An Annual Review Is Not a Boxing Match

annual review is not a boxing matchThis time of year, the special needs blogosphere is awash with posts for parents preparing for annual reviews for their kids with special needs. Some of the posts share excellent IEP and annual review resources.  But much of the advice sounds more like preparing for a boxing match with an archenemy than preparing for a school meeting with people who care about kids. But contrary to what much of what’s written, an annual review is not a boxing match.

An Annual Review Is Not a Boxing Match

How do I know this? Because I taught elementary school for 25 years. Many of those years were spent in an inclusive. general classroom. In any given year, a third of the 20-25 students in my classroom had an IEP. Which means I attended 7–8 annual reviews every year. So I sat at a table not across from, but with the parents of my students.

Why an Annual Review Is Not a Boxing Match from a Teacher’s Point of View

Why? Because the parents, the special education teacher and I all cared about the child. So I did everything I could to show the parents that an annual review is not a boxing match. Including worrying incessantly for about a week before the meeting about the meeting. What did I worry about? Here’s the short list.

  1. Will I really hear what the parents are trying to say?
  2. Have I done enough to prepare this child for next year?
  3. What more can I do between now and the end of the school year?
  4. What’s the best way to keep the focus off of me, off of the parents, and on the child?
  5. What’s the best way to communicate to the parents that I see and love their child even when I can’t meet all her educational needs?
  6. How do I let them know their child is much more than her school progress without sounding like I’m making excuses?
  7. How will I share this child’s weaknesses without making her parents cry? Will the team give me time enough to share her strengths, too?
  8. Will the school psychologist use language the parents and I can understand? Will I be able to implement the recommendations made?
  9. What do we cut from the budget this month to pay for the extra hours of day care for my kids during annual review season?
  10. How will I cover up my growling stomach after no time to eat lunch because playground duty over the lunch hour?

Why You Shouldn’t Assume an Annual Review Is a Boxing Match

Lots of teachers lay awake worrying the night before an annual review…and many other nights worrying about their students. So instead of assuming the annual review is a boxing match, think of it as a gymnastics meet. Expect every member to perform their unique specialty so the child will win. If someone on the team fails, then begin to fight for what’s best for your child. Ask the team members who came through for your child to help you. Because they aren’t your archenemies. They love your child, too. They are on your team.

How Do You Get Your Head Ready for Annual Reviews?

Does your child have an IEP, and therefore an annual review? How do you get your head ready for the meeting? What do you do to keep the focus on your child? Leave a comment below.

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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