Back in the day, a terrible phrase unless you’re in a rocker sipping decaf coffee at midnight while daydreaming about decades past. Yet there you are looking at your calendar, noticing the circled date for your kid’s parent-teacher conference. You remember how you got to stay home from school on conference days and then had to hide in the closet when your parents shouted your name upon returning home. Now it’s your turn to hear all about your little angel who’s not always an angel. For parents of special needs children there’s an added element, your own personality.
Some call you an ardent advocate for your child, others an overprotective mama lion. Both are compliments, but you still feel a twinge of something inside you, an uncomfortable tugging at how you think others see you, which is not so complimentary. Overbearing, bossy, controlling, unyielding. The list goes on and on. You hate having to pull out the fighter in you, yet you do it without thought when the situation calls for it, sometimes more often than that. Sometimes you become stuck in that approach to managing your child’s outside world and that includes how you interact with teachers. It’s time for a little perspective, a deep breath, and even a tiny step outside of yourself.
‘I strive to listen,’ states Roger Iverson, a second grade teacher at Lyon Elementary School in Tacoma, WA. Iverson’s approach to parent-teacher conferences is one of building a believable working relationship. He starts with snacks and compliments, ends with the message that he’s there to rally for your child’s needs. Can’t ask for more than that. When it’s you walking into your kid’s classroom, take a look around. Picture how many meetings have already taken place before your time slot. How many parents came on so strong very little was accomplished other than ranting? What is the goal of this meeting? If you really think about it, the ultimate goal is to enroll another advocate for your child. You can’t do it alone. The teacher can’t do it alone. That’s the whole point. So take it easy, think warm thoughts, and dive in.