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We’re a team: How to advocate for your child

Talk with your child’s teacher about their unique needs

By Wendy Carter, Third Grade Teacher

A teacher talks with an elementary school student.

Teachers understand that many children come to school with complicated issues and background stories. It’s helpful for me to know at least some of your child’s story if there are specific ways I can help.

For example:

  • I had a student who struggled with complex health issues that required a special diet. His mother kept me posted on what his doctors were saying so I could watch for side effects of his diet or medication.

  • I had a student from Africa who had recently been adopted. He not only had memories of his family and homeland, but he was still adjusting to his new family and a new culture.  

  • I’ve had internationally adopted children who were still learning English and struggled with reading and writing.

  • I’ve had students who didn’t receive proper care or nutrition in their first years of life and struggled with learning disabilities.

  • By third grade, many children begin to feel insecure about being or looking different. Adding a layer of trauma or attachment difficulty to those insecurities can sometimes lead to or magnify behavior issues.

There can be many issues at play in the classroom for children who were adopted or are in foster care. It’s important for parents and teachers to communicate.

I schedule a meeting with foster and adoptive parents at the beginning of the year so I can learn how detailed or complicated their child’s needs may be. As the year progresses, as specific issues arise, I ask parents to simply keep those lines of communication open with a face-to-face meeting, phone call, or email.

Remember that your child’s teacher is a professional. Try not to approach the teacher with a mindset of “let me tell you what to do with my child,” but rather with a collaborative mindset. I tell parents we’re a team, and we both have your child’s best interest in mind.

This post originally appeared in the summer 2015 LifeLines magazine.

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