I currently have two kids in school. One sails through easy-breezy, much like he does in all aspects of his life. The other struggles. Transition and change are very hard for him, so he struggles in everything from bonding with a new teacher to making connections with the new students in his class.
Each year, while many families are looking forward to the start of a new school year, I am reluctant, knowing that it means putting my son out of his comfort zone. As his mom, I want to protect him, but I know sheltering him from discomfort isn’t the way to do it. Instead, I have come up with ways to assist him. One of these ways is by developing a rapport with his teacher to open the lines of communication and effectively work with them to ease the transition.
Teachers are your allies.
There have been times when I was hesitant to tell my son’s teachers his whole story or wanted to see if things would work out on their own before jumping in. The truth is that the more prepared the teacher is for your child, the better they can service them in the classroom. I have never regretted opening up to a teacher about my son’s struggles or his past. In most instances, it has made them soften up to him and work even harder to get to know and work with him.
Because our situation repeats itself each school year, I have come up with some strategies that have helped me connect with my kid’s teachers.
- Email: Each year, within the first week of school I send an email to my son’s teacher introducing him and myself and giving her a little history on his background and our story. I like to tell the teacher about some of the challenges they may face with him in week one. I like to talk to about tactics I use to help him adjust and suggestions our therapist has given. I usually also ask her to speak to the school therapist about him. I think that this gives her a little more information on what to expect and how to get through to him.
- Conference: Suggesting conferences is always a great way to get to know your teacher and discuss your child face to face. I have a friend who says, “it is always better to meet before you must meet.” It’s true. Sometimes just sitting down with your teacher to let her know you are on the same side is beneficial.
- Ask questions: I am always asking for the next steps. If we try something and it isn’t working, I ask about what we can do next. Services within the public-school system are there to help make your job and your teachers’ job easier. Ask for therapists, evaluations, SAT’s, IEP’s and BIP’s, you name it. Whatever system you are in, there is an acronym for your situation. Another thing to think about is that often these services take time to get approval or there is a protocol. This could take more time than you are expecting, so the sooner you move on a service the better.
- Be a Helper: If your situation permits, try to lend a hand at your school. It is just good for the administration, teachers, and others to see that you are involved. Schools are often running tight on staff so volunteer help is a must. Being a part of the school is not only helpful to them but will give you a lifeline when things are hard.
- Be your teacher’s advocate: I want my child to know that I am always there for them, but I just as strongly want them to know that I will back their teacher 100%. It’s important for your child to know that all of you are on the same team. The end goal is a child who feels secure and comfortable in school and is in the position to learn.
Each child-teacher relationship is different. We have been blessed to have a school that is eager to work with us and teachers who are loving, kind and want to see my son succeed. All these things have greatly reduced my stress level and helped us work together. But, I know not every situation is like that so I encourage you to reach out and see if some of these strategies will help make your situation easier. Kids deserve all of us rooting for them!