How Do I Advocate For My Child At School?

If you have heard your son or daughter talk about how their teacher hates them, or keeps them in from recess, you probably recognize that you don’t have the whole story. When someone outside of your family seems to pick on someone you love, you get upset. You get protective. And rightfully so. Adults should not be picking on kids. More often than not, there’s a frustration that the teacher is experiencing with more than one student. 

That frustration is typically a behavior that most students don’t do, and often the student that is acting out and causing problems is simply responding to stimuli that the student can’t manage. When a student is acting out and the teacher isn’t sure how to deal with it, the teacher will sometimes do irrational things. The student’s behavior could even be something really small and seem unnoticeable, so the teacher’s reaction seems huge and unfair in comparison.

Parents are often unsure of how to help their student when he or she is struggling in school. Even when parents are aware of something their child is dealing with, it can be difficult to communicate with the school about problems. If your child has a 504 or IEP, you have more experience and advice than other parents. Here’s a list of things that you could be doing to help your child in school.

  • Love your child. Make sure that he knows that you are on their side and want them to be successful. 
  • Communicate with the teacher. Email is typically the best way to reach out. Give the teacher a day or two to respond. Most teachers will respond same day, but we’ve all been so busy that we overlook basic daily tasks. 

  • If the teacher doesn’t respond, don’t go over his or her head. Let him know that you still want to talk to them about your student’s performance or behavior in class. 

  • Once you’ve set up a time to visit, be on time. Be patient. But most of all, be pleasant. Your child’s teacher is a teacher because they love the learning process, and genuinely want to see every student succeed. It is not likely that your child’s teacher really has something against your child. 

  • If your child has an IEP or 504, a school representative might be involved in your meeting to make sure that all of your child’s modifications and allowances are followed. The teacher should already be aware of your child’s needs, but the school administration should still be aware that there is need for a meeting.

  • When you are meeting with the teacher, be flexible. The teacher has goals and skills that they’re trying to make happen for every student, every day. On top of that, they’re meeting with team members and administrators to talk about student performance and improvements in skills. Take the teacher’s lead. You know your child, and what they’re capable of, but learning is supposed to be difficult. Students should be challenged, but not to where it feels impossible. 

  • Keep communicating with the teacher. Use a paper tracker for homework and notes. Help your child become more responsible by writing down and tracking his work. 

  • Incentive systems work. Set a fair prize for a specific amount of work or improved behavior. Small steps work best. Start daily. When your child can manage daily behavior, move on to weekly goals.

Be there for your child. Listen to her stories. Help with homework. Show her that success takes work, and that you’ll be there.

While this post doesn’t have much to do with reading, it does have to do with parenting, and helping your student feel successful. As your child experiences success, she’ll be more likely to keep trying.

Keep trying, keep reading, don’t give up.

-Dave

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