The first day of senior kindergarten is in the can and we are looking ahead to the new school year with cautious optimism.
T got a fresh haircut from the hubby last night, went to bed early, got 10.5 hours sleep and woke up rather pleasant.
We are thankful to be starting in a very good place this year. He has a supportive principal who advocated for and hired a child and youth worker who’ll work one-on-one with T in the class. The school, including his amazing teacher from last year, also gets and supports his needs.
The drop off today was good. We met his teacher and the child and youth worker – who spoke us with on the phone last Friday. His principal was also at the greeting line.
Everyone had masks on and class start dates are being staggered throughout this week. I feel he is in good and safe hands.
Teachers and educators play an important role in influencing a child’s growth in and enjoyment of school.
T has struggled with hyperactivity and focus since his preschool days and while he’s made gains, it’s an area that continues to present challenges.
Educators are important allies in a child’s development.
Generally, I’d say – and based on anecdotal evidence from other parents on virtual forums – FASD is not a condition many teachers know about nor understand.
As such, parents play an important role in working with educators to raise awareness to maximize the child and the educator’s success in the classroom.
I’m by no means an expert in parent-teacher relations, as I’m so new at this, but here are a few lessons I’ve learned the last three years.
Teachers want to do their best to support your child – I don’t think any professional wants to do a bad job. It’s tempting for me to go into a new relationship with boxing gloves on, ready to go to war for T. But I try to start with a blank slate, an open mind, and cautious optimism.
Take the teacher’s lead… – During our call with T’s teachers on Friday, I listened to their thoughts and answered their questions. I resisted the urge to dump all of this advice on them. No one likes unsolicited advice nor know-it-alls who think they can do their job. I will see how the first few weeks go and I want the teachers to form their own opinions of T – strengths and weaknesses – and then regroup to see how it’s going and strategize together to address issues.
… But be upfront about the challenges … – Since our negative experience with T’s preschool Montessori, we’ve been upfront with teachers and schools about T’s prognosis of at-risk FASD. It gives them an idea of what to expect and an understanding of the challenges they may face.
… Be open to critical feedback – We’ve always told teachers they can be honest with us and not worry about sugarcoating things nor offending us. We can and we need to take the honest feedback.
… And provide resources and supports when required – Most special needs parents – us included! – will likely tell you they have binders full of articles and resources at the ready to share. It’s good to be prepared should teachers ask questions. For example, I find this video below by FASD expert Dan Dubovsky so helpful to share with educators to give them an understanding about working with students with FASD.
Know When to Advocate and Push Back … – I’m all about working cooperatively and respectfully with educators. But I realize there are situations where parents need to stand up and speak their mind, to question decisions, and to demand a different approach to supporting their special needs child. This may include requesting an IEP or related accommodations. This is not the first step I’d like to take in any relationship but I know this is always a possibility. But let’s hope not!
… and Draw on Community Supports – We are very lucky to have a superb team of community supports for T, including a special needs resource consultant that works with him in his after school program and a behaviour therapist who’s made herself available to provide recommendations to T’s teachers and us. And we’ve been so lucky to have a principal and teacher team who’ve been open and receptive to getting this feedback.
It’s a true collaboration – A parent knows their child best and a teacher knows their classroom best. Working together, I think, is the best way to maximize the success of the child – special needs or not. I try to be mindful of this when I’m navigating any relationship, whether with an educator or not. Know when to lead and when to step back. And hope the personalities work well together!
It’s tradition for me to take the first day of school off work to be on standby for issues.
Other than doing a bit of work in the morning after drop off, I took it fairly easy today.
At the end of the school day, I drove by the school to make sure T got on the bus to his after school program ok. Buses are always wonky on the first day, so we’re better safe than sorry.
I ran into his child youth worker, who said that he had a good first day. I felt great hearing that.
Then I told her I was going to hide in the distance so he doesn’t see me.
I stood behind a school fence and watched him walk out, with his fall jacket and backpack on, following his child and youth worker onto a bus.
It still blows my mind sometimes thinking that T has his own little life during the day.
When he boarded the bus, I got into the car and drove home to enjoy what’s left of my day off.
At a red light, I watched an elderly woman walk across the street with a young boy in her hands and I smiled and waved at them.