Fresh start - FamilyEducation

Fresh start

September 29,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Yesterday Scott and I got up at 5:45, got the kids up at 6:30, took T. to a neighbor-friend's house so she could take her to school, and we drove downtown with L. to have a VIM--Very Important Meeting. For some reason, IEP meetings of this nature always seem to be scheduled for terribly early times--we went to one once that was at 7:15. It's hard to be in a focused, calm, clear frame of mind at that hour of the morning--hard for everyone. Two solid weeks of planning and strategizing went into this meeting. The night before, Scott and I talked long and hard about how to approach the meeting; how to hold onto our agenda items and make sure we were able to stay on track. We learned years ago never to go into an IEP meeting unprepared, and that even if you want to spend the time you have shouting out your anger and grief and frustration it's far more productive to put that all aside, for your child, and approach the meeting more strategically. We also learned, years ago, that at IEP meetings you, the parent, are always hopelessly outnumbered--and the more issues your child develops and the more problems you encounter over the years, the more people end up in the room. Yesterday there were nine other adults in the room to our two and, although everyone was more or less on the same side, thank goodness, we still felt at a disadvantage. I'm cautiously optimistic that this school year could be salvageable, although a large part of me feels still wounded by how difficult this past month has been, and what it's done to L. in the process. I'm grateful that we work with a school that helps us work with them, instead of standing against us. I've heard enough horror stories from other parents about such school meetings gone wrong. As I sat there, on a hard, child-sized metal chair, I couldn't help but think about what an insane amount of time and work and money we put into getting L. through school year after year after year, and what a staggering amount of time and work we put into that meeting yesterday morning. What happens to those other kids out there, I wondered, whose parents simply cannot put that amount of time and work and money into their child's education, no matter how hard they wish they could? What about the single parent who works too many jobs, who might risk losing one if she takes too much time away from work? What happens to the kids who, for sad and difficult reasons, simply don't have the support behind them? L. is on fall break now, and when he returns to school in two weeks it will be to a new school schedule that we hope will address the problems with the current block system (hooray!), new accommodations for lunch (finally!), regular one-on-one curriculum assistance with math (yes!), use of an in-school laptop for writing and science (yes again!) and, last but certainly not least, to what we hope, with every bone in our body, will be, quite simply, a good, fresh start.