Parent-Teacher Conferences: Advice from the Teacher for First-Timers

Parent-Teacher Conferences: Advice from the Teacher for First-Timers

Communication is Key

The start of a new school year brings many new experiences, not only for children, but for parents as well. For some of you, the parent-teacher conference may be one of these new experiences. According to the National Education Association, “research has shown that parental involvement is the most important factor in a student’s success in school.” Now, while the term “conference” may have an intimidating connotation attached, it is important for parents to understand the positive outcomes of parents and teachers communicating closely about a child’s educational development.

Parents’ and Teachers’ Goals Should Align

The old adage “it takes a village” certainly applies here. While parents or guardians undoubtedly know their children best, teachers’ observations are uniquely valuable as well. Consider the time we teachers spend with our students–we know their peer groups, their interests, their quirks, strengths and weaknesses, etc. That said, the parent-teacher conference allows both parties to get a glimpse inside the student’s habits in and out of school. It is often that both parents and teachers leave a meeting with new information about the child. Whatever the circumstances may be, the most important thing to remember at a parent-teacher conference is that everyone seated at the table is there for one reason–the child. Regardless of the reason for the conference, every person present has the child’s best interest in mind.

Prepare Specific Questions

In preparation for the conference, it is beneficial that parents come prepared with specific questions for the teacher(s). Teachers will also have prepared questions and conferred with colleagues about the child’s academics beforehand. In fact, before your parent-teacher conference, it is possible that there were one or two prior conferences about the child with teachers, counselors, and administrators.

When preparing questions, it is best to keep the focus on the child. Ask about how your child has been progressing or regressing on assessments. Ask to see upcoming assignments or projects. Ask about possible after-school opportunities for help with specific classes. Teachers will ask questions as well. We may want to know if your child has worked with a tutor in the past. We may ask about your child’s specific homework routine, or study habits. It may help us to know if your child typically shies away from asking for help. We may also ask about after-school or weekend activities that require a large amount of time and energy from the child. All of these questions simply paint a better picture about how your child approaches school work and education.

Leave With an Action Plan in Place

The worst outcome of a parent-teacher conference is that you leave the meeting asking yourself, “What was the point of that?” Of course, a teacher’s time is limited during the school day, but even a mid-day conference should bring about some sort of solutions and strategies for the student moving forward. At the close of the conference, both the teacher(s) and parent(s) should have established clear expectations regarding the child’s behavior, effort, assignment completion, etc.

It may also be beneficial to ask what your role as the parent should be moving forward. Depending on your child’s age, it may be appropriate to loosen the reins and place more responsibility on your child. After all, autonomy and self-advocacy are two skills that children must inevitably learn on their own.

Removing Roadblocks to Build Avenues: Learning Disabilities Awareness Month

Removing Roadblocks to Build Avenues

October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. This important topic was first observed during the Reagan administration in 1985, and it has continued to bring awareness for the 15 million Americans that live with learning disabilities today. Awareness for disabilities such as processing disorders and dyslexia is important for everyone–not just the individuals that live with these disabilities. The National Education Association explains that, “one of the biggest challenges faced by individuals with learning disabilities is the overall lack of acceptance by society.” This lack of acceptance and understanding is precisely why Learning Disabilities Awareness Month is so important. Education is key in terms of building peer relationships, promoting advocacy, and supporting families.

Here are 6 things that may surprise you about learning disabilities:

  1. While the “nature vs. nurture” conversation is constantly debated, there is no proof that environmental factors are tied to learning disabilities. There is also no evidence to support that learning disabilities are linked to low socioeconomic status. The truth is, learning disabilities span across all races, ethnicities, and income levels.
  2. For an unknown reason, boys make up two-thirds of the students receiving special education services in the public school system. There is no explanation for the apparent gender distinction.
  3. Most children with learning disabilities have average or above-average IQs. Contrary to popular belief, learning disabilities are not linked to deficits in intelligence, motivation, or emotional development. There is no “effort factor” present in students with learning disabilities–they simply require a different set of strategies to learn and retain information.
  4. A child with a family history of academic difficulties could be at a higher risk for a learning disability. Certain learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, are known to run in families.
  5. Learning disabilities cannot be medically cured. These disabilities do not go away; however, they can certainly be managed or treated. A factor in successful management is to recognize how to capitalize on strengths and circumvent areas of weakness.
  6. Experts believe that around 5% of the population struggles with a learning disability. With such a prevalent statistic, it is likely that a learning disability hits close to home in some area of a person’s life.

The truth is, learning disabilities do not determine someone’s capabilities. It is important to educate ourselves about these various educational difficulties so that we may better accommodate our students and children. A learning disability is not a roadblock. We simply must continue to create alternate avenues for learning so that everyone’s unique needs are met.

 

Welcome to Middle School…Your Parent Guide

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  1. Check your child’s agenda book daily, and check not only homework, but completed homework on a regular basis.
  2. Keep lines of communication with school open. Don’t wait for school to contact you. Take the initiative.
  3. Get to know the teachers, keep in contact, and understand–regardless of what your child comes home and tells you–there is always another side to the story.
  4. Teach your child that every teacher is different, just as co-workers and bosses will be in life.
  5. Be prepared for change. Be prepared for the shock of academic and non-academic discussions in middle school about topics you never heard your child mention before.
  6. Tell administrators about teachers who make a positive impression. Do you enjoy being complimented? So do teachers.
  7. Reward positive accomplishments (agenda book completely filled in, perfect papers, etc.) on a weekly basis. A little goes a long way, and middle schoolers thrive on praise.
  8. Get involved. Research has shown that parents’ participation increases the child’s self-esteem, improves their academic performance, improves the parent-child relationship, and develops a more positive attitude toward school in both the parent and child.
  9. Ask your child to teach you at least three new things they learned each day! Listening is one of the greatest–and most neglected–skills of parenting. Don’t be too busy with the little stuff in life to miss the important moments with your child. When they tell you about their day, look them in the eye, and listen; really listen!

Be objective. Listen to your child’s teachers. Sometimes they may tell you things about your child you aren’t going to like or want to hear. But remember, your child at home is not necessarily the same child they see at school. You don’t have to take everything the teacher says as gospel, but make sure you really listen and consider their advice.