This Tips for Parents article authored by Kara McGoey is from a seminar she hosted for Young Scholar families. She highlights ten helpful tips for parents who are looking to collaborate with their child’s school personnel.
A few themes emerged from our discussions of effective collaboration. These include:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Find an Advocate
When working with a team of professionals 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.
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.
- Pick Your Battles
The ultimate goal may be to meet all of your child’s 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.
- 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.”
- 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.