Start with understanding how the school prefers to communicate with parents. Does the school have a website, newsletter, online portal, or phone message system? That is a good indication that the method for distributing information is the same way the school prefers to receive communication. Having a paper trail is always important. Document and keep everything. I would suggest a binder and electronic folders for emails to stay organized. If you have a spoken conversation, or meeting simply jot down and date the notes of what was discussed, etc. and keep that too. Email communication is quick and easy, but keep in mind that the message may be misinterpreted. It’s always a good measure to follow up with face to face communication to make sure everyone involved is on the same page.
Knowing who to communicate with is also key. Get to know the job roles of the school staff. Introduce yourself and find out who to speak to regarding specific issues. Stay in touch with the staff and personnel. Although this may seem obvious, it is important that you have established a home and school open door of communication. If your child has had a rough morning, send a quick note to let the teacher know. Sometimes, being prepared for a potential problem can help extinguish it quickly and give your child the best opportunity to turn her day around. Always stay constructive. You do not have to agree with the approach the school takes, but try and work from the assumption that the school is trying to support your child. Share information you feel comfortable with sharing. Give feedback when you think things are going well. Everyone needs a little encouragement from time to time. Offer ideas of what you do to help support your child at home that could benefit the school personnel as well. You know how to extinguish a melt down quickly, explain what works at home. Be an active presence at school. It’s ok if you are a working parent and cannot be at the school all the time, but try and be present at school events, etc.
What do you do when communication goes wrong?
When emotions run hot, it can be difficult to communicate your child’s needs to the school staff, but finding ways to have a good working relationship between home and school is important and one of the best ways to make sure your child gets the most from school. Start with giving yourself some time to respond. A cooling off period may be necessary so you do not speak with emotion but come from a place of fact and reason. Request a conference or meeting to speak with the school personnel about the issue. Try to not escalate an issue prematurely. Always start speaking with the direct person and see what kind of resolution you and that staff member come to before taking it up the ranks. Schools should include parents in the planning and reviewing of their child’s needs. Fostering a good relationship between home and school support is necessary. Finally, do not lose focus on what you are doing. At the end of the day, no matter what has taken place, you are the voice of your child. You are a parent who loves your child and wants your child to be given the best opportunity at a fulfilling life. This road may be filled with bumps and detours but make sure it is filled with love and smiles along the way too. Breathe, and remind yourself what you are advocating for—your child!
The better you are able to effectively communicate about your child, the greater the chances you will leave ARD meetings with peace and knowledge of all parties working toward helping your child.