Parent advocates can act as mentors in the classroom, share their skills with other parents, organize events for children and families, and serve as translators or as a link between cultures. They also can bring out strengths in other parents.
By lending their voice as leaders and advocates, parents can help shape the development of children, schools, programs and policies, and other families.
Get to Know Teachers
All parents are encouraged to be advocates for their child’s well-being. To be a voice for your child, it’s important to get to know your teacher early in the school year and be in regular contact with them. If open communication has been established, raising a concern will be easier. Here are important tips for establishing good teacher-parent communication from the start:
- Don’t wait for an issue to arise to meet the teacher.
- Consider dropping a friendly note or making an appointment with the teacher early in the year just to touch base.
- Participate in the education program events and activities, such as curriculum night. It’s important early in the year to show the teacher you are involved in your child’s education.
- If possible, offer to help teachers with classroom projects or chaperone a class trip. Volunteering will help you get to know the teacher, as well as give you a chance to observe your child in the classroom.
Building a Positive Partnership
Evidence shows that children whose parents are more involved in their child’s education achieve more in school. Part of helping your child succeed is developing a partnership with the teacher. Here are some suggestions for building a solid parent-teacher relationship:
- Be positive and show the teacher you have respect for the profession. That will help build trust in the relationship. It’s also important for your child to observe a respectful relationship because parents’ attitude toward teachers and school can rub off on their children.
- Maintain open communication with the teacher. Let them know if there is something going on in your child’s life that may affect his/her performance.
- Keep reasonable expectations for what can be accomplished in school.
- Ask questions. Sign up for a MyProfile on kidcentraltn.com and receive suggestions for what to ask during parent/teacher conferences based on grade level.
- If you feel you need to push for change, focus on the action and results, rather than blame or responsibility.
- Pay careful attention to reports on your child, such as the regular report cards and interim notes.
- If your child has ADHD, you may need to bring in information on research-based programs and offer it to the school. Teachers and school systems are not always aware of research that indicates how children with ADHD can be helped.
- If you suspect your child has a learning disability or is being bullied in school, having an open line with the teacher can help the issue get resolved quickly.
- Follow your child’s progress and speak up on their behalf.
Understand the System
- Know your rights. If you suspect your child needs special education, become familiar with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to determine the child’s right to be tested for eligibility.
- Check with the school board to see if there is a brochure or website that describes the school system’s structure and process.
- If a problem occurs, collect the details.
- Document all communications so you and the teacher are on the same page about expectations.
- Express any concerns in writing.
- If you have an issue that isn’t resolved through open communication, you can request mediation or a “fair hearing” with the school district.
Become a Leader in Battle Against Child Abuse
Since 2008, Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee’s Parent Leadership Initiative has led the state in helping parents become leaders in the community efforts to prevent abuse and neglect, as well as promote community support for healthy child development.
The Parent Leadership Initiative engages parents whose children or families are directly affected by local and state programs and child welfare and education policy. The Initiative teaches and encourages leadership skills, giving parents important tools to advocate for their own children and to be the voice to speak on behalf of other families at local, regional and state levels.
The Initiative also provides training, onsite consultation and “Community Cafes” to promote parent leadership, and assist local and state organizations in their efforts to include parent voices in program and policy decisions. If you’re interested in getting involved, contact Melissa Perry at melissa.perry@PCAT.org.
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National PTA. PTA's mission is to help each child reach their potential by “engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.”
Homework Hotline. Call 888-868-5777. Homework Hotline provides one-on-one free tutoring by phone to Tennessee students and parents. Hotline helps students tackle new concepts, complete challenging assignments, learn to read and gain academic skills.