If your child is of school age then some of the most important people in your child's life other than family and friends are his or her teachers. Teachers will be spending a lot of time with your child during the day. So it is all the more imperative for you, as a parent and advocate for your child, to foster a good working relationship between you and your child's teachers.
In writing this post you must realize that I have sat on either side of the meeting table. I was an instructor for over a decade working with people who had multiple disabilities. I was responsible for writing goals and objectives for clients under my care. I held numerous meetings where parents and caregivers would relay their concerns and expectations. Some of these expectations were reasonable and some, in my opinion, were not. But I did always attempt to build that relationship between parents, caregivers and myself so that my client's needs came first. When it comes to what these needs were and what priority should be given to some needs over others, there will always be some difference of opinion. This is to be expected and is just simply part of the process.
I became a lot more empathic to parent's concerns when I became a parent myself and to a child having special needs. The things I thought were perfectly reasonable were not always seen that way by school personnel. To tell you the truth there were times I found myself in an adversarial position in fighting for my son's right to what I felt was an appropriate education. I have learned a lot along the way and I want to share both my experience and knowledge here with you.
Getting to Know Your Child's Teachers:
You begin the process of getting to know your child's teachers right from the beginning of the school year. Most schools have a "meet the teacher" day. Don't miss it. Most schools also have parent teacher conference especially for the primary grades. If you have a child who has special needs or you have concerns, these meetings are of great value to you as a parent. You want to find out the following information:
- Who are all the teachers and staff who will be involved with my child? If you are able, it would be a good idea to pay a visit to as many of your child's teachers as you can.
- When I have questions or concerns what is the protocol? May I request a meeting? Do the teachers use email? What is the best way to contact you?
- Who is the support or resource person who will address any questions pertaining to my child's special needs?
- What are the school and classroom rules? What happens when a child violates these rules? What is the school policy as far as disciplinary action? What if I disagree with these actions?
- How do teachers reinforce or reward students for good behavior? You want to see if the teacher is focused upon positive approaches towards managing classroom behavior as opposed to a teacher who simply reacts and punishes.