Advocacy is not a Four letter word

One of the things that took me a long time to learn is that to be a successful advocate you need to know to advocate effectively. Most importantly you need to know what an advocate IS and what an advocate ISN’T.

What it isn’t – being snarky or rude- threatening to call your lawyer every time you have a conversation with the school – hitting below the belt by belittling or calling into question the teachers motives – saying something like “I know you are but what am I” to the teacher

What it is

  • Knowing your rights and responsibilities
  • Staying calm even in the midst of turmoil
  • Making plan of action at the meeting and holding the school to it
  • Documenting everything – this one is SO important. Even when things are relatively quiet and going well you should still document all conversations with the school. You might need it later.
  • Putting your concerns in writing to the school and giving them a reasonable date to get back to you about the matter.
  • Following the chain of command. First take concerns to the teacher, then to the Learning support teacher then to the Principal. Then if that doesn’t work you can go even higher up. Each school board has a hierarchy. Find it out and make sure you follow it.
  • Finding people in the school that have a good relationship with your child and stay in touch with them. They are the ones who will have wonderfully positive things to say about your child.
  • Bringing a treat to school meetings – everyone is in a better mood when food of some sort is served. It also goes a long way to ingratiate you to them for thinking of them.
  • Taking someone with you to every meeting. It’s important to have a support system and they can take notes for you – freeing you to really listen to what the school has to say.

Unlike the “easy” button above, I know the being an effective advocate is not always easy. But if you remember a little of what it is and what it isn’t it might help. If you have some things to add to my list please let me know.

4 thoughts on “Advocacy is not a Four letter word

  1. Excellent suggestions! It’s not always easy, that’s for sure.

    One suggestion I have is to decide on your one or two priorities before going into the meeting and focusing on those items. If you go into a meeting with 10 demands, you may overwhelm the school, employer, etc… Start with your biggest concerns and once those are being taken care of continue on with the next areas of concern.

    • Oh that is a good one Danielle. I always tell parents that asking for another meeting is better than trying to cram too much into one.

  2. Great suggestions. I can’t tell you how many times I have emphasized and re-emphasized the importance of DOCUMENTATION to people I work with. It is a lot easier to advocate for yourself and others if you know what’s going on. It is also harder for schools, workplaces and government agencies to wriggle out of their promises when you can quote them, produce letter and be specific about person, place and date.

    • And I’ll admit that even though it is my #1 advice for parents I often don’t put things on paper that I should. But there have been times I was very lucky to have documented conversations. You think you will remember details and dates but you won’t.

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