Friday, August 28, 2009

Ten Tips for Thriving with Teachers

Well now, summer is over and we are off with a bang!

1. Listen! You are looking for at least 3 things.

First, Your teacher's style. Many teachers fall into 2 very general categories. They either see learning as the result of wild discovery or of strong structure.

You need to hear their style and then show them how including your child will meet their agenda. (eg: Providing this____ for Junior will help them fit into your structure... or... Providing this _____ for Juniorette will help the whole class step into a whole new discovery.)

Next, you are listening for their fears. When you hear these you can tailor your assistance to alleviating them.

Finally, you are listening for the political situation they are dealing with. Sometimes administrators do not support teachers--especially those in special education--because of things that have nothing to do with your teacher or your specific child (I know this is not TOTALLY shocking to many of you!)

If you know what the situation is you can provide support--or engage the district to--in a way that your teacher is protected (or at least not endangered)

It requires strategizing, but you can do this. Because you have to. (I know, it's not fair, but it is true anyway... Sorry about that.)

2. Individualize your approach. Some teachers will respond beautifully to portfolios and disability info, others are offended that you don't think they know what to do with your child. Present your information in a way that fits your child's teacher and class.

3. Provide support. Whether this means providing data about your child's disability, or reports from outside professionals, or whether it means making "official" requests, etc so that your child's teacher gets what they need, do it.

4. Inform. A lot of times our kids need things that are unique and hard to understand. Use examples and analogies that people "get." If something you say isn't understood, change. Say it a different way--use examples and analogies--without ever implying 'duh!". If you imply disrespect, you, and your kid, are done. Keep trying. Respectfully.

5. Be as succinct as possible. When you provide data for teachers bullet it. Use sound bytes. Keep it as short as possible.

Teachers have lots of students and are overwhelmed when we hand them text-dense info about our kids (this is why I LOVE Paula Kluth's new teacher guides.)Look for quick, catchy ways to tell folks what your child needs.

I finally learned to say to teachers that 'my son cannot juggle input and output.' In other words, he can't write notes while he listens, for example. This phrase was understood by his teachers in ways that reams of reports never were. This small phrase gave them lots to work with. Then they succeeded. Then they were encouraged to look for MORE success.

Try it, you'll like it!

6. Don't do the work for them. They are educators, you (usually!) are not. Provide the basics and let them come up with the details whenever possible. (Though my daughter has had teachers who never had a plan B--in that case, skip this!)

7. Don't harass. AND, Don't back down. This sounds contradictory, but it isn't. (Or, at least I don't think it is!) Persistent, polite and PERSISTENT! They can do this, they specialize in learning. They want an easy day, but most really do believe in WHY they teach and believe in education. They just need to expand their vision to include our kids... we can help with this. Shame we have to, but we often do--and if we succeed, we succeed for way more than just our own kids. Absolutely worth it.

8. Be patient. Within limits. They may not make the jump to meeting your child's individual needs WHILE you are talking with them. But every thoughtful conversation plants seeds. Give them a reasonable amount of time.

9. Allow yourself to be surprised. Sometimes teachers or programs work in ways that you would never expect... or people who couldn't work with your child in 6th grade are great with them in high school... It is weird, but true. And people who don't get along with me sometimes do fine with my daughter... I am shocked when it does, but it does happen sometimes. If it happens to you, accept it. Enjoy it. Don't try to explain it. You have plenty to fight about, let the things that work, work... even against all odds!

10. Stay focused. It is always you AND the teacher vs. the barriers blocking your child. NEVER you two against each other. They and the administration may try to twist this. Do not let them. Ever. People have to adjust their views, and philosophies, and work days to accommodate our kids and it is easier not to. But if the focus remains in the right place our kids can succeed and surprise (and teach!) entire systems.

These are just my thoughts... What can you add?

1 comment:

rickismom said...

Good points. Now trhat Ricki is going into a different system, I need to keep these point in mind....