Helping parents, teachers, students to communicate | Columns
The annual, semester, or needs-based parent-teacher conference can be frustrating for parents and teachers and in turn affects a student’s performance in school. But with a little ‘homework’ it can be an effective building block for better home-school relationships.
When I was a principal, my team members had to send home a positive note about each student in their class. I used to say that in 5 days you can find something positive about a student, whether it be, “Tommy does a great job throwing his shoes” or “Betsy really enjoys his lunches. at school – what a good appetite and what an appreciation for food. Of course, something addressing the academic abilities of the student is preferable, but a positive start will help make a regular academic sailing course for the year.
What to do before the conferences:
1. If the teacher hasn’t requested a conference, but you think it would improve school / parent relationships, call and make an appointment. Social networks are good, but person to person is better. Note when you called and who you spoke to. If possible, briefly state what you would like to discuss so that the teacher can prepare as well.
2. At home, write down the specific things you want to ask the teacher. Waiting until the conference to make a mental list is not a sure way to get all the topics you want to discuss covered.
a. List the positive things you have seen about your child’s school experience so far.
b. Ask what positive force the teacher sees in your child.
vs. Is my child’s capacity pooled? How was this decided? Does it affect other subjects?
re. How is my child adapting socially?
e. At home, we have problems with ____. Does it show up at school?
F. I am most concerned about ________.
3. Plan that your child will be looked after during the conference, unless you and the teacher feel it is best for the child to be there.
Call the day before to let the school know you will be there, and include the time and who you spoke to to make an appointment.
What to say during the conference?
It is always good to start the conference on a positive note
Sate what you and your child love the most about the school year so far.
If the teacher is not voluntarily providing the information, ask him or her to indicate what they think are your child’s most positive attributes regarding school and academic ability.
Go over the list of questions you brought up – have a copy for the teacher and write down any suggestions or exact answers the teacher gives you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the suggestions / advice the teacher gives you. It’s better to make sure you understand how you can best help your child now than to wait until you come home and wonder what he or she meant.
There was the old cartoon Dennis the Menace where Dennis walks into the living room and says, “The professor told me I was a wise man today!” Without further questioning the mother, Alice, calls the school and enlightens the teacher: “I know Dennis can be a challenge, but calling him wise was a bit extreme.” Long pause, then Alice says, “Oh the Christmas program. Dennis must be a SAGE. I understand and I will have a costume ready ”… Pause. “DENNIS! Alice exclaimed !!!!!
4. Remember that all conferences are CONFIDENTIAL, and if there are any problems at home [illness, divorce, death in the family, etc.] the teacher needs to know and can be trusted to keep it confidential.
5. Discuss the need for a follow-up conference and if the child should attend. Presenting a united front of teacher and parent will help the child better understand the support that parent and teacher provide to the student. Don’t fall for the sticker that says, “The parent has a common enemy… the grandparent and the child. Cooperation between home and school [on all levels] is so important.
What to do after the conference
1. Discuss everything with the other parent if he could not be present. Use the list made and the answers given by the teacher. If it’s a single-family home, speak with another adult and openly express your feelings and ask for feedback.
2. Decide on a time to sit down [with TV, phone, I-pad, toys, etc.] with your child to discuss the conference.
a. Bring out ALL of the positive things the teacher said.
b. Discuss in a positive way the areas that need to be addressed.
vs. Allow the child to have a say in how to achieve these goals.
re. Listen first, then make a workable plan.
e. End the conversation with your child knowing that they are loved and supported.
F. Set achievable goals and a reasonable timeframe. [Example: homework time will be ___to ___.]
g. The rewards can be a hug, a high five, a smile, and a simple “I’m proud of you,” as well as a special gift, but no bribes.
3. Follow up with the teacher on the discussion with your child and how it went.
a. How does your support contribute to the academic and social environment at school?
b. Stay in touch, but not by being a helicopter parent [one that hovers too close].
vs. Always be as positive as possible.
By using these simple guidelines at a parent / teacher conference, you won’t let bad lines of communication interfere with your child’s academic success.
John H. McRae, Ed S. was chosen as Valdosta City, then Georgia Teacher of the Year in 1978; in 2006, then Gov. Sonny Purdue, named McRae as one of Georgia’s 140 high-performance principals. Prior to retiring in 2011, McRae achieved the rank of Assistant Professor at Georgia Southern University and Bainbridge College. McRae has been published in several professional publications.