Monday, July 21, 2014

"They are there and they care" Week 4 #ptcamp

Thanks to Chad Caddell and his thought provoking words on Monday, July 21st, I was inspired to begin this post before reading both of our assigned chapters.  Chad shares with us each and every day about the great things going on his school and the true care and love he has for each of his students.  It is not fake or contrived but instead is as real as it gets.  That is the true meaning of an advocate in our schools, someone who wants only the best for their child and is often the voice for those who are unable to communicate their needs, dreams, and struggles.  Advocates come in all forms- parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, neighbors, teachers, teaching assistants, you name it.  The fear of the word advocate is one that we must remove from our thoughts.  Replace advocate with partner and think of the possibilities that will exist.

As is mentioned on page 151 of Beyond the Bake Sale, advocates do the following things for students.

  • Set high expectations and follow the child's progress
  • Help with goal setting and future plans
  • Steer the child though the educational system
  • Intervene for the child when they are under pressure, have a problem, or are being treated unfairly
  • Get assistance when needed
  • Monitor the child's out-of-school time
  • Line up other activities
These advocacy skills may need to be taught or fostered in our families for each child to have a better chance at success.  Imagine if we could have a get together (sounds so much better than "meeting") to discuss each of these aspects of advocacy.  There are plenty of school staff and family members who have experiences that they could share regarding each of these aspects.  This is when the true partnership can begin.

Another line on page 171 also caught my attention, and it relates to the "fear" that can sometimes occur when advocacy is mentioned.   "Teachers deserve to know how cultivating a two-way relationship with parents (insert "advocate" here) will help improve student behavior and performance.  They need specific training and coaching about how to do this.  Telling them to "just do it" without training and support won't work."  The same is true when we discuss how to improve how people advocate for our students.  We must find ways to provide this support that can bring together teachers and families to foster this partnership.

Advocates are truly partners with schools and will improve education for all of our students.  As I think about the students I work with every day, I am trying to determine who are advocates for each of them.  Some have strong families who visit school often.  Those are the visible advocates.  Some have strong families who rarely visit schools.  Those are the invisible advocates, but they are just as strong.  It may take some time to realize these advocates exist, but they are there.  Reaching out to them is necessary and oftentimes difficult, but we must begin to make the effort.  The students that I worry about the most are those without family advocates.  They need us to advocate in school for them, stand up for them, and get to know them.  We are all advocates for these students, and we must continue in this role.

It takes me back to Chad.  He has a true love and energy for his students.  I can see him reaching out to them each and every day to provide the support they need, both in school and out of school.  All of our students need an advocate like Chad.