Stepping out of the car a wave of memories greeted me with the cold air. I reached for my bag and tightened the scarf around my neck.
I-E-P—three letters that have dominated my life now for over fifteen years. I knew what they stood for long before I had children. “Individual Education Plan”, the contract parents make with the school on behalf of their children who qualify for special education services. Growing up I remember watching my Mom the Special Ed teacher draft plans for all of her students. I had no idea that was a taste of the feast to come.
The meetings, like a well prepared meal, always take place at a table. This year’s meeting was going to be a big one so more chairs than usual would be needed. It’s what they call a “triennial”. This is code for the school district justifying the extra services they are delivering to your child. It’s when they test, test some more, review all the records, and decide if the student still qualifies.
It’s a bit like Olympic time trials in reverse. First you have to do poorly, then you have to score poorly, then you have to not show enough progress, and then you qualify. By design it’s not a warm fuzzy experience. Over the years a big effort has been made to make it more palatable but when you sit down to eat it feels like you’re being served cold soup.
Walking through the frozen parking lot I couldn’t help but remember the early years of middle school. Two meetings in particular came to mind where I almost choked on what was being dished out. I don’t recall losing my composure but I know I had trouble breathing.
“Chase is significantly below grade level Ms. Davis.” Gasp. “It’s unlikely that even with significant intervention he will ever be able to keep up with his peers.” Gasp. “He’s a great kid and a hard worker but it appears he’s reached his potential.” Gasp. “His crystallized intelligence scores are very low.” Choke.
When I stepped through the door of the high school it shut behind me with a loud bang and I snapped back to the present. Ha!—I thought. They were wrong. Today’s review is going to prove that. I’d read the reports—pages and pages of them and unless I was missing something in five years time Chase had done what the experts thought he couldn’t do.
Sitting at the table Chase and I politely listened to everyone. Yes, it was agreed Chase still needed Special Ed support but it was also unanimously agreed that he’d defied the odds. The school psychologist kept shaking her head in disbelief as she went over his growth percentiles. “It’s fantastic,” she said over and over.
Finally, when there was a pause I said, “It’s exponential.” Everyone looked at me funny including Chase. The longer the word hung there the more I knew I had to explain. I put my arm around Chase and said, “Look at the math honey. You see you keep scoring exponentially better all the way across the board. Your progress hasn’t added up it’s multiplied up.”
His math teacher scribbled a few little calculations. He looked at her and she confirmed it. The table sat silently and then I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me.
“That’s what I’ve been praying for. ‘Exponential progress’ in all subject areas—because that’s what you needed Chase—and look God has blessed your efforts and the efforts of everyone who works with you. On your own the math would have been different. It would have added up bit by bit but with God it multiplied like the fish and the loaves.”
Chase knew the Bible story I was talking about and so did a few folks at the table. The others didn’t know what to say. Such a public display of faith was awkward for them. I understand but I had to give the credit where the credit was due. Yes, Chase has worked hard and so have many other people but when you ask those people (and I have) they can never pinpoint why they think he’s done so well. “I don’t know,” is the common refrain.
Chase got choked up. He’s sensitive and can feel God’s spirit at work in him. He wrapped his arms around me and buried his head in my shoulder. Now the whole room was a little teary-eyed. Who doesn’t want to believe there’s more at work? Who doesn’t want to believe that help outside yourself is available?
I don’t know what was said to break the silence but somehow we managed to finish the meeting. Chase drove himself home and I stayed behind to sign all the papers. When I got to the house Chase flew upstairs to hand me something. I assumed when he reached in his pocket it was a penny he’d found but it wasn’t. It was a quarter.
“Perfect,” I said.
“No—exponential,” he said.
The irony for Chase is that math is his worst subject but the reminder for me is that its God’s best. Kingdom math I call it. Fish and loaves multiplied to feed us what we need the most—a diet of God’s grace pulling us into our future.