As a young Army officer, I read Sun Tzu’s Art of War many times (in different versions). When I transitioned into the civilian workforce, I realized that many of the ideas would translate to the world of business. (Not literally, of course. For example, Sun Tzu’s demonstration of leadership ability using the Emperor’s concubines as soldiers.)
The Art of War can also be applied to many other common activities, such as the IEP. You can pull from many quotes, but here is my favorite:
Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.
Of course, this may need some translation* into more relevant wording. Such as:
Know the district administration and their stated goals and resources, and know your rights and what is best for your child; in a hundred IEP meetings you will never fail to get what you need.
When you are ignorant of what the district’s goals or resources are, but know your rights and your child’s needs, your chances of getting what you need in the IEP are 50/50.
If you are ignorant of both the district’s goals/resources and your rights and needs of your child, you are certain in every IEP meeting to get what you get, and probably not what you really need.
Of course, this important piece of advice can just as easily be translated into the school district perspective, I’ll leave that exercise to you.
Based on my personal experience, conversations with other parents, and conversations in the blogosphere, my guess is that most people (from both sides) go into IEP meetings knowing themselves, but not their “enemy.” As a result, we often see winners and losers in the outcomes of IEPs, the result of hard fought battles that leave everyone bitter and exhausted.
What would happen if both sides heeded this advice and came in knowing themselves and the “enemy”? According to Sun Tzu, both should expect to win. But both sides can’t “win”, can they?
To that I answer a resounding, “Yes, of course both sides can win.” Wouldn’t that be a nice change?