Now that the first semester grades have arrived home, are they what you expected from your child? If not, it is time to find some answers. What you can not do, is sit back and wait for things to improve. Although this article was published at an earlier date, I believe it to be timely. If you have not before, become your child’s advocate. First determine what is wrong. Are your goals wrong? Does your child understand the material? Is homework, or lack of it a problem? What exactly is going on? These questions are good starts, but before you do anything, you need information. You need a parent teacher conference and I’m not talking about the mere fifteen minuets assigned to you at parent teacher conference nights.

The first thing to do is request a conference, in writing. A simple dated sheet of paper asking for a conference to discuss your child’s grades (progress), sometime during the following few days (no longer than a week). Ask your child what he/she thinks the problem might be. Listen, do not judge, simply write the impressions of your child down, to use along with the teacher’s responses, when deciding your next step. Remember, this is not about “blaming”, it is about “helping”, so don’t be drawn into a battle with your child or the teacher. In your teacher conference, tell the teacher you want to help your child and need his/her assistance. Have your questions prepared and written down. Literally, read the questions and write or tape the responses (tell the teacher you will be taping, in order to remember all information offered). You should ask for a copy of all grades, and discuss them during the meeting. Is the problem test scores, daily tests, classroom participation, class assignment content or missed homework? Ask to see work samples, if your child does not bring work home on a regular basis. Ask that the teacher keep you informed on a weekly bases, how your child is doing. Set up a communication system to help with homework and assignments. Ask about distractions in the classroom, and ask the teacher what her professional opinion is, for the problems. Listen and devise a plan. Watch out for your motherly instinct to protect her cub, your goal is to help your child, so make a friend of the teacher.

After collecting information from all sources, you should clearly evaluate it, to determine your next step. Do not become angry at your child, as it will only serve to expand the problem. Help your child set goals, to gain outcomes that are acceptable to you as a parent. Hopefully, you will be armed with a plan developed by you and the teacher, but if not, develop a plan with your child. Follow the plan during the next grading period, giving full attention to your goals. Keep all school papers during this time, along with a running list of grades. Average the grades weekly to show your child what he/she is making, and what needs to be done, to reach the grade goal set by parent, child and teacher. Don’t hesitate to ask the teacher if extra credit can be earned through extra work or projects.

If, after the next grading period there is no improvement, meet again with the teacher to determine the next step in helping your child. Reevaluate the plan and make adjustments as needed, and/or request testing, in writing, to determine if a learning disability might be present.

You are the best advocate your child can have. It is never too late to start advocating for his/her education.

Source: Linda G. Swann, M.S. Early Childhood / SPED