SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO PLOW THE TRACKS

When I was in law school I participated in moot court. Moot court is a kind of in-court practice for law students where someone plays a judge and the student goes into a courtroom setting to practice a legal argument of some kind.

The day I made my moot court argument, it was an appeal in front of three “judges.” The judges asked me detailed questions to gauge my understanding of the legal argument I was making.

One judge, however, asked me questions that seemed disconnected from the argument I was making. Afterwards, our instructors explained that this kind of questioning happened often – it indicated that the judges had an internal disagreement about what their decision was going to be, and they were using their questions to me to argue points with each other.

It was an insight not only into the decision-making process of appellate court judges, but also how a system like the judicial branch might utilize an outsider like me in an unexpected way.

I came to realize that the judiciary is not the only system that does this.

When the Navigator’s first IEP was put in place, our local school district frequently did not know at the end of one school year which teachers were going to be assigned to which school at the beginning of the next school year. It was a decision that was made at the administrative level, and out of our local principal’s hands.

Once I realized the importance of the Navigator being able to meet his next teacher before the end of the school year, I insisted that it be in his IEP.

I was ready for a fight. I expected that I would be told it was impossible to put that on the IEP because the school had no control over it. I anticipated I was going to have to take it to the administrative level to get it in place.

I had accepted that this important accommodation was likely going to require a lot of time and energy to get in place.

So I braced myself when I asked for it to be included. Instead, the principal smiled and said “I will let administration know that a parent is insisting on this on the IEP and we’ll see what we can do.”

It didn’t take long. Soon after I learned that the Navigator’s teacher assignment had been made. He was able to meet his new teacher that year, and each year after until he didn’t need the accommodation anymore.

Like those mock judges many years before, I realized that the principal had probably used our IEP request to argue for a needed change in the school district.

And I was ok with that. If my request plowed the road with the administration and helped my son as well as others, it was a win-win for all.

Video by Geoff Mackley – used with permission


Also published on Medium.

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