Does Your Struggling Student Need a School Change?
So, it’s a couple months into the school year and you’ve watched the smile on your child diminish with each passing day. There may be tears at homework time, random tummy aches or rough mornings getting out of bed and ready for school. You might be receiving emails or phone calls from your child’s teacher or the school about behavior problems, changes in the quality of your child’s work, or changes in social activity.
Once you’ve ruled out any underlying health issues, it could be time to ask your child about how they feel about school and their teacher. You might ask them to tell you about their teacher, the classroom, describe what worries them. Honing in on where the problem is occurring might help, as it may not be in the classroom. Are there classroom dynamics (other children, bullies, etc.) contributing to the situation? Ask about what happens on the bus ride, the playground, and the cafeteria.
If the conversation suggests potential trouble in the classroom, it’s time to schedule a face-to-face conference with the teacher as soon as possible. Outline some good questions ahead of time. Ask the teacher where he or she might feel the difficulty is beginning? Is it the bus ride? The playground? The lunchroom? Issues there can spur the same kinds of problems, so honing in on where the problem is occurring might help.
Pursue a Partnership
During the conference, let the teacher know you want to partner with them to ensure your child’s success. Remember that you are the expert and know your child the best, but go in to the conference with an open mind and belief that the teacher has your child’s best interest at heart.
Share anecdotes about your child that demonstrate their uniqueness. Talk about hobbies and interests. Talk about your home life. Share what you LOVE about your child. Share work habits, styles, energy levels. Does your child like and need frequent breaks? Have lots of energy and needs to move often? Likes to graze or snack throughout the day? Lay down while reading or writing as opposed to sitting at a desk?
Ask the teacher about his or her observations and discuss what’s different about previous behavior and the new problems. Listen closely and ask questions that might help you understand.
Work with your child’s teacher to help her develop strategies that can help your child get back on the road to success. Using what your teacher has told you she/he is doing, as well as what you know your student responds to best, share your thoughts on things like the level and types of helpful contact between the teacher and your child. Share your most helpful tactics about ways to provide successful feedback to your child. Ask your child’s teacher about his/her thoughts about strategies she/he would like to try to help with behavior management, student involvement or types of communications that might positively help your student. Remember that you each are invested in the success of your child and you each have some great information to share.
Improvement Takes Time
Allow some time for things to improve after the conference. If you can, spend a morning or afternoon either helping in the classroom or just observing – identify other factors besides the teacher that might be making your child miserable. If there is a discrepancy between what the teacher says and what you observe, that’s a red flag. Having a document of your observations of your child’s behaviors, what is happening in class and what the teacher is doing, is helpful in any further meetings.
If you don’t observe improvement, a parent liaison associated with the school may be available to help, in addition to a counselor and the principal. Go into any meeting with a plan for results, whether it’s simply to discuss and listen or a specific request that your child be assigned to another teacher or classroom.
Making a Change
Weigh a request for reassignment carefully. Mid-year transitions can sometimes cause more trauma than trying to make the situation work. However, for many families, it can be the right answer. For example, some parents have found switching from a brick-and-mortar school to online learning with K12 better meets their child’s individual needs.
Before pursuing a school change, schedule a meeting with the principal. During the meeting, explain what you’ve observed and the steps you’ve taken to remediate the situation. Share the history and strategies that have already taken place. Tell the principal what you’d like to see happen and ask what he or she is prepared to do. Ultimately, if you want to move your child, the principal and other administrators should be willing to work with you.
Wherever this journey leads, remember that you are the expert on your child and one year in his or her development is a long time. Should you decide to stick it out with the teacher, make sure that your communication and involvement is ongoing as well as consistent and that your input is taken into consideration. Should you decide to move your child to another classroom or school, remember that any transition is going to be difficult. Engage the new teacher immediately and express how you want to work with him or her. Finally, remember to maintain patience as you go through this process and that you have taken a big step toward improving your child’s education.
This post originally appeared on the ThinkTank12 blog.
Teresa Scavulli, Vice President of K12 Academic Services, is a seasoned educator with 25 years of experience focused on academic achievement and helping all students succeed. The last 12 years have been spent serving K12’s network of managed schools and students. Prior to joining K12, Teresa spent 13 years in public education as a teacher, teacher leader in New York, and ultimately as a principal in Fairfax, Virginia, where she served a predominantly diverse urban population.