By now most parents have had the parent teacher conference to discuss his or her child’s academic progress. The conference, however brief, provides a chance for the two of you to develop a rapport. The parent teacher conference should be viewed as a forum for sharing insights and information about your child, as well as discussing strategies for partnering in his or her education.
For parents with children in elementary school, a parent teacher conference also allows for feedback on a child’s individual behavior, the emergence of foundational learning concepts and his or her interaction between teachers and other children.
At the conclusion of the parent teacher conference you may have also received a sample packet of class work, information on upcoming projects, curriculum descriptions, sample grading rubric and a check list which outlines strengths, weaknesses and ways to assist your child at home.
So now what? What do you do with this information, and how do you cultivate the relationship begun during a parent teacher conference to ensure your child can thrive in the classroom?
The most basic answer is, remain in touch with the teacher without becoming a nuisance. But, before initiating any follow-up contact, re-read the teacher’s observations to make certain that you understand all comments, whether positive or negative, and agree on all areas of major concern. Then, have an honest talk with your child about the parent teacher conference.
Most children are anxious to know what was said and need reassurance that they are doing well. Remind your child that you and the teacher are proud of him. Share at least one positive comment, attributed to the parent teacher conference and ask if he or she would like to share anything about school.
You will be surprised at the response. For younger children, sudden changes in seating arrangements, or being overlooked for a highly sought-after classroom assignment or job title may result in an unusual reaction and cast a negative pall on your child, long after the incident.
Ask yourself, “do I see similar patterns at home?” Does he forget things at home, struggle to complete basic chores or exhibit signs of anxiety and stress when attempting a homework assignment. Has the teacher indicated that your child has difficulty remaining on task, is easily distracted or has organizational issues? If so, what can be implemented to assist your child?
Remove one layer of stress by allowing your child to unwind before tackling his or her homework. On evenings where there is more than one assignment, have him take a break in between each task. Use graphic organizers, agendas, calendars and weekly homework lists to help your child keep track of assignments and projects.
Provide a centrally located bulletin board, white board, or chalk board and post a weekly task list; encourage him to refer to the calendar on a daily basis and provide positive reinforcement when completing a task on time and accurately. Small rewards such as stickers, trading cards, a special dessert, or movie rentals are great rewards for a job well done.
Finally, write a brief note to the teacher, reinforcing the parent teacher conference letting them know that you wish to forge a partnership to ensure a successful year.
If you haven’t already done so, offer advice on your child’s temperament and techniques that have been used in the past. Convey the strategies that you plan to implement as a result of your parent teacher conference and request a list of resources to help your child succeed.
In the letter, state your intention to follow up on a regular basis; offer several options and let the teacher determine which method works best: notes, telephone, email, or in person, and how often you should be in contact. Ask the teacher to provide follow-up progress reports, to determine if there is cause of concern and schedule a meeting to determine the next step.
For children in K-4th Grade, these are major indicators that your child should be screened for a learning disability:
- Your child has difficulty associating letters and the sounds they make
- He or she cannot blend sounds to formulate words
- When reading aloud, he stumbles, loses his place or confuses words
- She consistently misspells words, or fails to write letters correctly
- Exhibits difficulty with basic math concepts
- Cannot tell time or remember simple sequences of events
- Is slow to learn a new skill set
Remember that all children learn at a different pace and most elementary schools use a rubric, or a predetermined set of criteria to grade a student’s work. For emergent learners, the additional assistance provided by reading and math specialists, may be all that is needed to help your child to overcome a slow start!
The parent teacher conference is a good first step in determining your child’s school year success.