Going back to School - Part 2 - Setting the Stage

Sometimes, I think as parents and teachers, we are more concerned with our children's start to the school year, than the kids are! We hear bits and pieces about teachers, and teachers hear bits and pieces about the parents, as well! Think about that. Often, we make snap judgements about people based on one person's experience--and that means, we don't know the whole story.

Too often, I have heard a teacher's reputation knocked by a parent because of a disciplinary issue that someone perceived was unfair. The teacher's whole professional teaching skills were dismissed because of one incident. The same can be true of teachers' perception of parents.

As parents of children with special needs, it is our duty to advocate for our children. And, the best way is to promote your child's needs is by requesting a meeting prior to the beginning of school, or shortly after the first week, so that you can sit down and discuss what works best for your child. You can ask what expectations the teacher will have. Does she/he know about the previous Special Education Plan? Fill her/him in on any changes that have occurred (or didn't occur) over the summer. Share your own expectations and ask what you can do to help facilitate effective communication to head off any issues that may present themselves.

Provide a positive approach--what can we do together to make our child's year a happy and progressive one. Include goals for social interaction with other students. Be honest about your own child's strengths and needs. Emphasize the positive, but don't ignore concerns. And please don't focus on past history with other teachers. Just as you would not like to hear about your child's mistakes that the teacher might have heard from other years, no teacher wants to hear about mistakes, or misunderstandings that you have had with others.

We all deserve an open mind, and a positive, fresh start. That is what I would want for my child. It is important that you never criticize a teacher in front of the child, just as any teacher should never, ever criticize a parent to a child. You want a team approach. If you think something is wrong about what you child reports to you, then listen, and then talk to the teacher about it. Just as children talk about what goes on at school, they also talk about what goes on at home. No one wants a misconception to be left to the imagination. Clear it up, by being direct and timely.

Of course, I am not talking about serious allegations of an abusive nature. That requires immediate investigation by the proper authorities.

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