The Value of Parent-Teacher Collaboration
One mother explains how her role shifted from adversary to advocate as she found a more effective way to deal with her son's school.
By Debi Kellerer
When my eldest son entered middle school, he really struggled with schoolwork. Through testing, we learned that he had a learning disability. I knew I needed to find ways to support his academic efforts.
After getting past my emotions - anger, disappointment, frustration, and sadness - I began to think of ways I could work in partnership with the school to make sure he would receive the help and services he needed. Being adversarial only seemed to build barriers, so I learned to communicate with the school without becoming defensive or confrontational. I took time to organize my thoughts, collected reports and other documents, and formed a plan of action. I made sure to stick to the facts and not let my emotions take charge.
I asked what I could do at home to support what the teachers were trying to accomplish. I realized it was better to present myself as an ally, rather than a "troublemaker." I found out that teachers and schools often feel all of the responsibilty for educating kids, so I presented myself as a member of the team. We all needed each other.
I became involved at school to get insight into what was happening there. I made sure that what I said and how I acted let everyone know I was interested not only in my son's education but also in contributing time and energy to helping teachers and other kids, too.
I participated in a group of parents, teachers, and administrators who looked at special education issues together and developed a broader picture of the issues. As a result, I found out that my interpretation of special education rights wasn't always accurate. The whole experience gave me a new perspective about schools and professionals. In learning how to communicate with educators, I met some wonderful people who cared about kids and worked hard on their behalf.
While helping my son, I learned my own lessons, too - to have patience, perseverance, and stamina and to monitor my words, tone, and emotions. Along the way, I developed more self-confidence and a feeling of competency. My experiences left a lasting impression on my life and guided me to an exciting new career in the field of learning disabilities.
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