Now that school has been underway for a week (or more, depending on where you live), it’s time to really get down to business, so to speak. And business is really what I mean.
Although I have spent over 20 years studying and learning about Attention Deficit Disorder, my degree happens to be in Business Management. The years that I have spent (and continue to spend) learning about AD/HD were because I was raising children who had it, and I wanted to be the best mom I could be for them. Later, as my kids got older, it became about helping other moms to do the best they could for their ADD children, which really is the purpose of this site.
My years in business school weren’t a waste, though. I have used what I learned there time and time again, in manners I would never have guessed.
I know that some of you already know the story I’m about to tell, but I think it bears repeating. I used to hate Parent-Teacher conferences. They made me feel so bad, and like such a failure for my kids. I would go there and listen to teacher after teacher tell me what my kids hadn’t done: the missed assignments, the messy desk, not working to their potential. And each time, I would promise I would work with them, to help them be better. Sometimes I brought up the fact that they had ADD, but it always seemed like an excuse.
One year, I decided to turn the tables. Rather than wait 6 weeks into the semester to find out how things were going, I was going to take charge right away. (I’m sure that’s a business tactic of some kind, most likely with some football term attached to it, but I don’t know what it is.) What I do know is that by calling a meeting with my children’s teachers, on my terms, it put me in charge. It gave me back my power, something I desperately needed so that I that could more effectively advocate for my kids.
Here’s what I did:
- I started by preparing a short, easy to read report about my child. I included things that I wanted the teacher to know about him or her, starting with the fact that they had Attention Deficit Disorder. I mentioned specific ADD symptoms, as well as possible suggestions, where appropriate in dealing with the symptoms.
- I scheduled a meeting with the guidance counselor to discuss my child. I brought a copy of the report and went through it at the meeting. I also asked the counselor to set up a similar meeting with as many of my child’s teachers as possible. Failing that, I asked that all of the teachers be given a copy of the report.
- At each meeting, I stressed a number of things: I wanted them to be informed about my child so that all of us could work together as a team to make the school year as successful as possible, I was willing to do whatever was needed on my end to help, and the report was intended as an explanation, not an excuse. This last point seemed to be very important to most of the teachers I dealt with; they appreciated the distinction, and seemed to appreciate my pro-active approach as well.
- I included phone numbers and email addresses where they could reach me if they needed to, and in many cases, we were able to implement a system of some kind that kept me better informed as to what was happening at school.
This beginning of the year meeting seemed to work very well for us. I never had 100% cooperation, of course, but I never expected it. You will always have teachers who tell you they don’t have time to give certain students special treatment, or who aren’t willing to meet with you or meet you halfway. I’m not criticizing them; I’ve never been in their shoes, so I have no right to judge. Of course, they most likely have never been in our shoes, either.
Some time this week I will try to recreate one of those reports for you so that you have a better idea of what I mean. I’ll let you know when I’ve got it available.