Every parent is an expert on their own child and parents are the best people to advocate for their children. Every teacher is an expert on teaching students in their classroom and is the best person to advocate for those students. While both parties may have the best interests of the same child in mind, management of those interests look very different in a home and school setting. As your child’s advocate, here are tips to help you have successful conversations with your child’s teacher:
- Start early! Be clear about your child’s needs from the beginning of the school year. Let them know what has previously helped your child and what has been difficult for your child in the school setting or other similar settings (i.e. camp, academic class, tutoring). As the school year progresses, continue this conversation. Teachers appreciate knowing what will set your child up for success in the classroom.
- Communicate clearly about special education supports and/or accommodations. Make sure you and the school are on the same page about those placements and accommodations. A daily report card or a weekly plan for communication between parents and teachers can help parents be aware, while ensuring the school is providing necessary supports to keep your child on track.
- Remember that children grow, develop, and change over time. They also respond differently in different settings. What previously worked with another teacher or group of children may not work effectively in a new class. What works at home with a parent, may not work best with 15 other students in the classroom. Be open to suggestions to alter an approach that is not effective. At the same time, ask questions to ensure the previous plan is being implemented with fidelity and that it is not poor implementation that is causing a problem.
- Manage your expectations. There are certain times of year that are difficult for students. The beginning of the school year or days leading up to and following a school break tend to be times when many children struggle to regulate themselves. If a change becomes apparent at one of these times, sit tight and see if the behavior passes. Know that teachers are managing the behaviors of a class full of children, many of which may be responding to the change in schedule.
- Most important, address the teacher with respect. Share your concerns, but remember to ask questions about how your child’s needs can fit into their classroom setup. Teachers are more likely to communicate with parents if they feel empowered to work together, rather than being told what to do. Approach each interaction as a conversation where you share your concerns and genuinely listen to what the teacher has to say. Working together will best help your child in the long run!
Approaching the school when your child is struggling can be one of the most difficult things for a parent to do. It often brings up feelings of anxiety and sometimes even anger, so listen to teachers carefully and remember, they work with children because they care and really want to help their students to learn. You are all on the same team!