The Struggle Is Real
It is heartbreaking and frustrating for parents to witness the struggles their children face in school. They:
- want to move, but they're expected to sit quietly.
- can't concentrate, but they need to finish the assignment.
- have a hard time remembering instructions, and their teacher thinks they're not listening.
- have a messy desk, and they can't find their pencil or the homework they struggled to get through the night before.
- want to make friends, but that's another lesson that took place while they were distracted.
- strive to do well – but they just can't figure out how.
It seems like school asks them to be everything they are not. So what can we do to ensure our kids have a better shot at success? How can we ensure we are communicating and working with teachers?
Communicate with Teachers
Schools can help support your children and work with them to achieve academic success. In federally funded schools, there are two supports – 504 Plans and IEPs (Individual Education Plans) *– which offer more formalized structures that can be put into place. The key, whether your child is on one of these plans or not, is creating a relationship with your child's teacher. It is being able to say, “What can reasonably be done in the classroom to help my child? What can we do at home to reinforce what you're doing there? How can we support him from both directions?”
When your child is young, teachers often help put structures in place. They might, for instance, send a list of homework to parents in a special folder. When he gets a little older, maybe he's responsible for writing the assignments down. The teacher checks it, and then the parents go over the list at home.
The Teacher Partnership Shouldn't End
What happens when he gets to middle or high school? Often, he has to write instructions down based on what the teacher says, and then he has to get it done based on what he wrote. What happens when something is lost in translation? In ninth grade, your child is processing like someone in sixth grade. He is not developmentally able to do things that seem simple and automatic to other kids, like write down his homework – and pass it back in.
Here, the teacher might step back in and check to make sure he's written it correctly. Your kid wants to succeed, and so does his teacher. When you have that relationship, you can say, “Will you please check his planner to make sure he's got it right?” You can set those expectations together and put the structures in place that will help your child start closing the gap between himself and his peers.
Another important step is to have regular conversations with your child's teachers to share structures between home and school. So often, communicating with teachers in meetings, we talk about what's not going well, the places where our kids are falling down. Try spending some time on what does work. If you've got a system that really works to help him remember to put his shoes away, share it. It may be that that type of system could help him remember to put his backpack in his cubby. This is a two-way street: his teacher may have a great system that you can apply at home.
Realistic Expectations when Communicating with Teachers
It's important to set expectations for our kids based on where they are, not where we hoped they'd be. What can they do at this developmental stage, and how can we help them in the areas they struggle with? It's about raising the bar – high enough for them to strive, but not so high that they give up hope. While communicating with teachers may feel challenging, and schools can sometimes seem like an adversary, they are filled with allies, professionals who can help support your child – and you – as you figure out what works best for your kid.
*Primarily a public school support.
For more information go to: Prepare for 504 or IEP Meetings with a Lawyer's 4 Best Tips.