Parent teacher relationships are very important for success with your child with special needs .I have been an educator for twenty years. While I take a break from working in the schools this year, I am able to reflect back on my career and look more closely at the ups and down and the successes and failures. For me, being an educator has been a blessing. I have learned so much and grown so much as an individual and as a professional. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to help people and help make the world a better place. Both of my parents are in “helping professions” so I am sure that is where the roots were planted at a young age.
Since becoming an educator, I have lived and worked in three states across the country-Washington, Colorado and New Jersey. I have held many different positions-special education teacher, school counselor, behavior specialist, school social worker, intervention specialist and substitute teacher. I have worked with students and teachers who were in general education, special education, gifted and talented programs and English Language Learner (ELL) programs. I have worked in school districts in suburban neighborhoods, in poor neighborhoods and in wealthy neighborhoods. I have worked with excellent, supportive and child-focused administrators and not so excellent administrators. I have worked in schools where the staff was tight knit and functioned as a team and I have worked in schools where there was more of “an everyman for himself” mentality.
In all of these different environments, it was always my students who were my focus. I never saw being an educator as just a job I went to from 8-4; it was who I was 24/7. I am a strong believer in the need to learn to adapt to the circumstances. There were, of course, certain circumstances that were much easier to do this in than others, but I always strove to find the most effective ways to be present with my children, to educate my children and assist my children in moving forward on their own path to becoming citizens of the world we live in. Whether I worked with a child once or for five years I saw it as my job to give them everything I could-to better equip them the learn and thrive in the world.
One of the ways I was able to be especially effective in this task was through collaborating with parents. Many educators and parents across the country have different feelings about whose job it is to “educate” children. I cannot say that any one way is the right way and I can tell you that the students who I have had, that have had the most success are the ones whose parents partnered with me to educate their child. This has meant different things for different children. Some required more time and energy than others did. I have always established a communication system for the parents of my students and me to communicate regularly. I have always welcomed and encouraged parents into my classroom to observe and give me feedback. I have always asked parents to share as much as they are comfortable about their child’s struggles and success so that we can work together for more successes.
It is disheartening to me that now more than ever many parents and educators have an “us versus them” attitude. I believe part of this is based on how litigious (or lawsuit focused) our world has become. I also believe that both educators and parents have more and more piled onto their plates to accomplish with no more time and no more money and it is easier to be overwhelmed today. Although I believe it is the educator’s job to reach out to the parent, if that is not happening then I encourage you to reach out to them. In today’s fast-paced world, it can be a challenge and it does not have to be time consuming. With the introduction of so much new technology, it is easier than ever to communicate quickly through e-mail and/or text messages. In my experience, when a child knows that their parents and teachers are on the same page it makes a world of difference both academically and behaviorally.
If you would like to download my Top 20 Tips for Building Rapport with Your Child’s School, click here.
I would also love to hear about your experiences, both positive and negative, about parent teacher relationships..