How do I effectively and politely voice concerns over school curriculum and policy?
I love this question. Here it is in its entirety:
How do I effectively and politely voice concerns over school curriculum and policy? (e.g. Why are only second graders "allowed" to check out chapter books? Or... Why is expressive or individual work discouraged in our elementary art class? Do we really need to sell things to children during school hours?)
Do these examples resonate with you? Of course they do! And this is exactly the reason that family engagement exists. We need thoughtful parents like you who see that something doesn't make sense or isn't working to speak up! The policy may need to change, or the school may need to do a better job explaining why the policy exists. So how do you do it?
First of all, show up. When parents show up to PTA meetings, Back-to-School Nights or whatever systems the school has in place for communicating with parents even, or maybe especially, when they aren’t perfect, this sends the message that you want to be on the team.
Tend to relationships. This takes some time but it so important. Introduce yourself to the principal and teachers. Remember their names and go out of your way to talk to them. Ask questions. Try to understand some of the “why” behind the policies before you bring up changing them.
Watch your tone. Educators can be a defensive bunch. It comes from many years of parents, policy makes, and politicians telling them they aren’t doing enough. So come in with a positive and supportive tone. Let’s take, for example, the policy that only second graders can check out chapter books. Approach the librarian and say something like:Hello So-and-so (because you’ve met and remembered their name). My daughter really enjoys library time. And I really appreciate the hard work you are doing. Keeping track of all the logistics of the library is very complex! My daughter and some of her friends really want to be able to check out chapter books. If I got twenty or so books donated, could we set them aside as “special chapter books just for kindergarteners”? That way there would be plenty of chapter books for the older kids and the kindergarteners who are reading will feel very grown-up. What do you think?
Bring a friend (or many friends). One parent who is unhappy with a policy is easy to write off. Many parents who are unhappy with the policy and the time and energy to support a change, are hard to ignore. Once again--see #3. Don’t come in guns blazin’ and mob-like. Come in with a supportive attitude ready to compromise.
Offer specific support. Let’s take for example the artwork example. If you noticed and are frustrated that children only seem to be making identical crafts during art class, I suspect you have some artistic experience. Offer to share it with the class (keeping in mind #3, of course). Tell the art teacher you have experience with X and you would be happy to come in and teach a few lessons on it. Would three weeks from now work? Gather and donate some more interesting art supplies. Offer to bring in a local and/or visiting artist (it’s hard to say no to an “expert”). Start an after school art club or gather funds to support one. Your support may be just the thing a school needs to get unstuck from an ineffective policy.
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