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Middle Childhood » Communication

Planning for School Conferences

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By Carole Richards

When invited to attend school parent conferences or IEP meetings with parents and school staff, I have two objectives:

  1. For parents and schools to establish positive relationships with each other.
  2. For the school to provide appropriate services for the child.

Remember, your child will be in school for many years. It’s really important to develop a solid relationship and open communication with the child’s school.  I’ve been in many meetings where the parents are frustrated and furious, and the school staff is equally frustrated and furious. Obviously, this is a “titanic” type of meeting – destined to fail.

How do we avoid failure and actually build more friendly relationships?

At the outset, I always recommend that parents deal with schools assertively, not aggressively. There are important differences between the two words. We remind all parties in the meeting that our purpose is NOT to blame the school staff, the parents or the children.

Aggressive implies combative readiness and driving forceful energy. An aggressive person may begin to shout to make a point.  Many people in sales use tactics that anger opponents or other people. Winning football teams play an aggressive game to physically dominate the other team.

Assertive people are confident and bold in their actions. An assertive person states his or her opinion confidently. With a full knowledge of the facts, an assertive person is able to make bold and confident statements that are difficult to challenge.

You can decide if you want to be aggressive or assertive. When we go to meetings at schools to discuss client children and their challenges, it’s always with an assertive attitude. We do not want to create a confrontation, instead we want a – WIN-WIN solution. Our purpose is to find a workable and reasonable solution. This approach works for me and it will work for you.

Carole Richards is president of North Coast Tutoring services, president of the Academic Fun & Fitness Camp at Lakeland Community College a unit of the creative Education Institute, author of RICHARDS READ Systematic Language and a frequent guest on radio and TV.

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