A General Education Teacher's Guide to a Special Education Meeting

For a general education teacher that has never attended a formal special education meeting, it can be very intimidating.  Here are a few things you can do to make sure you are prepared before you attend.  

Be On Time

I know that things come up, but make every effort to be on time or even early to attend an IEP meeting.  Nothing says "this is not that important to me" than being late.  If you are going to be late, call ahead and let the team know so they're not waiting for you.

Respect The Meeting

When you are meeting with a Committee for Special Education (CSE) to determine the IEP for a student, it is a formal, legal, and confidential meeting.  Be professional when you're talking about your student.  Remember the confidentiality of the meeting and do not discuss the details outside of the meeting.  

Respect The Process

Yes, sometimes it seems like there are a lot of steps to get a student what they need.  As a special education teacher, I totally understand your frustrations.  In order to provide a student with the least restrictive and most appropriate program, you need to start small and work your way up to find the perfect fit.  Sometimes this means you'll have to have several informal meetings along with a couple formal program reviews.  Be patient and trust in the process.

Be Honest

A formal CSE meeting is not the place to sugar-coat a student's progress and difficulties.  Yes, please start with positives and highlight strengths in the beginning!  Also, be honest, yet professional, about your student's progress in the classroom.  Talk about their abilities along with interventions and modifications you are using with the student.  Bring up difficulties and how you're working to help the student overcome them.  Discuss what your short-term and long-term goals are for the school year and how the student is progressing with those goals.

Come Prepared

Bring data that you've collected throughout the school year to showcase the student's progress.  I like to bring graphs with grade-level benchmarks when possible because they are easy for parents to read and understand.  

Also bring in some work samples.  Try to find something from the beginning of the year to compare with work completed right before the meeting.  It is important to showcase any progress.  If the student had adult support for a work sample, make sure you document that with an accommodation tracker.  

Share Your Expertise

You might not be a special education teacher, but you have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to helping students learn.  Be confident in your ability and share your ideas.  Writing an IEP is a team effort and you're an important part of the team!  What have you done with other students that you've seen work?  Share your experiences with the team.

Be a Team Player

Listen.  Ask questions.  Be willing to try new things.  Sometimes it takes doing things you've never done before or that you might think may be too time-consuming to make a huge difference in the way a student can learn.  

At times, you might not agree with what is being suggested.  Keep an open mind and be mindful of your body language.  Your body language can say more than your words ever could.  

If you do not understand something, ask for clarification.  It is important that the entire team is on the same page.

Take Notes

Not only does taking notes show that you're invested, but the notes might come in handy later.  You will probably see other members of the team writing their own notes but that should not deter you from also taking your own.  

Remember the Purpose

When you're sitting in that meeting, the most important thing is your student.  That parent that you're working with is there to discuss the most valuable thing in their life.  Their child is their greatest love.  Put yourself in their shoes and talk about that student with that perspective in your mind.  

If you are attending a meeting where there isn't a parent present, your job to advocate for that child's success is even greater.  You may not be their special education provider, but you are their teacher too.  Be that child's voice!

As an general education teacher, you are a vital member of the special education team!  Your opinions matter and are valued!  Thank you for going above and beyond for OUR students.  You are amazing!

*** If you're anticipating a difficult meeting, I have also written a post about surviving an impossible meeting that you might find helpful.  

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