With a new school year upon us as the summer days dwindle, some parents have questions and fears about the upcoming school year, yet they may be reluctant to “bother” the principal with questions or concerns. I write this blog as the mother of 3 children who range in age from 14-24 years old and a professional school administrator for the past 20 years. Here is my honest advice for what to do if you have concerns:
Contact the principal.
Contact the principal.
Once more, for the people in the back…….
contact the principal.
My advice is based around the notion that waiting for a problem to develop is a counter intuitive process for helping our children navigate their school experiences. Your child might be a kindergartner or a senior in high school, but if you need help to help your child, then it is time to contact the principal.
Not every principal contact requires an in-person meeting. I have parents who call, some use e-mail and some text me. I even have parents who message me in a variety of social media apps. My ability to help is enhanced when I can do my work proactively and not reactively. Sometimes I am not the best professional to help so I bring in an assistant principal, counselor, coach or teacher. The principal knows the expertise of the people employed by the school. If they say, “Mrs. Apple is the perfect one to help” then go to Mrs. Apple because she may be a far better answer to what you need than the principal.
In my mom experience, every year I’ve been a mom of school aged kids I have requested a meeting with the principal of their schools. In this meeting I don’t request specific teachers. Not everyone can have Ms. Jones or Mr. Smith and demanding a teacher placement is not my focus. The point of the meeting is to talk about my child. This is what her strengths are. This is where he needs extra help. This is a social issue that we are dealing with at home or a big worry of fear of the child. The parent is the expert about the child. As a principal, I want to benefit from that expertise so I can know that Ms. Jones won’t work as well for this child as Mr. Smith, and I am going to use my professional judgement to place that child that I now know more about.
I give this advice to parents all the time but some feel that a request of this sort is too demanding on the principal. Umm, your child is the principal’s job. Parents can see a problem developing usually before the principal can. Some problems can wait and work themselves out but some will only continue to grow and escalate. While principals cannot solve all the world’s problems, we have developed a bag of tricks that we can use to help a child who is struggling socially, academically, or even having to overcome an obstacle outside of school. Principals want to partner with parents to solve little problems because they are less challenging than solving huge problems three months later.
Principals are people too. If you make a contact and s/he hasn’t responded within 24 hours follow up. Principals don’t want to ignore parents; they simply are people pulled in many directions at the same time. Don’t be afraid to leave a message. Most of us return calls and emails several times a day daily.
Your child is important to you and to your child’s principal. The stronger the partnership between the parent and the principal; the more likely we can work together to propel your child faster on their school journey.