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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Parent-Teacher Conferences

By Rachel H, Assistant VP of Mommyhood in the Triad

We are about halfway through the traditional school year! That means it is the season for conferences with your child’s teacher(s). You probably have a million topics you want to cover in the brief 15–20 minutes you are allotted. As a former Elementary School teacher, I highly suggest writing down your concerns and questions and bringing them along to the meeting. As a parent, you truly do not know how your child behaves when he/she is at school and you may not know if they are struggling in a specific area. It is easier to tell with older children, because an F on a test is a good indication that your child is struggling! With younger children, they do not have tests, and you may know not how they are doing. If the teacher has not already given you a head’s up, the only way to find out is to ask. Sometimes the truth is tough to swallow, but in the end, remember that the teachers are doing what is best for your child and are also doing everything they can to help your child be successful.

The best advice I can give is to always follow-up at home. If your student has been misbehaving, make sure talk to your child when they come home and find out what kind of day he/she had. It is important that the child knows there is communication between the parents and teachers. The same thing goes for academics. Ask how the test went or how they felt about today’s lesson.

I would also suggest that if you have many concerns, you may want to let the teacher know ahead of time so that he/she can schedule your conference for a longer time period, or save you for the end of the day so that you session will not run into others’ times.

One more tip is that if your child has a problem at school, the teachers may or may not know about it and it is worth letting them know. For example, I remember one year when I spoke to a parent toward the end of the school year. She made a comment along the lines of “Well, you know how Johnny has been treating Jack all year, and …”. I stopped right there and asked her what she meant. I had no idea there was a problem between Johnny and Jack. After we called Jack over and had a discussion, I came to find out that every time the kids were in line, Johnny would punch Jack in the stomach! Now these were 5th graders, so Johnny was plenty old enough to know better, and was plenty old enough to be “smart” about when he would punch Jack.

They had a specific alphabetical line order to make roll call easier for special area teachers. Well, Johnny and Jack were placed next to each other. Unfortunately, when the line would turn a corner, or I would be speaking to another student, that was the time that Johnny would hit Jack. As you can imagine, I felt TERRIBLE about the situation! It had gone on all year and I had no clue. Jack had never said a word to me and neither did his mom. She had probably sat home all year wondering why I let Johnny continue to treat her son that way! Not only was this interfering with social issues at school, but I am sure it had an affect on Jack’s schoolwork as well. Although teachers claim to have eyes in the backs of their heads, remember that they are humans, too. With anywhere from 23-30 kids in a class, it is honestly difficult to see it all. Moral of the story, communicate with your child’s teacher.

The principal at my son’s school sent home a list of questions to ask during a Parent-Teacher Conference. I thought it was a terrific list and wanted to share it with you all. I actually brought it along to my son’s conference this week! Most teachers will cover these topics during your session, but there are probably a few that will be great additional questions to help you determine how well your child is doing at school.

• What grade level is my child working on? Is he/she on grade level in reading and math? How about the other subjects? If he/she is below grade level, why and what can I do to help? Is tutoring an option?
• What kinds of tests/assessments do you give the students? How well does my child handle the tests?
• What are my child’s test scores in reading and math … what do those scores mean?
• Is my child in different ability groups for different subjects? Which ones? How are groups determined?
• Have you noticed changes in the way my child acts? For example, squinting, tiredness or moodiness?
• How is my child’s progress measured? Through tests? Portfolios? Class participation? Projects?
• What subject does my child like most? Least?
• Is my child working to the best of his/her ability?
• Does my child participate in class discussions and activities?
• How well does my student get along with others?

Good luck! Remember the most important rule of all … the success of the child should come first!

What Smarty advice do you have to share regarding Parent-Teacher conferences?


Cathy said...

Great ideas! We have conferences next week and I will be sure to bring these questions along.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous article!

kellyg said...

I really like the idea of asking if your child is tired or squinting. I had poor vision and couldn't see the board in my math class, but no one knew and so I was making poor grades. Now, my son is showing signs of being every bit the night owl his dad is, and I wonder if he is just exhausted at school every day. "Go to sleep" doesn't have much clout from me, but if I tell him Miss April says he needs to get to bed, he will most certainly do it.

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