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Winter 2005 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Seven Habits of Highly Effective IEP Teams

By Eileen Hammar & Anne Malatchi (with acknowledgment and thanks to Stephen R. Covey)

Reprinted from The Parent Advocate Quarterly,
Published by Partners Resource Network, Inc., Beaumont, TX.

Abstract: Using Stephen R. Covey's Habits, the authors share their recommendations on building highly effective IEP teams.

Keywords: Family, blind, deafblind, self-determination, IEP team strategies

Editor's Note: Fifteen years ago, Stephen R. Covey published the classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,. In an interview with Julie Chen, Early Show co-anchor, on November 12, 2004, Covey described The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People as guiding principles that "…encouraged people to take a mindful approach to life --- not letting trivial urgencies of day-to-day life get in the way of the most important things." As you read the following article published in The Parent Advocate, I encourage you to expand the principles of Seven Habits of Highly Successful IEP (Individual Education Program) Teams to include the 8th Habit. What better way to develop an IEP that leads your child to find his own voice and do what he loves to do throughout his life!

Seven Habits of Highly Effective IEP Teams

1. Be proactive: taking initiative does not mean being pushy, obnoxious, or aggressive

It does mean recognizing our responsibility, to make things happen. Fundamental in our efforts to become proactive members of the IEP/ARD teams is adopting an attitude that is collaborative and responsible. To be proactive requires a shift in our thinking from a deficit-based model of education to a capacity model. Often, goals for IEPs are developed as a result of a label or something that appears to be wrong--- i.e., reacting to a behavior that others do not think is acceptable. Proactive goals and objectives are based on the idea that the entire team is responsible for making things happen. John will use a transition object such as a computer disc when it is time to go to computer class.The team realizes if John knows in advance it will soon be computer time, and can carry something with him where he is going, he will be less likely to exhibit challenging behaviors when asked to go to computer class.

2. Begin with the end in mind

(This habit)...is based on imagination --- the ability to envision, to see the potential, to create with our minds what we cannot at present see with our eyes. Before developing an IEP, learn about the student. Be able to envision the future, the possibilities. What are his or her dreams? Nightmares? What are the learner's strengths and needs? Where does he or she want to live after school? What kind of job would he or she be filling? It has been too easy in the past to look at the small picture instead of determining what the end of the journey will look like. Once that picture is clear, it makes sense to decide what must he or she be taught in order to get there.

3. Put first things first

Create a clear, mutual understanding of what needs to be accomplished, focusing on what, not how; results, not methods. Spend time. Be patient. Visualize the desired result. Prioritize! It is impossible for anyone, in one year's time, to work on everything they would like to learn. Having nine or ten or more goals and dozens of objectives on an IEP is setting yourself up for failure. What is urgent or most important in the coming year that needs to be addressed on the IEP? It is better to come back and revise the IEP to add new goals and objectives. It shows progress and achievement.

4. Think win-win

Win-win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying. Consensus building is a key element of effective, collaborative IEP meetings. Reaching consensus indicates that power and control has been shared.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Seek first to understand involves a very deep shift in thinking. We typically want to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. In truly collaborative IEP processes educators will listen to and understand parents; parents will listen to and understand educators.

6. Synergize

It is teamwork, team building, the development of unity, and creativity with other human beings. Effective IEPs are those that have been developed collaboratively by a transdisciplinary team.

7. Sharpening the saw

It is the habit of continuous improvement that lifts you to new levels of understanding and to living each of the habits.

Editor's Note: In November, Covey's sequel, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, hit the bookstores. He describes The 8th Habit as adding another dimension to the first seven habits; a new mind set that is essential to surviving in today's world.

According to Covey, "The crucial challenge of our world today is this: to find our voice and inspire others to find theirs. " This is what he calls the 8th Habit. "Finding your voice", he says, "means finding what you love doing, that you feel passionate about, that serves a real need, and that your conscience tells you to do."

Covey's 8th Habit goes hand in hand with self-determination, which is often described as having knowledge, competency and opportunities to exercise freedom and choice in ways that are personally valuable.

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