Tips for Parents: Collaborating with School Personnel - Strategies for Successful Partnering
McGoey, K.
Davidson Institute for Talent Development
2008

This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by Kara McGoey, who highlights ten helpful tips for parents who are looking to collaborate with their child's school personnel. If you are a parent looking to build a successful relationship with your gifted student's school, this article should prove helpful.

2013 Seminar

A few themes emerged from our discussions of effective collaboration. These include:

  1. Be Pro-active
    Try to establish a relationship with your child’s teacher and school administrators before a problem arises. Set up a meeting at the beginning of the school year to discuss your child’s needs. Provide the teacher with examples of what worked and what did not work in the past. The teacher may want to try some different techniques but this gives him or her an idea.

  2. Find a Common Goal
    Collaborating is easier when the team is focused on the same goal or outcome. Keep the goal as specific as possible but do not be afraid to remind the team that the ultimate goal is the child’s successful learning.

  3. Establish a Relationship
    Establish a relationship with the teacher or school outside of the meetings about your child. Try to volunteer in the classroom, with the parent/teacher organization, or on field trips. This does not have to be a weekly event, any contact is positive.

  4. Find an Advocate
    When working with a team of professinals at the school it is often helpful to find one person that truly understands your situation. This might be the teacher but it does not have to be. Your advocate could be any adult that knows your child well.

  5. Coordinate
    Work as one team for the child. PG kids often have multiple people across systems working with them. Try to coordinate these services and people. The school might appoint one person as the case manager (or some other title) or you might need to request this or possibly attempt this yourself.

  6. Pick Your Battles
    The ultimate goal may be to meet all of your childs needs but you may need to tackle one need or service at a time. Prioritize your requests and try to tackle one at a time.

  7. Be Appropriately Assertive
    Be assertive when working with the team. This does not mean you should be aggressive or pushy. Assertive means you use the force appropriate for the situation to get your needs met. I like this definition provided by the staff at the Mayo Clinic: “Being assertive means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others.”

  8. Know when to call in the Experts
    Finally, know when you have done everything you can do and it is time to call in the experts. Sometimes it is too much for one family to navigate. Use your resources. You may be able to get a local advocate or use the Davidson consultants to facilitate your work with the school.

 

TIPS from 2008 Seminar

A few themes emerged from our discussions of collaborating with school personnel. These include:

  1. Find an Advocate
    Most educators want what is best for the child and want all children to succeed. They also want a calm classroom. Build from here. Find the person who you know also wants best foryour child. Work with this person first and spread your collaboration from there. You maybe able to work with this person to create the plan and then disseminate the plan from there.
    Your new advocate may be willing to help get the plan in place and monitor the progress.
    This person may become a strong advocate/mentor for your child.

  2. Encourage Self-Advocacy
    As your child ages and gains maturity, encourage him or her to advocate for their own needs. This may take some training so role-play, discuss the difference between begging, whining and advocating. Start small and allow the child to feel successful.

  3. External Advocate
    After trying every avenue of collaboration and advocacy with the help from internal school personnel and having no success, it may be time for an external advocate. This person maybe a trained educational advocate, a friend with prior experience or a lawyer. Many states provide free advocacy and support as part of the state’s disability services.

  4. Parent Support Groups
    Whether formal or informal, all parents need the support of someone who is experiencingthe same issues. Find or create this network to localize the approach to collaboration and find external advocates.

  5. Create an agenda
    Any meeting about a topic you feel passionately about can be overwhelming. School meetings are no exception. Plan an agenda ahead so you can make sure your needs are heard. This may be a script or just a list of topics. As long as it is something to guide you and keep you focused.

  6. Pick your Battles
    This concept applies to many issues in life. Which goals are most important to you and yourchild? Which goals are worth fighting over and which can slide? Prioritize your “battles” before you meet with the team at the school.

  7. Outline the goal of each task
    When asking the teacher to allow your child to skip ahead or modify the task or assignment, make sure you and the teacher are aware of the goal of the task. For example, is the goal of the math worksheet mastery? If so, the child may be able to show mastery and notcomplete all of the worksheets. However, if the goal is speed and automaticity of mathfacts, the child may need to complete all of the timed math tasks.

  8. 504 Plans
    Many children who are gifted are also struggling with other issues that may impactlearning, academic success, or quality of life. These disabilities or struggles may not beimpacting educational performance enough to warrant an IEP and special education services but may qualify the child for a 504 plan. Districts interpret the 504 regulationsvery differently. Educate yourself on the rights of your child and the language within theregulations before approaching the school. A 504 plan can provide accommodations for children with ADHD, dysgraphia, processing problems, writing problems in general and health issues. Accommodations can be specific and comprehensive to provide access to the same life activities as other children.

  9. Create clear goals for your child
    Make sure you have clarified the goals for your child in the school setting. What do you want your child to gain from this experience? Is it enrichment? Socialization? Fun? Once you have the broad goal, you can create objectives to reach those goals. You can alsoclearly communicate those goals to the teacher and other staff. This provides some structure for your collaboration and a plan for your child.

  10. Be Proactive
    Always plan ahead and push the school to plan ahead. No one enjoys a crisis and the goal should be to avoid one! Plan ahead for enrichment, socialization, and behavior supports your child may need. If you have clear goals than a plan can be created ahead of time.

  11. Learn your school’s philosophy and policy
    Learn your school’s written and unwritten policy on individualization. Does your schoolcreate plans for each child? If so what do they look like? Can you have input into the plan. Is the plan supposed to be individualized but all plans look the same? Finding these answers may give you the starting place for collaboration.

  12. Look at Enrichment creatively
    Remember that enrichment is not just more work. We all know this but we can forget whenwe are upset. The teacher may find it tough to provide more individualized work but maybeshe can provide other enrichment activities such as leadership roles in the classroom, peer tutoring, designing games or activities.

  13. Create an environment of mutual respect
    Always remember that you know your child best. However, the teachers know the current curriculum and typically have more knowledge on teaching. Create an atmosphere that brings both areas of expertise to the table. Acknowledge the teachers expertise and offer to help the teacher individualize her expertise for your child. This creates a partnership withthe same goal. It may also be helpful to break the ice by making yourself available for other support roles. Providing help in classroom or with other tasks establishes a relationshipprior to needing help with your child.


      ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

      TIPS from 2005 Seminar

      A few themes emerged from our discussions of collaborating with schools. These include:

      1. Create clear goals for your child
        Make sure you have clarified the goals for your child in the school setting. What do you want your child to gain from this experience? Is it enrichment? Socialization? Fun? Once you have the broad goal, you can create objectives to reach those goals. You can also clearly communicate those goals to the teacher and other staff. This provides some structure for your collaboration and a plan for your child.

      2. Be Proactive
        Always plan ahead and push the school to plan ahead. No one enjoys a crisis and the goal should be to avoid one! Plan ahead for enrichment, socialization, and behavior supports your child may need. If you have clear goals than a plan can be created ahead of time.

      3. Find an Advocate
        Most educators want what is best for the child and want all children to learn. They also want a calm classroom. Build from here. Find the person who you know also wants best for your child. Work with this person first and spread your collaboration from there. You may be able to work with this person to create the plan and then disseminate the plan from there. Your new advocate may be willing to help get the plan in place and monitor the progress. This person may become a strong advocate for your child.

      4. Pick your Battles
        This concept applies to many issues in life. Which goals are most important to you and your child? Which goals are worth fighting over and which can slide? Prioritize your "battles" before you meet with the team at the school.

      5. Keep issues separate
        A lot of gifted children also struggle with other exceptionalities. Try to separate the issues of needing enrichment and needing support for other issues. Ask yourself--Is this an issue of the AD/HD or the giftedness. This is not easy and may not be possible but it may help clarify the support needed.

      6. Learn your school's philosophy and policy
        Learn your school's written and unwritten policy on individualization. Does your school create plans for each child? If so what do they look like? Can you have input into the plan. Is the plan supposed to be individualized but all plans look the same? Finding these answers may give you the starting place for collaboration.

      7. Look at Enrichment creatively
        Remember that enrichment is not just more work. We all know this but we can forget when we are upset. The teacher may find it tough to provide more individualized work but maybe she can provide other enrichment activities such as leadership roles in the classroom, peer tutoring, designing games or activities.

      8. Provide teachers with an "out"
        Gifted children can be intimidating! Teachers may be afraid the child knows more than the teacher. And this may be true! Be honest with the teacher. The teacher does not need to know everything about Quantum Physics but should be willing to help the child find the resources and learn with the child.

      9. Outline the goal of each task
        When asking the teacher to allow your child to skip ahead or modify the task or assignment, make sure you and the teacher are aware of the goal of the task. For example, is the goal of the math worksheet mastery? If so, the child may be able to show mastery and not complete all of the worksheets. However, if the goal is speed and automaticity of math facts, the child may need to complete all of the timed math tasks.

      10. Create an environment of mutual respect
        Always remember that you know your child best. However, the teachers know the current curriculum and typically have more knowledge on teaching. Create an atmosphere that brings both areas of expertise to the table. Acknowledge the teachers expertise and offer to help the teacher individualize her expertise for your child. This creates a partnership with the same goal.





    Comments

    Contributed by: Parent on 4/26/2005
    This is a short, to the point article that discusses some things parents should take into consideration before they try collaborating with their child's school. I would recommend this article to any parent of a gifted child who has had a difficult time discussing their expectations and concerns of their child's education with the school.

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