How Can I Become a Parent Advocate?

By Cheryl Kirk

It’s no secret, that as parents, we are our children’s biggest and best advocates. The phrase parent advocate can be a bit overwhelming for parents. We have so many things to do and places to be, it’s easy to think we can’t be PTA president or room mom, but there are so many ways to advocate for your child.

My youngest son has struggled with his transition from elementary school to intermediate school this year. I have to be my son’s advocate. He has always performed well in school and it has been frustrating for my son and myself. Homework time went from being short and sweet to a several hour process. He was losing assignments and not arriving to class prepared. He was for the first time struggling to pass tests although I knew he knew the information. It wasn’t long before I realized that punishing him wasn’t the complete answer to this situation. It was obvious he was frustrated with himself.

I have had a lot of correspondence with his teachers. It was my job to make it clear to his teachers who were just getting to know him this is new for him, and not his normal. Most of his teachers have been great in helping my 5th grader adjust. He was in fact diagnosed with ADHD. Slowly through trial and error, we are finding the best plan for him and he is showing improvement.

Below are some suggestions regarding how a parent can navigate being a parent advocate:

Develop Relationships

Technology makes this one a little easier than it used to be. Most teachers have an email they check frequently. Send an email once a month just to check in. Always ask if there is anything your child can work on and remember to thank teachers for their help. If email is not an option, an old fashion phone call will do the trick.

Keep Track of Your Child’s Progress

I have access to my children’s grades via the internet and I check them weekly. If you don’t have internet access to grades, progress reports are a good time to assess your child’s progress and contact teachers if grades are not your child’s best.

Ask for Help

If you suspect your child is having a problem, talk with your child’s teacher. If you still have concerns speak with the principal. Don’t hesitate to look for advice outside the school system if you don’t feel like you received the answers or help you need for your child.

Be Persistent

Let’s face it teachers and faculty are busy. They have a lot of children and families to deal with. Sometimes that email or call will ensure your child doesn’t fall to the bottom of the pile. Request a meeting with your child’s teacher. You don’t have to wait for report card or parent-teacher conferences time.

Remember being a parent advocate can just mean being proactive in your child’s education. It’s parents working with teachers to make sure children are receiving everything they need to be successful.

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