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Unfortunately, many advocacy efforts have little effect, so it’s important to make every step count as much as possible.
In this post I will explain how I help families write advocacy emails at the beginning of the school year. This is mainly for elementary through high school but can be applied to college students as well (see the end of the video, go to min. 9).
How to write the email:
Note: These are just my recommendations. Take what you like and leave the rest.
- In your email program, create a “GROUP” of relevant contacts who are involved with helping your student. This may include relevant teachers, counselors, school support staff, admin, and any private therapists you may be working with. Call the group “TEAM JOHNNY” (yes, fill in the appropriate name). You can use this group for the entire year to make sure relevant communications go to all parties, that they are on the same page.
- Make the headline in all caps, and write: IMPORTANT: JOHNNY JONES This increases the likelihood that it will be read carefully and makes it easier for staff to locate visually as they go through their inbox.
- Add a photo if possible so they know who your child is. Remember, teachers have a lot of students to get to know.
- Start by sharing something you are genuinely appreciative of.
- Use bullets or other CRYSTAL CLEAR formatting that is EASY to read.
- End with EASY ways to get in touch with you.
- Resend it 1 week later, 1 or 2 weeks after that, and 2 weeks after that (4 times total). If teachers are not supporting your student properly, get in there, and advocate in person asap!
(Headline) IMPORTANT: JOHNNY JONES
Aug 9, 2014
Quick and important note. Please read the entire email!
My name is ____ and my child is ____.
First, I want to thank you for all you do for our kids. I know this is an incredibly busy time of year and I appreciate you taking a minute to soak this in. It will help you help meet my child’s needs.
Here are the 3 most important things you need to know about Johnny:
1. PREFERENTIAL SEATING: Johnny needs to sit in a place with minimal auditory distractions while sitting close to where you teach from most often.
2. EXTENDED TIME: Johnny processes information in a unique way. (explain). When appropriate, he needs extended time. Here is how it works best for him…
3. ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORT: Due to executive function issues such as… Johnny benefits from…
Again, I know you are busy so I will follow up with you next week to make sure his needs are met and to see how I can support you.
(You can also add a relevant background or refer to documentation when it’s helpful.)
Here’s the video of me describing it:
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Hey, this is at the top floor. Com. Hope you’re having a great day. I’m here to talk to you today to the typically about advocacy for students at the beginning of the school year and doing that through email. So my goal here is to give you some ideas. I’m certainly no Pro this or no expert but I do it a lot and I hope we have some good tips for you that you can apply and my goal for you is to really have an understanding of how you can craft letters of the beginning of the year to maximize the potential for teachers meeting the needs of your students and primarily directed at students in elementary school middle school and high school. Although I will try to touch on how I deal with this with college students at the end of the video. So the first thing that I do when I’m crafting these letters is I help with the family said it work with weed create a something called team. So and so so it was team stats. If I was the student we would create a group of emails in Gmail or Yahoo, or whatever. Your email carrier is a group of contacts. You can make a group of contacts and call it to everybody relevance in that team. So you’re going to put any relevant teachers if you’re working with a therapist and he support staff at the school and sometimes you want to add administrators when that’s appropriate to the team. You’re going to send out a letter and you’re going to send it out for time pretty much and you’re going to send it out to the entire team that way everybody’s on the same page. Everybody sees the communication. And it makes it very simple and very clean. So what you’re going to do if you’re going to crap this letter N in the headline of letters going to write importance and increases the likelihood that the people who get the email are going to read it teachers are inundated with tons of email. Okay, so you want your email to stand out in the inbox? Too if the teacher is looking for that email later. It stands out in the inbox is easier to locate because it says the student’s name right in the headline and it’s all bold letters. So those are the two reasons for that. Now what you want to do in terms of crafting the letter itself is you really want to think about the three or four main needs of your student. What are the most important things that you want this team to know about your student if you can attach a photograph definitely attached photograph, especially in middle school and high school because a lot of time the teachers might not even know the names of all the students until October have over a hundred students that they pee sometimes a lot of human being to keep track of know when they have 45 minute classes and they only see them a couple times a week. So the older the kids get the more important it is to throw a photo out there. Yes, I know. I know that your student might feel embarrassed by this or I know that that’s a battle that you may have to work with, but I’m not as concerned about that as I am the most important thing which is that the teachers understand clearly what your students needs are and if you wait until the 5 for the IEP meetings or whatever meeting happen or if you’re passive and you wait until the paperwork is to the teacher and hope that the teacher reads this early and connects the dots with your students as you’re just decrease in the likelihood that they’re going to get their needs met in your increasing the likelihood that you’re going to be dealing with very frustrating stuff in the future. So what you want to do is really use bullet point try to stay away from paragraph. Please listen to me again. These teachers have tons of emails are going through make it very clear simple bullet. These are my students need boom. Boom. Boom. Boom email very appreciative. These teachers are often very overworked very under resource the okay you want to say hey, how’s it going? Thank you so much for what you do and be genuinely appreciative. I know that it’s a busy time of year. So I’m sending you a quick letter here and I want to let you know what my students needs are so that you can better meet them. If you have any questions at all don’t hesitate to contact me and then leave every way that they can’t I contact you can say phone number cell phone whatever you can make them know that they can text you if that’s good for you email and put the information there so that they can reach you easily. Okay? Then go ahead and write your bulletin notes in M email and say hey again. Thanks so much for what you do. Just want to send a quick email. Take care. Now. You want to take this exact same email and you want to send the exact same email out one week later. The first email goes out just before schools start a day or two before school starts if possible. Second email goes out a week later started off a little bit differently though and own it. Just a hey thank you so much for what you do. My student was telling me that you really did this while I really appreciate how you guys are doing. This is really helpful. I’m sending you the exact same email I sent you because I know that you guys are super busy and inundated with tons of tasks and I just want to make it easy for you to know what my kids needs are and then send the next letter. The Beast and the next letter and one to two weeks after that one. You’re going to send the exact same letter again. Hey, thanks so much. This is really working for my student. I’m hearing good feedback about this. Please keep an eye on this. This is really important. And meanwhile, here’s the exact same letter. Please read this over real quick, and then think I’m at the end and finally. One more time a fourth-time two weeks later. You’re going to send it again. Same same story. So students. They’re very overwhelmed and you want to keep the most important need bulleted and right there so that they can look at them. And don’t worry. If a lot of my family are concerned that they’re going to be perceived as overbearing or at helicopter moms or something. Like don’t worry about that don’t care about that. All you care about is your kids needs. I want to say that again. All you care about is that your kids get their needs met. Okay, so don’t feel guilty. Please know that it’s okay to really know that you’re just doing what you need to do. Okay. It is the job of the tools to meet your students need I’ll get to that college stuff in a second. Before I get to that I want to tell you that if you sent in your gut that something is going wrong in school. Do not hesitate to get in there and go to the administrator or the counselor or the teacher or whoever just go in or call and make an appointment whatever you have to do. Okay, and obviously you want to be respectful daytime in the end understanding that they probably are doing the best that they can do with their resources and time. But it does matter your kids still needs to get their needs met. So but if I think a lot of times parents ignore their gut, And it doesn’t lie to you is something feels off some things off. You need to go in there and figure out what it is and I think that people ignore it because it says, it feels like you’re interfering or or overbearing or however field just I’m giving you permission let that go get in their teachers and principals want to help your students. They want to do the best they can do they don’t always know what to do in actually, especially with families that I work with because I see all of these problems coming up in schools with teachers who really are not trained and qualified to serve students in the capacity that they’re expected to. Don’t get me wrong teachers. I love teachers. I was teaching for 12 years. I have believed preciate you but there are teachers that really don’t need to be in the classroom particularly the ones who aren’t trying to grow any how I was going to talk about his college student. For college students. We are not dealing with an IEP or 504 and RTI or any kind of documentation like that you the student? Want to have a letter that communicates to a teacher that is in writing that you can college students a lot and meet your professors and get to know them. Well, okay. When teachers know you they can help you better it is absolutely mandatory. If your college did they could you take responsibility get to know your teacher trust me it helps you but you want a real letter so that they can actually soak it in against you know, this is who I am. I have these needs I want to know that he’s a very legitimate that’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life peers will work tears with doesn’t I know that you’re working very hard but in good conscience, I need to be clear with you and ask for the following accommodation and then tell them what you need whether it’s being able to fit in a certain place in class weather is having written notes beforehand. Whatever it is reach out to them communicate with them. I find that college teachers are often very willing to work with my students in a different way than high school middle school and elementary teachers are so you really need to take Advantage of that is the difference game. And the anyhow, I hope that help. If if you have any question, go ahead send me an email you can make a comment on the end of the blog post if you want, but I try to reply to everybody. So go ahead and ask me anything if anything’s unclear again, just something I do a lot and I care a lot about and I just want to see students get the needs because that is the job of the school. Take care. Be well. When I remind you that you rock you got this. I’ll talk to you later. Bye. Bye.