By Erinn Holloway
While each student’s situation is unique and may be complex, what follows are a few suggestions to help families proactively support students throughout their educational journey.
- Review any start of year correspondence from teachers TWICE. Most high school teachers send home a syllabus and many elementary teachers use a back-to-school letter or some other type of communication. It is important to read through these once as an adult, then again WITH your child to highlight and discuss tips, strategies, and procedures the teacher may have shared. This is your opportunity to teach your child how to navigate each class and now that the school year is underway, the information may be more relevant. If you had to sign the syllabus/letter and return it, check the teacher website or request a new copy. If you have a smart phone, consider taking a picture to save to your phone so you can reference it when you’re away from home.
- Explore each teacher’s website if they have one. Many teachers use their site to upload items that are frequently requested (such as copies of notes, study guides, calendars, forms, etc.) so they are easily accessible to students and parents. This saves your time and the teacher’s time.
- Discuss and develop a set of realistic and achievable goals and review them periodically. It is important that children are a part of setting their own goals. It is also important that they are not overwhelmed with working on too many goals at once. Set minimum expectations that are realistic, based on your child’s age and current level, then work together to identify no more than 2-3 areas for focused growth. These goals can include academic, social, or organizational skills.
- Recognize your changing role as your child ages. The role of a child is to move from dependency to independence. To develop responsibility, a child needs to move from being outwardly motivated to inwardly motivated. The difficult role of a parent is to support our children as they progress from one to the other. If your level of involvement in your child’s day-to-day life and education remains constant, the level of independence and responsibility is unlikely to change as a student gets older.
- Advocate for your child. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan, make sure both the parent and student knows and utilizes their accommodations and modifications. If you suspect your child may have a learning disability, you have a right to request testing by the school. Every school is required to comply with this request.
- And teach your child to self-advocate. First, talk with your student to identify the need. Then, role-play the conversation he or she will have with his teacher, highlighting the need(s) you have identified. Afterward, discuss with your child how it went and offer suggestions, if needed. This enables students to develop the skill of asking for what they need as a learner/worker. The first few times, you may also wish to let the teacher know about the upcoming conversation by voicemail or email to help things go more smoothly. This is an empowering skill that can carry over into college, the workforce and beyond.
About the Author: Erinn Holloway, M.Ed., is the Lead Teacher at Brightmont Academy in Deer Valley, a private school that specializes in providing one-to-one instruction for each student. For more information, please visit www.brightmontacademy.com, call 623.738.0710 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.