Blogging A-Z: D is for documentation. Teachers and parents would be wise to keep careful documentation of contacts, meetings, student assessments, and student progress. I have tended to overdo it on the documentation side, with reams of notes on each phone call, email, and personal contact. I always ended each school year with two giant binders overflowing with notes. I then packaged them by year with all the other massive bundles of yearly notes. Although I started this from the beginning of my teaching career, I had a couple of situations which reinforced the need for careful documentation. My guess is that every teacher and family with an identified special needs kid has need of that documentation at least once in about 5-7 years, if all goes well. If not, I’m so sorry for you!
I remember getting a call from our exceptional children’s director, asking me about a meeting which occurred three years before. Did I happen to save an email from that family regarding a certain request? Being such a pack rat (and silverfish collector), I did indeed have that email, along with many other notes. I never knew what the issue was or how it was resolved, but that experience made me even more compulsive about documentation.
Documentation is especially helpful in a world of changing school personnel. Remember that teacher who said she would assess your child at the start of the next year? The one who left the district? What about that IEP meeting where you were assured that a teaching assistant would help record homework assignments? I highly recommend that families ask for or take adequate notes during any school-based committee meeting. I would send a copy of those notes to all the parties involved as a summary; this provides another layer of documentation and consensus about the meeting’s outcome, whether positive or not.
Should you record meetings as documentation? Well, the folks at Wrightslaw have a strong opinion: yes! Personally, I feel it triggers undo alarm if interactions between parents and school are amicable and have integrity. I’ve had a couple of situations where I thought relationships were good and goals were mutually acceptable, but a lawyer and tape recorder showed up. I would imagine that most folks know ahead of time when that sort of documentation is needed. With all our technological advances, perhaps a complete AV recording will become the standard. No more bundled notes and silverfish? Oh my!