How can you advocate for your child and enhance your child’s education when you are not in the classroom to see what is happening?
One of the most important pieces to the puzzle is to create a supportive relationship with the teacher. Make sure the teacher appreciates you as a parent and an individual.
Here are some ways to develop a great relationship with your child’s teacher:
1. Communication Preferences
Some teachers like written correspondence in a binder that goes back and forth from school. Others prefer e-mail, phone calls or in-person updates. Find out what your child teacher prefers and use that method to communicate on a weekly basis.
2. Keep your communications brief (and unemotional)
All teachers are busy, but special ed teachers have many other time constraints such as IEPS, meetings with other support staff, etc. If you keep your conversations/interactions short and productive, teachers will be more apt to do more. Write down the key questions or points you want to make ahead of time, and address your emotional issues BEFORE your interaction. Focus on the action steps that can positively change a situation.
3. Share Information about your Child
Create a one-page fact sheet about your child that can be given to the teacher, aides and any other staff that work with them such as speech, OT, PT, etc. People can’t absorb all the information about your child right away. Remember to feature a great picture of your whole family at the top. If done well, it will be something that staff can refer to when dealing with your child. Include information in short easy-to-read bulleted topics such as: Family, Education Objectives, Communication goals, Social Goals, Re-inforcing and Favorite Activities, Food Preferences, Sensory Issues, Behaviors.
4. Show your Support
The more support you show for your teacher, the more they are willing to give you a little extra of their time to discuss your child.
Food is universal and always appreciated. Offer to bring breakfast (bagels), lunch, or afternoon treats (cookies) for the teacher and their aides. If money is an issue, try baking a batch of cookies. If time is the issue, (especially for working parents), try ordering a lunch for 5 people and have it delivered from a local restaurant . Make sure to ask the teacher when is an appropriate time, and schedule it ahead of time so that the teacher and aides know not to bring their own lunch that day.
6. Volunteer to help
Teachers often don’t want parents in the classroom, but there is always copying, organizing and other administrative tasks that they can delegate. Ask if there are any projects they can delegate? Often teachers don’t expect that from their parents, but are usually happy you asked! Even if you are a working parent, you can ask if there are any projects your can do in the evenings or weekends that would help the class.