Informal Interview Writing Analysis

Informal Interview Writing Analysis

Memo 2 Informal Interview with the Family When I arrived at Tina’s house I was full of nerves and had no idea where to begin. After ringing the bell, Tina opened the door and Mary poked her head out. Thankfully, Mary said “yay” when she saw me and bounced between her mom and me hugging our legs. Tina led me to the kitchen, offered me coffee and told me that her parents are in Lebanon for an extended trip. Although she seemed nervous, Tina immediately asked me what I wanted to know. I suggested that we start with questions she had for me about school or the interview project. Tina shared with me that she is thankful that I send home data sheets every three weeks but that she doesn’t understand them at all. We sat down on the couch and I explained the differences between the programs that we teach in the classroom (i.e., expressive language, receptive instructions, receptive identification, matching and non-verbal imitation). She is proud that Mary is making progress toward her annual goals and has mastered two objectives during the first quarter. She smiled at Mary and said “I knew she was smart.” The question that I was able to learn the most from was “What are the greatest challenges you are facing as you parent Mary?” I learned that Tina desperately wants to move out of her parent’s house for many reasons but is not financially able to at this time. She had previously lived with the two children in an apartment but had to move back in with her parents because she could not afford caring for the children’s needs and the $2,100 monthly rent. Tina wants to move out so that she can provide consistent structure for the children and make a home of her own. She feels as though she and her children are ruining her mother’s home because it is cluttered with kids’ toys and Brian sometimes knocks lamps or pictures off of tables and breaks them. Another challenge that Tina faces is that her parents are incredibly indulgent with the children. Tina would like the children to eat, sleep and dress themselves independently but her parents do everything for the children and do not see the need to push the children to do things by themselves. Tina also struggles with her parents undermining her parenting; often she corrects the children or wants to allow them to cry themselves to sleep but her parents interfere and tell her that she is being too hard on them. Since Tina’s parents left for Lebanon in August, she has also faced the extra challenge of getting enough sleep. Mary has not been sleeping through the night and no longer wants to sleep in her own bed. She cries until she is allowed to lay on Tina, in Tina’s bed. Tina shared that either she falls asleep with Mary when she needs to be working on business contracts or is unable to sleep because Mary is sleeping on top of her and keeping her awake. As Tina shared her struggles with day to day parenting, I asked if there was anything that I could be doing or skills I could be working on at school to help her with these challenges. Tina asked if I could help teach Mary to dress and feed herself and begin working on potty training. I was surprised to hear this because Mary has always fed herself independently at school without prompting and I gave Tina some strategies that she could use at home to reinforce this skill. I told Tina that I would begin working with Mary on dressing herself when we change her diapers and would work on toilet training in the New Year. Tina shared that she is facing additional challenges because she is going through the court process to attempt to get child support from her ex-husband and to change the children’s last name to match hers. She will have to travel to California next month for a court date to determine if she is eligible to receive child support. Tina will fund her trip to California without any guarantee that she will get future help for the children. Tina’s experiences with her ex- husband are far different from the experience that my mother and family had. Tina continues to work through the court system for child support, visitation and changing the children’s names. My mother chose to make an informal agreement with my abusive father that she would not pursue him in court for any financial support in exchange for him relinquishing parental rights to my brother and myself. Additionally, Tina has had tremendous support from her family throughout her divorce process and raising the children. Our extended family reacted differently than Tina’s; my mom’s mother helped my father gain access to our home when we tried to leave and forbid my mother’s siblings and their families from talking to or helping us when we were homeless. I believe that talking about our similar hardships brought a better understanding of each other and let each other know that there was no judgment for past experiences. We talked about our shared faith in God and that we feel that the trials we have experienced have shaped the women we are today and made us stronger. This experience with Tina helped me evaluate and think critically about my views, and tendency to be mentally harder on, families that have struggled with poverty and domestic violence like mine because she represents a different story of a woman fighting for her children and doing whatever it takes to keep them safe. Each story with unique participants, challenges and struggles but no story is the same or less important than the other. When I asked Tina about how special education is view in her culture or if she had any reservations about the children receiving services Tina stood up straighter and adamantly declared that “culture had nothing to do with it.” She went on to explain that she knew that her kids needed help and she would do whatever it took to get them the services and help that they need. Observation of a Family Event I observed Tina, Mary and Brian at lunch time. Tina began by feeding Mary a bagel with soft cheese. Mary walked around the living room with her iPad while Tina coaxed her to take bites she had torn off of the bagel. After Mary ate about half of the bagel Brian had begun to get fussy so Tina decided he needed to eat his lunch. Brian does not feed himself and only eats smooth baby food. While Tina was feeding Brian she shared that she is concerned because he does not chew food and only eats baby food at 4 years old. Tina also told me that when her parents are home the kids tend to gain weight because her father feeds Brian baby food all day and her mother cooks Lebanese food and feeds large portions to Mary. After Tina finished feeding Mary and Brian, she asked if she could make me anything and when I declined she made the other half of the bagel for herself with soft cheese and sliced radishes. Throughout watching Tina feed her children and our discussion I learned how very different the meals look at home versus at school and how critical teaching independence is to both the children and Tina. In the classroom there are several “environmental prompts” embedded into our mealtimes; for example, sitting at the table where we eat all meals, having a plate or cafeteria tray with food on it, the presence of utensils and classmates eating around her. We have established clear expectations that students sit calmly at the table and eat their lunch or snack and they are reinforced for maintaining calm, appropriate behavior while eating. As an educator, I need to be more mindful about how mealtimes look in each student’s home, ask parents what mealtimes look like and what expectations they have or would like to have for their child. Tina hopes to go back to working in an office, where she can make use of her MBA and make more money, but she is concerned about her ability to leave the children without independent skills. I realized I share information about daily activities and progress toward IEP goals but I need to share more information about the independence skills that we are targeting at school and techniques for parents to reinforce these skills in the home. Application of New Knowledge This family interview and observation pushed me out the comfort zone I didn’t realize I had. In my everyday life I am very outgoing and enjoy talking with new people but I have not previously interviewed or observed a family in their home. At school, in meetings and in my classroom, I listen to parents share their concerns and educational goals for their child and feel comfortable sharing facts about the progress and next steps to achieve the goals we have set for their child. Observing the family in their home and asking questions about routines, challenges and hopes gave me a different perspective on the child and the family as a whole. I observed how vastly different mealtimes and expectations differ in the home versus at school and am developing strategies about how I can support parents who would like help creating and implementing new routines and expectations. I got to see how teaching Mary how to dress herself will teach her independence but will also alleviate some daily responsibilities and stress for her mother and help her feel more comfortable going back to work outside of the home. While daily communication with parents is one of my strengths as a teacher, I learned that I need to communicate to parents about the independence skills we are targeting in the classroom. At school, we focus on teaching independence through packing and unpacking backpacks, putting coats on and learning to zip, dressing themselves after toileting and feeding themselves at mealtimes. At my family observation I learned that Mary does not complete the daily skills independently at home that she completes at school. I plan on sharing with parents the skills we are targeting and progress toward mastery on a weekly basis. Additionally, I can share techniques and strategies that we use in the classroom (i.e., backward chaining) to help parents work on these same skills to increase independence in the home. I also learned a lesson about inadvertent assumptions. I never consciously thought about the type of job that Tina had in California, I just assumed she had worked because she works now. When Tina told me that she wanted to go back to work in an office, I asked her what kind of office job she wanted. She told me that she has an MBA and used to work for AOL in California but had to leave when the domestic abuse got to be too much and she gave birth to Brian who needed intensive care due to Down syndrome and brain damage. Although I hadn’t thought about her prior career, I would never have thought that Tina had an advanced degree and had previously been earning almost triple her current salary. Tina said that she wants to work in an office so that she can better provide for her children and do more than just answer phones. I remember at the beginning of the semester Dr. Vesely told us that some of her previous students said that this family interview and observation assignment changed their lives. I remember thinking

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