Step 6 - SETTLE IN: Page 4

Tuesday
Jul132010

When Problems Arise

This page covers:

  • First steps to take if you start to see some things missing in your child’s education
  • Steps you can take if you notice some school-wide issues
  • How to lodge a formal complaint with more challenging issues

So you are settled in and things are going along just fine, but maybe some frustrations are mounting.  It turns out that this school (like all other schools) does not have it all!  So what can you do about it?  What are your rights as a parent?

Fill a Gap

Perhaps several weeks or months in, you see a gap in some part of your child’s education.  Maybe he or she is not being challenged enough in math, or there is a deficit of art instruction.  How do you attempt to fill the gap?

If the gap is something that’s only affecting your child, start by consulting with your child’s teacher.  Ask for a meeting after school and explain your concern. While teachers might be on guard for “helicopter parents” (those that constantly hover…) chances are they will be receptive to you. Ask for ideas on how you can support your child at home, be it with academics or behavioral stuff.  Maybe you and the teacher will brainstorm on a solution for how things could be shifted at school. Either way, hopefully you’ll find a way to improve the situation.

Some gaps, however, are more of a school-wide issue. It could be that you discover a lack of behavioral skills being taught, or the lunch program is downright unhealthy.  Whatever it is, you don’t have to settle for less, but it might mean you have to give more – energy, that is. It is possible to make school-wide (and systemic too!) changes, and that usually involves drumming up a cohort of other parents to join you in taking on the cause.  We encourage you to bring out your inner activist!

Lodge a Complaint and Try to Find a Solution 

Some problems are more severe – whether real or perceived.  Maybe your child keeps telling you stories about being bullied.  Or maybe it’s some other equally disturbing issue.  One option of course is to keep the faith and wait out a problem.  Sometimes glitches are short-lived and worth giving some time.  And battles, after all, need to be picked.  But waiting doesn’t always fix the problem, and some things clearly need to be addressed.  How best to proceed? 

  • Start with the teacher.  You can approach him or her spontaneously before or after school, or send an email explaining what’s bothering you and asking for a meeting to discuss it.  (The advantage of the latter being that you have started a paper trail that might help you down the road if the conversation needs to be widened to others, or if you end up petitioning to change schools.)
  • Give the teacher the benefit of the doubt.  Lay out the extent of your concern, leaving plenty of room for a reasonable explanation and a tangible solution.  The big guns can always come out later.
  • If the problem shows little improvement or you do not get a sympathetic ear from the teacher, you can raise the issue to the principal.  Send an email to the principal and the teacher, referencing the meeting you already had, and ask for a meeting with them both to further discuss the issue.
  • If that meeting does not result in a solution to the problem, you can email the superintendent and ask for a meeting with her.  (Remember, that paper trail could become important.)
Hopefully you won’t be spending much time at all dealing with issues at your school.  But get your head around the fact that you are your child’s best advocate.  This is especially a reminder to those of us who loathe confrontation.  And as for problems that don’t necessarily require confrontation, but rather some academic supplementation, read on to the next section…

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