Workshops help parents with school transfers
By Rudi Williams, American Forces Press Service
/ Published October 16, 2003
WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- "If you'd been here two weeks earlier, we could have gotten this taken care of, and your child would be graduating with the rest of the class."
That is one of the last things military parents want to hear a counselor say when their children transfer from one school to another around the globe, according to educator Alice Wooten.
And that is one of the dilemmas the Military Child Education Coalition is striving to prevent by giving parents the information they need to prevent or solve such problems. There were so many parents with problems that coalition officials created parent workshops to teach parents ways to ease the transition process for themselves and their children.
The workshops are for parents who want to learn how to find information to prepare themselves and their children for a successful transition, Wooten said. She is a workshop instructor and the parent and community coordinator for the Killeen (Texas) Independent School District.
"We developed parent workshops last year and offered a one-hour sampling … ," Wooten said. "This year we increased it to a four-hour workshop. We've added a lot of components to it, and as parents have requested additional information, we've been able to expand it to meet their needs."
Wooten said many parents just had basic questions: What can I do for my child? What types of information can I carry from one school to the next school? What are some questions I should be asking?
For example, she said, it would be beneficial to the new school to have certain test results for students in special programs like gifted and talented or special education. This would help the gaining school place students in the right programs when they arrive.
Many parents want to find out what kinds of challenges their children will face in a new environment and a new school, particularly in the secondary area, she said.
"Military children who are applying for scholarships at a particular school need to know if there are testing requirements that are joined with graduation," Wooten said. "So they want to make sure that when they transition, they get there at the right time."
She said coalition officials encourage parents to research and look ahead to find out if special enrollment programs exist. For example, the new school may have a summer enrollment center where students can register before school actually starts. This could prevent the first-day trauma of a child waiting in the office for two hours for someone to develop his or her schedule.
"If you go to the summer enrollment center, your child will enter the first day of school with everyone else," she said. "This will reduce all that uncertainty."
Parent workshops are often conducted as part of the coalition’s Transition Counselor Institute, Wooten said.
"We invite local parents to come in, and we give them tools, tips and Web site resources so they'll be able to do the work on their own," she said.
The institute is where coalition trainers work with counselors, telling them about military culture and the challenges military children face, she said. Trainers help counselors develop skills they need to be able to deal with transitioning military children.
Wooten said after attending the institute, counselors are better prepared to serve military children.
"We've provided tools for the counselors to ease this process to make it easier for themselves, the school district, the military families and ultimately for the child," Wooten said.
Taking a tip from the adage, "The early bird gets the worm," coalition officials held the first two parent workshops of the new school year on the first day of school at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
"We wanted to catch parents at the beginning of the year, when their enthusiasm and interest (are) at their heights," said Marty Marks, who assisted with the workshop.
"We are offering the right information at the right time to parents who have been looking for ways to help support their students as they move through their high school years," Marks said.
"The resources we provided through (the coalition) were a huge help." Marks said. "… They really helped our parents feel like they had something solid to go by. Having a tool in hand was worth an awful lot."
Marks advises parents to have a solid academic plan for four years of high school that will be recognized and accessible everywhere.
"Make sure your student's curriculum is rigorous," she said. "The interactive counseling center televideo capability … allows our students to communicate with counselors and teachers around the world."
The counseling center is a network of schools connected through a private, point-to-point video teleconferencing system.
"I wish we had this available when we were overseas with our oldest daughters," Marks said. "One graduated from high school in Germany, the other, (South) Korea. Our overseas parents deserve as much information as our stateside families. In fact, our overseas families have particular challenges with limited resources, and often feel left out when it comes to college planning and interviewing."