Collaborative Education: Let’s Get Our Act Together

working-together-in-progress-mdHold onto your hats parents, teachers, lawyers, support service professionals, and administrators cause I’m about to say something that will rock the education world as you know it: WE MUST ALL START WORKING TOGETHER NOW. It’s time to take a timeout from the sparring emails and nasty litigation to really think about the fact that our inability to communicate and get along with one another has a long-lasting and detrimental effect on the kids we are paid to help.

Steve Lopez, LA Times Writer, recently wrote an entire piece on this topic, highlighting LAUSD leaders and their failure to get along with one another. (Read his article here) Collaborative Education is not just a utopian ideal. It can happen. Look, if the US Government can get along with Iran (as reported here) I think we adults can get our act together at the round-table discussion about our students.

I know all of you truly believe that your primary focus is the kids but do your actions say that too?

To the Administrators buried in paperwork, always having to think of the bottom line: Step into a classroom on  a regular basis and remind yourself why you got into education in the first place. You could have chosen any career to use your talents but you gravitated towards education because you want to help others and make a real change. Remind yourself that it’s not all about dolling out the dollars. If that means taking a stand that is unfavorable in the eyes of the school board but will ultimately help your students then weigh that consequence. It might be worth it to take the heat if you can make a long-lasting change for the better.

To the Teachers who believe some things are above your pay grade: We know this country fails its teachers when it comes to earnings and you cannot live on happy thoughts and good deeds alone. However, when you demonstrate a lack of willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, it reflects poorly on you and the teaching community as a whole. If you’ve lost your edge and think it’s time to move on, then do. Why spend your days unhappy with the status quo? Find something else you love but don’t continue to teach the next generation that doing a job halfheartedly is acceptable.

To the Lawyers and Advocates who come stomping into the IEP Meetings demanding change: Take off your litigious-hat and put on your reasonable-cap. The crux of the law is reasonableness and although there are some educational atrocities happening that do need litigation, most of the roundtable in an IEP Meeting is comprised of those who are trying to provide the best service possible in the best way they know how. Don’t scare them. Help them. Help them so they can help the family that you’re serving.  That’s why you were hired. The legal profession has suffered enough name-calling, don’t ya think. Put your degrees to work as a leader for collaboration and change.

To the Support Service Professionals who have an overwhelming caseload: There are not enough SLPs, OTs, Ed Therapists, or School Psychologists. We know this and yet we continue to add more and more students to your caseload. This fact, however, does not mean that you get a free pass when it comes to adhering to the minutes allotted in the IEP for services. If there are not enough hours in the day, then you need to stand up for yourself and the students you’re serving to let your bosses know. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others who can help too. There are aides and other support staff that you may be able to call upon and train to help you with the less intensive needs of a student. People want to feel needed. So use that principle to your advantage.

To the Students: If you’re old enough to read this, you’re old enough to advocate for your own education. These meetings are supposed to be all about helping you. If something is not working or you have an idea that you think is better- speak up! Make your voice heard. Don’t let the adults sit at that roundtable and drum up countless goals that you have to meet if those just aren’t working for you. Say something! School is supposed to be a gateway to a better, brighter future. We need your input to help you open that door to success.

To the Parents: You have the hardest job of all. Not only did you have to decide what type of diapers, brand of food, and particular toys to buy all before your child went to Pre-K but you now have to decide what their schooling should look like too. You are the best advocate your child has and as such you owe it to your kid to be present at those Parent/Teacher Conferences and IEP Meetings. Don’t sign a waiver and then complain that your child isn’t getting a good education. If you’re feeling overwhelmed then turn to outside resources for help. There are a ton of good people out there who want to help you and your child. Ultimately, though, you are the President and We are your Cabinet. We need you to be an involved parent by becoming an active member in the PTA, staying on top of the homework situation, and making an effort to have a good rapport with your child’s teachers. Without you, we’re left in the conference room with a bunch a goals that may work only part of the time. We need you to help make them work not only in the classroom but at home too.

I know in our heart of hearts all of us chose our career paths in education because we truly and deeply love education; we love the doors it can open, what it can build, the hope it provides, and the lives it changes. All the degrees in the world and extra letters after your name, however, can’t hold a candle to the simple act of empathy. It is this ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes that opens the lines of communication and begins the listening process, one where each member of the team has a valued opinion that is heard and thoughtfully considered. When I speak to parents, this is often what they feel is missing in those meetings. When empathy is a top priority, however, you can feel a shift in the room. Your ability to actively listen to those sitting next to you will be heard louder than all of the finger-pointing in the world. So let’s get our act together, people. Our kids deserve better from us.

Resources that make collaboration a priority:

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

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