I don’t know about you but when my first kid started school, I would still get those same feelings about talking to the principal that I got when my mom had me called up to the front office in 6th grade for sneaking out the door wearing her high heel Candies to school so I could look just as cool as Chris Johnson. Some feelings just stay with you like that. I was raised to say yes ma’am and no sir and respect those in authority. That is how I raised all 4 of my kids. Over the last 3 years, I have found myself rewiring my kids to question authority. I have found myself writing emails to teachers, principals, and superintendents that seem to resemble more of an amicus brief as a result of the more serious issues that have emerged in my kids’ classrooms over the last few years ranging from a teacher’s viewpoint on discrimination over a prolife paper to another teacher telling my then middle schooler that BLM is misunderstood and singling him out for his Microsoft Teams Profile of his favorite president. At the end of the day, my job as a parent is to ensure my kids in K-12 and college understand their First Amendment rights and they are empowered to defend them, respectfully of course.
CONFRONT THE ISSUE:
Emailing can be extremely effective and often should be your first tool to utilize.
Start with an email to your child’s teacher. Begin with a positive comment about the class or teacher.
- Define the issue in simple terms, keeping it brief and to the point.
- Stick to the facts and leave out EMOTION. Emotion clouds judgment.
- Include how you want the issue RESOLVED (always try to provide a solution).
- Thank the teacher for their time and always end with ‘I look forward to your response. (This will communicate that you expect a reply.)
- If you are SATISFIED with the teacher’s response to your email, thank the teacher and celebrate progress.
- If you are UNSATISFIED with the teacher’s response, thank the teacher for her reply and let her know you are escalating the issue.
- Arguing with the teacher via email is NOT RECOMMENDED. Most likely the teacher will stick to her position and so will you.
ESCALATE TO THE PRINCIPAL
- Briefly & politely describe the issue and your dissatisfaction with the teacher’s response.
- Include how you want the issue RESOLVED. (Always try to provide a solution.)
- Stick to the FACTS and leave out EMOTION.
- Forwarding the teacher’s email chain is NOT RECOMMENDED.
- If you are SATISFIED with the principal’s response to your email, thank the principal and celebrate progress.
- If you are UNSATISFIED with the principal’s response, thank them for the reply and inform the principal you are escalating the issue.
- Do NOT apologize for escalating the issue, it is your RIGHT as a parent.
- Many times principals will stand with their teachers, so be prepared to escalate the issue.
ESCALATE THE ISSUE
- Depending on your district, this will probably be the District Superintendent or Board of Education Representative. (not the County Superintendent)
- Briefly & politely describe the issue and your dissatisfaction with the principal’s response.
- Include how you want the issue RESOLVED and state you are looking forward to their reply.
- It is not recommended to include the teacher/principal email chain.
- If your issue is not resolved at the District Superintendent’s level, Take the same approach and escalate to the County Superintendent but COPY your District Superintendent AND your District Board of Education Representative.
Unless you have had to fight for special accommodations in school due to a disability or diagnosis, you probably haven’t had too many reasons before COVID-19 to raise too many serious concerns with teachers and school officials. Now that the veil has been lifted (thank you to COVID-19), parents and guardians need to understand how to effectively engage on behalf of their children with schools. Maybe it was a lack of courage or lack of knowledge, but I missed a few important opportunities to speak up on behalf of one of my kids who had a disability and I will never let that happen again. Learning how to communicate effectively can be very empowering.
Take it one step further and use it as a teaching tool for your children. Covid may have provided us with a hidden blessing to ensure our children learn how to stand up for their freedoms.