One of our most important tasks as a special education teacher in a public school is to prepare and conduct an ARD (Acceptance, Dismissal, and Review) meeting. This is where all the crucial information about the student is discussed, approved, or rejected. The attendees are the parents, usually only the mother can be present, a representative for the district, the classroom teacher for that student, a teacher for the career chosen by the teen, and the folder teacher who prepares and presents the material. The ARD will receive the student in high school, follow his/her progress every year, and meet for the last step, graduation. Few parents really understand and take advantage of that meeting to make sure that their son or daughter is receiving all the benefits of special education, a sort of safety net for disabled children.
Dealing with Parents
It is therefore most important to clearly explain all facets of the program; sometimes parents will make impossible demands, as they fail to understand their child’s academic limitations. They may believe that college is the only option for a student who reads at the fourth grade level. They may ask for difficult classes that guarantee failure for the youngster and that he or she does not have to take. Indeed, in many cases, a special curriculum is established simply because the student cannot successfully follow the regular one. A common exigency by emotional parents of special education students is to give them a different classroom teacher because they simply don’t like the current one. They have also demanded a change in folder teacher (special education), the person charged with following the progress of the student and report regularly to the parents. I have witnessed female colleagues in tears after talking to a parent on the phone; some young special education teachers quit after a few months, unable to handle the enormous stress caused by some students and parents.
Not Just Anybody
It takes a special character to work in special education (pardon the pun), quite different from the teacher who faces a whole classroom of excited teens 5 or 6 times a day. Not only do we act as counselor, surrogate parent, confidant ( the art of keeping adolescent secrets), friend, and school supplies provider, but we also perform as “lawyers” when arguing with a regular teacher who failed to apply the modifications stated in the IEP (Individual Education Plan). As I tell all my new folder students fresh from middle school, “I am your best friend in high school. Come to me or look me up at any time if you have a serious problem.” If I suspect or know about abuse in the home, I am legally bound to report it immediately (I may lose my certificate if I don’t).