Advocate-noun. One that supports or promotes the interests of another.
Last night we had a big reminder. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know. As the school year progresses, we have to continue to remind ourselves that, typically, people don’t want to hurt or cause harm to others. Oh sure, when sitting in meetings, we sometimes run across those who are stubborn or can only think one way about a situation. However, we have found that their intent is not to cause harm to our children. All of our actions and reactions are based on the story we tell ourselves about any given situation. Often times when others know our story and we try to understand their stories, our perspective shifts and we are able to compromise more easily.
Holding true to our mission, we view advocacy as helping the child. Through that, we work on listening to both sides at meetings and bridging the gap between the school and the parent. The focus remains on what is in the child’s best interest with what their current needs are.
Our hope is that school staff can see how lonely and overwhelming this process is for parents. Without meaning to, most schools have set up a us vs. you scenario. Teachers and administrators, when a parent walks in the door, welcome them. Invite them to sit next to you. Offer a hug or word of encouragement. During the meeting, be mindful of how you speak to the parents. Be careful not to talk down to or over their heads.Parents are the people on your team who have the most information about this child. If you feel you are becoming defensive, ask yourself why.
Our hope for the parent is they come in the meeting with an open heart. The teachers sitting around this table typically have worked with many different types of students. They have experience and knowledge of what’s typical at this developmental age and what is not. They know who your child is at school and in class in a way we, as parents can’t know. Honor their thoughts and feelings. Honor their expertise. When you begin to feel defensive, ask yourself why.
When feeling defensive, going back to what matters is important and that is the needs of the child. Not our adult agendas and stories. Putting those aside, we can focus on trying to see and understand the child’s story, their learning difficulties in school, and what he/she needs to “level the playing field” at school to have more successes. There is always a uniqueness about every child that needs to be celebrated and honored. We all need to be the village surrounding the child.
Wendy and Christina