Meeting Management for Parents
There is something that makes even the most experienced speaker " dry up" when they are dealing with their child's teacher or principal! Is it our own childhood experiences revisited or is it something else?? As a private educational consultant, I am often dealing with parents who "can't believe I acted like that..........". There is no doubt that successful meeting management is a key factor in getting appropriate educational services for your exceptional child. Here in Ontario, the Education Act and Regulation 181 provide for a variety of meetings which should allow parents to participate fully in the defining of needs, placement and support for exceptional children. Yet, a significant percentage of parents who attend these meetings continue to be frustrated, and even alienated, by the process. The following tips are taken from a workshop for parents, Strategies for Successful Meeting Management- a role-playing workshops for parents presented by Comhnadh Consulting.
"Never walk alone..."
As a rule of thumb, I advise parents NEVER to attend an IPRC, IEP or Team Meeting alone. Having a second person there gives you "morale-support" and a lot more!! Give that person a clear role... they can be an expert to contribute valuable information ... they can be a recorder keeping good notes for you .... they can be an intervenor who steps in when you are starting to get too emotional in your responses ... they can be a facilitator who helps keep the process moving forward.
Do your prep, they did theirs...
Most parents arrive at school meetings only ready to react to what the school says. You should have your meeting goals...KNOW and SHARE, tell the meeting what you hope to accomplish. Have your presentation written out and copied for everyone. Assemble your evidence and have it highlighted and organized! Nothing undermines your credibility more than repeatedly saying "I'm sure it says that somewhere in here......" (Then being unable to find it!!Don't be diverted from your objectives...keep the discussion focused on your goal , not their problems...
Listen to the educators' reports and positions ... where you agree be sure to let them know. If we can agree on several items, we have accomplished something ( and set a "working together" tone). "Now that we have some agreement, let's get focused on the areas where we don't agree..."
Don't be afraid to adjourn...
Marathon meetings often result in "agreement by exhaustion..." If a meeting has accomplished all it is going to accomplish, then summarize what has been agreed upon, and set a date to continue.
Remember, these are steps in a process NOT 'take it or leave it" meetings. Only continue for more than an hour if you have consensus to do so.
Watch where you sit..."
There are "power seats" at every table. Meeting control is often established by where people sit. I try to arrive early and choose a seat near the chair person. Never sit beside your "advocate"...they can't read your body language. You need eye contact!!! 60% of communication is non-verbal.. Make sure that you have it!!!!
As a consultant, I urge you to be purposeful and pro-active. Make these meetings work for your child. This will depend on how you manage the meeting!!!
Lindsay Moir is a consultant with Comhnadh Consulting in London, Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (519) 660-0493. His services are described on his company's web-site: http://www3.sympatico.ca/l.moir
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