Three days ago the youngest brother of four, my baby, age 18 packed everything he “needs” into the car and headed off to begin his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Excited and ready are understatements. He was ready over a year ago. Ready to be challenged; ready to learn; ready to create and invent. My biggest fears as a mother are that his excitement and desire to learn and grow will diminish. His curiosity will be squashed and his learning will become mundane as he works the system to earn a degree. I know in my heart I want exactly the same thing for my child that every other parent wants for theirs—to stretch—to grow—and to learn at levels that excite him.
For the past 13 years we worked with the school system to set him up for success. We taught him to ask questions, modeled quality feedback and how to self advocate. Ninety-five percent of the time he was happy with the learning path he was provided and so were we. He is the kind of student that is easy to teach—he soaks in information and makes connections for himself and is able to help others see those connections. He is the kind of student every teacher loves. But this isn’t the case for many students.
Many students don’t find success with school or the system. They hit roadblock after roadblock. They might not have the “right” learning disposition. Their parents might not know how to help advocate for them. Or, their parents do know how to advocate but the way the system is set up becomes the roadblock to learning.
I am convinced that EVERY stakeholder wants students to succeed. I am also convinced it is fear of failure or making a mistake that holds students—parents—educators—or the system back. Sometimes parents are afraid to push the system too hard because for fear of “retaliation”. Sometimes teachers are afraid to accelerate learning because “playing it safe” is safe. Making that mistake that may negatively impact a student down the road is a scary thought. Sometimes the big picture gets lost in the details.
I am also convinced that students who learn in significantly different ways or at a different pace than what is typical are in need of strong advocates. Warm demanders; those who gently but firmly help guide and change the learning path for our most needy students. Many, many parents of students with learning disabilities are warm demanders. How do parents of students with gifts and talents become warm demanders, too?
So as we begin this year please consider partnering together, parents and educators toward answering or finding solutions to these questions:
Below are a few articles on focused on advocating for OUR children!