Have you ever left a case conference meeting feeling frustrated with a parent of one of your students? During the conference, the parent asked a lot of questions and requested to see evidence of their child’s progress, a student you’d put your heart and soul into. The extra questions made you feel uneasy and unappreciated which may have caused you to feel like you had to defend your practices. As you walk back to your classroom, you wonder, “Why was that parent was so difficult?”
On your drive home, you begin to reflect on the meeting. Was the parent actually being difficult? You wonder how you’d have handled the situation if it were your child. Would you have presented yourself in a way that seemed logical and reasonable to others? As you’re reflecting, you also begin to wonder why the parents questions caused you to feel frustrated, and how you could handle these types of exchanges in meetings in a more productive and less defensive manner. Your feelings of frustration gradually morph into feelings of sympathy and empathy. You begin to ponder how this reframed paradigm might guide you in supporting the parents of your students.
Recently I heard someone say that “we’re not only supporting children with disabilities. We’re also supporting PARENTS of children with disabilities.” As educators, we’re often focused exclusively on the needs of our students such that we unintentionally overlook the needs of our students’ families. In my next couple of articles, I will be sharing about some of the emotions that parents of children with disabilities may experience and how educators can productively support parents as they navigate the complex journey of special education.