The Importance of an Agenda

   Involved parents come in two categories: helpful and demanding. Remembering that having parents as part of the ‘team’ that works with each student means that the teacher has an ally. When meeting with a parent, regardless of which side of the fence they stand on, it is important and helpful to have an agenda.

   I’ve been a Special Ed. teacher for twenty years. Most of the time, running an IEP meeting is routine. I know what to ask the other teachers in attendance in order to elicit positive comments (which is sometimes difficult to find), and what the parents may have questions or concerns about. There are times when the parent has several concerns, for whatever reason, and it helps to keep the meeting on track, and to resolve issues, if an agenda is followed.

   Since email has become common place, it is a convenient way to communicate with parents. I recently sent a parent an email listing the concerns she had regarding her son. My request was that she review the list, and let me know what else she wanted to discuss at the meeting. This allowed me to gather information for her from the counselor and principal so that I had answers for her at the meeting. She responded with two more questions.

   On the day of the meeting, I introduced everyone present and the role they played in the education of the student. I then began at the top of the list and worked my way down. When the parent was sidetracked, I was able to pull her gently back to the agenda. Without it, we would have meandered all over, not really solving problems and probably having to schedule a second meeting. Once we had exhausted the items, I asked, “Is there anything else you have questions about?” Since we had followed the agenda, the parent had no other concerns.

   I’ve known teachers that laminate an agenda for routine meetings, just so they keep on track. Having a list of concerns and items to address with a parent that is demanding the school or teacher do more than is legally required or logistically needed can help to resolve the issues. I have more tips on my web site Have a story about using an agenda? Leave a comment to share with others.