Teaching Student- Led IEP Meetings

I. Context

Hello! I am a Special Education Teacher in Montana. I teach students with learning disabilities in grades 9-12. Students I work with have learning disabilities in Reading, Mathematics, and Written Expression. Often times I work with students who are autistic, blind, or have multiple disabilities because they also have the discrepancy for a learning disability. I have been teaching Special Education for 11 years. I love my job and the unique students I get to work with every day! We have an all inclusive model at my school so my students are mainstreamed in the general education classes. Because the students are taking classes from the general education teachers, I provide support and instructional strategies to those classrooms. We call this model collaborative teaching, where both the General Education teacher and the Special Education teacher work alongside each other for the benefit of all students. I work closely with many teachers in the building, regardless of whether or not I am working in their classroom, because I am advocating for my students daily.

My city is home to just over 31, 000 people. The high school I work in has about 1,200 students, roughly 140 of which are special education students with Individualized Education Programs. I usually have around 22-25 students on my caseload each year. I have four colleagues who work with students with learning disabilities just like me, two colleagues who run the Functional Life Skills program in out building, and one colleague who works in the Positive Behavior Supports classroom with student having Emotional Disturbance.

I would consider myself a leader among my department, working to get “housekeeping” done for the good of the group like getting worksheets that all of us use with our students to the copy center, scheduling our “IEP Arena O’Rama” with the appropriate people and getting those forms ready to use, and other little day-today things. I have worked with my colleagues who also teach in the supported study hall classroom, as I do, to build a curriculum to teach life skills, goal setting, and future success in school and career. I, however, have not previously had much experience with instructional leadership within my school or at the district level.

Awareness of my own biases, experiences of privilege, and personal values informed me when working on my project.I value self development and growth. I value competency and a good work ethic. I want not only my students to develop and grow but I want to help my colleagues do the same. Success in doing this, in my eyes, would be my colleagues working with me to help student success. Be supportive to all my students in whatever way they need. Having students advocate for themselves during and after high school to ask for help when needed so they can reach their full potential. I hope to do this by working with my colleagues and teaching them how to facilitate Student-led IEP meetings. I would really like to step out at a leader among my colleagues and show I have more to contribute. I want to lead professional learning activities to enhance my colleague’s practices. I hope to empower my colleagues and help them present learning opportunities to students and other adults. I hope to use technology to further student learning and my colleagues’ learning.

Overarching Competency #1- Technological Facility. I feel I am emerging in this area. I am able to collaborate through the use of technology with my colleagues but not at the extent that I would like. I use email and can share and collaborate on documents with them on Microsoft Office 365. I do not use our SmartBoard for anything other than a whiteboard.

Overarching Competency #2- Adult Learning. I feel I am emerging, or maybe even pre-emerging, in this area. I have not done anything to understand how adults learn differently. I do respect adult learners expertise and value the direct impact they have on student success.

Diversity-Equity-Cultural Competence- Collaborate Purposefully. Again, I feel I am emerging in this area. I recognize the differences among, between, and within cultural groups, or in this case my group of colleagues- some of my colleagues are very afraid of technology and learning new ways to do things. I understand there are strengths and limitations in our collaboration due to lack of knowledge in the subject and comfort level with the subject.

Instructional Competency- Coaching and Mentoring- Once again, I am emerging in this area. I try to engage in peer assistance for personal growth and development. I have not officially done anything to coach or mentor my colleagues before this year, though I do feel that I am a leader among them and do little things to help; teaching a colleague how to use an aspect of Infinite Campus, the software for Special Education paperwork. I have also invite colleagues, particularly our newest hires, to my IEP meetings so they can see how I run then, they are able to see how I run certain parts of the meeting to help them facilitate their own.

Stakeholders in this project include my colleagues, parents, and students. Colleagues, because I will be teaching them how to facilitate these meetings, and students and parents because they will be the true benefactors from our work. None of my department colleagues have ever tried holding student-led IEP meetings in the past, though many of us have looked into it and know it will benefit our students. I know there will be a learning curve for us, but I hope the excitement and knowing how beneficial these meetings will be will outweigh the struggles the process will most likely present. I think the evident needs and how my mindset might grow in the process include creating innovative technology in order to further teaching and learning, developing meaningful professional learning opportunities for colleagues (all with different comfort levels when it comes to technology and letting go of controlling the meeting), targeted to their specific needs and designed to encourage growth, and investigating ways in which adults learn and grow. My awareness of different cultures, experiences, and backgrounds will help inform my project. I know many of my colleagues are not as familiar with technology as I am and ask often for my help on daily tasks. I will keep this in mind and make the process as “user friendly” as possible. I will make sure to use programs and examples that they are familiar with or can learn easily. I will also remember how hard it will be for some of my colleagues to learn something new and unfamiliar- many of them have been running their meetings for the same way for over 15 years. They will have a hard time “letting go” of their old meetings but it will be my job to help them in seeing the benefits of the new student-led meeting (Artifact Approval Form- https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bzvv3ol6MDpaaGEta1RVTktBQVc3bDVWSkZFRm4yY05ycGdz)