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The Parent-Teacher Team: Dealing with Difficult Situations

post-secondary-education-man-and-woman-at-deskWhen working with your child’s teachers to assure that your child gets everything he or she needs to be successful in school, you’re bound to run into obstacles. First, your child with learning disabilities (LD) is likely to have more than one teacher, and sometimes that fact alone can cause some challenges. Students with LD may be with a general education teacher part-time and a special education teacher part-time, they could be receiving most of their services and support in a general education classroom with occasional help from a special education teacher, or they could be with a special education teacher on a full-time basis. Before you lose your cool with any one of the teachers, remind yourself that you’re working as a team. And as with any team, you’ll achieve your goal quicker and easier if you work together rather than against one another. 

Here are some tips on how to work through the difficult times positively. Together, you and your child’s teachers can see past the struggle to the bright light at the end of the path – your child’s success. 

Trust that your child’s teachers are capable of doing their jobs well.In order to form a cohesive partnership with your child’s teachers, you have to have faith in their abilities. Be fair with the teachers, and assume the best before thinking the worst.

You should trust your teachers to separate the behavior from the child, and you should make sure to get a teacher's side of the story before getting upset about something your child tells you. Be open and listen to the teacher's perspective, recognizing that there will be differences between what you see at home and what a teacher sees at school. 

Communicate with your child’s teachers openly and respectfully.Just as you learned when you were in school, you should always treat your child’s teachers as you would like to be treated -- as someone with something valuable to contribute to your child's education.

When approaching potential conflicts, use "I" statements, such as "I'm concerned...," "I may have misunderstood, but...," "I'm wondering if we could find a way to...," and keep in mind that everyone hears things differently. Try rewording requests when they haven't been heard. Don't be afraid to admit your mistakes in communicating, and the teacher is likely to react in kind. 

Have patience when discussing difficult situations with your child’s teachers. 
Try to respond, not react -- count to ten and breathe. The calmer you are in frustrating situations, the more reasonable your approach will be if you need to address a problem. Don't always assume that any account of a conflict or event is 100 percent accurate.  Take time to listen to the teacher, and give all parties a chance to share their version of events before reacting.

Be supportive. Be supportive when a teacher is facing struggles with your child, even if the situations seem trivial when compared to your struggles at home. You can help the teacher cope with situations that are familiar to you – because you’ve raised your child for years – but that may be unfamiliar to him or her – because they don’t have that same history with your child. 

Show a united front to the district special education and administrative staff. They need to know you support your child's teachers. Support goes both ways -- when you need the teachers' help, they will be more willing to step up to the challenge if you have worked them along the way in the spirit of partnership. 

Get involved at a higher level.Take the lead in making sure special education gets the support it needs to continue to be effective! Go to school board meetings and learn what's going on with funding and budgets. 

Although we’d like to think that we can “do it all alone,” parents must work with a whole network of teachers, administrators, and other school personnel throughout their child’s education. With the right mindset and a clear view of the goal ahead, every parent can move forward with a support team, rather than a long list of opponents in the struggle for success.