1. Establish a positive relationship with parents beforehand. I can't tell you how many times I have seen teachers contact a parent for the first time, when their child has acted out in a negative way. Parents are going to be more apt to listen to us if we establish a relationship with them in the beginning, and by sharing something positive about their child first.
2. Start the IEP meeting off by sharing something positive. I suggest sharing something positive about the student before talking about their deficits. Being positive about their child first will show them that you have their child's best interest at heart. This also establishes trust, which is very important!
3. Be prepared! Yes, we all make mistakes and may forget something from time to time. We're human, but we should make our best efforts to be prepared. This shows that we are professionals and we know what we are doing. Things that may help you to be prepared (other than the IEP itself, obviously) are an IEP at a glance, documentation of struggles and what you've tried, and suggestions of how to move forward. Also, ask the parent(s) for suggestions. They know their child better than anyone else and their thoughts need to be valued.
4. Consider your seating arrangement. I know you are thinking I am a total weirdo right at this moment, but this is important. Make sure that parents do not sit on one side of the table alone. Would you want to be seated on one end by yourself with 3 or 4 professionals staring back at you? None of us want to feel inferior to other people.
5. Check for understanding. Just like we stop in the middle of lessons with students, we need to do this for parents. Most parents are not going to admit when they do not understand the jargon we are using. We need to make them feel comfortable by letting them know that we do not expect them to understand everything. At the end of the meeting, check to see if they are happy with the decisions that have been made.
Thanks for reading my thoughts and I would love to hear more about how other teachers make their IEP meetings more successful!
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