Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

Promises Every Special Educator Should Make to Their Students’ Parents

a close up of a small child with his head on top of his hands sitting down intently looking at his teacher. the word promise is overlaid on top of the image five times

Editor’s Note: This post was written in 2012 and has been updated with a few small changes to the original posting including a new featured image as well as an eleventh promise. 

Promises are important.

Being an educator can be a lot of fun, but it is serious business. Everyday, we hold the precious lives of children in our hands. We have the opportunity to build them up or tear them down. In addition to this, we have the responsibility to communicate with the families of our students in a kind and respectful manner. These promises are intended to be a reminder that while we are not perfect, we should be held to a higher standard of behavior. I certainly have not kept all of these promises one hundred percent, but they are constantly on my mind and it is the kind of educator that I strive to be. I hope that you find these useful to mull over and come up with your own list to inform your teaching career.

11 Promises

1. I promise to stop calling parents who have high expectations and advocate for their children “high maintenance” and I will equally try to discourage the term “high profile” if due process is involved.

2. I promise to presume competence (always assume that your child can learn and is interested in learning) even if they are unable to communicate to me what they know (yet!)

3. I promise to never use the “R” word and to speak up against it when I hear it used in private or public.

4. I promise to ask your input on the educational goals for your child BEFORE the IEP meeting and realize that without your collaboration we have no team.

5. I promise to remember that YOU were your child’s first teacher and YOU are THE expert on your child.

6. I promise to not say “what are they going to get out of this?” or “they’re not ready” as an excuse for not including your child in general education.

7. I promise to never assume I know what goes on at your home or blame your child’s challenging behavior at school because of your parenting skills.

8. I promise to Always Be Communicating (ABC) with you about your child (especially the positive things).

9. I promise to keep an open mind and realize that what works with one child does not necessarily work with every child.

10. I promise to always have high expectations for your child and never give up on them…or you.

11. I promise to keep telling your child the reasons why I love to be their teacher.

Full Disclosure: This post was inspired by the wonderful “Apology” post from the flappiness is… blog (Check it out…after you read this of course). 

If you agree with these promises or you would like to add some of your own…make a comment, share this with someone you know, or print it out and put it up in your classroom (if you have one). Thanks for your time and attention.

Photo Credit: US Department of Education/Flickr


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Tim Villegas

Founder and Curator-At-Large at Think Inclusive
Tim Villegas has worked in the field of special education and with people with disabilities for over ten years. Tim has turned his passion for blogging and promoting ideas about inclusive schools and communities into his own website, He believes that we can create a bridge between educators, parents, and advocates (including self-advocates) to promote ideas, innovation and inspiration to change our world to be more accepting and value each and every human being. Tim lives with his fetching wife and three adorable children in Marietta, GA.
  • Love this! Beautiful job of distilling down the issues and sharing in plain English. A must read for teachers as they prepare for back to school! Thank you.

  • If districts and SELPAs applied these principles, there would be few hearings and better work done with less trouble.

  • Ali

    Nodded my head throughout. There’s another one floating around in my brain, something to the effect of promising to learn about any specific characteristics of your child’s special needs that are relevant to the classroom. The eye-rolling I get when handing people *brief* information about my son’s syndrome is baffling sometimes. Which is a little ironic coming from people who value learning….

    • Kristin

      I have found a way around that. I make a very attractive “infographic” one-pager to e-mail to each teacher, therapist, assistant, etc. at the beginning of each school year. I update it each year and always make a point to include his strengths and other positive attributes to balance out some of those not-so-rosey truths they wil need to hear. I have been doing this for so many years that my son, now 12, helped me update it this year and asked to include a couple of his “important information” about himself. So it is becoming an advocacy tool for him. I hope he will rely on me a little less each year and someday be able to help others understand him. The other benefit is that I can really make it about him and not just general statements about his disability. The teachers thank me every year.

      • Jennifer

        Kristin- could you please share with me an example of an infographic page? I am a special education teacher (at the high school level) and I would LOVE for my students to work on this at some point to help with transition and advocacy… My e-mail is

        Thanks so much!

      • Momonthego

        Hi Kristin, Could you please share that infographic page with me as well? I would love to make one for my daughter. my email is

      • Sandy

        We are not allowed to put information in an email at our High School. We cannot include grades, behavior, and escpecially not any IEP information.

  • This is indeed great. (with the minor quibble that (in 5) that the expertise is shared. The teacher is responsible for being the “expert” on the child in the classroom. They have to learn from each other’s perspectives on the child.
    Here is an excerpt from my book:
    Defining the Parent-Teacher Contract

    As the teacher, I can and will:
    • care for your child and make sure she is safe
    • praise her when she deserves it
    • be on her case when it’s necessary
    • encourage her to find her strength and use it
    • challenge her to use her weakness to improve it
    • show her how to take charge of her learning
    • be there for her when she needs extra help
    • provide her with a wide variety of ideas, subjects, and activities
    I cannot:
    * love her as you do
    * protect her from disappointment
    * make sure she is happy
    * make sure she is not bored
    * ensure she has friends
    * make sure she gets good grades
    * guarantee she will get into a good high school
    * give her self-respect or self-confidence or high self-esteem

    * These, with the exception of the first, are what the student must do for herself.

    As the parent, you can:
    • know your child for who she is
    • appreciate your child for who she is, not for who you hope she’ll be
    • be there to console her when she needs it
    • listen to her in such a way that she feels listened to
    • in listening, help her fight her own battles
    • enjoy her
    • delight in her
    • have fun with her
    • give her unconditional love and trust even when you don’t feel it’s justified
    • believe in her even when your feelings tell you otherwise

    You should not:
    • feel guilty for your child’s disappointing achievement or “poor” performance
    • feel inadequate that you cannot respond to her every need on short notice
    • compare your child to other students
    • fight her battles for her

    Supporting the genius of each child is mostly a function of good teamwork among the adults who are responsible, and organizing so as to increase the authority of each child. (Except from The Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity and Creativity in Children.)

  • Tim Villegas

    @Marliee Thanks for your kind words…appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  • Tim Villegas

    @Peter I agree. Part of the problem…I believe…is expectations of the two parties (parents/school district employees). We need better communication in order to get better outcomes.

  • Tim Villegas

    @Ali Thanks for making your suggestion! All teachers should want to know the specific information related to your child’s disability.

  • Tim Villegas

    @Rick Your point (that the expertise is shared) is hardly trivial. It is absolutely important that there is collaboration between parents and teachers. One-way communication does not take us very far… Parents are their child’s first experts and as long as we (educators) remember that we don’t necessarily have all the information, we will be more open to suggestions and to listen. Thanks for sharing you book. Please provide a link so that we can know where to find it.

  • The Genius in Every Child can be bought at or

  • I LOVE this TIM!!

  • julie forbis

    Oh my gosh thank you so much! This little article brought tears to my eyes as I read it. Remembering the struggles and fights I had last year and the year before with the school system and my son…… how he was called a “problem child”, and “unteachable”. and how I need to “step it up at home”….. when I have poured my whole heart into him since he was born!!! I wish more teachers were like you….. Thank You!!!!!

  • phil blundell

    I am English, ex-teacher, with a very special grandson. There are a number of “American” references in Tim’s piece that I would like to understand more fully. Would someone please explain points 1,3,4 and 8 so that I may.

  • Phil, My way of phrasing 1 would be: “Expect parents to be crazy about their kids–it’s their job. Respect it.”
    3) I don’t know which “R word” I can think of several.
    4) I would say: “The Individual Educational Plan for each child should be the result of a consensus arrived at collaboratively.”
    8) What about “keep the two way conversation going” don’t you understand?

    • phil blundell

      Thanks Rick,
      I suspect that the “R” word is one I have heard used in American films. If that is the case its not one that is in common use over here. Other pejorative terms certainly are.
      I really wanted to know if “ABC” was a recognised and supported programme or just a quick way of referring to something that everyone knows over there, because I’ve never heard of it.

      • Tim Villegas


        “ABC” is really an allusion to the business term of “Always Be Closing” and I modified it to say “Always Be Communicating”. I have not heard anyone really reference it this way but I am sure this is not completely original.

        Hope that helps!


  • Tim Villegas

    @Julie Thanks so much for your kind words. I really appreciate it!

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  • Jenn

    Tim – I Love this! Would you mind if I share this with my sons Principal?

  • Marie

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this … just reposted it on my FB page!

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  • nita

    I think this was greatly written. I would like to add: “I promise to not belittle or deny your child’s disability, especially in front of you.”
    We constantly deal with this from our school, “I don’t think she has autism.” Well, it’s not your call to diminish the hard work we’ve done to get our child that we struggle with daily a diagnosis. Not your job. Your job is to teach. Don’t tell a parent, to their face, you don’t believe anything they’ve shared with you pertaining to their child. Saying phrases like this comes out to me as demeaning. Yes, we are the child’s first teacher, and caregiver. We know them best. That shows me a lack of respect more than anything else and seriously affects this ABC you keep mentioning. Happens all too often unfortunately.

  • Lisa

    Absolutely on target! I usually have conversations with parents at the beginning of the year, and we discuss these issues. I would love to have this as the ‘framework’ of those conversations. Thanks so much!

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  • Thanks for re-posting Tim in timely manner. I wish I had this list in my hands before I retired to keep it visible as a daily reminder. It is too easy to get caught up in “things”. This keeps one centered on special educator’s purpose.

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