Bethel Public Schools. Bethel, Connecticut

Working in Partnership with Bethel Public Schools


Introduction

This brochure is one in a series of efforts to strengthen the working relationship between the Bethel Public Schools and the families it serves. We all want students to enjoy school and to experience an uninterrupted spiral toward greater achievement and social development each year. We hope that every parent can enjoy a relationship with the school not unlike that of June and Ward Cleaver where every bump in the road can be handled in a single twenty-two minute episode. It does indeed take a partnership among teachers, parents, and administrators to guide a child successfully through school. Just as business partners have bylaws to govern interactions and expectations; this document outlines questions to raise when you seek to resolve a conflict with the school.

Problems do indeed arise on occasion. They are part of the child’s development and distinguishing feature of human nature. Bethel school personnel have the desire, expertise, and empathy to work with you in dealing with conflicts or difficulties. We suggest that you review these questions as you interact with the school to resolve a conflict.

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Questions To Ask Yourself

1. Have I established a relationship with the teacher, counselor, or principal? We hope that all parents can answer this question quickly and in the affirmative. A previous relationship is helpful because it establishes understanding and a common purpose. As early as possible in the year tell the teacher about your child, siblings, activities, and any events that mark home life (births, deaths, separation, divorce, travel).

2, When conflict arises should I call the school or visit in person? School personnel are busy people during the day and are often not available to respond immediately. An appointment can save you time in your schedule. Appearing at school unannounced might cause you to wait until those to whom you wish to speak are available. Minor issues can generally be addressed over the phone while areas of wider concern may be better served in person so that school administrators can work in collaboration with other staff present.

3. When a conflict arises, what is my purpose as I interact with the school? Most of us have been parents and we understand your desire to spring into action to make things better for your child immediately. Problems are often upsetting and can lead to an understandable fit of pique. During these times your first true purpose may be to vent anger and frustration but this approach has only a short term, and largely negative, impact. We suggest that your primary purpose should be initially to gather information - to get the facts straight. Then consider that most often your real purpose is to find a solution and to change behavior, either that of your child or school personnel. Focus on strategies that will open dialogue in this direction. School personnel can be more effective in listening to you if your purpose is clearly defined toward problem solving.

4. When a problem arises that I wish to report should I use my name? This is an issue of trust. Many times principals are uncertain about the credibility of a call when it is made anonymously. We suggest that you give your name as a sign of good faith. If you are concerned that your name will be used incorrectly, please relay that concern to the principal or teacher to ensure that they become sensitive to your feelings. On occasion parents believe that their child will suffer retribution if his/her name is associated with a complaint. Also state your concern forthrightly because it further demonstrates your willingness to help in confronting and solving a problem.

5. What should I believe about an incident that purportedly happens at school? Remember that issues are seldom as simple as they appear after the fact. The conflict and emotions of the moment can make for great drama in the retelling. As humans we often value embellishment more than truth. We suggest that you call the school principal or the teacher when an issue arises that you believe might eventually compromise your child’s safety or capacity to learn. School personnel will appreciate your concern and your willingness to seek the truth. Please remember that discipline and personnel issues are dealt with in a confidential manner. Details are not shared with the public.

6. When a conflict arises with the school where do I start? The best place to resolve a problem is with the teacher. Often times emotions make this a difficult decision. When you call a counselor, principal, or superintendent first, teachers generally feel that they have been by-passed and their abiity to explain or to resolve a dilemma has been taken from them.

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How should I best approach the teacher when a problem arises?

  • First, have notes prepared about questions you want to ask, clarification, and points you want to make.
  • Second, take notes so that you can accurately recall the conversation.
  • Third, establish the fact that you have started your intervention with the teacher because he/she knows the child well and that in partnership, you want to work through this problem.
  • Fourth, remember that in a conflict situation, there are multiple versions of an incident and that you may have been privy to only one. It is a good idea to hear completely what the teacher has to say without interruption and then seek clarification of specifics when he/she is finished.
  • Fifth, if you find that you and the teacher have a difference of opinion use your notes to outline your concerns. It is a good idea to have identified the remedy you seek so that you can fully share your thoughts for a solution with the teacher.
  • Sixth, if you find that you are unable to reach accord with the teacher, you should advise him/her that you need to talk with the principal further.
  • Seventh, follow up and ask for an update when appropriate.

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How should I best approach the principal when a problem arises?

  • First, you again have to decide if you want to call or to make a personal appointment.
  • Second, review your notes so that you can explain, in sequence, the issues, your concerns, and the points you wish to make.
  • Third, try to avoid threats and shouting. Principals are experienced and want to work with parents whenever possible. They believe that creating an adversarial relationship is counterproductive.
  • Fourth, expect that the principal will not be able to address your concerns fully right way. The principal will have to speak with the teacher(s) involved and perhaps other resources before being able to fully address the problem.

Should you be dissatisfied with the response from personnel at the local level, make sure you have exhausted your options there before calling central office.

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When Should I Contact My Child’s Counselor?

Each Bethel elementary school has a guidance counselor and the middle School has three guidance counselors. If you believe that your child is experiencing adjustment difficulties, new personal challenges, or problems arising from family situations, it is a good idea to call the school counselor. These counselors do not do therapeutic or psychiatric counseling but can be of assistance in teaming with you and the teacher(s) to work through a myriad of problems. Counselors are excellent at gathering together all of your child’s teachers and administrators in order to assure that each is aware of a problem and thereby addresses it with a common strategy. Counselors work with children throughout the day to help them cope with problems in a positive manner. Lastly, counselors are an excellent resource for parents when children approach new and perhaps baffling phases.

Don’t Dwell on the Past - When a difficulty arises and is dealt with, be it a conflict or a discipline situation, children need to draw appropriate lessons but then move on with their lives. Parents and school personnel should heed the same lesson. The march toward maturity causes everyone to make mistakes, and as adults, we may view those mistakes differently at times.

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Fifteen Ways to Help Kids Through Crisis

Expect a crisis. Every child will go through some sort of crisis. It’s a natural part of growing up. So don’t be surprised. Expect and prepare for it. Be ready for the opportunity to help.

Know your child. The best way to help is to see the crisis coming. Remember you won’t see a crisis coming if you don’t know your child. Crisis causes kids to change what they say, how they feel, and how they act. Know what is normal so you can recognize change.

Love your child. Kids feel pain in crisis. They need your love, your trust. They need you. But they will not come to you in time of storm if they don’t feel your love in calm. Show your kids you love them now.

Communicate with your child. Talk with and listen to your child. Ask about dreams and fears. Show interest now so each child will know you care.

Build trusting relationships. Knowing, loving, and communicating with your kids builds parent and child trust. Build similar relationships with other adults – a trusted friend, neighbor or family member – to whom you and your child can go in crisis. You and your child need support. Build support now.

Look for the signs of crisis. Look for these warning signs: increased anxiety, changes in appetite or sleeping patterns, depression, shame, guilt, anger, and hostility. If you recognize these or other sudden and dramatic changes in your child, look for crisis.

Locate the cause of crisis. Ask your child how he feels, what is bothering him/her. Find the source of pressure so you can help relieve it.

Understand your child’s reactions. Your child will try various methods to cope with pain and make the crisis go away. Tensions and emotions can run high, resulting in explosive words and actions. Recognize and understand why your child is reacting, and respond in love.

Listen and talk. Ask your child to describe his feelings. Repeat back to your child what he/she has said. Feel your child’s pain. Tell your child you understand how hard it is for him/her and how painful it is for you to see him/her go through the crisis. Offer empathy, not quick advice.

Accept your child. Your child may become increasingly hostile or negative toward you. Do not judge your child’s behavior. Understand why he/she is reacting, and lovingly accept your child while correcting his actions.

Hug and hold your child. Express your love consistently in words and actions. Tell him/her that he/she is loved, valued, and accepted no matter what.

Guide positively. After you have listened, understood and identified with your child’s pain, offer positive feed back. Give him/her some practical action or task you know he/she can do to build his/her self-worth. (It is good if the task helps someone else.) Tell your child you trust him/her and his/her ability to rise above the difficulty. Do not let yourself be overwhelmed by the crisis. Seek professional guidance if you don’t know what to do or say.

Praise your child. Tell your child how impressed you are with his/her ability to endure hardship.

Apply the positive lesson(s) learned. Admit any mistakes you made in handling a crisis. Affirm your love for your child. Discuss how you felt. Listen to your child’s feelings. Talk about what worked and evaluate what was accomplished. Together, agree on how to correct the problems and the best way to handle feelings and actions next time.

Prepare for the next crisis. Agree that going through crisis is better together than alone. Discuss the other potential crises that might happen based upon what you learned.

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Teaching Children Responsibility

Parenting is a difficult task and one that requires a plan. If you don’t have a clear idea of your specific objectives, you’ll end up reacting all the time instead of acting. If you want to succeed, you need some precise goals. Without specific goals we tend to evaluate our parenting skills on momentary feelings, which are often an exasperation or lack of patience. The best defense is a good offense.

Our primary objective as parents and as educators is to teach responsibility. A child moves from being asked to dress himself, to making a bed, to doing family jobs and homework and later much more. Responsibility means more than any of these ideas. It means to become mature in the sense of responsibility to family, to self, to society, for all aspects of our lives, for our talents, for our potential, for our actions.

At the most basic level (ages2-6) responsibility is obedience to parents. At the next higher level (ages 6-10) responsibility becomes morality or concern for how our actions and attributes affect others. At the next level (ages 10-12) a disciplined responsibility to self in choices and in character is shaped. At the highest level (about 12-14) the concept of service responsibility to the larger community plays an important role in the child’s life.

Whenever we interact with children about a difficult situation or a mistake that they have made while interacting with others, it is best to focus on the idea of responsibility and your goal as a parent.

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Children Learn What They Live

If a child lives with criticism
He leans to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.

~ From “Kids Peace”

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