As half term approaches and the time for Parent-Teacher meetings nears, I’d like to share some thoughts on how to make meeting with your child’s teacher a happy and productive one. After all, together, you are a team and your child’s academic and emotional well-being is important to you both.
As a parent, the most important mindset you can take with you is the knowledge that your child’s teacher has committed to one of the most difficult jobs in the world, second probably, only to yours.
As a teacher the most important mindset you can take with you is the knowledge that your students’ parents trust you like they trust no one else in this world and to those whom much is given, much is expected.
So it’s vital that parents and teachers come together as partners and allies in the best interest of the child whose potential, self-esteem and place in this world depends on the unity of those who believe in him or her. You see, each child looks for the approval of both teachers and parents to give him or her their sense of self-worth in this world – instead of generating it internally, which they are too young to do. So parent-teacher meetings need to be positive, collaborative, communicative and compassionate.
The bottom line is that both parents and teachers see the best and the worst in the child and it’s their job, together, to mould and inspire them in their formative years to help them reach their potential and grow into the best person they can possibly be. Together, they need to teach the student to learn how to regulate.
But let’s get to the pragmatics. Parents don’t have long to chat with teachers, so I’d like to suggest some great questions to ask in different scenarios. Please write down your questions and remember to take a notebook with you, or even ask if you can use your phone to record the conversations.
The best case scenario is that the teacher says: “your child is a delight and I have absolutely no problems with him or her.” Amid all the joy you feel, here are some important questions to ask:
- How are you getting through the syllabus?
- How far along are you? Are you on target?
- If you think this will be a problem, what can I put in place to help?
- Can you identify any relative weaknesses?
- If my child is achieving 65% what does 90% looks like?
- How is my child’s reading for comprehension, vocabulary, understanding of concepts, writing skills, management of the work-load, quality of homework, ability to work independently, interaction in class, social relationships with peers?
So many of these factors plays its part in the child’s feeling of success. Together you can problem-solve and agree on the individual parts you both will play to make an improvement happen.
However, some parents are faced with this scenario: “your child just needs to settle”, or “your child is just too distracted”, or “Whatever I try, your child is just not ‘getting it’”. Or the absolute worst: “your child is just not interested in learning’. Ouch! That will hurt quite a bit.
As a parent, I know what you are thinking at this stage: a teacher has no right to say these things to you. The teacher is a professional and it is his or her responsibility to do whatever it takes to ensure your child, each child learns. He or she is the adult, in charge of the class, and is expected to be motivational, intuitive, structured, flexible and clued-in to the needs of each student.
So the problem-solving needs to become a bit more specific. As a parent, you are going to want to panic because you know you cannot be there in the classroom to fix this. And even if you were able to be there, you might not know what to do to change things.
Still, you’re there to find out how to help your child. So focus on the working solutions, not the presenting issues.
If you are told, “your child just needs to settle”; “your child is just too distracted”.
Here’s what you need to ask:
Can you pinpoint what distracts my child in particular; is there anything you have tried that has been effective?
Is my child sitting in the best place possible in class?
If he/she has the need to move around do you allow it between tasks?
Are my child’s basic needs (water, food, bathroom breaks) being met?
Do you think my child understands the task he/she is being asked to do?
Does he/she talk too much? Could he/she be trying to get clarification through asking questions?
Does my child have some weaknesses that make it difficult to for him/her to cope with what you are asking him/her to do?
Does he/she need to be helped to get organised before starting?
Does he/she need help to get started on task?
Do you give my child clearly stated, measureable and easily achievable tasks?
Do you provide quick and meaningful feedback and the opportunity for self-correction?
Do you focus on praise rather than criticism?
These are realistic questions any teacher should be able to answer about your child and within the answers lay the solution. That’s when two heads are better than one as problem-solving is well done when it is done together. Agree on some actions, start with one change that’s easy to put in place and follow them through. Be realistic, be rational and sequential. Keep in touch with each other and monitor progress.
However, should you continue to hear “Whatever I try, your child is just not ‘getting it’” or “Your child is just not interested in learning” that’s a strong indication that there’s something further to investigate. Perhaps there is a specific learning challenge, or it is an unhealthy dynamic between teacher and student, or perhaps some missing foundation information. There could be so many reasons but each one begs to be investigated.
The solution may be some really effective extra lessons with a teacher outside of school who can offer a clean slate and different skills, perhaps a different approach altogether. However, one thing is for sure: not ‘getting it’ or ‘not interested in learning’ is a cry for help you just cannot ignore. The certainty is that this will only get worse.
If, as a parent, you can take a deep breath and discuss with the teacher what the probable causes are, her gut feeling of what the real issue is and what a successful turn around would look like, you could then work together to hatch a plan.
Good luck with your parent-teacher meetings over the next couple of weeks. If you have found this information helpful and would like a copy of this show to read again, just email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly send this copy to you by return email.
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If there is any way we can help you problem-solve issues which come to light from your parent-teacher meetings or if you don’t feel your child is being properly understood, his or her challenges are not being effectively handled, or likely to be resolved, give us a call on 435-3069. Perhaps a little innovation and inspiration is what your child needs and this is where we can certainly help.