The Gleaner

Students and parents can advocate for themselves

Most parents want what’s best for their kids, especially when it comes to their education. But it can sometimes be difficult for parents to know what their kids need and how to best support them throughout their school years.

Lori Belair-Boyle works hard to provide resources to both students and parents about how to best advocate for themselves through her online community, Chez Miss B’s Homeroom. This is a social media page that shares information in English and French to help young people get the most out of their time in school.

Belair-Boyle has a background as both a teacher and an administrator, so she is well versed in the education system. Recently, McGill asked her to return to give two education conferences. The first one, which took place in April, was for education graduates and focused on effective classroom management. The second will take place in June; the details of it will be confirmed later.

In terms of her online services, she shares that “Many times parents are reaching out, and they are just questioning if what they’re thinking is valid.” She says that though most of the time parents are on the right track, they need encouragement and a push to keep going. Her Facebook page is a place where she shares information on education and how to optimize one’s experience as a student, parent, or a teacher.

This past year has been particularly difficult for students. With the combination of illnesses hitting schools hard and the teachers’ strike, there have been many absences, making it challenging for students to stay up to date. She has noticed that students are getting sicker sooner and taking longer to heal. “I’ve never seen so many absences before,” she says.

The strike meant students have lost quite a few days of school and many are feeling behind. She adds that at Huntingdon’s École Arthur Pigeon there is “an amazing afterschool ‘class patch’ program, which is a getting-back-on-track program. And we had a lot of teachers volunteer to help.” However, students need to feel supported both at home and at school.

Students are the next generation of citizens, and Belair-Boyle thinks that it’s important to make sure they are getting the best education possible to be the most educated citizens possible. After the past few years, many kids are struggling: “There’s more students than ever with dyslexia, auditory processing problems, or language problems. We’re seeing this daily. Is it because of COVID? Is it because they have gaps in their learning? We don’t know,” she admits.

Being assessed for learning disabilities can be expensive and time consuming. And then parents have to hope their child’s school will be able to provide the necessary resources.

Belair-Boyle also mentions that it can be hard for parents to speak up for their kids, and it can be scary to ask questions and raise concerns. “We need to be teaching our parents; we need to be teaching our students to be advocates for themselves when it comes to their learning. Because for many students, they’re going to be learning for the next 15 years,” she says. She has an entire feature on her page that gives a relevant term to each letter of the word “advocacy” to help parents understand their own power. Having this knowledge and confidence can help parents and students access the tools they need.

Parents and students can check out Belair-Boyle’s page for more resources and may reach out directly if they would like any advice for particular situations.

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