No matter how many IEPs you have sat through, there is always a sense of nervousness when facilitating your first IEP meeting. These teacher-tested first IEP meeting tips for special ed teachers can help make it easier and calm some of those first-meeting jitters!
Even veteran teachers get nervous before IEP meetings, so for the first time special ed teacher, it can be even more nerve-wracking!
And a million and one things running through your mind:
• Will everything get covered?
• Will parents understand what’s being proposed?
• Will the meeting run smoothly and be productive?
• Is the IEP Team doing what is in the best interest of the child?
• Did I take enough baseline data?
With so many variables in play, it is anyone’s guess as to how the meeting will go.
We asked special ed teachers to share some of their best tips for running IEP meetings, and they were filled with great ideas. If you’re getting ready to hold your first meeting or need to revamp how you do your IEP meetings, take a look at the tips below to help them run with as few hiccups as possible!
Have a Copy of Your Agenda
Print out your agenda before the meeting and stick to it. Take the time to review it before the meeting to prepare and then follow it as it’s written. It will help keep everything on track!
Lead with Positives
As one wise teacher pointed out, the IEP is data and goals, but its heart is someone’s child. Lead with positives and strengths so that parents understand that your focus is on more than what needs to be improved. When they know that you care about their child, they are much more receptive to suggestions and ideas for goals and services.
Break Down the Language Barrier
It is so easy to get caught up in teacher-speak that you can quickly isolate and confuse families. Instead of using technical terms and teaching jargon, break down the language of the IEP into words they can understand. Explain terms that may seem second nature to you but are not in a parent’s everyday vocabulary. For parents to feel comfortable with what you are proposing, they need to understand exactly what that is. One veteran special ed teacher suggested approaching the meeting as a conversation instead of a formal meeting. It’s sitting down with people who care about the same child you care about and figuring out how to help him best.
Highlight a Copy of the IEP
Many special ed teachers who are new to holding IEP meetings worry about forgetting to touch on everything that needs to be addressed. One way to help prevent overlooking something is to print out a copy of the IEP and highlight the areas that need to be discussed. On that copy, jot down notes or reminders to yourself about things you don’t want to forget mentioning. It provides great peace of mind to have the reminders and makes the meeting run smoothly.
Send Parents a Draft Ahead of Time
If possible, send home a draft of the IEP prior to the meeting. This gives parents a chance to look it over and make their notes about questions or concerns they might have. It also gives them an opportunity to connect with you before the meeting if you want them to do that.
Have Samples of Work on Hand
Try to gather samples of the student’s work to have available for the IEP meeting. This helps demonstrate current levels so that parents understand what you’re referring to in the IEP.
While most special ed teachers are nervous before their IEP meetings, a little prep work and a positive attitude can make a world of difference. At the end of the day, you are helping to decide the best way to make a difference for a child, and that is a powerful responsibility. Take a deep breath. You can do this!