Working with schools as partners

Most parents want to make sure that their children receive the best education possible. We do everything we can to ensure that our kids are in the best classes and that they have the best resources available. This is part of our job as parents. We make a lot of sacrifices to ensure that our children receive everything they need to ensure a successful future.

At times, wanting what is best for our kids can put us at odds with our school’s administrators and faculty. There are instances when even though both sides want a successful outcome, there may be differing views on how to achieve the best results. At what point do parents need to let the school do its job? At what point is it ok for parents to “put their foot down” and insist that the schools do something differently?

These are not easy questions to answer, and of course each situation can be different. As parents however, we must keep a few things in mind when interacting with our child’s school…

  • The educators have professional training- Sometimes, even when we feel something could be done differently, we must realize that educational decisions are being made based on training, experience, and other information to which we as parents may not have access or familiarity. One of our schools in a small Jewish community decided to open a new Hebrew language class in order to provide some of the stronger students with additional enrichment opportunities. The program was so successful that the school added additional online Hebrew language courses for both advanced and beginner level students. A small group of parents decided to pressure the school to discontinue these courses as they did not want their students learning in an online environment. While perhaps in an ideal world, this school could offer every educational opportunity in-house, the fact is that the school saw a need and through research, and beta-testing found the option to be the best solution available. While these parents had the best intentions for their children, they criticized the school without knowing all of the educational ramifications. In another case, a 6th grade parent in one of our schools was very upset that her son had been moved out of the highest level of courses. The parent brought her concerns to the school’s principal. After further discussions with the school’s academic and guidance staff, the decision was made to leave the student in the lower track. The school was able to examine the student’s entire academic and emotional situations and felt that he would be more successful in the second track. The mother was not happy with the decision, but with no choice agreed to reassess the situation in a few months. Three months later, the child is thriving in his classes and the mother has agreed to leave her son in his current track. Sometimes the schools really do know our children best, and we need to trust their training and experience to make the right decisions.
  • Our child is not the only student – As parents, we can say that we don’t care about the other kids. Our focus is and should always be our own children. We are and always will be our kids’ best advocates. At the same time however, we have to be realistic and understand that even the most well meaning school administration cannot grant every request. Sometimes, the school must do what is best for the vast majority, even if it means that are own kids may not receive everything they need in the ideal world. I recently spoke with the parent of a particularly gifted 8th grader. Her son developed an early interest in coding and robotics, and through a variety of extra-curricular programs, has been able to develop his talents. The student is enrolled in a large Jewish day school with an excellent academic reputation. The school has a wide variety of electives and activities designed to enable students to develop their talents/interests. It happens to be however that the school does not have a computer science program at a level high enough to meet this student’s needs. The mother went to the school’s administration and asked them to hire a teacher to work with her son. The school explained that they were not able to open a class for just one student. This mother could not understand how the school would not help her and her son. I was able to work with both the school and the mother and we were able to open an online course for this student. While the family is paying, the school agreed to allow the student to take the course during school hours, in place of another class. Most schools want to do everything they can to help their students, but as parents, we sometimes need to realize that some compromises may need to be made.
  • Don’t be the annoying parent! – Yes, it is our jobs to advocate for our children, and yes, we want to do everything we can to make sure their needs are being met. We also need to make sure however that we do not become “that” parent. We all know what I mean, as historically, every school has at lest one of these parents. This is the parent that annoys the school and becomes such a pain, that the school’s administration does not know what to do. I will share a widely known secret with everyone. While this type of approach may produce some small victories, the truth is that it will hurt your children in the long run. School administrators will do everything they can to avoid having to interact with you and your children. This will mean less opportunities in the long term. During a recent school visit, I was sitting in the main office waiting to meet with the principal. In the span of seven minutes, the same parent called four times to see if her daughter’s schedule had been changed yet. It got to a point where the secretary did not want to pick up the phone. While issues our bound to come up, we need to work with our schools as partners. Being pushy, disrespectful, and annoying will not actually end up helping our kids.

As parents, we sacrifice a lot to make sure that our children receive the best education possible. The time, money, and resources that we spend to ensure that our kids get the best cannot be measured. When we choose the best school for our children, we base our decision on a number of criteria including services, staff, reputation, and location. Even the best choice however is going to mean making compromises and working together to create the best opportunities for our children. Sometimes the most difficult job as parents is entrusting others to make the best decision for our kids. This does not mean we should not be involved, but if we want the best for our kids, we have to work as partners with our schools, not as adversaries. Of course, if there is a problem, we should do everything we can to bring it to the school’s attention and to solve it. We need to make sure we do this though, in the most productive ways possible. As we continue this school year, let’s see how we can work together with our schools to create the best opportunities for our children.

About the Author
Aryeh Eisenberg is the CEO and General Manager of Bonim B'Yachad, an online education technology provider for schools and individuals. Based in Israel, Bonim B'Yachad works with students all over the world.
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