Friday, March 4, 2016

CONTENTIOUS - The Education Edition



For thus says the Lord:

"Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
    and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
    and I will save your children."
~ Isaiah 49:25, ESV ~

Why are parents with kids who have special needs ALWAYS fighting with their school?" I wondered when my medically fragile child was only two years old.  I didn't know what I didn't know back in those days.

Thirteen years and two special children later, I can tell you why parents more often than not wrestle with their child's educational staff.  It is a sadly contentious relationship that exists between so many parents and their schools.

I believe it is due to each side being firmly entrenched on their different planes.


FROM THE EDUCATOR'S POINT OF VIEW

Parents fail to understand some of the INTENSE challenges our schools are under.  The number of kids who have some sort of IEP or 504 accommodation is overwhelming to public educators these days.  It is nothing short of a miracle for teachers to keep straight all of the accommodations in writing for each child in their class.  Preserving one child's educational rights while also maintaining them for another can be like trying to solve an impossible puzzle.

Of course, there is also the ignorance factor.  Our children's behavior and needs can be completely different in the school environment than they are outside of it.  The team at our local school often operates under the assumption that they know our child well.  They are doing so under the framework of what they witness during the typical weekday.  They cannot instantly know what goes on outside that environment or what has worked beyond that setting.

Teachers and administrators are also subject to far too much hostility from some parents over the smallest of issues.  Gossip between parents, permissiveness at home, and the "not MY little Johnny" attitude of many moms and dads makes educators the victims of frequent verbal abuse along with threats of legal action.  This alone puts up a wall creating contention. 

Add to these basic premises the pressure of endless standardized testing, attempting to educate a large student body, budget constraints, trying to keep both students and teachers safe, and it's no wonder there is so much tension from the educational system in general. 


FROM THE PARENT'S POINT OF VIEW

Our children are some of the most treasured people in our lives.  We have seen them through every up and down in life.  If we are an engaged parent (and most of us are), we know what works with them and what does not.  We hear their cries when they come home and see their fears about school.  Our goals for our children go far beyond a single school year and extend much wider than formal education.

We want to be heard and be part of the team.  We know we have legal rights, and we want those rights honored.  We want our children to be treated with respect and kept safe at school.  We believe it is a basic requirement that they be given their best shot at reaching their full potential.

Despite those goals, desires, rights, and requirements, we often feel dismissed, treated like we don't know anything, demeaned, and refused.  Too often the school comes across as working against us, making every effort to give us as little as possible to meet the minimum requirements under the law.  Administrators and educators often seem to talk down to us, treating us as if we are "helicopter parents" when, in fact, we are a fully informed life-long advocate for our child. While we know full well that our children can be manipulative and certainly are not perfect, we are often put in the awkward position of having to decide if we believe our child's side of a story or the story of a school authority, whom we barely know.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Given these two points of view, it is easy to see why this can end up being an emotional wrestling match between otherwise reasonable adults.  Nevertheless, God has His eyes on all of us. Educators, when you are contentious with parents, God will contend with you.  Parents, when you are contentious with educators, God will contend with you.  He made us ALL, and He expects us to treat one another with the mutual respect due His image-bearers.  He wants us to problem-solve as a cooperative team for the benefit of these kids.  Taking into consideration each others points of view, we are to treat one another the way we would want to be treated -- No holding others hostage to our strong opinions or acting like complete tyrants with one another.

I have seen this godly model work well for both my own children and for other children as well. It's past time that adults begin making it standard operating procedure to behave beyond reproach with this mutual respect and cooperative spirit.

PRAY:  LORD, help parents of kids with special educational requirements to move beyond contentiousness.  Open our eyes to the bigger picture of what our school teachers and administrators face in trying to educate our children.  Holy Advocate, also help the school staff to realize that each child and family is worthy of their respect and kindness.  Open their eyes to the fact that there is so much more going on with our children than what they see in an average school day or school year.  Grant us all a spirit of decency and cooperation for Your glory and the benefit of our children.
* Watch for Part 2 of the Contentious Series next week.

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