When it comes to education, it can seem as though there’s a chalk line drawn down the middle of your child’s life.
Since the day you received your child’s diagnosis, you have taken on careful control of every aspect of their education and support. You studied up on what an IEP meant and why your child needed one.
You saw you and your child on one side of that chalk line, and the school team, as being on the other side. It can feel like a design for more of a battle than a collaboration.
When we were going somewhere for school, it is much easier to be a presence and a voice for our child and their needs.
Or at least it feels like that. But in many ways, this electronic vehicle can also help you to remain a presence and connect with even more members of your child’s team.
And it is a team, isn’t it? A team that should have the very same goals, even if they might differ in how to get there. Still, a team, even when they might not see the same abilities or even the same required tools to assure success.
The purpose of forming a plan is to ensure that all of the information and resources are combined to create a fuller understanding of your child.
To provide the very best foundation for learning. The effort is not only of benefit to your child but also to you and her teachers.
Don’t get caught up in the titles for these plans, IEP, 504…
The names initially might seem like they matter, but it’s the actions behind them that matter most in the long run. And that’s why that chalk line has to only remain there as a way to organize the team, not to become the place you want to begin building a wall.
Often, that starts to happen when the team members lose sight of the goal - providing your child with the very best foundation for learning.
Here are a few steps to keep not only the lines clear but also your child at the forefront of everyone’s vision.
Step 1: Introduce Yourself:
It sounds simple, but this primary step can be missed in a new year’s hustle and bustle. The most crucial step to improving communication is by introducing yourself to as many of the student’s special education team members as possible. You will need to include their primary instructors, teaching assistants, physical educators, computer teacher, etc. By forming relationships with the school staff, you will be more likely to hear about any teacher or therapist’s concerns. Therefore, you may be able to address those concerns before they impact your child’s educational abilities further.
As the parent, you are the real team leader. In addition to providing all of the past medical and educational history and the best overview of the child. Make your current concerns known regarding your child’s therapy services. This part of the conversation is not the time to hold back. Remember, they can’t read your mind, and neither does their education and experience prepare them for each child.
Step 2: Educate and Be Educated:
Educate team members about what your expectations are in the educational setting as early as possible. Ask for a plan, and a list of goals the School team has for your child. Be sure you ask for definition terminology, especially if you find it confusing. Sometimes therapy and teaching teams use many acronyms to describe things, and they forget that not everyone knows what they mean.
Yes, you know your child, but these people have made it their career to help your child. Tap into that knowledge and learn from other team members. What do they see that you might not? Remember, their observations are not designed to be a commentary on your parenting or your child’s potential. They have to make them so there can be a logical place to begin.
Step 3: Establish How To Communicate:
It’s something parents hear all the time, but it bears repeating. One of the keys to parents and teachers working together is to have good communication. What may not be clear is that communication works both ways. Establish this as early in the school year as possible and with a positive attitude.
It will feel like a good time to do this is during class time, but it’s probably not.
Perhaps a monthly meeting with a teacher or phone call home would effectively address current goals or concerns. Maybe sending weekly or monthly progress reports to the teachers and parents may be a suitable option for some students. E-mail can be a simple way for many parties to communicate at one time by carbon copying your email to all members of the team. Remember, don’t always offer criticism or problems. If a staff member does particularly well on a task, let the teachers and the therapists hear about it.
Step 4: Follow Through:
All members of the team should always respond promptly to any issues or concerns that arise. Be a good example of what you want to receive back. Make sure to answer any notes or questions that you receive promptly. This action allows the special education team members to know that you have read and validated their comments. Fulfill all the requests made of you. That way, you can expect the same in return from the special education team. If you suggest a team meeting, be sure to follow through on the suggestion and offer feedback on how it went at the next meeting.
What can you do when you think the teacher isn’t living up to their part?
Approach the Issue Head On
Dealing with a problematic teacher is challenging but not as uncommon as you may think. If you feel as though your child’s teacher is being unfair or isn’t sharing as much information as she should, it’s time for a team meeting to ask some questions and find out what’s going on. Walls are often built because people avoid removing the obstacles used to put them up in the first place.
Don’t let this happen. How can the team pull together to keep the foundation for learning at it’s best possible place?
You and the educational team all have the same goals in mind. So keep working on building the team, and avoid building any walls.
Joy is originally from the Central Valley of California, where she was raised on a farm and discovered her love for growing things. As the mother of a blended family of 7 adults and the grandmother of 9, she's learned many lessons about supporting the growth of people.