Advocating for your child at school Please don't rely on other parents to do the hard work

Last week, I met with the principal at my son’s elementary school.  I’m actually the third parent of a child in my son’s kindergarten class to meet with him.  A fourth parent has a meeting scheduled, and those are just the parents I know about.  My son’s teacher is brand new and having quite a few issues with classroom management and developmentally inappropriate expectations.

I have emailed the teacher on numerous occasions.  My husband and I have had a conference with her.  Instead of improving, things over the past two weeks have gotten drastically worse in the classroom and my son has come home unhappier than ever before.

We go to a neighborhood school and see many of the parents every day at pickup or drop-off.   Many parents are unhappy with what their kids are reporting, or what they’ve witnessed at school, or what they’ve experienced in talking to the teacher.   The largest group is unhappy.  A smaller group has let the teacher know of particular concerns.  And an even smaller group has finally gone to the principal for help (individually, not because we planned with each other).

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Why is this?

I know many parents are unhappy.  But I’ve heard varied reasons from them as to why they aren’t trying to help.   One said her daughter hadn’t been affected yet by the inappropriate punishment policy, and she was too “non-confrontational” to voice her concerns in theory alone.  Another said her concerns weren’t big enough to “bother the principal”.  A third says her daughter just needs to get used to it, because that is how school is.  And a fourth said she’d email the teachers about one particular concern, but that she also didn’t want to bother the principal because her concerns weren’t big enough, and her daughter wasn’t saying anything, so she must not be bothered.

But to me, as a parent working hard to try and work with the school to improve the situation, it feels like they are just letting other parents do the hard work for them.  I understand that it can be nerve-wracking to talk to teachers and principals.  It is for me as well.  But it’s also important enough that I work through my discomfort.

My son does tell me a lot about what’s happening at school, as well as how he’s feeling about it.  I do admit that probably makes it easier to take action.  But I know that when I was a kid, I had an experience where 2 fifth grade boys followed me around the playground my entire fourth grade year.  I never told anyone.  I hated it more than anything and it affected everything.  And I don’t know why I didn’t tell.  But it also taught me that just because a child doesn’t speak up doesn’t mean that something doesn’t bother him.

Don’t rely on other parents to do the hard work

I know it’s hard.  I know you want to do anything other than make those appointments and then actually go to those appointments with the teacher and principal.  But your child needs you.  The other students need you.  And the other parents need you.  I so appreciate knowing I’m not alone in my particular case.  But I would feel so much better knowing that everyone who has concerns was speaking up, because it would be helping all our kids.  Every parent brings a unique voice, and a unique set of concerns, because all individuals view even the same issue differently.  It can only add more information, input, and ideas to the conversation about how to improve problem situations.

 


26 thoughts on “Advocating for your child at school Please don't rely on other parents to do the hard work

  1. I think it is really important to be the advocate in your child’s life. Some teachers can be really unethical or be bullies themselves so it is important to keep the lines of communication open.

  2. Advocating for our children can be pretty daunting and sometimes very frustrating. I have 2 grown sons who are both learning disabled and didn’t fit into the ‘box’ that they were expected to fit in. I spoke up many times – to deaf ears. It got to the point where the boys no longer wanted to go to school and then I was hassled by the school about their absences. It was certainly a catch-22 situation.

    The youngest of the two was fortunate enough to get to Grade 7 and end up in a class with a teacher who allowed him to be himself. The teacher challenged his students to question what they were learning and enter into debates about different topics. This class was supposed to be the class of ‘difficult’ children, but they all blossomed under the teacher’s guidance. It did wonders from my son and he almost made the honor list that year.

    So, sometimes the squeaky wheel doesn’t get the grease, but if you stay in their corner, and continue to advocate on their behalf, it makes a whole lot of difference that they know their parent is in their corner.
    Jane Porterfield recently posted…Christmas Shopping for WivesMy Profile

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so glad to hear about your son’s good experience. It’s just so sad it had to take until seventh grade before he got to experience it!

  3. Advocating for your kids is very important. It sometimes takes hard work and determination, but these are things your kids will see you doing for them.

  4. I understand your frustration! When my son was in Kindergarten last year, his teacher had JUST graduated college that spring. She had a paraprofessional who was older but was retiring at the end of the school year. His teacher constantly punished the entire class over the behavior of one or two students, she bogged them down with homework, and she took away privileges such as holiday parties that were usually designated by the school. She was very unorganized and tried to blame the parents for their lack of supplies and funding when they had field trips because she would literally send him permission slips with the fees requested two days before and at one time the day before! After complaining, and learning other people complained, her class was split and she dealt with the children who needed more help and the paraprofessional dealt with the kids (including my son) who were a little ahead. I was so happy when the school year ended and I personally requested that my daughter who was in Pre-K at the time NOT be placed in her class.

    1. I’m so sorry you’ve had a negative experience, too. And it’s so sad for the students when it’s in kindergarten and their first experience in school.

  5. I applaud you for being one of the few who raised the concern with the principal. A school is supposed to help you with your child’s education and if they’re unwilling to work with you on this then it’s also important to consider transferring if there’s an option.

    1. Thanks. My son is actually pretty good at speaking up for himself, too. But unfortunately he has a teacher who doesn’t listen well to concerns coming from kids.

  6. Great topic! I have 3 kids and always made sure to speak up for them. There are a lot of great teachers out there however I came across a few that I had issues with. I immediately brought it to their attention.

  7. It seems like the classic 20% of the people do 80% of the work to me. I know I have always pressed our daycare providers from r more info about how the day went and could tell when they were just coasting through the day and when they were working hard. It’s not easy to be active and involved in making sure our kids get what they deserve but it’s so worth it!
    Steven Goodwin recently posted…The Time Our Emergency Fund – and Plan – Saved The DayMy Profile

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