As mama, you know that you are your child's first teacher and you play a huge role in their life. You know your child's strengths and challenges better than anyone else.
So if you've discovered that your child has difficulty with teachers, poor grades, difficulty playing with matches at school or they just need more individual attention, it might be time to speak up and make sure they get the care they need.
It sounds challenging, but advocating for your child is amazing—it is not pushy, demanding or crossing boundaries. As a middle school counselor, I am a strong believer that a parent's perspective adds the biggest piece to the puzzle as to how the school can best assist a child. It can still be difficult to know where to start when communicating with the school
about the needs of your child and how to work as a team, but with practice, it will become easier, mama.
Here is the best way to advocate for your child in school:
1. Talk to your child
No matter what the topic may be, talk to your child first.
Find out how they feel about the topic and what they think the school can do to support them. This conversation will vary depending on the age of your child. Don't forget to ask your child what they should be doing to improve the situation. They are the biggest part of the equation.
2. Follow the proper path
Go to the right source and follow the chain of command. Following the right path of communication will save you time. For example, if you have questions about your child's grade, go to the teacher first. In most cases, your question or concern can be resolved by that first person. If not, feel free to go to the next level. You are not going over anyone's head. You are just trying to find out more information for your child so they can be successful. If you are not sure who to call, the school counselor can point you in the right direction.
3. Do your research
Although you can rely on the school to provide you with information, it is important to do your own research. Check out the school's website and the teacher's website where you might find out good information and policies. And do your own due diligence. For example, if the conversation is about grades, make sure you are up to date on all the report cards that your child received so far.
4. Ask questions
During the meeting, ask many questions. School personnel sometimes use educational jargon because it is the vocabulary they use every day. However, for a parent, that vocabulary can make things confusing very fast. Don't be afraid to ask them to clarify as often as you need. After all, it's true that there aren't any dumb questions.
5. Take notes
It is extremely helpful to take notes during your conversation with the teacher. Any conversation about your child can have emotions attached to it so it can be easy to forget exactly what was said. Writing down a few key words can jog your memory later.
6. Make a plan
Remember, you are working as a team with the school to ensure the best for your child. You want to make sure that there is a plan in place that everyone agrees on. The largest part of this plan is typically what action your child is going to take. It helps to know when and if there will be follow-up communication from the school about their progress, but make sure you're both on the same page about next steps.
7. Talk with your child
After the meeting, talk to your kid about it. It is a very powerful action when you speak to the school on their behalf so it can send a message to them about the importance of their education. Your child should understand the plan and be reminded that everyone is there to support them.
This step does not take much but is an important one. There is already a lot on your plate, so don't rely on just your memory. At the top of your notes, write down more details, like the date of the meeting or conversation and who it was with in case you have to meet again later in the year, or during conferences. This will make the rest of the year and advocating so much easier.
9. Follow up with the school
Put a reminder in your phone to follow up with the school a couple of weeks after your meeting if necessary. The school personnel will appreciate it and it is a perfect way to proactively advocate for your child together.