Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Start the School Year Right: The Teacher Letter

guest blog by Beth A. Kaplanek, RN, and Linda Smith


When August arrives, it's time to start putting systems in place to ensure that your child can have a successful school year. You can help get the new school year off to a good start by effectively communicating your child’s needs to his or her teachers and by setting up a home environment that facilitates homework completion. This week, let's look at the first of these tasks.

How do you get pertinent information to the teachers who are working with your child? A letter can be a good start and is a great vehicle to give the teacher an opportunity to become aware of your child’s special education plan. Even if no formalized plan is in place, a letter is a great tool if the teacher needs to know more about your child.

Never assume that just because a formalized plan has been created that your child’s teachers have been informed about its contents. Remember, it only takes a week to get behind in school, and then the stress of playing catch-up never seems to end — for your child and for you. If the special education department within your school district has a system in place for getting the details of your child’s plan to the teacher, then collaborate with them to convey your child’s information to the teacher.

Write a letter to your child’s teacher

Does your child have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 accommodation plan for school? Does your child require special classroom interventions? Has your child’s teacher been made aware of the plan? If you answered yes to the first two questions, and no to the last question, then take out your pen out now and write a letter.

The purpose of the letter is to make your child's teacher(s) aware that your child has an educational program. They may not have received those records from the school administration yet, and you want to make sure the information is conveyed to them. Write the letter in the spirit of providing support to the teacher, while making sure information about your child has been made available.

Below you'll find a list of important points to address in your letter, as well as other items that can be included based on your child’s individual needs. A sample letter is also provided.

End the letter by saying that you look forward to meeting the teacher(s) on back-to-school night. Then be sure to attend! If your child’s school does not hold such an event, say that you would like to meet the teacher(s) before the parent-teacher conferences at the end of the grading period, and ask what day and time would be convenient. Send the letter to all of your child’s teachers — including physical education teachers and coaches — and be sure to share a copy with the school principal.


Important points to include or address

  1. Your name and relationship to (child’s name) 
  2. Your contact information: phone/fax numbers, mailing address, email address, best times to reach you
  3. Your aim to work as partners to ensure a successful year (for teacher and child)
    •   establish positive, open communication between home and school
    •   offer cooperation, collaboration, assistance, support
    •   provide helpful information about your child
  4. Information about your child’s disability and educational program (IEP or 504 Plan)
    •   instructional needs, modifications, and/or accommodations in the plan
    •   behavioral needs, modifications, and/or accommodations in the plan
  5. System for home-school communication
    •   daily homework and assignment sheet
    •   daily/weekly behavior report
    •   progress report, problem-solving, as needed 

SAMPLE LETTER

Date

Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs. _____,

My husband and I are writing this letter to introduce ourselves and to open a door of communication. We are the parents of [child’s name], who will be a student in your class this year. We are looking forward to a successful school year for both you and [child’s name], and as parents, we want to work with you and the school as partners in [child’s name]’s education. We will be happy to help you and [child’s name] in any way we can.

In case you have not had the opportunity to receive the records from special education, [child’s name] has an educational program [insert IEP / 504 Plan as appropriate] to address needs related to ADHD, which affects [Insert appropriate information here. For example: his ability to sit still, pay attention, and control his behavior. He has particular trouble getting organized, staying focused, completing and turning in assignments on time, and memorizing information, such as math facts.] We want to take this opportunity to share information about his educational services in a simplified format, including the modifications and accommodations he receives.

Listed here are the main provisions of his [insert IEP/504 Plan and list specifics below; this is a sample]:
Preferential seating
Extra time on tests
Test answers recorded in an alternate manner, as needed — especially for short-answer and discussion items
Second set of books at home
Use of a calculator for math
Shortened homework assignments for math and writing
Homework, long-range assignments, and tests recorded in planner, signed by teacher, and sent home every day
Resource room, 45 minutes 4 times per week for math
Foreign language exemption
Home-school reward system for homework completion and turning in assignments on time

We would also like to take this opportunity to set up a system of communication between home and school. You may already have such a system for your class that we will be happy to adapt and use. If not, then we will send a planner to school with [child’s name] everyday. It will always be in his backpack. He is to use it to write down his daily homework assignments, as well as any long-range assignments, such as upcoming tests, so that we can help to monitor his schoolwork at home. I will also use the planner to communicate with you on a weekly basis. Would you please assist us by reviewing and signing his planner before he leaves school each day and sending a note home in the planner on Fridays, so that we can help [child’s name] come to school prepared and reward him for his weekly school progress?

We would like to thank you in advance for taking the time to read our letter and helping with this important program. Having a system of support in place at the beginning of school will help to get the year off to a good start. My husband and I look forward to meeting you on Back-to-School Night, [insert date if known].

Please do not hesitate to contact us about problems or call on us for assistance at any time. We have included our phone and fax numbers and e-mail addresses below.

Best regards,

[signature]

Parent(s) Full Name(s)
Street Address
Town, State, Zip Code
Home Phone, Cell phone, Fax number
Mother’s e-mail, Father’s e-mail



An earlier version of this post appeared in Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue!



Beth A. Kaplanek, RN, and Linda Smith are two of the founders of CHADD's Parent to Parent: Family Training on ADHD.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent way to start off the school year. I have been doing this for years and it really helps. Unfortunately, we've had experiences where, for one reason or another, a teacher has not know my son has an IEP. Our letter makes sure we're all on the same page from the beginning and are working together for a common goal! If anyone lives in the NYC/Long Island area, I strongly urge you to look into an ADHD Parent Training program offered by Elaine Lerner. My husband and I took her workshop and learned so much about our son, his experience in live with ADHD and how we can be the best parents and best advocates for him. It was from Elaine that I first learned of the importance of starting the school year off with an introductory letter to the teacher. Elaine truly understands ADHD and has dedicated her life to helping our kids achieve happiness and success. We can never thank her enough!! Her website is www.adhdparenttrainer.com We love Attention Magazine and great articles like this!! Thanks :-)

    ReplyDelete