Parent Advocacy: Talking with School Personnel
Foreign Service children move with their families every two, three, or four years. They change schools, they make new friends, keep some of their old friends, and lose touch with others. They experience foreign cultures, learn foreign languages, and cope with transitions. Parents, while guiding children through each phase of this mobile lifestyle, need to be strong advocates for their children with school administrators, teachers, and other adults involved in their education.
Talking to Teachers: When and What
As for any new student, the first day of school and first impressions can have a significant impact on their attitude toward their new circumstances. Here are some tips about whento talk to teachers and what to talk about to make that first impression and the rest of the school year positive for both your child and your child's teachers.
- Ask if the teacher can find a "buddy" for the student to help them learn the ropes. It doesn't matter if the child is six or sixteen; no one wants to feel alone, especially during a transition.
- Ask the teacher if it is possible to give your child seating toward the front of the room. When they are new, this helps them feel more a part of the group instead of marginalized toward the back of the room.
- If the child is returning to the area and has previously attended a school, ask if the child can be placed in a class with a previous friend. This could be extremely beneficial.
- Tell the teacher about your child. Provide the teacher with information about the child's background and prior experiences. Teachers will hopefully note that Foreign Service children and the experiences they have to tell serve to enrich classroom instruction. One student wrote that she was watching "Lawrence of Arabia" as part of her World Geography class, and saw the scene where the army raced its camels across the desert for a prolonged period of time. Having lived and camped in the remote deserts of Arabia, this student knew a thing or two about camels and wanted to interject that if they didn't slow down, both the army and the camels would die! This presented an opportunity for the teacher to draw out such information and allow the student to validate her experience.
- Parents and teachers need to communicate any concerns they may have, in a timely way, and carefully watch for signs of stress or falling school performance. Don't wait for a normally scheduled school conference. It is critical for parents and professionals to share information sooner rather than later.
- Tell the teacher that your child has come from an American-International school overseas and may be unfamiliar with the new testing culture that is becoming a part of stateside American schools. They may be unfamiliar with testing procedures and strategies.
- Ask the teacher to communicate any signs of stress that the child may exhibit.
- Establish a rapport with the teacher so that you have frequent and productive communication to support the child's transition.
Information provided by the Family Liaison Office
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