Poor grades. Lack of enrichment. No communication. IEP or 504 Plan non-compliance. Behavior issues.
With so much going on at school, it can be easy to blow your top.
And that is the exact opposite of what you should do. Losing your temper at school or with teachers doesn’t solve any problems. Plus, it can absolutely create more issues now and in the future.
So, what can you do when everything is going wrong?
Use these tips to keep your cool at school
If you know about the situation before you walk in, take a few minutes to prepare. Pull up Talk to the Teacher and find a script or some talking points that fit your situation. Or use this post for even more ideas of what to say.
Having an idea of what you want to say and ask can help to calm your nerves. Calm nerves will let you control your emotions and remain logical throughout the meeting. In tense situations, logic will win the day every time. It’s hard to argue with cold hard facts.
If you feel very nervous, bringing a printed script, notecards, or a checklist can help to keep you focused. Remember what your end goal is at this meeting and work towards that, calmly and with purpose.
Calm Down Rituals
When you know you are headed into a stressful situation, try to settle your mind and your nerves in advance.
Park farther from the building or office if possible. A little extra walking time will give you time to gather your thoughts and run through your scripts and meeting strategy. As you walk, take some deep breaths. Focus on your strategy, the beautiful weather, or positive plans post-meeting.
As you wait for your meeting, continue to practice deep breathing techniques. Visualize your meeting moving in a positive direction. Envision yourself presenting your concerns and asking your questions calmly and logically. Try to imagine what the teacher or school might say and picture yourself reacting calmly.
During your meeting, continue to practice deep calm breathing techniques. Whenever you feel yourself getting anxious, take a deep breath and count to ten (or higher). Don’t respond until you feel calmer.
Remember Your Rights
Every parent has rights when it comes to public K-12 education. Parents of students receiving special education services have additional rights and legal recourse.
Keep these in mind:
- FERPA: protects your child’s educational records; ensures that only legal guardians/biological parents can access your child’s records; ensures that the only faculty/school staff that can access your child’s records have a vested interest in your child’s success; protects your child’s personally identifiable information from being released to anyone other than parent/legal guardians and invested school staff
- FOIA: allows parents to request access to public records in the school or district; allows parents to investigate teacher/school/district actions or records
- Media release consent: protects/prevents schools from using student likenesses and identifiable information from being published in print or online media outlets, including social media
- IDEA: lays out the federal special education laws and guiding principles; specifies criteria for qualifications; sets deadlines for providing services, holding meetings; clarifies parental rights and the special education process
- IEP: federally enforceable legal document that provides an individual with a specialized instructional plan; schools and teachers need to abide by this document in every way; parents are able to pursue legal options should schools or teacher not comply with an IEP
- 504 Plan: federally enforceable legal document that provides a student with accommodations in order to access the general curriculum at their grade level; schools and teachers should comply with this document in every way
- State statutes and laws: every state makes additional laws above and beyond the federally enforceable threshold; use your state’s Department of Education website to locate education laws that apply to you
If you feel like a school is violating these laws, remind them of their legal obligations and of your rights as a parent in public schools. Unfortunately for parents in private schools, none of these federal laws apply. Instead, you will need to rely on the school handbook and regulations.
Uh Oh…I Lost It
When you lose your temper or say/write something in the heat of the moment, it is almost impossible to take it back. Instead, it’s important to own your decision and actions.
If you have acted quickly and damaged your relationship with the school, apologize. Yes, even if the school was in the wrong the whole time. A little sweetness can go a long way! Make a phone call or send an email as soon as possible to start repairing the relationship.
Say or write:
During the last (meeting/phone call/email), I was very emotional and trying to process a difficult situation. When we are talking about my child, I tend to get very defensive and up-in-arms, ready to go to battle. I said/wrote some things in the heat of the moment that I very much regret. I would very much like to revisit this issue with calmer emotions and see if we can reach a new understanding together.
This shows that you recognize that your actions might have impacted your child’s education or progress. The teacher and school will appreciate your willingness to own the situation and act like an adult. You’ll get the chance to go back to the drawing board.
At your next meeting, arrive with a plan in hand. Even if you never share it with the rest of the team, having a script or focus points can help you to maintain your calm.
Sometimes, it can be very hard to control emotions and remain calm. If you struggle with this, and you think it might be hurting your ability to work with the school, it might be time to call in a pro! Email me to learn more about how an advocate can help with communication.
How do you stay calm during emotional meetings? Share your best tips in the comments.