Parents and carers have the right to speak up with the school about any issue of concern. However, its also important not to feel pressured to raise every issue, or to do so all at once. Whatever you can do to help your child is valuable.
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A common theme for families
We spoke with many families in developing Learning Together. A common theme for many was the importance of ‘picking your battles’ – that is, conserving your energy as a parent or carer for speaking up about the concerns and issues that matter most to you and your child.
This is not to discourage you from giving the school input about all of your child’s needs, or raising any concern you have. Your input is critical, to ensure the school understands and can meet your child’s needs. This includes raising concerns – as Christel says, ‘[the school has] things they need to get done. And I have my job to do. And that’s to advocate and support my son’ (see Christel’s story).
However, it’s important to acknowledge that there are often many pressures on parents and carers: work, home and family life, caring for your child with a disability and managing their supports, caring for other children, caring for older people and so on.
In addition, many parents and carers find that working with the school can be additional stress or pressure at times, even when the school is supportive and relationships are positive. Advocacy organisations like ACD and other supports can help, but in the end, advocating for your child is up to you.
Thus, it is important to recognise that some issues you will pursue, and do everything you can to get the best outcome. And other, less urgent issues, you might sometimes leave for another day, especially when you are experiencing other pressures. Whatever you can do to help your child will be valuable.
- Read more about self-care and celebrating progress.
“It’s not a cookie cutter situation. I know that according to the SSG guidelines they should be having the vice principal and teachers present. But from my perspective, it’s about seeing how it works. Is this working? If it’s not, then I’ll address it. It’s all about choosing your battles, and how to do it.
It is about partnership. That’s what I want. I’m the expert on my child, they’re the expert on education. I want to give them that autonomy to be able to work within their capacity. I don’t want them to feel questioned. I don’t like feeling questioned when I feel that I’m doing my job right. I want them to have that as well, and to know that I appreciate what they’re doing.
But then there is that capacity to be able to come back here and talk. With all the teachers, and the support team, in terms of the therapy team at my son’s school, it’s very important to have that contact. I’ve emailed, phoned, or just rung up to make an appointment. They’re very flexible with that. If I had insisted on rules, there would have been no relationship. The relationship is absolutely important. We’re all individual people as well. You can’t just be rule sticklers. If that’s what works for some people … But they’ve got to have that ability to mediate that in a positive way, rather than an antagonistic way.” – Megan
Look at what’s working and what isn’t
Picking your battles is also about choosing to prioritise those issues that have a significant impact on your child. It is about taking a step back, and looking at what is working for your child, and what is not working.
What are the most significant issues? If you feel like there are many issues concerning you, you might want to write down, and then rank them according to importance to you and your child. Then tackle one issue at a time – this will help you and the school staff focus on solving one problem, before moving on to another.
One mother we spoke to (see quote above) felt that even if her son’s school didn’t always do everything ‘by the book’, this was less important than whether her son was supported and was learning. She also felt that picking her battles was about respecting the school’s expertise as educators, just as she expected them to respect her expertise about her son’s needs.