Parenting: Be your Child’s Advocate for a Better Education

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A post written and shared by Melissa at Imagination Soup.

Melissa shares a few tips and strategies of what worked for her
on how to handle being her child’s advocate for a better education.
See what Melissa recommends to do.

It started with preschool, but I made excuses.
Then, it happened in public elementary school.
Several times and I ran out of excuses.

Terrible teachers.

It’s a loaded sentence and I know it.

I am a teacher myself.
How dare I say anything bad about my own profession?

But, let’s get real.

Not all doctors are good. Not all police. Not all dry cleaners.

And not all teachers are good, either.
Plus, it’s my kids’ education on the line. It’s real life.

being your child's advocate for education

Terrible teachers do damage to your child’s psyche in ways that he or she will pay for in the years to come.Not only has this happened to me, but so many others have written to me to share their stories. The scenarios may change but the simple fact remains – that there are educators, leaders and teachers, who do not have the best interests of children or believe in excelling in their profession [craft] of teaching.

So what do you, mom or dad, do?

You have some choices – as I did.
Let me tell you what I tried and you can see for yourself what works.

Strategy 1: SMILE AND NOD
I tried being super nice – helpful in the classroom, buying books, coffee and gifts, going out of my way to be friendly, and so forth.

Results of strategy #1: 
NOTHING CHANGED

No surprise there.

Strategy 2: SMILE AND EXPRESS CONCERNS
I told the principal my concerns about the chaos in the classroom – about how much the teacher surfed the Internet – and how my daughter cried every night – with friendliness and smiles. The principal said she knew about the problems, thank you very much.

Results of strategy: 
NOTHING GOOD . . . The teacher wasn’t renewed and went on to another district where she became a teacher trainer. [??] My daughter lost valuable learning opportunities – probably of two years. Three years later she is almost caught back up.My daughter lost her love for learning and school.


Strategy 3: SPEAK UP FIRMLY [& RESPECTFULLY] TO TEACHER AND PRINCIPAL
Last year, I emailed and talked to both the teacher and principal, asking if together we could solve the problem. I offered my knowledge as an educator and literacy trainer to help come to some mutual understanding that would improve the situation for JJ. [Kindergarten literacy was the same worksheets for all kids = no differentiation, no real books, no real writing experiences and my daughter not only didn't like school, she wasn't learning.] I offered to be part of the solution, and brought in books and resources.

Result of strategy: 
NOTHING CHANGEDThe teacher felt insulted that I didn’t like her teaching. The other teachers in the school stopped speaking to me.The principal told me that the school paid good money for the prepackaged curriculum and that was how they taught kids to read. Period.



Strategy 4: MOVE SCHOOLS

Result of strategy: 
BETTER EDUCATIONSometimes there are battles you can’t win. We moved schools — but I felt that I lost the bigger battle since other kids still are at that school in the same unfortunate situation.

Strategy 5: GATHER A GROUP AND SPEAK UP FIRMLY AND RESPECTFULLY
Result of strategy: 
This is the strategy I recommend.This is what I should have done before we moved schools. I’ve met, interviewed, and listened to many education advocates – advocates from different perspectives and with different passions – but their core recommendation is the same: Gather your tribe because you have power in numbers. A principal can ignore one person but it’s a lot harder to ignore 20!

child advocacy for better education

But, what about . . . ?

You might think, as I did, that you don’t want to “create trouble” or “gossip.” Look at it from a different perspective. See it as helping your children have a voice. Our children don’t get to speak up for what they need. We as parents must do that for them. They NEED us to do it.

You are your child’s voice.

You might worry, as I did, that your neighbors and the teachers won’t like you anymore. I worried about this way too long until I realized that it was more important for my child to thank me at the end of her life, for helping her get a good education, than for her teacher, this one year, to be my best friend.

Don’t worry about who likes you. Worry about answering to your child at the end of their life. It is your job, your responsibility, to advocate for your child.

parenting advocate for your child

Advocacy Guidelines to Remember:

  • Be courteous. Nothing will happen if you’re mean or rude. You can disagree and still be courteous.
  • Be involved in school activities and in the classroom.
  • You do not have to agree with everything other people believe. It’s okay. [Freedom of speech and ideas is the foundation of our country.]
  • You must speak up if you want change to happen.
  • Support learning at home. Do your part at home with sleep, nutrition, and homework.
advocacy strategies and guidelines
Finally, for more information on advocacy, I recommend these resources:
Parent Advocacy Do’s and Don’ts by Dr. Savitri Dixon-Saxon
Power of Parents Interview with Dr. Meryl AinPush Has Come to Shove by Dr. Steve PerryChild Parent Power Matters by Lori Cooney – one mom’s story
Feel free to contact me if you want to share your story or connect with other advocates. I wish you the best!

 

Melissa Taylor is a mom, educator, writer, and blogger at Imagination Soup.
jamie @ hands on : as we grow
Henry is 3 years. George is 1 year.
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Comments

  1. Marie says

    Bravo, bravo, bravo! One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received was from my daughter's Special Ed coordinator. I was worried about being "that" parent. She said, "The biggest advocate your child will ever have is YOU." I'm not so worried about being "that" parent any longer.

  2. Anna @ The Imagination Tree says

    This is a great post Melissa and I don't think you need to worry about it at all! I'm already worried about this and my little one isn't due to start school until next September. I will probably make a bad school-parent being a teacher that knows too much about what early education "should" be like, and I hope I can speak up when necessary without getting myself hated! You are right that it's all about the child though so I will be brave (and hopefully find a brilliant school!)

  3. Jamie @ hands on : as we grow says

    I agree Anna! I hope I can too. I've already had a couple moments of wanting to speak up, but didn't have the courage. What Melissa wrote, I hope I can remember for the next time!

  4. Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas says

    well said & very powerful. As parents, we too often get pushed aside and this is our children we are talking about – we should have a say! There is definitely strength in numbers and it is harder to ignore a group on parents that are vocal, intent and willing to take action.

  5. Raising a Happy Child says

    I agree with the last strategy best. We are lucky to have a very good teacher right now, but there is still a concern about same material being used for everyone. I need to start gathering my tribe to be able to speak up.

  6. Melissa Taylor says

    so true, we know so much – but hopefully that will help our kids and other kids in the school whose parents don't know!

    Thanks, Anna and Jamie. :) Be bold!!

  7. Melissa Taylor says

    We should – we pay for this system to educate our kids so when it fails, we must insist on better. Advocating is the only way to make change but you know that already. Thanks for the comment.

  8. Melissa Taylor says

    yes, it's the difference between teaching "the curriculum" versus teaching children — who are individuals and growing and learning at different rates. Even good teachers can be forced to teach inappropriate curriculum so who knows, maybe she or he will appreciate you asking for something that differentiates for the learners' needs. Good luck!

  9. Sean S says

    This is brilliant, thanks for taking the time to write such a wonderful piece. Even if you help one parent, this post was worth it for the children.

  10. Anonymous says

    Yay, you! I agree, last point being key. Unfortunately it doesn't get done as often as it should, when appropriate.

  11. Unknown says

    Melissa- this is such a great post and an incredible resource for parents who may be currently- or may someday soon- face these same challenges. you rock!

    Jen

  12. Rashmie @ Mommy Labs says

    Great thoughts, Melissa and powerfully written. I faced frustration – not with the teachers per se but with the schooling system itself. I've collaborated, been firm and nice but things didn't seem to change at the fundamental level.
    Schools will go on catering to the masses. There's no taking into consideration the child's potential, passion, interest or the lack of it..
    The sad part is parents themselves don't see anything wrong with the homework-loaded, test obsessed schooling system.
    And that made me think more and more about homeschooling my child. Although, it was a tough, tough decision – for the fact that Homeschooling is hardly known in India. Only a few families have dared to embrace so far. We don't have a community to support and even legally a place for it like you have over there in the US, UK etc.

    Did you ever consider homeschooling? I'd love to know your thoughts…

  13. Melissa Taylor says

    Thanks, Rashmie. It's like trying to move a mountain. I just would love to hear of a system that changed without a huge fight or lawsuit as in the case with many parents who have children with special needs that aren't legally being met. It's disheartening.

    Good for you for considering the best for your child, even without support. You are so brave!

    Yes, I have considered homeschooling but my oldest daughter is so challenging to parent, I know I couldn't effectively teach her. Maybe if things keep improving with all the therapy for her sensory processing disorder and other issues — but for now, it wouldn't be best for either of us.

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