Nov 21

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Is the Honeymoon at School Over Yet?

Many parents tell me that they wait to see how the school year starts off before asking for meetings with their child’s teachers or calling team meetings to review their child’s 504 plans or IEPs. “I don’t want to start off as a helicopter parent” or, “I don’t want to give the teacher preconceived notions about my child” are some of the reasons parents have given me.  Some parents get ‘lucky’ and their children have a relatively quiet start to the school year. There are no crises or phone calls home. Their children may start the school year trying very hard to be on their best behavior and getting to know the teacher’s limits. Things may seem to be going smoothly, and it is easy to get complacent.

But now, in November, for many families the honeymoon period has worn off. You may first begin to hear about challenges your child is facing, or perhaps challenges your child is posing to the teacher, at parent-teacher conferences taking place around now. One of the most important things you can do in response to this news is to begin to forge a working relationship between yourself and the school. It is critical to establish this foundation so you can proceed to constructively problem-solve and collaborate to support your child. Set up a communication plan between yourself and the teacher or any other critical school staff. Don’t only call the teacher, or wait for the teacher to call you, when problems arise. Be PROACTIVE. Ask them what the best form of communication is. Is it email, phone calls, or notes in a folder sent back and forth with the child? Establish expectations for when messages will be returned. Many schools have policies which state that teachers should return messages within 24 to 48 hours, so if  you’ve sent a 7am email and haven’t heard back by 4pm, you will have to be patient. Hopefully the teachers are too busy teaching to have much time to sit at their computers and return email during the day.

Don’t assume the teacher will automatically contact you every time there is a problem, either. The teacher may handle individual incidents very well on his or her own. You want to have ongoing communication, though, so you can see if patterns are emerging. Schedule a regular time to check in with the teacher. Maybe the contact is weekly at first if you are problem-solving a challenge your child is having, then every two weeks, then monthly for ‘maintenance checks.’  You should feel free to just check in to see that things are going smoothly and inquire if the accommodations and classroom strategies discussed are working. Establishing effective communications with the school can set the foundation for a successful school year.


Permanent link to this article: http://blog.drwalisever.com/2011/11/is-the-honeymoon-at-school-over-yet/

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