Day #125 – The Best $85 Ever

At Tucker’s IEP meeting nearly a year ago I knew we were going to have to approach school life from a different angle.  He was heading into 7th grade – no longer in the ‘safe’ elementary years.  Up until this year he had one (maybe two) classroom teachers.  These teachers had copies of his IEP.  I met with these teachers early on.  I communicated with them weekly, sometimes daily.  We were always proactive in problem solving – if we could solve the issues before they even had a chance to occur, we all knew we would be better off.

Not so in 7th grade..

A Literacy Teacher…
A Science Teacher…
A Math Teacher…
A World Studies Teacher…
A Physical Education (PE) Teacher…
An Art Teacher…
A Family & Consumer Science Teacher (FCS)…
A Technology Teacher…
A Special Education Teacher…

So many teachers.  How do I get them on the same page? I commented a bit on this on Day #61 – Community of Understanding, but the meeting deserves more explanation.

Here is the deal – I am a teacher.  I went to school to be a K-12 teacher, but ended up falling in love with my area of specialty, Communication Studies.  That is how I ended up teaching at the collegiate level.  Regardless – I get teachers.  I understand their language. I know their culture.  I get their system.

This causes me worry for so many other children (and parents).  I’ve commented on this before (see Day #61 – Act of Conferencing) – but it is ALWAYS on my mind when we have success at school.  I know the language and culture – what if I didn’t?  What if I didn’t have a background in education? What if I wasn’t educated in regular education curriculum AND the special needs world?   Seriously, what if school was a scary, awful place for me and then I had a ‘special’ child? How would I begin to advocate?

It’s the best $85 I have EVER spent.  I set up a meeting with the teachers during their pre-school inservice.  I told them I was buying lunch – I sent them a Jimmy John’s menu and told them they could order whatever they wanted.  I would deliver their sandwich, some chips, and dessert to the school at lunchtime.  (Teachers usually eat lunch together during pre-school inservices – but again, I’m part of the system and knew that).  I would trade this lunch for 20 minutes of their time.

Just 20 minutes.  20 minutes to tell them about Tucker.  Not 20 minutes to talk about his IEP or his goals or his diagnosis.  20 minutes to talk about him being human; a wonderfully unique young man.  That is how I wanted to spend the 20 minutes – bringing Tucker to life, lifting him off the pages of some report.

I invited his 5th grade teacher – she was beyond thrilled to be there.  I invited his 6th grade teachers – they were beyond thrilled to be there.  Why did I invite them?  In the classroom, they knew him best – they knew his triggers, his strengths, his troubles, and his amazing sense of humor.

I opened with a thank you for coming.  Then I told them about Tucker.  I told them that he appears ‘normal’ and then there will be a moment (see Day #14 – The Moment).  I said, “Trust me, you want to avoid these moments.  I’m here to tell you how.”

I went on telling them that THE MOST IMPORTANT BEHAVIOR they could exhibit is simply being there.  Tucker needs to know that he can count on you.  If he believes in you – he will NEVER give you trouble.  I don’t use the word NEVER very often…but in this instance, it is true.  Yell at him?  You will lose him.  Use ‘mean’ sarcasm?  You will lose him.  Fail to give him a chance?  You will lose him.

I told them the story of his recent ball game.  I usually sit behind home plate.  Before every swing, he turns to make sure I’m there.  During one game this summer I went to stand under a nearby tree.  Seriously, it was 112 degrees in the shade (possibly a bit of an exaggeration). He struck out.  He returned to the dugout.  MAD.  Throwing stuff.  I went over and told him that behavior was unacceptable.  He looked at me, tears in his eyes. “Where were you?  You are it mom, I know I can always count on you.”

I simply said to his teachers, “Want to get results out of Tucker?  Be the person he can count on.  Here is how…”

Then his 5th and 6th grade teachers took over.  They told wonderful stories of what worked right.  They used humor to talk about what didn’t work.  All is all it was a wonderful 40 minutes (yes…they stayed past 20) of talking about what works and what doesn’t.  His soon to be teachers asked questions.  We talked with his FCS teacher about not making him try food – just don’t push it, not like you would with other children.  She understood.  We talked with his PE teacher about making sure the rules are clear at the beginning and whatever he did – DO NOT change the rules mid-way. He understood.

Maybe it was the Jimmy John’s?  Maybe it was the chips?  Maybe it was the chocolate zucchini brownies?  Maybe it was the laughter?

It doesn’t matter what it was…because those teachers are now sitting behind homeplate with me.  Sometimes they are standing and cheering.  They encourage him, love him, support him, and want nothing more than for him to hit it out of the park.

Baseball diamond

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7 thoughts on “Day #125 – The Best $85 Ever

  1. Ahhhhh!!! This is BRILLIANT! My Nicky is only in 1st grade, but already sounds a lot like your Tucker. This is a great plan for middle school – I am going to file this away in my BRILLIANT file and pull it out when I need it! Thank you, Thank you!

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    • Absolutely!!! Please continue to read and steal ideas – you may even want to go back because there is SO MUCH that will help you in my earlier blog entires. If I had known what I know now when Tucker was Nicky’s age there would have much less stress, concern, and frustration. Feel free to share the blog with his community of people!! If I can help in any other way…please let me know!
      Nikki

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  2. Pingback: Day #327 – Indexing | 366 Days of Autism

  3. Pingback: Day #331 – Preparing the Way | 366 Days of Autism

  4. Pingback: Day #344 – Power of Community | 366 Days of Autism

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