Parent-teacher conferences are put in place for communication, accountability, to celebrate success, and to overcome challenges. They are an opportunity for teachers to relay insight about a child's interactions with their peers, their approach and attitude towards challenging material, and their reactions to new emotions and ideas. Everyone should take advantage of this time, albeit limited, to increase opportunities for the success of the student.
Speaking as an educator with 12 years of experience as a reading specialist, the tips below are a collection of my experiences that I have found most useful when communicating with parents. At Halifax Learning I have the privilege of frequent parent-teaching consultations. We also have a systematized assessment procedure that also ensures a discussion at the mid point of a SpellRead student's programing and upon completion of the program.
Here are 5 ways to maximize your parent-teacher conference.
1. Don't Wait!
Don't wait for Parent-Teacher Conferences to open lines of communication. Remember, you are a team and communication is critical. We all know our public school teacher's are overwhelmed with demands, but offering support, relevant information and ensuring you're supporting your child's needs at home will only reduce the demands on our classroom teachers.
You can help support your child's classroom teacher by asking for advice on ways you can support your child at home. Ask for recommendations for:
- an online course, reading material or an upcoming conference that puts a spotlight on your child's learning challenges.
- an incentive program that can be carried out both at home an in the classroom.
- additional practice, activities and/or apps.
- professional services and support in your community.
2. Ask for Honesty
Give your child's teacher permission to be honest. Let them know you are prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly in order to move forward. In order for your child to thrive, the adults overseeing their education need to work together, even if it hurts.
Teacher's want to tell all parents that their child is exceeding expectations and your child's teacher is likely agonizing over focusing on the positive. As hard as it is to receive difficult news, it's also hard to share it, but when we sugar coat reality, we are providing a disservice to our students. As SpellRead providers, too often we are asked why no one spoke up sooner. When parents ask for honesty and open communication, parents and teachers can more quickly develop solutions for the child's learning needs.
3. Share Information
The golden rule for teaching success is "get to know your students" and no one knows your child better than you do. Relationships are paramount and parents can help fast track this process by sharing as much information as possible. Share with your child's teacher:
- the challenges and successes that have defined your child.
- what motivates your child.
- what causes your child anxiety.
- what programs and services they have received up to this point.
- the strengths and challenges you face as a parent in reinforcing the goals set out by your child's teacher.
4. Include the Student
Your child is the subject of your meeting and one of your best sources of information. Students should have an opportunity to assess and provide feedback about their teacher, classmates, and learning environment. Yes, a child's perspective can be skewed, but regardless, what they perceive to be true impacts their learning outcomes.
How they feel matters and can help inform their educational journey. Have multiple, meaningful and intentional conversations with your child about their experiences at school and record their comments in a journal at a later time. Ask your child specific questions and allow them to express their feelings completely. After several conversations about school, reflect on your notes and look for patterns that resulted in success or presented barriers for your child's learning. Take this information to your child's teacher with the intention of finding a resolution, not to point fingers.
5. Advocate, Advocate, Advocate
Advocating for your child doesn't mean being a bully and making unreasonable demands. Asking informed questions with the expectation of an informed response is well within your rights. When it comes to your child's reading, you should ask:
- When were you last able to read with my child one on one?
- What are they reading in comparison to their peers?
- What do you notice about my child's reading? Are they using compensatory strategies such as memorization, context or pictures to guess or are they using the sound-letter relationship of the alphabet code to attack unknown words?
- Are you teaching the five core components of essential reading skills? How?
If your child is struggling to read, remember:
✓ Reading skills do not develop in a short time.
✓ 95% of the developing readers benefit from explicit, systematic instruction to decipher the alphabetic code.
✓ Developing readers need multiple, repetitive opportunities to master skills.
✓ Reading programs must incorporate all five of the core components to ensure skilled, confident, reading.
✓ SpellRead is an evidence-based program that offers effective, sustainable results and delivered by exceptional, experienced, experts at Halifax Learning.