you didn’t show up.
I know this is hard to believe. Some of it is downright crazy. My husband and I just look at each other because when the ship has sailed without someone to steer it, it becomes lost at sea. We did come up with new, more specific accommodations, one being the teachers will email me on a weekly basis as to whether the work is getting done. One teacher actually added that her motto is no news is good news so would it be okay for her to skip out on the weekly email and trust that she would contact me if there’s a problem. Is there anyone, anywhere that could please accompany me to a meeting and explain in a way the teachers could comprehend that do they do not get to pick and choose if and when they follow an accommodation? How could they still not get it?
One last ridiculous remark by the counselor about how sometimes parents need to expect their kids to take on more responsibility. This was after I refused the suggestion from another teacher that Chase use an agenda that he brings to class and is responsible to bring to the teacher to sign that would provide me with daily communication that he would then be expected to bring home to me. So now, you get out of posting in parent portal and Chase becomes responsible for my correspondence with the teacher? Ummmm….no. So when the counselor lectured me about Chase and responsibility (who has ADD and not ADHD for the record), I simply talked over her and asked the social studies teacher 2 questions. 1) have you or have you not emailed me about Chase not bringing a pencil to class on more than one occasion and 2) how are you going to feel when you ask him where his agenda is and he responds in his locker with his pencil. That was the end of that one right then and there. Sometimes the lightbulb turns on and sometimes it doesn’t.
So, how do I feel now that we a struggled through the review? Relieved, and I admit a little angry that sometimes it is insinuated that I am just wrong. I am working on being better at communicating in a calm, rational manner. It remains a challenge. I did do one thing different and better. I chose to not argue. While we were trying to determine what a reasonable amount of time it should take the teacher to grade/notify me of of a missing or incomplete assignment I said certainly not five weeks. The principal in a noble way proudly jumped to the teachers defense and told me she would never have that problem with this particular group of teachers. I looked her dead in the eye and asked if she was absolutely sure and again she repeated about the teachers in THIS room yes. So, when I got home I sent her an email telling her I appreciated her enthusiasm and for stepping in at the late point in the process and asked her to please go and take a look at Chases grades in parent portal. There are two grades that were due on 2/11 and 2/25 that have a blank space next to them so, did he do the work? Did he hand it in? OR has the teacher not gotten around to letting me know in a timely manner over the last 4 and 6 weeks to give us some kind of indication when remember, up until today, that was a specific accommodation in Chases 504. I’m really not into public humiliation even if I feel some people really deserve it for their crappy attitude. My point, if I say something you can bet its true, and tread very carefully because I always, ALWAYS have the facts to back up my words.
Anyway, it’s over and done and I am grateful to move on. Until then, hang on, we’ve hit rough seas and remember no-one is steering this boat. I can only hope we will make it safely to shore.