Kindness Deserves a Seat at Every IEP Table by Kirby MorganMay 02, 2022
Advocating for my son and the children of the clients I represent has shown me that kindness is a very important part of working collaboratively at the IEP table.
In my advocacy journey, I have completely transformed the way I practice. I used to be the person using very strong words almost like daggers because I knew the law. The law was very black and white to me.
My focus used to be proving the school was non-compliant instead of finding the quickest and most effective results for the students the IEPs we were serving. However, that automatically put the IEP team in defense mode as soon as they saw my name on any document.
My passion and determination to learn all about the IEP process led me to keep learning and I took many different courses. Some of these courses focused on the law, some focused on the technicalities of the process, and one that changed the way I advocate.
The course that changed my advocacy was The Master IEP Mentorship®️. This is not just a course, it has continuing education and mentorship from Catherine Whitcher. Along with a network with other practicing Master IEP Coaches®️. During my time in the Master IEP Mentorship®️, Catherine Whitcher made a switch flip in my brain. Once that switch flipped, I could suddenly see a better way to effectively advocate with collaboration being the true goal.
I had to separate the anger I felt about my son and some of the situations I have been through with him and focus on leading with kindness. Each team member that sits at the IEP table is not there because their job is glamorous or has a huge salary. They choose their career path, you don’t just fall into becoming a Special Education Teacher or credentialed service provider. They
work hard every day, they care about the children they are teaching, and they may not be perfect, but neither am I.
I wanted them to be kind and supportive of me while I cited laws and threw them around like threats when issues arose because I knew about the law, the IEP process, and I felt as if I was holding them accountable. In reality, I was impeding the process by leaving out the very thing I wanted every team member to lead with when working with my son or clients, which was
Being kind doesn't take away my ability to advocate or coach a client, it brings mutual respect, and ultimately collaboration. Bringing kindness into my advocacy work and IEP coaching gave me more than I ever could have expected. I saw an instant change as soon as l soon as I added kindness to the way I approach every team I work with.
I sign emails today with the closing, “In partnership”, because that is truly what I want.
I want to work in sync with the team to reach a resolution without wasting time arguing at IEP meetings when the time can be used in so many more effective ways. I am openly received when a district I have worked with before sees my name today.
My focus is now on finding solutions that are outside of the box vs. listing what laws they are breaking. I presume that each member is doing their best. I don't highlight each and every flaw, imperfection, and deviation from the IEP. I ask questions and help IEP teams problem solve as we work together as one unit.
Changing my approach and leading with kindness instead of anger has proved to be the best decision for me as a parent of a son with special needs and a Master IEP Coach®️.
Everyone wants so badly for their voice to be heard, which I understand wholeheartedly. There will always be bad apples scattered out there, but most team members are the ones who choose to work in special education and teach kids like my son. They deserve to be treated with as much kindness as each of their students.
By embedding kindness into my advocating, I have seen very difficult situations turn around. The resolutions come much faster. The teams want to hear my input because they know we share the goal of delivering the best education for the student.
Kindness does not mean that hard issues are not discussed and addressed. Kindness ensures that the team remains focused on solution-based, without the delays heated emotions can cause.
Remember kindness before you press send on your next email, have a conference, or sit down for your next IEP meeting. Kindness deserves a seat at every IEP table.
About the Author:
Kirby Morgan is a Certified Master IEP Coach®️ who has her own Education Coaching/ Consulting business working 1:1 with clients both in person and virtually. Kirby has found a passion for helping other parents learn the IEP process and teaches online workshops and has an online community created with her colleague who is also a Master IEP Coach®️. Kirby is also a mom of three- two boys, one with special needs, and a bonus daughter who all love soaking up the California sun.
Connect with Kirby here:
If you liked this and want more IEP strategies, then you’ll love these episodes of the Special Education Inner Circle podcast:
- #126: Special Education Doesn't Need to Be So Cold
- #113: 3 Things I'm Doing Different for 2022 Goals
- #81: Toxic Expectations in Special Education
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