15 Ways to Build Bridges with School Staff

Developing a strong, positive relationship

You and your child's school staff form an important team for your child's academic achievement. Attending meetings with school personnel can be intimidating for many of us, even when our child is doing well. The meetings can be especially daunting when our child is struggling.

Remember, the school staff wants your child to succeed just as much as you do. Here are some suggestions to help you develop a strong, positive relationship with your child's teachers and support staff.

  1. Touch base with teachers, teacher consultants, and other "key players" on an informal basis prior to the IEP meeting.
  2. Bring a treat to the meeting. This is especially appreciated if the meeting comes at the end of the school day as so many of them do.
  3. Write out a statement for the PLAAPF or IEP and email it to the teacher ahead of time that includes perceptions of your child’s strengths, struggles, and your priorities. Don’t forget to mention self-esteem issues (both areas that she is confident in and areas where she is lacking in confidence).
  4. Publicly acknowledge the contributions that members of the team have made in the IEP meeting (during the PLAAPF). Be as specific as possible. For example, "The sessions with Ms. Lou have increased Steven's confidence and grades in history. He is starting to use the preview strategy at home."
  5. Request a point person to contact if you have any questions or concerns about your child's IEP or 504. This person's title may be documented in the IEP itself.
  6. Send a quick e-mail when something is working well.
  7. Be pro-active when suggesting specific strategies, technology, goals, and/or programs that you would like your child to use. The staff can then use these or recommend an alternative.
  8. If you have a grievance, document it at the time it happened with "matter-of-fact" data: time, place, incident, and the impact on your child. Follow-up right away (with the teacher or staff member who was present when it occurred) with a quick e-mail or phone call rather than waiting until it becomes a bigger issue.
  9. Sit down and meet face-to-face with the IEP team at regular intervals. Often, these are available through events like Curriculum Night, parent-teacher conferences, and the IEP meeting. You may request additional meetings to review the IEP or discuss a specific topic (i.e. assistive technology) at any point during the school year.
  10. Regularly check up on your child's assignments. Many schools post grades, assignments, and projects on the school website for your convenience.
  11. Join a parent advocacy group such as a Parent Advisory Committees (PAC) or your school's parent group.
  12. Consult your parent handbook (typically distributed at the beginning of the year at curriculum night) to learn more about how your school district operates and resources that are available to you as a parent.
  13. Ask your student's teachers what level of involvement they are expecting for you and your student when it comes to homework. Let them know how much assistance you are currently providing. This should also be applied for the amount of time your student is spending on homework.
  14. Attend workshops on topics of interest that are offered through the school district.
  15. Volunteer at the school. Become involved in the school community.