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Promoting positive communication with our daughter’s school

Published: August 30, 2016

In her first blog, Sophie talked about the importance of developing a collaborative approach with teachers to help her adopted daughter get the best out of school. Here she shares how things worked in practice… 

We were nervous and excited in equal measures when Lucy started school. We were fully aware of the significance of her education and the opportunities that may be open to her if she could fully engage with the curriculum, activities and relationships that are part of going to school.

Understanding Lucy, we knew it would be important for us to collaborate with the school in her development so we consciously cultivated a relationship with each of Lucy’s teachers. This relationship is ongoing and starts before the first term of the new school year and goes on until the beginning of the first term of the following school year.

At the end of the summer holidays – usually the day before the new school year starts – we have managed to arrange for Lucy to go in and meet with her new teacher in her new classroom and spend half-an-hour getting familiar with the teacher and her new space. During this valuable one-on-one time, Lucy chats with her teacher, finds her peg, sees where she will be sitting, looks at the information on the walls, opens drawers, explores boxes, and generally satisfies her natural curiosity. We have found that arranging for Lucy to spend time in her classroom before all the other children arrive enables her to settle much more quickly on the first day of term.

Each school year we also instigate a ‘home-school communication book’, this is a simple notebook which stays in Lucy’s school bag and goes back and forth between home and school every day allowing the teacher and I to communicate with each other in support of Lucy as and when needed. The teacher may update me on significant comments Lucy has made, stories she has shared, successes she has had or emotional/behavioural challenges that have been present for her that day. I check the note-book every day when Lucy comes home and if there is a comment from the teacher, I always sign to show that I have seen it, or if there is a question I will answer it. I use the notebook to inform the teacher about any number of things that have cropped up for Lucy that I think the teacher should be aware of as they may impact how Lucy is at school that day. As I don’t write something every day, when I do write something I indicate that there is something for the teacher to read with a page marker so the teacher knows to check the book. I recognise that the teacher is busy so I don’t expect her to check the book unless I clearly mark the page indicating that there is something new to read. When the teacher has read the comment, they remove the page marker so I know that they have read it. There are days when the teacher is just too busy to read the book, in which case the marker stays in place and I know that they haven’t seen it. If it is urgent I can then contact the teacher through the school office. Over the years using a ‘home-school communication book’ has helped us and Lucy’s teachers be aware of, prepared for and manage many situations that have arisen.

I do feel it is important to have an easy way to communicate with Lucy’s teachers and for them to have an easy way to communicate with me. In Lucy’s early school years, she experienced so many memories, reflections and realisations that impacted her emotions and her behaviour that without real-time knowledge of these occurrences or developments the teachers and therefore Lucy would have been at a disadvantage. Early on in each school year when the teacher is learning about Lucy there is normally a frequent need for them to chat with me to feedback information or to ask questions. I much prefer a quick written note in the book, as the alternative of having them call me over daily for a quick chat at pick-up each day in front of all the other parents and children can be soul destroying both for me and for Lucy!

I treat our home/school communication book with care and am aware that it could end up being read by someone other than Lucy’s teacher – one time it went home with another child in the wrong school bag, and another time I was aware that it could have been read by a parent-helper who was doing extra reading with Lucy as the note-book was kept in Lucy’s school-bag along with her school reading book. These incidents led to some small process changes which now minimise the risk of other people seeing it in the future. However, I am still careful not to write any very personal information in the book, but instead will allude to previous information I have shared face-to-face or will request an urgent meeting. Managed effectively – over the years we have found the use of a simple note-book a very effective means for frequent communication with the teacher.

In addition to the home-school communication book, I schedule meetings with the class teacher every few weeks for ten minutes or so, either after drop-off or just before pick-up to discuss Lucy’s well-being, friendships, progress in different areas, challenges and successes she may be having and different approaches we can try or reinforce to support her progress at school.

At the end of the school year I make sure to have a three-way meeting with Lucy’s out-going and incoming teacher to share relevant information with the new teacher especially regarding strategies that have worked for the out-going teacher. These meetings have proved useful for all involved.

I feel fortunate that I have an excellent relationship with Lucy’s school, but this didn’t happen by chance, it has taken hard work, time and patience and has been an iterative process of communication, understanding and cultivation of a mutual respect. It has been harder with some teachers than others as some teachers seem more willing than others to engage; but in all cases polite perseverance has paid off!

Positive school relationships should surround all school children – but the impact of these positive relationships is arguably more significant for some children than others. I know they are significant for Lucy.

Well a new school year is about to start, and new relationships must be made both for me and for Lucy – wish us luck!

Sophie is a mother of two. Her book “The Secrets of Successful Adoptive Parenting” has just been published. For more information go to sophieashtonadoption.co.uk

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