Today I participated in an IEP meeting for a student who requires a 12:1 setting, except for my art class, where he is in a class of 34 – 14 of whom have IEP’s of their own. This high school student operates at a very low reading level and outright refuses to write a reflection upon completion of each project. This student enjoys art and thoughtfully completes the majority of every assignment. However, the reflection is worth 10 of 100 points and he has decided he would rather not earn the 10 points than write the reflection.
When I was just starting out this would have bothered me. I would have felt responsible to reach this student in every possible way, hoping he’d have a breakthrough and write a very short (guided) response to his work. As a more seasoned teacher, I have decided it is a battle I am not going to fight. In every other class (except physical education), this student is in a class of only twelve students and he is taught by a special education teacher. He has reading support services, counseling, and speech therapy weekly. I know better than to think that I am his only hope for a reading breakthrough and I allow his other teachers and service providers to be that beacon of light for him.
On the other hand, the school psychologist running the meeting (who has never been in my,or any other, classroom) had several suggestions for me as to how I might reach this student and inspire him to write about his art. Her suggestions were not enlightening. In fact, they were ideas I had tried with the student in the past, without success. But since she did not ask what I had tried and instead told me what she felt I needed to do, her comments were naive at best and condescending at worst. I had a decision to make. I could be offended or not. I chose not.
School psychologists, guidance counselors and others often have suggestions about how to reach a particular student or group of students. Sometimes their suggestions are good. Sometimes they aren’t. Oftentimes their suggestions are good but obvious. It’s easy to be offended when given unsolicited, obvious advice from some one who has never been in your classroom. It’s easy to become defensive and assume they must think you don’t know what you’re doing (or they wouldn’t offer such an obvious suggestion).
But it’s just as easy to take a deep breath. Recognize that the obvious suggestion is the only one they have to give, which points out their shortcomings and not yours. Remember that you are a professional and don’t let the small things bother you.