What if American public education approached parents and children the way children’s hospitals do? In this week’s Voices of the Dropout Nation, Connecticut Parents Union President Gwen Samuel recounts a recent hospital visit and wonders why schools can’t be so compassionate to kids and families.
Several months ago, my daughter’s teacher and I noticed that her leg was starting to bow. Puzzled about why my daughter’s leg was growing crooked, we began the immediate medical journey of diagnosing the problem and putting the needs of my child first.
From day one, the first moment my daughter’s ailment was noticed, the school took immediate action. We developed an educational and physical needs plan to support her. She went from walking the stairs to riding on the elevator to get to class. No long meetings, or stalling tactic. They put my child’s needs first.
As my child went through the rounds of CATScans, MRI exams and trips to the doctors to diagnose the ailment, the school and I worked together at the school and home level to keep her educationally engaged.
Then the hospital came into play. Weeks before the surgery, our family met with doctors, who gave my daughter support and prepared us for outcomes after the operation. On the day of the surgery, nurses showed us pictures of the operating room and presented the actual items that would be used n surgery, including the oxygen mask and gowns. And they created a welcoming environment in which my daughter and our family could ask questions and get answers. We also played “I Spy” with the nurses and we had a spelling bee with the key word being anesthesia.
My daughter got to choose how she traveled to the operating room; she road there in a Barbie Car. And I got to stay in the until she was sleep. When I cried, a nurse consoled me and walked with me to the family lounge.
In the family lounge, I was given a phone for updates, a tracking ID number for my child and up to the minute progress reports. A big LCD screen constantly updated families about the progress of procedures. A nurse called me during surgery to give an update. WOW! It was all about my child and her well being, with the family role clearly defined and supported.
My daughter is doing fine and still recovering. And our experience makes me thrilled to have health insurance and caring hospitals. I wish the same can be said for many of our schools. Teachers and administrators need to realize that parents aren’t the enemy. If schools were as supportive of families as our children’s hospitals, we would accomplish so much for our kids.
The Children’s Medical Center is just another example of a family-centered welcoming environment that can be replicated in our schools. Working together is clearly the path of least resistance thus placing all the adult stake holders in a better position to meet the needs of our children.