A couple of days ago, I attended an IEP meeting at the end of the day. The beginning of this meeting with parents was typical as present levels of performance were presented, goals set and instructional supports discussed. IEP meetings are predictable as they follow a particular format, but something out of the ordinary took place near the end that left me thinking about what matters most in our profession.
After the family was informed of their son's progress and plans moving forward, they shared how satisfied they are with the support that our school has been able to provide. It is always great to hear comments like this because there are times when family support is not nearly as prevalent in these types of gatherings. The mother continued to thank her son's teacher for her commitment and making an intentional effort to connect with him. She said, "We love our son dearly, but also realize that he is a handful to say the least." "You understand him and he connects with you more than any of his teachers in the past; that makes all the difference in the world." "My son has not enjoyed school in the past several years, but now cannot wait to come each day because of you."
Our staff members work extremely hard preparing engaging lessons, designing appropriate interventions to meet a variety of needs and spend countless hours analyzing data to make the best instructional decisions. This work is critical to the success of our schools, but does not mean much if there are not connections with children. When we are able to establish positive relationships with students and discover what makes them tick, the possibilities of learning are endless. On the flip side, if there is no relationship, we can spend a great deal of time planning, instructing and assessing, but it will not carry nearly the same amount of weight.
This is my thirteenth year in education and my first group of students are now in their early twenties. I will run into these young adults from time to time and the conversations are always fantastic. They never talk about the engaging math lessons that I was able to deliver or the results that they were able to achieve on standardized assessments. What they remember from more than a dozen years ago are their baseball games that I attended, the time we spent playing together at recess or the stories that I told filled with lessons learned from my time in school. I am not discounting the academic content that we teach students; however, this material is not nearly as impactful without a true connection.
At the end of this IEP meeting I was reminded of the most important component of education. In ten years, this young man will not remember the instructional techniques utilized to meet his needs, but he will remember clearly that his teacher was invested and took the time to love him. As we continue to work through the day-to-day craziness of school, let us not forget about what matters most.