How to have a positive working relationship with your child's school
Isn't this what we all want? Building a strong relationship with your child's school not only makes your life easier, it has critical benefits for your child. When your child sees all the adults working together productively and respectfully, they will feel more positive about going to school. Other benefits for your child include:
positive model for relationships
how to be respectful to others
increased academic gains
increased social-emotional well being
positive classroom environment
But what's in it for you? You will feel more comfortable being in the school environment, meetings will be less stressful, and you'll be able to communicate more effectively and efficiently when there is a problem.
I know parents are busy and have full plates, but finding ways to get involved with your child's school will make a huge impact. Even if you work a full time job, find ways to support the school and your child's educators.
You may not be able to volunteer in the classroom, but I would bet that the teacher would appreciate donations of supplies for the classroom. When I was a teacher, I had a wonderful parent who would pick up random supplies such as glue sticks, markers, or even tissue for the classroom each time she went to Target. It was such a small gesture, but made such a difference.
If you can volunteer in the classroom, there are so many ways to help out. Going on field trips is fun and helps teachers have a smooth day. Small tasks such as laminating, stapling, or cutting are things you can do at home while watching your favorite show. If you have more time, ask the teacher how you can help. If you are crafty, maybe you can change a bulletin board once a month or even come in and do a read aloud once a week. These things will free up a teacher's time so they can focus on other tasks.
Another important thing to consider is how to get involved at the school level. Chances are you have some pretty awesome skills that your school community can use. There are many people working behind the scenes to make a school run well and build a positive community:
participate in fundraisers
join the PTA/PTO
volunteer for school events and assemblies
ask the principal how you can help
participate in school events
volunteer in the school library
2-4-6-8...Who do we appreciate?
If you have been hearing about teacher shortages in the news lately, you can probably guess that teachers are leaving because they feel unappreciated. Showing your appreciation doesn't have to cost a ton of money. Of course, everyone loves getting gifts, but honestly appreciation should happen more often than once a year. Once in a while, bring your child's teacher and support staff their favorite drink or snack. Send them a note or card telling them how much you appreciate their efforts. If they are truly doing a great job, write a letter to their principal. The cost is zero, but the rewards are huge. Wouldn't you love your boss to hear how great you are?
At IEP meetings, don't forget to thank everyone for their efforts in working with your child. Be sincere and specific to make the most impact. You don't have to bring donuts to a meeting, but definitely bring your kind words. In most cases, the professionals working with your child have positive intentions and do work hard to help them grow.
Things don't always go as expected and people make mistakes. When you feel yourself getting fired up about something that happens (or isn't happening) at school, take a minute to collect yourself. Never shoot off a scathing email without giving yourself a cooling off period. Take a walk, call a friend (or your advocate), get some exercise, or sleep on it. If you are able to compose a calm and measured response to an issue, the chances of getting it resolved are much higher. Don't threaten and don't use emotion. Be clear, concise, and ask for clarification. It is also a good idea to have someone else read your letter first.
If you happen to be having a concern at a meeting or in a real time conversation and find yourself getting upset, excuse yourself to collect your thoughts. Go to the restroom, take some breaths or a quick walk outside. You are allowed to ask for time to consider and reflect. If your advocate is with you, have a signal to let them know that you are becoming upset. If you have to table a meeting because it is going nowhere, do it. Take some time to regroup, gather your thoughts, and take some notes about your concerns. If you are talking on the phone, don't be afraid to tell the person you need to call them back. Again, document your concerns and call back when you are ready.
For more information about how to build positive relationships, check out this article. It also includes key information about how to communicate with your child's school. As always, if you have concerns that you don't think you can address on your own, contact me for a free consultation.