I spent nearly five years at a nonprofit focused on getting students in and through college. Many of the students we got were not on track to graduate high school when we got them yet we did a great job of getting students caught up and on the right track. I spent much of my time working closely with counselors, parents, and principals to make that happen.
What we wanted to accomplish was passing on a skill set to parents so they could continue the work without us or with their other children that were not in our program. Many of the children I've worked with over the years have been like me, meaning they're parents weren't college graduates. Advocating for your student can be tough when you have your insecurities regarding education. It can be especially tough when you have a valid level of distrust in any education system based on the education or lack there of a parent may have experienced. I found that it was also difficult for parents with degrees to sometimes navigate education on behalf of their children. So here are some questions we used to ask to get what we needed for our students.
Keep in mind this article is a general set of questions that work regardless of the age and grade. It is also for any governance model of school, meaning it works across traditional public schools, charters schools, and private schools. This article doesn't ignore that education systems need to improve. I just personally believe parents should have a full toolkit. Add this to it.
- What's my child's reading level? This is a critical question because many parents think that school grades correspond with reading levels. They often times do not. Personally, I go a bit harder on reading because so many of our kids can't read. Many are multiple years behind reading level yet are getting As and Bs in the subject. So asking the question is important. Apply this question to math as well. Know your child's status, go beyond the letter grade.
When there is a relationship, you're shooting the teacher a text when your son had a rough weekend for reason X. When there is a relationship, the teacher is letting you know when your child has been acting out of character. It's a way to create harmony when things are rocky and for most people, there will be rocky times.
When I was working with my students, I got a host of text messages and emails from teachers and parents about these things, and we were able to work with them at a level 2 rather than a level 10. Relationships matter.
Again, this article is pretty general to reach a large audience. This isn't a political piece. What I'm not here for is to discuss charter vs traditional public. I'm not here to discuss testing. I'm here as an advocate that rolled up those sleeves and helped teachers, kids, and their families get the education and support they needed.
If you need more specific help, comment and I can write a set of suggestions that are more targeted depending on the situation. I'm here to see Black Excellence. Whatever that takes. Feel free to ask more questions firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @ccoleiii.