When trying to figure out life’s mysteries, often we come to the conclusion there are five basic questions to ask: Who, When, What, How, & Why?
However, in matters such as your child’s education and advocacy, the most important question is found within why?
Why access an Advocate when you are faced with decisions such as an Evaluation, an IEP, a 504 Plan, Gifted Education, or other critical decisions impacting your child’s education?
And the answer is quite simple: Because you are likely to be:
b. Out of your league
c. Out to get revenge
And none of these positions will serve you or your child’s education best. Here’s why:
Outnumbered: When a parent walks into a meeting beyond the standard “Parent Conference”, there will usually be a ratio of 3:1. where it can feel like “them versus us”. And in matters where your child is highly inconvenient, with behavior at the core of the dicussion, you can be easily be outnumbered 5, 7, 8 or more to 1. This is due to a number of reasons including the fact that state and federal guidelines require certain staff members to be in attendance when the meetings take on a formal process like 504 Planning, IEPs, or Evaluations. However, when there is already an established “agenda” or a specific outcome that the school sees “in your child’s best interest”, sometimes the deck is stacked and a parent may feel totally outnumbered.
An effective Education Advocate on your side will level the field when it comes to the numbers game.
Out of your league: First off, most parents don’t realize that the school climate is founded upon a very tight culture; one that often feels unfamiliar to outsiders even though all of us have been in school in some form or another during our lives. The nature of this culture creates an insiders (teachers and principals) and outsiders (everyone else) dynamic in most situations. As a result, you are already set up as one who is out of your league.
Then, there’s the whole education jargon thing, where teachers and staff easily move into “School Talk” with references to phrases that have no meaning outside of school: “Common Core”, “Push-In”, “Title”, “ESY”, “PBIS”, “RTI” and the list goes on. Also, there’s a common understanding amongst educators that “We know what’s in your child’s best interest” when it comes to education decision making. I see this often, and it plays out very clearly when outside consultants are invited to important meetings such as Clinical Psychologists, Physicians, or Specialists. Though the intent is to share insights and clinical perspectives with the instructional team. However, in many situations, adminstrators and directors often deflect their expertise by stating, “You just don’t know the classroom and the demands of teaching and learning”.
And finally, when we address complex issues such as behavior intervention, curriculum, instruction, state & federal laws and guidelines, and school policies, most parents do not know everything required to engage in the conversation as an equal, a true partner. Finally, even if you did have an extraordinary band-width within your educational toolkit, you likely are bringing to the table a set of emotions that might not be working in your favor when you are called upon to be a part of a very quick, fast-paced decision process.
For most of us, who walk the parent path, we often carry a slight chip on our shoulders that sounds like: “I could be doing more” or “I am responsible for everything my son or daughter does”. Both are heavy burdons to carry in these meetings. Having an effective Education Advocate on your side can carry so much of the load, and help you navigate the process with one purpose in mind; so you can focus on your child for no one in the room knows your child best! And you can leave the other areas of concern in the hands of an advocate.
When you have an accomplished advocate working on your behalf, you will immediately notice your concerns are being heard, your questions are being addressed, and your action plan at the end of each meeting will be followed.
Out for revenge: As stated, sometimes our emotions can get the worst of us. This is most evident when one walks into the advocacy path with an axe to grind. There’s nothing that creates an adversarial relationship more than when someone enters the room with the agenda to teach someone a lesson. Whether you feel wronged, cheated, lied to, or have deep-seeded hurt from the past, due to your child’s or your own personal educational experience, the desire to get revenge serves little purpose in these meetings. In fact, fear, worry, loss, anger, and grief, which are all part of the human experience, do not serve as the best fundamental talking points when navigating the intervention process with school personnel. It puts people in a defensive posture from the get-go and it oftens takes time for the team to work through the issues which divide us rather than create a platform which brings stakeholders together.
My primary role as an Education Advocate is to create MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING across the table; this allows us to move forward. Successfully.
For more information, please give us a call.