Recently, a group of Prince Rupert educators received an intriguing invitation via email. Mary, a grade 9 student, had requested that the teachers, parents, and specialists who work with her attend a self-directed IEP meeting. At the meeting, she greeted everyone and asked them to introduce themselves. Mary then presented a PowerPoint which included information she had prepared about her disability, interests, strengths, skills, needs, role model, and transition after high school, as well as her hopes and dreams for the future. Mary made specific requests to each of the attendees that might help her succeed in school. The team was able to collectively brainstorm several solutions that met with Mary’s approval.
One of Mary’s hopes was to be a stronger advocate for herself. She listed writing as one of her strengths in the PowerPoint presentation. Here are Mary’s thoughts on her participation in the self-directed IEP process:
“In my grade nine year I got a chance to make a learning plan. I liked doing this because I got to tell my teachers how I could learn and what I needed to be successful. I think it is a good idea for other students to do their learning plans because it gives them an opportunity to express what they might need to be successful. Each of us is unique and need different help. If teachers know what type of help an individual needs it can open all kinds of doors for the student. I think all schools should do learning plans with their students.”
Mary’s teachers agree. What began as a small project, part of a Ministry-funded Innovations Grant, now includes over 30 students from Mackenzie Hubbell’s Life Skills class, Laila Leech’s resource room, and Brian Cameron’s mainstream grade 9 science class where the original st udents act as mentors. Laila began coaching students in the self-directed process using Choice Maker materials and has added many original activities to complement the Choice Maker materials. The three program teachers have documented the entire process with a view toward facilitating presentations in the future to grow further interest in this valuable idea.