As a parent, I want nothing but the best for Lailah’s educational experience. I want to ensure that she has access to all of the opportunities, rigor and supports she needs to uncover her passions, ability, and grow into the best version of herself. Unfortunately, our system of education was not built to meet her needs. As we endeavor to change the system, there are things, we, as parents, have to do to ensure our kids’ needs are met. I drafted a quick list for parents with the following question in mind:
What do you need to do to advocate for your child to be successful in a system that was not designed to meet their needs?
Your presence makes a difference in the lives of your students and for the teachers that need your support. Further, being visible allows you to see first-hand how schools operate and to assess the needs of your children based on your first-hand knowledge. We know that many parents don’t have the opportunity to be present at schools because of work and other obligations. But when and if parents can be present, they should take advantage of the opportunity and do so, even if just to observe.
Being a fly on the wall has its benefits, but there is an even more significant benefit in playing an active role in your child’s education. There are numerous opportunities to join the PTA/PTO or be a part of an advisory committee or school site council. Most, if not all schools offer parents opportunities to volunteer at events, during pick-up and drop off, and on field trips or other school-sponsored activities. The most influential and informed parents are often the most engaged.
Never let what you don’t know get in the way of your advocacy. Too often parents feel less inclined to be engaged for fear of what they do not know. The most brilliant people among us are also the most inquisitive. Ask to see data and the narrative that accompanies it. If there is something you don’t know or are unclear about, ask questions, demand answers and do your research. Parents asking questions is one of the best ways to ensure accountability.
Key to being heard is voicing your concerns and expressing your ideas. One of the most missed opportunities for parent advocacy and engagement is during the LCAP process. Schools are required by law to seek and include parent voice when crafting the LCAP. That computer lab you’ve been asking for is made real by adding it to the LCAP. That is just one way you ensure you claim your seat at the table. When surveys come home, take them seriously and follow up on what you share.
Be An Advocate
As a parent, you must be a champion for the specific needs of your children. No two children are alike, and they will differ in ability, the experiences they have and their needs. So, ensuring those particular needs are met is vital to your child’s success. As you advocate for your children, you are doing the same for all kids.
Education is the single most important civil rights and humanitarian issue of all time. Our current system of schooling lacks equity, access, and opportunity for all students. The system itself is not flawed; it is not broken; it was built to function the way it is. It’s working very well, but it is not serving the needs of our community. Systemic change is needed to combat a system wrought with injustice. That systemic change in education and communities is more often than not spurred on by visible, engaged, inquisitive, vocal parent advocates. At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for your kids. With that said, if you have to sit in the office until you get what your child needs, do just that.