Parents and school staff who collaborate well with one another do so to the great advantage of the student. Parents, teachers, and other school personnel all strive to support children as best as they can, even when it may not always feel so. Parents often become frustrated when their child isn’t making sufficient academic progress, but it is important to resist the urge to play the blame game. Working with your child’s school is the best way to ensure that your child accesses the most effective resources to support their success.
Whether your child receives formal accommodations in school, or you are looking into accessing additional help for the first time, establishing and maintaining a positive working relationship with the school is key. Strong parent-school relationships are the grounds for getting the help students need to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally in the educational environment. Read on for tips on forming a strong relationship with your child’s school.
Get to know your child’s school by being involved with the school community, when possible. Many parents feel pressed for time, so you don’t need to volunteer for every opportunity, but engage in school activities, when you can. This introduces yourself to the school community and already forms the basis for a positive relationship. You can also start small by chatting with your child’s teacher during drop-off or pick-up or reaching out with questions via email. You don’t need to wait for formal events to get engaged. When invited, though, be sure to attend parent-teacher conferences or formal meetings. All of these interactions set the tone for how you might work together when issues arise.
If you have concerns about your child, don’t hesitate to reach out to his/her teacher. If you have already been involved with your child’s school or classroom and established some form of a positive relationship with the teacher, your child’s teacher will likely be receptive to your concerns. A mutually respectful, positive relationship between parents and school staff goes a long way when it comes to advocating for a child.
You may need to be the one to raise initial concerns about your child’s progress. Although schools are required to identify students with special education needs, they may not notice your child struggling as soon as you do. Teachers are often overwhelmed by the number of students they are responsible for and may not catch your child struggling, though it seems obvious to you. If you feel your child needs additional supports to be successful in the school setting, be proactive about requesting a parent-teacher meeting or educational assessment to find out more about their unique needs.
Assessing a child’s needs for special education services takes a deep look into their academic, social, and family lives. The more open and honest you can be with school personnel, the more likely you are to access appropriate care and supports for your child. Also remember, any assessments conducted by the school district are done confidentially so you can trust that any sensitive information you disclose will be handled appropriately.
As you collaborate with your child’s school, be open to receiving feedback, as well. Children may function differently in the school environment than they do at home. Feedback your child’s teacher can give you about how they perform in the classroom and how it may be improved is essential and should not be taken defensively. Likewise, as their parent, you can provide valuable insight into your child’s functioning and response to academic work, as seen at home. You can provide information your child’s school would never otherwise gain. Constructive feedback shared back and forth between schools and parents is part of the process of building an effective support plan for your child.
Maintaining open communication with your child’s school is essential for collaborating effectively with one another. Parents can stay in touch with their child’s teachers and school providers in both formal and informal ways. Attend formal Independent Educational Plan (IEP) or Student Study Team (SST) meetings and parent-teacher conferences. Call your child’s school when you have a concern, ask a quick question at pick-up, or simply send an email. Just remember, teachers are busy people who may not be able to respond instantly, but with the strong relationship you have worked to establish, they will get back to you and be able to provide you will helpful responses to your questions or concerns.
When a parent notices their child struggling, the instinct is to seek a solution as quickly as possible. It can be difficult to wait for school processes to be put into motion in order to get your child the extra assistance they need. It also takes time and energy to form a strong working relationship with school staff. With patience, though, a quality assessment and education plan can be established. It takes time to assess the unique strengths and weaknesses of each child and to identify the most helpful resources to support their growth.
From the time a parent initially raises concerns about their child’s performance in the classroom to the time they initially receive targeted interventions, it can take a few months or even up to half a school year for formal accommodations to begin. Just know that your child’s school is working as hard as they can to efficiently and accurately identify what your child needs. Schools across the country struggle with not having enough resources to meet the demands of their students. That does not mean, however, that they will stop trying to do so. It may just take some time and patience from both parents and school staff until proper interventions are implemented.
Mutual respect is essential to an effective collaboration between schools and parents. School teachers and staff must respect your concerns and wishes for your child. Parents must also respect the opinions of school staff. It may happen that you do not agree with recommendations made by your child’s teacher, and it is ok to express your disagreement, so long as it is done respectfully. Remain calm, give your child’s teacher time to explain their rationale, and ask clarifying questions to help you better understand their reasoning, if needed. Like you, your child’s teacher is there to support the academic, social, and emotional success of your child.
Maintaining respectful behaviors in the school environment will get you much further towards your goal of accessing resources for child than resorting to disgruntled or disrespectful communication. Establishing a strong collaborative relationship with your child’s school begins with always interacting respectfully. Trying to access special services at your child’s school can be a long and frustrating process, but through open, patient, and respectful communication, you will be successful, in time, with getting your child what they need. Like you, schools are dedicated to the success of every student and collaborating effectively with parents is essential for achieving that.