Guest Post by
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.
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.
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:
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 CHANGED The 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 EDUCATION Sometimes 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!
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.
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.
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
Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress
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.