Advocacy in Schools: How to be an advocate with our kids

Date: November 14, 2016 Author: Communications Coordinator Categories: Adoption Awareness Month | Guest Blogger | Parent Perspective | Special Needs | default-import-blog-type-6
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By Angela Krueger, Adoptive Parent, PRIDE Trainer and Parenting Educator

Young girl wearing a backpack, holding hands with a male figure at the front door of her schoolEvery Fall I face the new school year with almost the same amount of anxiety and excitement as my kids, anticipating meeting new challenges and working with a different team of educators.  As my kids are now two months into grades eight and five, the excitement has waned and now I’m encountering the same educational challenges we face every year – mainstream education doesn’t fit most of our kids, adopted or not.

From the beginning of our experience of school, I have found that my kids like to have a say as to how we talk about their adoptions and needs with teachers.  This year is no exception.  But things have also changed.

In the past, my kids were always willing to have me talk to their teachers about various strategies, and they also wanted to be part of the meeting.  It was good to have them there, as it reminded me to use positive adoption language and to focus on the strengths as well as the challenges.  For the most part, our meetings worked, and the teacher gained a better understanding of school through my child’s eyes and my kids felt like everyone was on the same team.  As a family that focuses more on working with the teacher without the assistance of learning plans or assessments, these meetings were really helpful in us coming to an informal plan that was flexible to meet everyone’s needs.

Now my kids don’t want to go to these meetings.  I still have their permission to talk about their early histories with their teachers, and they want me to.  I need to figure out a way to still be an advocate with my kids, even though they are not physically in the room for the meeting.  Here is my game plan:

  • Wait a few weeks before going in to meet with the teacher; I believe my kids need to have a chance to make their own strategies for a new relationship with a teacher, and they also have to gauge whether they want to trust this new teacher with their adoption story.
  • Wait until a test or assignment has come up that causes concern for parents and teachers alike. This gives something concrete to talk about and evidence of the challenges experienced.
  • Talk to kids in advance of meeting to find out the successes and struggles so far. Check in to make sure that what we assume as parents is actually true for our kids.  For example, it never  occurred to me that my child doesn’t participate in class discussions because it takes her longer to remember the information of what is being talked about and by the time she remembers, they have moved on to a new topic.  I asked her if this was a possibility for her and she said it was – I’ve always assumed her reluctance to participate was because she was shy.
  • Make an agenda of what to talk about with the teacher together. This ensures that my child knows what I’ll be saying, and I have her okay to do so.  It also makes sure that my child is aware of her own challenges and strengths before someone outside the family is.  This helps her feel empowered rather than lost.
  • Ask my child for strategies that she thinks might work at school. Despite many families having great strategies from professionals, our kids need to have a say in what works for them. 
  • Debrief after the meeting, sharing what was discussed. Talk about what the teacher said and offer to go in to the class again in a few weeks if needed. More importantly, come up with a plan of how they can ask the teacher for what they need as well.  Kids need to know that this is ongoing support, not a one-time Band-Aid fix.

Finally, I want to make sure that both my child and her teacher know the goal of meeting.  Success is defined on an individual basis, and for our family, success is not about passing a math test, or getting a certain grade.  It’s about us helping a child grow into a nice human being who is interested in the world around her.  With this goal in mind, I can’t advocate for my child, but I can certainly advocate with her, and in doing so, show her that I can’t fix the world for her, but I can still help her feel safe and confident in experiencing it.

Angela KruegerAbout Angela Krueger

When not reading articles and books about raising nice human beings, Angela Krueger writes and talks about adoption parenting as a PRIDE Trainer, Parent Facilitator and freelance writer in Ontario.

Connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

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