Keeping the lines of communication open between you as a parent and the teacher is vital. Parent advocacy is then a central theme. But what is advocacy? The dictionary meaning is ‘to plead in favour of’ or to change ‘what is’ into ‘what should be’. As a parent it is your job to be your child’s advocate in a school setting. But how do you do this? The primary way to advocate our child’s cause is to communicate effectively with the school.
So how can we go about advocating for our child?
The first step is to do the homework and set goals that are attainable. At first: start off by building a good relationship with the teacher. Fix an appointment before meeting up and document all that you discuss during the meeting and follow-up effectively.
The Learner Profile
Creating a solid learner profile for your child is the next step. Make a note of your child’s academic, intellectual, social and creative strengths. Mark out the positive aspects of their learning environments. Then list out the areas in which they are struggling from various perspectives and find out if there are any obstacles in the learning environment. Next ask yourself two questions: what should be an ideal school day be like for your child? And: what do you want for your child in, say, 25 years?
Always make a start with the teacher and imagine yourself in the teacher’s position for a moment. Building a healthy relationship at the outset is important. Bond with your child’s teacher by volunteering in classrooms, field day, etc. Get a feel of his/her teaching style and personality as this helps in relating better. Small touches like sending an email to the teacher to let him/her know that your child enjoyed an activity goes a long way to building a strong relationship with your child’s teacher.
Before a meeting, plan what you want to say in advance. Remember this is not a debate on your child’s giftedness but your working on finding a common ground to find solutions to problems. Be diplomatic but firm, and it’s a two-way street, both need to listen and speak. Summarise and document, create a timeline and plan the next meeting.
This is an important aspect that is often overlooked by parents. Yes, it does involve effort to take notes during the meeting and maintain a folder that includes all correspondence, but this goes a long way in ensuring that all are on the same page.
Be consistent in whatever you’ve decided to pursue and do not forget to send a ‘thank you’ email that outlines the plan.