Monday, September 8, 2014

Does Back-to-School Bring Mixed Emotions? We have tips, resources...

An interesting piece about transitioning back to school written by the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, but many points are applicable to all students. 

education update
As fall approaches and our children settle into school, we know many of our families have mixed emotions about the transition to a new school year.   

You may feel relief that you are entering back into more of a scheduled and routine way of life while, at the same time, you may feel anxiety about the school-year ahead.  

Our children are transitioning into classrooms with new teachers, new classmates, and, for students entering kindergarten, middle school, or high school, they may be entering into entirely new buildings.

This feeling is more poignant for parents of children with special needs. When your child has significant communication and learning needs, the anxiety for parents of your child entering a new grade is felt much more acutely. 

  • Will my child's teacher understand their needs and have patience as we all adjust?
  • Will my child's teacher be supported by the principal as he/she gets to know my student and seeks out resources to support both their instruction and my child?
  • Will the other students make an effort to get to know my child and find out how (insert wonderful quality unique to your child here) they are?

The list of questions parents ask themselves could go on forever. Hopefully, by mid-September, you'll be able to look back and say, "Why was I so worried?"

In the meantime, it's that time of year for the MDSC to share again some "back to school" tips for parents based on the many September transitions that I experienced as a teacher. Hopefully these tips and resources will get you to the middle of September with a little less stress than before!


For teachers, the start of the year is crazy...
This is important for parents to know.  Both right before, and at the very beginning, teachers are working non-stop to prepare for the upcoming year. Many school systems only pay teachers for one day before the start of school, but it's important to know that most teachers have put in multiple hours over the summer to prepare. Despite hours of prep, there are always unanticipated issues at the beginning of the school year and it is impossible for teachers to juggle it all without something getting put on the back burner. So, keeping that in mind, if initial efforts at communication within the first couple of days are not immediately returned, don't let it put you off.  It is likely that your teachers have a very full plate and are not intentionally avoiding you.  Give it a couple of days, and if you don't hear anything, try again.  Odds are your teacher will appreciate a second chance.

Be transparent about the type of information you are looking for...
Teachers appreciate parents being real and transparent about the specific information that they are looking for.  If you would like a copy of your child's push in/pull out/specialists schedule, go right ahead and ask for it.  Know that the information may not be readily available, but put it out there.   It's ok to even ask for a rough timeline about when you can expect it. This is an honest question and it's ok to seek out information that will let you know when you can expect your child's year-long schedule to be implemented.

Be flexible about how you get the information...
Email, handwritten note, phone call...all of these represent "preferred" types of communication of teachers, depending upon their communication style. Some teachers make all their phone calls at 3 pm, where others are late night e-mailers. A few die-hards still others jot down handwritten notes to parents while the students are at gym or art.   If teachers are able to communicate in the manner in which they find most comfortable, odds are you will receive a response quicker. 

Be honest and up front about questions or concerns you have...
Make sure you let your teachers know right away if there is something going on that you are feeling uncomfortable with. Bringing these things up in an honest, non-confrontational way is the quickest way to resolve the issue, and let the teacher know that the relationship that you are trying to develop is one of trust, not one of suspicion.  

Share info from home that could support your child in the classroom...
It was a rough night. Your student is coming down with a cold.  Mom or Dad is traveling.  Getting out the door was hard this morning. All of these things affect your child, and giving your teachers the "heads-up" about these things can go a long way in supporting your child with having a successful day. When teachers know and understand that there may be some precipitating factors that could affect how your child may be able to "process" the many demands of the day, teachers will be able to appropriately plan for and respond to your child.

Stay connected to the MDSC...
We, here at the MDSC, want you to know that we want to continue to support you as you transition back to school. We are looking forward to continuing our webinar series and we are excited to meet with families from all over Massachusetts at our Regional Educational Workshop series. Following this letter, read on to find out all the different ways that you can stay connected to the MDSC and access resources and programs that may be supportive to your families.

We encourage families to reach out to us when you have questions or need advice throughout the school year. We will do everything we can do to connect you with resources to support you as you face challenges while navigating the ever-complex job of advocating for your child. 

Please feel free to call or email me at 781-221-0024 (x301) or any time you have education related questions. 

Wishing you all the best as you get through these next few critical weeks of school transition.

Best Regards,

Mo Blazejewski
MDSC Education Director

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