We are lucky to be able to serve children and their families. Few professions can have such an immediate influence on a child and his/her family unit. When I was teaching 7th and 8th graders, I got a call during my planning period from the bus garage for the school district. On the phone was an angry school bus driver with a bee in his bonnet who said that one of my students in the special education program would no longer be allowed to ride “his” bus. My student was caught on tape breaking bus rules and was kicked off the bus for the rest of the school year. After his rant, the bus driver’s supervisor got on the phone and we discussed next steps.
Students in special education have a legal right to school district transportation. If the school district removes that right, we need to document changes in the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). As the student’s case manager, it was my job to facilitate an emergency IEP meeting and do a “Change of Placement” to his program since he had no ride home that day.
I called the student’s parents. His Mom answered. We were able to do the IEP meeting over the phone. Since the school day had not ended, we made arrangements for her to pick him up that day. She was at work and took the rest of the day off to address her son’s needs. This Mom was apologetic for her son’s behavior, understanding of the school district’s position, and an awesome member of the IEP team. She did not want him to have “specialized” transportation where a district bus or van would pick him up door-to-door. She and her husband planned to transport their son to/from school.
Her ability to collaborate with us school folks was amazing. I thought to myself on my way home that night, “I could be friends with this Mom.” During the drive, I hummed along to the James Taylor song “You’ve Got a Friend.” I fantasized about us shopping at the mall, getting BFF matching necklaces, having customized friendship pillows embroidered, and getting matching manicures and pedicures. Not really. I sometimes am prone to hyperbole and other forms of exaggeration. The IEP bus story, however, is true. One hundred percent (well make it 98% true – remember I sometimes exaggerate).
If I could be queen and improve practices with families, I’d start by putting on a jeweled crown. I would then wave my fancy authoritative wand and demand peaceful harmony among parents and teachers. When teachers are granted their teaching licenses, they would also receive a big tapestry magical bag—like Mary Poppins—with all the incredible tools needed to foster positive rapport with parents. That would be practically perfect in every way.