In the spring of 2013, after returning to work from maternity leave, I began advocating for a student with a disability who shall remain unnamed. Our new-to-the-field psychologist insisted that the student didn’t qualify for specialized instruction because test scores were too high. Yet the teacher continually expressed concern that the student’s needs were not being addressed.
This was the kind of situation that involved multiple team meetings and conversations in which, at many times, we all walked away with a different understanding of the same information. After three months of consistent research, shared resources and follow up with the team between myself, the special education team, parents, professional consultations, and the general education teacher, we began to make some headway in documenting the student’s needs and finding the right channels through which to pursue an improved plan.
This was a highly emotional situation for me. Every time I spoke with the child’s mom, I could feel her emotions running over. Love and appreciation abounded. I knew that I was doing the right thing in spite of the turmoil I felt within our team—a group with whom I had previously felt completely safe and secure. Suddenly nothing felt secure. I was filled with fear and anxiety over where I fit and what my role was. But these conversations with the parent spurred me on.
As this situation finally came to its end, we had one of our last gatherings (the kind that you have with the team before the official meeting). As I sat with the team, full of emotion, an experienced psychologist who had been asked to help us with this specific case calmly reviewed all of the information about this student including file review regarding diagnosis, documentation of skills, and options available for addressing concerns. He gave credit to me for having “done a lot of work to gather information”. Others agreed. There were no arguments. The plan was in motion. A path cleared with everyone working together. I sat through this meeting in silence. In this moment all of my hard work and emotional laboring paid off. But I could hardly say a word. In the end I didn’t have to.
As I drove home the building emotions that I’d been holding at bay for several months overwhelmed me. They had no name. Just questions and a mystifying yet familiar pain. I had gotten what I wanted for this student. So why couldn’t I celebrate it? And why couldn’t I speak with confidence when my entire team was ready to listen? I sat with these intense feelings and questions for nearly an hour. Then as I was nearing home, I heard this song (“Read All About it, Pt. III, by Emeli Sande), which put words to my experience:
The floodgates opened as light poured into me and I felt a release of all that had been stuffed inside.