After the heartbreak of letting the kids go off to school, your parent worry brain will start focusing on new possibilities:
- Will my child like their teacher/s?
- Will the teachers like my kid?
- How is my kid progressing?
- Does s/he like the way the material is being taught?
- Is the teacher going to be sensitive to (fill in the blank):
- Timmy’s allergies,
- Joanie’s shyness,
- Max’s fine motor struggle,
- Sophie’s pushiness is a mask for her anxiety,
- Allegra’s wandering but creative mind
- Heidi’s previous bullying experience
- And always: is there too much homework or is it just my kid?????
YOUR CONCERNS ARE REAL: VOICE THEM!
Most parents have specific concerns about their child. Many parents complain to me that when they voice concerns, they either get no response or vague responses from school administrations.
My advice: Schedule a meeting time (not the standard back to school meetings) to discuss your concerns and ask what can be done? Don’t wait for them to call you.
What happens if you wait? Well, sometimes, teachers do not notify parents in a timely way that they are concerned. Other teachers will voice concerns too early and later, when the child adjusts, the concerns seem to fade. One of the most common issues I hear is that parents learn (too late) by May that their child needs to (fill in the blank): repeat a grade, get tested, have intensive tutoring, is having social problems or they have no idea how to help and s/he can’t come back next year……
HERE IS WHY YOU CAN GET MIXED MESSAGES:
- Schools: Most schools (don’t flame me for this statement) are designed to be efficient conveyor belts of education. In comes a group in September, out they go in June. In-N-Out. The curriculum is devised to meet the mainstream kids. While many schools have resource rooms, learning centers, and social groups, they are usually crowded and not individualized. There are some wonderfully individualized and nurturing schools with small classes and a low ratio of teacher:student but these are rare gems.
- Teachers: Most teachers I know are lovely dedicated people who could easily be doing jobs that are higher paying or easier. They are in the trenches with your kids daily. It’s such a hard job! And unfortunately, your ‘one and only’ is not the teacher’s ‘one and only’. Teachers teach to GROUPS, not individuals. They are also not specifically trained to identify problems, nor are they allowed to suggest diagnoses (as much as they may be tempted to). Also (and here is the biggest one): teachers do not want to scare parents. To suggest that something is problematic about your child creates a situation where they may have to stand by what they said, even when it is just a hunch.
- Principals. Most principals are busy juggling efficiency, friendliness and maintaining a high school standard. They also have a lot of budget responsibilities. Acknowledging that a child has an issue leads to IEP, testing and costly interventions. I understand their reluctance.
COMMON MIXED MESSAGES:
February: (teacher): we are concerned about your child’s level of attention and participation in the class
May: (teacher):everything is fine
Next September: (teacher):didn’t we ask you to have your child tested for attention last year?
November: (teacher) Jonny is not catching on to his academics easily. Let’s wait and see.
February: (teacher) Jonny should maybe get a tutor
May: (Principal): we think jonny needs a different school (too late to apply to other schools!)
September: (parent): I am worried about my child’s anxiety about academics
October: (teacher): everything seems fine
November: (parent): I am still worried and now my child hates school
December: (teacher): let’s wait until after winter break to see where we are at
January: (pediatrician) he looks fine to me, what does his teacher say? (teacher): he is doing fine now
February: (parent:) his grades are terrible and he has stomach aches every morning. How can he be doing fine?
May: (principal and teacher): we think you should have Jonny tested
Parent: I called every neuropsychologist in town and they all have waiting lists of 3 months! Why didn’t you tell me this in the fall?
TRUST YOUR GUT INSTINCT ABOUT YOUR CHILD. HAVE YOUR CHILD TESTED WHEN YOU ARE WORRIED. MIXED MESSAGES OR TOO LATE MESSAGES ARE COMMON FROM EVEN THE BEST SCHOOLS. GET YOUR CHILD CHECKED OUT AND GET THE HELP THEY NEED.