The school year has begun anew, and as you're getting to know the children on your caseload, it's essential to build relationships with their parents and their general education teachers.
Parents Should Be your Friends
The beginning of the school year is a great time to contact the parents of the children on your caseload. You might consider this as "creating a baseline" for your relationship. Some helpful guidelines:
- Check your attitude at the door. Parents are not the enemy. They are anxious about their children, they may be stressed by first hearing about their child's diagnosis, and if they share their child's disability (ADD, perhaps, or SLD) their own memories of school and authorities might be pretty bad. Still, they are their own child's best advocate.
- Let parents share their insights about their child. Be sure to find out what their child likes, as his or her favorite things will provide you with powerful motivators. If the child loves the local NFL football team, stickers or wristbands with their logo will get them fired up.
- Find out what the parents want to know about you.
- Find out what the parents need to know about the IEP process and their rights.
- Let them know how you prefer to be contacted, by phone or email, and find out how they prefer to be contacted.
- Tell them something you like about their child. If you can't think of anything stretch the truth: perhaps "I look forward to seeing Johnny tomorrow."
Teachers Are Your Partners
Even though inclusion is supposed to be the "default" setting for children with IEPs, a lot of schools are slow in moving in that direction. Still, when the child goes back to their classroom, their general education classroom teacher may not be prepared to deal with the challenges that child presents. Suggestions for building successful partnerships:
- In pull out programs, the first challenge is to schedule when the children will come to you. Try to accommodate the general ed teacher's needs, and listen to his or her concerns.
- Be sure to get a copy of the IEP to the teacher early, and be sure to go over the Specially Designed Instruction with the teacher, so he or she knows what is legally required of them. Try to be pleasant but direct. Let them know that "But I don't do that" may cause them problems in the future.
- Check in frequently, in person or by email, to offer help with any challenges they are meeting with the child.
- Say thank you. A lot.
Hopefully your new partners will help you and their children have a great year.