In a recent blog I described how I unraveled following a Parent Teacher Conference for my daughter. The truth was that my past experience of this type of meeting ‘colored’ my experience as a parent and I left my child’s Parent Teacher conference feeling powerless. In an effort to balance the scales, I wanted to describe the subsequent PPT (Planning and Placement Team) meeting for her that felt very different and was very successful. As a parent, I often feel as if I am trying to get out of my own way. Actually, I believe this would be true whether I was a parent or not. As a mother though, my decisions impact someone else and provides extra incentive to keep things clear.
What was different? Sharlene and I prepared, working together. Late last year, in an effort to cover a string of appointments and meetings we had scheduled for our daughter, we decided to ‘split’ up. She would attend the Clinic for a follow-up appointment and I would attend the Parent Teacher Conference. She would call the special education teacher, I would send the letter to schedule the PPT. And so on… Unfortunately, the level of miscommunication was phenomenal. After Sharlene left one appointment feeling scolded for not following up on “my” homework, we spent several painful phone calls with the school attempting to clarify next steps. Finally, in the same room at the same time, we realized that we had confused the purpose in following up with the school. Also, my background was suited to understanding the evaluation process and clarifying the ABCs of treatment services being considered; and Sharlene was better suited to mediating and ensuring follow-up met our daughter’s needs.
At the actually PPT meetings, we each took a specific role. I affectionately refer to Sharlene as the ‘pitbull’. She is on guard, loyal, and affectionate when it comes to her family. So in the various meetings we have, she often takes the lead and ensures the ‘right’ outcome. Sharlene may refer to me as deceptively sweet, I am naturally introverted and quiet. I am hyperaware of behavior and listen, as well as observe. We make a good team and rely on these roles to balance one another. As a couple, we are not shy about disagreeing with one another in public and used this unconsciously in the PPT. It’s amazing to observe how this type of negotiation can normalize having difficult conversations. Make no mistake, a PPT meeting is rife with opportunities for difficult conversations, no matter how collegial.
We also believe and know that our daughter’s team have her best intentions at heart. Our children are fortunate enough to attend a school that cares about their individual and developmental needs. If we didn’t have this strong team, I would be writing a different blog. As I work to ‘get out of my own way’ on this issue, I recognize the gratitude I have for the people teaching my daughter. In fact, less than three months since the Parent Teacher Conference, we were told by Sage’s special education teacher that she had ‘passed’ the testing I was most concerned about. In the PPT meeting, she had described the intervention she planned to target Sage’s communication in this area. Clearly it was successful. In a similar way, I feel that we have been more successful as well!