Dear Little A

Little A ShoesDear Little A,

There are some students that will forever tug at my heart-strings; you are one of them.

Before we began our journey together, I felt so much uncertainty about nearly every aspect of life: career, family, friends, relationships, even my little apartment. See, I was taught that feelings sometimes get in the way of the work, and so I didn’t quite know how to express my fear and restlessness. Instead, I stifled it. Tucked it away, hoping that it would magically disappear.

But you, you are a child who wears her emotions on her sleeve. When you are happy, you show it with a grin and a knee bump or two. When you are sad, anyone within earshot will know it. We may never speak the same language, but I know when you are sleepy, angry, hurt, excited, frustrated, or joyful. I know when you want more swing, pats, music, blocks, peek-a-boo, eat, nap, walk, run, and spin. I also know when you are all done. Well, we all know that one — you are very clear.

Little A, you showed me what it looked like to live fully in the moment. You encouraged me to set high expectations for myself and my students. You reminded me that the data sheets will get done in due time. You taught me that success is not measured by whether we met or exceeded the benchmarks but, rather, by whether my dedication yielded just a small but positive difference in the lives of my students and relationships with my colleagues.

It is thanks to you that I continue to follow my passion, learning to help students blossom and become more independent, more expressive, more communicative, and more curious, just like you.

As I close the chapter on our school day adventures, I want to let you know how honored and privileged I am to have been with you for the big moments and the little ones.

You will forever be my Little A.

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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

 

Life is like a Box of…

Pralinen

Tests.

Thought I was gonna say ‘chocolate’, huh? Well, that too. But in the world of academia, life is very much dependent on testing.

We Make Our Students Take a lot of Tests

On average, US students take 113 tests from PreK-12th Grade. Add undergrad, grad school, and professional development to that number and I can’t even begin to tell you what it would be. Maybe 312? 559?

All I know, as a person who struggles with testing, is that whatever the number might calculate out to be, is one too many for me.

Test Anxiety & The Fear of the ‘What If’

Sometimes, I’m plagued with moments of self-doubt as little naysayer voices whisper in my student loan debit-ridden ear, “How did you get this far with your anxiety over tests?” In fact, that little voice reared its ugly head again just this past week, as took my final test for my credentialing.

Ahhhh, will the anxiousness ever just go away?!

What to Do about It

When my students face the same fear, I ask them to talk about it, make a contingency plan, define what they know, set realistic study goals, and change their mindset from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will’:

1. Talk About the Fear & The Reality of the Fear : I ask my students to tell me about the ‘what if’ scenarios: What if I get an F on this test? What if I have to retake the class? What if I fail 4th grade? We then go through each thought and discuss the reality of that possibility.

2. Make a Contingency Plan: The likelihood of the fear coming true is usually slim but just in case, we make a contingency plan: If I fail this test, I will have ask for a retake. If I fail this class, I will have to take a course in the summer.  Okay. So we can see that if the fear comes true, although it will delay our timeline, it’s not the end of world. There is another path.

3. Define What You Know: After there’s less emotion attached to each fear and a realistic contingency plan in place, I ask my students to tell me what they know about the test. See, often our fears stem from the unknown. If I can get my students (and myself!) to articulate the known factors about the test, then that gives us a clear starting point to begin working on confidence and trust in their own abilities.

4. Set Realistic Study Goals: Studying for 12 hours a day/7 days a week is not realistic. I’ve come to realize, through my own experience, that it’s really not about studying more that gets the passing score. Your brain is a muscle and it gets tired and needs to rest too. So, let’s help the muscle by giving ourselves timely brain breaks. This means mapping out a realistic time management study schedule that allows the student to do fun things, family things, and friend things as well as study.

5. Change Your Mindset: This is too hard! I can’t do this! I’ll never get it! I try to help my students realize that every time we feed these negative messages to ourselves, we are training our brain to believe it. That’s something I recently learned when I had my very first hypnotherapy session for my own test anxiety. The more we tell ourselves we’re not good enough, the more we begin to believe that it’s true. So if we continue to tell ourselves ‘we’ll never pass this test’, then we may experience a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When we change the message, we can change our mindset. You are already good enough. Period.

Keep up with the latest blogs, thoughts and resources. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Terry Tutors Annual Report: 2016

2016-picWe’re super, duper excited to welcome in our 5th year of Serving Struggling Students with Wraparound Support! As is our custom, we like to take a quick look back at the previous year to see where we’ve been so we can better know where we’re going.

To recap: 2016 was a year of continued learning and big changes for us here at Terry Tutors.

We’ve Got a Brand New Name

Terry Tutors became Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. But don’t worry, our online presence has stayed the same. Check us out at TerryTutors.com.

We’re Now a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization

That’s right! We’re a federally recognized 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit organization. What does that mean for you? Well, by changing our tax status, we’re able to serve more students through our sliding scale, grants, and donations.

Feeling led to help us serve more struggling students? Donate today! All donations are tax-deductible and you’ll earn an A+ in our book.

We’ve Got an Amazing Board of Directors

Yep, it’s true. We’ve got five lovely ladies who have dedicated their professional lives to Speech & Language Pathology, Special Education Advocacy & Law, Marketing & Finance, Occupational Therapy and Teaching & Administration. Our Board knows the value of good, honest oversight with the end of goal of financial and student sustainability.

Take a moment to meet our Board.

We’ve  Got an Awesome New Video

No, seriously. It’s totally awesome! Wraparound support can be a little tricky to explain with its multiple pieces, but we think this short marketing video does a pretty good job breaking it down. Check it out on YouTube (or below) and share it with all of your friends and family.

We’re On Our Way to Getting More Training & Education

Finally, we’re proud to announce that our Founder, Christine M. Terry, J.D., has been accepted into Teach for America –  2017 Corps, Los Angeles. She is excited to continue her journey in special education support and earn her Masters of Arts in Special Education with a Mild/Moderate Education Specialist Teaching Credential.

“When I was first tutoring, I started to notice that my students’ poor grades were often a symptom of something else: a learning difference, behavior need, or family dynamic concern. I knew there needed to be a go-between person to talk to the teachers, other support providers and the parents, to be an advocate for the kid who was really struggling in school. I couldn’t find any other service that helped parents, therapists and schools work together for the benefit of the student. Thus, Terry Tutors was born. Five years later, we are going strong. I’m so excited to get this chance to add even more experience as a credentialed special ed teacher to our nonprofit, so that we can continue to serve more and more students with our unique and comprehensive approach to student care.” ~ Christine M. Terry, J.D., Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc.

Cheers to 2017! It’s gonna be a fantastic year.

Keep up with the latest and greatest blogs, thoughts and resources. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit with a  focus on providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

This Holiday Season Take a Note from the “Mensch on the Bench”

mensch-wisdomEvery year it seems that from Halloween till New Years the days just fly by, I feel like I’m a teeny, tiny hamster spinning a gigantic wheel ’round and ’round with no end in sight. I suspect you may feel this way too.

With all the stressors this fall, including the travelling, present-buying, annual family get-togethers and even the post-election turmoil (I’m still in shock!), I thought this gentle reminder from our good friend, The Mensch on the Bench, was in proper form.

A mensch is a Yiddish word meaning ‘a person of integrity and honor’ – a person who does good by and for others. It’s an aspirational word and a standard I am striving to attain both personally and professionally as an example to my students, their parents, and my colleagues. I even hope to be a mensch to the person who honked at me this morning as I was getting on the 101 or the lady who jumped in line at Starbucks. Hey! No one said living life as a mensch was gonna be easy. I’m definitely still learning.

This holiday season, whether you’ve got an Elf on the Shelf or a Mensch on the Bench remember to take a moment, laugh, breathe, and be grateful for your family, your friends, your country,  your apartment, your house, your car, your metro card, the dollars in your pocket and even your chocolate stash.

And perhaps channel your inner mensch and do a good deed for others in this season of thanks, giving and gratitude.

Happy Holidays, from this joyful mensch to you and your joyous loved ones.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic Support, Behavior Management, Special Education Advocacy and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

I Didn’t Get Picked for the Team

jury-dutyWill I Be Chosen?

I recently had jury duty. Yes, I hear you groaning, thinking of your own civic duty fate that will, too, find its way to your mailbox one day.

It’s not like anyone really wants jury duty; I get that. I thought I’d immediately be excused due to the fact that I have a law degree and no attorney wants a person who also went to law school sitting with 11 other members of the panel possibly influencing their argument.

So I was surprised when after nearly a week of jury selection I was still in the running. As the Plaintiff’s counsel questioned each of the prospective jurors, I noticed that she used words such as “chosen” and “selected”. Defense Counsel used the same positive connotations to describe our potential service.

Each day I’d walk into the jury assembly room and greet the other prospective jurors. I got to know some of them by name and we chatted while we waited. During questioning, we got to know a lot about each other too. Our answers about our personal and professional lives were a nice foundation to start a conversation during breaks or when the judge was in chambers with the lawyers.

By Day 3, I was on the way to accepting my fate and starting to plan ahead for the two-week trial,”Okay. Yes, jury service is disruptive to my schedule and I have to rearrange student sessions and meetings with schools, but I could do this for a few weeks. I might even enjoy having a break, and I’d get a whole new perspective on our court system from the inside of the jury box.”

Just as I was starting to look forward to it, I got cut.

I Didn’t Get Picked for the Team

After being “Thanked and Excused” from jury service, it surprised me that I felt disappointed instead of relieved.

I started to think about the time I was in 4th Grade and we were on the school yard picking teams for dodge ball. I was picked last. I know! I’m still surprised that I wasn’t chosen. It’s times like these that I still think about that disappointment.

The Link Between Poor Grades & Feeling Left Out

Oftentimes, my students feel alone in their struggles at school. Most of the time their failing grades go hand-in-hand with social struggles too. After my students and I have worked together for a few weeks, they will often confide in me about their daily difficulties to fit in, to find their group, to be “selected”. It’s not uncommon for us to talk about how hard it is to find someone to eat lunch with, work on a group project with several other classmates, raise your hand in class for fear your question will be “dumb”, or navigate the world of the popular kids.

Not doing well academically is often a sign that something else is wrong. Doing poorly in school actually may not be about your child’s ability to understand the material.

Save for a learning difference or diagnosed learning disability, there are a whole host of other reasons your child has trouble in a subject or with school overall: Maybe the lesson is too advanced or not advanced enough; maybe it’s a time management issue because there are too many activities and other obligations; maybe she’s being bullied, maybe he just wants to fit in so badly that he’s willing to follow his friends even if they are “jumping off a bridge”.

Dealing with Disappointment

The point being: fitting in is a big deal. It’s part of the school experience and as such, it’s a big part of your child’s life. Sometimes we don’t get picked for the team. That’s a part of life, too, and we must learn to navigate through that disappointment.

Feel our feelings, as they say.

But no matter how old you get and no matter in what context the situation arises, the disappointment of not being chosen will stay with you, even as an adult who didn’t get picked for jury duty.

It’s the way we teach our children to handle life’s disappointments that make a difference in how they perceive life’s difficult moments. Let’s teach them to honor that feeling and then pick themselves up and find a healthy way forward.

As for me, I bounced back from the disappointment of not being picked for jury duty about 20 minutes later. But I’m sure I’ll get another chance to be selected in the future.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic Support, Behavior Management, Special Education Advocacy and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

 

 

Defining Self & Success

SuccessAs it stands today, education is geared towards teaching our young students the importance of achieving success. How we define success can make or break our students self-worth. All too often, success is defined according to our culture and in today’s society, success means having money and power so that you can be in control of your own happiness.

My New Definition of Success

As a well-educated and self-proclaimed “definer” of my own success,  I too adhered to society’s definition. The typical Type A student, I found myself always trying to live up to and then exceed my own expectations, attempting to outdo my last triumph and climb the ladder towards the next goal that would reinvigorate my self-worth and value to others. But it seemed the ladder never ended and that if I chose to, I could climb forever.  Only recently, did I begin to question the definition of success I adopted as a child. Through age, experience, and honestly the fact that I was just so tired of my never-ending climb, I  began to realize that my definition of success hinged on control.

And then I realized that control was an illusion.

The fact is I have no control over anyone or anything, except my own behavior, choices and actions. That’s it. After the initial shock wore off, it was oddly reassuring to know that the weight of worrying about having enough money and power so that I could be happy one day had lifted. A new chapter had begun.

I no longer have to wait till I have enough to be happy, I can just be.

Collectively Learning Success Through Praise

Children learn to define success through praise. We were praised for taking our first step, eating our first solid food, and using the potty for the first time. Our basic definition of success revolved around our basic needs. As children grow, the adults in their lives praise them for different things, harder things like getting an A on a test. If you’re praised for getting an A, then achieving an A becomes part of your definition of success. And we, as a culture, unquestionably accept this definition.

But what if we began defining success less collectively and more individually?

At the core of education is understanding how we each learn differently. We’re all good at different things and we all struggle with different challenges. Yet, we are taught to define success in the same way.

The system of education is beginning to catch up with the notion of individualized learning, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, and even brain-mapping. Most educators acknowledge the research but many cannot fathom how to teach 32 students in 32 different ways. Classroom practices will have to be redefined to accommodate this new definition of learning too.

Embrace Individualized Education Now

I’m afraid we cannot wait for the system to catch up with the student. It’ll be too late and another generation lost to the definition that an A means you’re worthy. The work of change must be done now.

It’s important that parents and teachers collaborate, looking at the whole child and honoring their strengths while redefining their challenges. How do we do this?  At home, you can begin to praise your child for achieving a B or even a C in that really hard subject. So your child’s strength is with words and not formulas. That’s okay. She will still be successful in her own right. At school, you can begin to praise your shy student for his thoughtful paper on the subject, even though he chose not to raise his hand to participate in the class discussion.

Redefine Your Expectations

I want to be clear: I am not saying to lower your expectations, but, rather, redefine them in accordance with your child’s individual strengths and challenges. Children want to please you; they will rise to the challenges you set for them. It’s our job, as parents and teachers, to make sure those challenges build upon each other in an attainable way.

Do we define a baby’s first fall as failure? No, we define it as learning. Expectation and failure go hand in hand. Some parents and educators shy away from exposing their students to failure at a young age for fear their child will think of themselves as a failure. Did the baby think of herself as a failure when she fell for the first time? Probably not because her parents reassured her that it would be okay. Then her parents helped their child up and she attempted to learn to walk again.

That’s exactly what we as parents and teachers should be doing with our students: redefining success and failure as, simply, learning.

The challenge is really within ourselves because until we can redefine our own successes and failures as learning, we cannot extend the same kindness towards our children. How we treat others is a reflection of how we see ourselves. That’s one lesson I continue to learn over and over again. Thankfully, that’s a lesson I’m ready to learn.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer May Be Right Around the Corner but It’s Not Too Late to Start the IEP Process

IEP

Navigating the IEP Process with TerryTutors.com

 

Alrighty, we’re headed down those sweet but chaotic last few months of the school year — 10 weeks to be exact, but who’s counting.

Although this school year is winding down, there’s still time to get an evaluation and possibly an IEP or 504 Plan in place, ready to go for the Fall.

If there’s something your child has been struggling with and it’s been a consistent issue all year long, then maybe there’s something else happening: a learning difference, behavior challenge,  social skills need.

A report card can only shed so much light on the issue. As a parent or a provider, we owe it to our kiddos to uncover the real reason they are struggling in school. This means going the extra mile and seeking out an answer through the evaluation process.

The first step is to:

1. Write your Request for an Evaluation Letter. An Initial Request for a Referral for an Evaluation letter starts the IEP process, alerting the school that you believe your child may meet the eligibility requirements to receive Special Education services and supports.

Note that if your child attends a private school, you can still ask for an IEP from either (1) the public school district where the school is located, or (2) more commonly, the school district where the child’s home resides.

Secondly,

2. Document everything. If you talk to the Principal, your child’s Teacher, or School Psychologist then followup with a Thank You email to verify your conversation and timestamp your efforts to put the wheels in motion. This is not to be litigious, but rather just good practice. The Advocacy rule of thumb: If it’s not written down, it never happened. Be understanding but be persistent.

And make sure to:

3. Educate yourself on what the law says. The district must legally comply with the federal laws of FAPE, IDEA, Child Find to name a few.

It’s a tall order. Having been on both sides of the table, I know firsthand the frustrations that come with trying to serve and meet each student’s individual needs. Don’t let the process discourage you!

Review these helpful resources to help you navigate the system:

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

 

 

Goal Setting Sets the Tone for Confidence & Improvement

Goals

At the start of every tutoring session or parent meeting I ask my clients: What are your goals for our time together? This helps set the tone, providing structure to what is often a difficult moment in time — the moment someone asks for help.

Goals versus Expectations

Setting goals is different than having expectations. Goals are specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Expectations, on the other hand, are the “I wish you could’s” and the “I want you to’s” of life. Most of us have those sore childhood memories where our parents wished we could just do this differently or wanted us to do something that way instead. That’s a lot of pressure on a kid! Of course, parents want only the best for their kids but when your best is not your child’s version of best, then there is a conflict.

Conflict comes in many forms and one of those is having unattainable expectations. You want your child to go to Harvard? Okay, let’s really think about this: (1) What does it take to get into an Ivy League school? , (2) Is this really the best school environment for my child?, (3) Am I helping my child become a life-long learner and not just creating a “teach to the test” kind of student?

Shoot for the stars, yes! But combat the pressure of high expectation with a loving dose of reality.

Set Daily Attainable, Specific Goals to Build Your Child’s Confidence & Productivity

Nothing gives a student a reality check like setting daily attainable, specific goals. Child-led goals work best because they learn to take ownership and responsibility for their own actions or inactions. A life lesson, for sure!

To do this effectively, start with two goals – both should be things they could slightly improve upon but for the most part got it already – and one challenge goal, something new or something they have wanted to try but keep putting it off.

If your child is on the younger side, a sticker chart visibly placed in their room or in a common area is helpful. Let them choose where they’d like to put it. Some kids prefer to be more private as they learn something new and aren’t quite ready to shout it out to the whole family. Immediate gratification (ie: small prizes) and verbal praise helps younger kids solidify their confidence and keep coming back to challenge themselves further. If your child is a little older, say a ‘tween’, have them keep their own self-created reflection chart privately where they can earn bigger prizes for things that take a week or two to accomplish.

Set specific goals, such as complete math homework between 4:30-5:15 or write one paragraph for your English paper before dinner. Goals are baby steps.

Goals can also encompass something that’s difficult outside of homework like social skills (ie: invite one new friend over for a play date this weekend) or trying a new food (ie: asparagus, yum!). Learning is not limited to just academics. We need to broaden our goals to challenges outside of the classroom too.

If It’s Just Not Working, Rework Your Thinking

Oftentimes, our goals may initially reflect our expectations, just worded in a different way. If that’s the case, take a step back and try to put yourself in your child’s shoes, making sure to consider your child’s learning style and whether we may be putting too much or not enough pressure on your child to perform up to a certain standard. Starting slow with clear, attainable goals is usually the best beta test.

The end goal is really to help our kids love learning. We can do this by helping them increase their confidence through small accomplishments, which leads to increased confidence when the work, and life, gets harder.

You’re right, those Harvard dreams could very well be in your child’s future. However, we want to make sure they enjoy the process of learning on their way to the big leagues.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

The Terry Tutors Annual Report: 2015

2015As we welcome in our 4th year of Serving Struggling Students with our Wraparound Supports, let’s take a quick peek back at 2015: the year of continued growth and success in learning how best to help families navigate the school system.

It’s not been easy, but it’s a challenge we willingly accept because we are passionate about helping the student and family move forward by uncovering the root of the academic or behavioral need.

  • Continued Field Training to Assist Mild, Moderate & Severe Special Needs Students: We’ve been privileged to spend quality time training at schools to learn the ins and outs of the Special Ed Classroom after that IEP is in place.
  • Continued Collaboration with Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Providers & The Regional Center: Collaboration is the name of the game! Even just three years in as Wraparound Support Providers, we know that bringing a team mentality to the table is paramount to our students’ successes. It’s why we’ve been so successful in such a short amount of time. We’ve learned that working together is the crux of changing lives.
  • Continued Support of POP: We’ve donated nearly $7,000 to Pencils of Promise to help build a school abroad. Since our inception in 2013, Terry Tutors knows the value of giving back. That’s why a portion of our profits goes to support POP. We believe in their mission of education for all.
  • Continued Focus on The Struggling Student: We know that a Struggling Student looks different for each family. Maybe it’s a behavior challenge masking a learning difference; maybe it’s a difficult time for the student because it’s a difficult time for the parents; maybe it’s a diagnosed learning difference, maybe it’s not; maybe it’s just hard for the student to make friends at a new school and that clouds his academic performance.

There are many reasons for calling on our Services but one constant remains the same: Your child needs help.

If you find yourself in need of Academic, Behavior and Advocacy support, Terry Tutors is here to guide you through the process of uncovering the root of the issue and moving forward to the next chapter with the tools your family and child needs to be a success in their own right.

Here’s to 2016 and collaborating with more students, parents, siblings, teachers, administrators, case workers, social workers, speech pathologists, audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, CASAs, child life specialists, social workers, doctors and lawyers along the way!

We love what we do and we’re excited to work with you! Learn more at www.TerryTutors.com

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them: “To be a part of a student’s ‘ah ha’ moment is the best feeling in the world because I know I’m helping that student build foundational confidence that will lead to a successful path, not just in school but throughout life!”

Is it Okay to Question the School?

question marks

“Do I have the right to question the school’s authority?, asked one of the parents I recently counseled through the IEP process. “Absolutely“, I replied, “Not only do you have the right, as the parent you have an affirmative duty to question any person who holds themselves out to be an authority on your child’s education.

When I work with a new family seeking answers about their child’s grades, behavior, or social-emotional needs at school, more often than not, there comes a moment during our session where the parents sit across the table from me and sheepishly ask the inevitable: Do I even have the right to question the school on this matter?

YES, You Have the Right to Ask

Yes, yes, and yes.

You have the right to question the teachers, the administrators, the principal, the vice principal, the aides, the school psychologist, the administrative assistants, the bus driver, the OT, the PT, the SLP, and the list goes on.

You have the right to seek answers about why your child is not doing well in school. You have the right to seek answers as to why your child is not making friends or why his math test score was a 48% versus an 82% at the beginning of the year. You have the right to seek answers regarding her inability to comprehend the reading homework or why there is so much homework in the first place.

You have the right to know.

How Did We End Up Being Scared to Ask the Tough Questions?

After so many years of walking parents through the Special Education system, helping them navigate the ins and outs of legal code, jargon, and school politics, it dawned on me: I don’t know how we, as a community, became so afraid to ask the school “Why?”.

My theory stems from the “Seen But Not Heard” Generation.

Our grandparents were from the Depression era, where basic survival was the primary concern. Children were better seen and not heard, as the saying goes. Our parents are a product of this generational influence. This is also where our parents (The Baby Boomers) got their panache for stocking up on 2 for 1 can good sales, just in case. The Baby Boomer generation was raised to follow in their parents footsteps of compliance but eventually evolved into a cohort who began to question their government, their parents’ choices, and authoritative power in general. Then Generation X came along and in recent years began having children of their own.

We are still comfortable questioning our government, the media spin cycle, and the private financial sector (especially post 2008) but when it comes to education, we collectively seem to think that our job is to find the right school for our children, and once that job is done we let the school lead the way.

As parents, it is your job to find the right school fit for your child’s needs. However, the right school may not be the best school.

Parents are Afraid to Upset the Balance of Power

I find that parents have expended so much time, money and energy into finding what they deem the right private school or public district, that when there is a problem it often goes on longer than it should because the parent defers to the school’s perceived authority. It hurts to admit that we’re wrong sometimes.

There’s also the issue of facing teachers and other parents day in and day out while the issue is being resolved. How can I maintain effective working relationships with my child’s teachers if I’m doubting their expertise? Will the other parents still want to schedule play dates with my child?

At the root, our questions are based on the fear of not being liked or accepted into the group. But the true answer lies in how we approach the conflict.

The answer is simply to be nice.

There’s no reason be combative or litigious when advocating for your child’s best interest. Ensuring your child has the best (or, rather, appropriate, as the law says) education does not beget rudeness or inflammatory remarks, which can turn personal fast.

You are there to help the school help your child.

To do so effectively, requires active listening, open communication and collaboration. As an Advocate who firmly believes in Wraparound Support and collaboration instead of litigation, I know I get further with honey than with vinegar.

Take my advice: See the school and its players as real people who sincerely want to help your child; they just need you to show them how best to do so.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them: “To be a part of a student’s ‘ah ha’ moment is the best feeling in the world because I know I’m helping that student build foundational confidence that will lead to a successful path, not just in school but throughout life!”