With the holidays quickly approaching, we are all easily distracted with holiday shopping, school Christmas programs, family gatherings, and preparations for Santa. Between advent calendars, 12-days of Christmas, Elf on a Shelf, and volunteering, it’s no wonder we are ready to pull our hair out by the end of December. And, just to make life harder and to complicate things further, parent teacher conferences just ended and with everything coming up, it’s easy to brush that meeting under the rug and dust it off the shelf when our winter coma has passed.
If you are like me, we all have good intentions with our takeaways from parent teacher conference and we tell ourselves that it will be our main focus after the holidays, but as soon as that time comes, I find myself thinking, “now what did we talk about again, what goals did we create for my child?” Once we walk out the teacher’s door, suddenly parent teacher conference is out of sight, out of mind.
We all know parent teacher conference is a great way for us to gain further insight on how our child is performing, how they compare to other children in the classroom, and if there are behavioral issues we need to work on, but how should we react to the teacher’s advice and what are next steps? The teacher usually sets the tone for parent teacher conferences and if they were well organized, you already have the answers to all of your questions. However, what can we takeaway further from our parent teacher conference to bring more value to how your child is learning and developing in the classroom?
Instead of creating an “out of sight, out of mind” experience, there is no better time like the present to start working on the recommendations from the teacher. So how do we make parent teacher conferences more meaningful for both your child and the teacher? We’ve created a few suggestions that may help you organize your thoughts from your discussion with the teacher and set your child on a good path that prepares them for the next level.
Process and Acknowledge: As you let your Parent Teacher Conference meeting digest, first and foremost, accept and acknowledge what the teacher has said about your child. What was the tone of the meeting? How did the teacher react to your child’s progress? What were his or her overall impressions? If the teacher says your child is in the top of their class and they are one of the best students, then this is a great opportunity for you to share that with your child. Don’t miss those opportune moments to share the positive feedback with them. You’d be surprised how much this can motivate young minds to do better. Even if your child is struggling, don’t forget to share the positive things that were said to help give them confidence. If the teacher said you child is struggling in certain areas, acknowledge that he or she may need some additional help. It’s important not to be in denial about what your child needs to succeed in the classroom. Accept that they need help or acknowledge that they are doing well and take action.
Take Action: If the teacher said your child is struggling in certain areas and they need additional help at home or with a tutor, don’t ignore or postpone the recommendations your teacher gives you. Even as the holidays are approaching, now is a great time to start making phone calls or begin working with your child on the subjects they need to strengthen. Why the urgency? The fact is, the window of opportunity for cognitive development is narrow. The older your child gets, the harder it is for the brain to change, adapt, and learn. By the time your child is 13, the brain has already fully developed, which makes learning more difficult, especially in subjects like reading, comprehension, math, and speech. The younger the child, the easier it is to make changes to his or her learning capabilities. Many times we hear from parents with teenagers that are reading on a third grade reading level. Kids at these ages are still able to learn and get the help they need, but it is much harder, requires a lot of dedication from the child, and creates a wider gap to close when compared to their high school counterparts. Remember, the child can’t get the help they need unless you take the necessary action to provide them with the tools and resources to succeed.
Goal Setting: We love goal setting in Parent Teacher Conferences! If your teacher did not have time to set some goals for your child, take the opportunity to do it yourself. Even if you have a star student on your hands, find other ways to challenge your child outside of the classroom. Try some brain games, puzzles, new sports, extra programs, or community events to involve your child. Knowledge is never wasted! If the teacher did set goals with you, talk about them openly with your child. This allows open communication between you and your child about their progress and how they can improve to become better students. Help them understand goals are not a negative reflection from the teacher, but rather the teacher’s way of helping them reach their full potential. Allow your child to come up with ideas to reach the goals his or her teacher recommends. If they are involved in the goal-making process and create the tasks themselves to accomplish these goals, they are more likely to want to achieve them.
Respect the Teacher’s Perspective: One of most difficult parts of Parent Teacher Conference is to view your child from the teacher’s perspective. As parents, we are very protective and like to take the attitude of “my child can do no wrong.” The best method is to try not to get defensive or overly emotional after these meetings take place. We tend to replay the scenarios back to us in our heads and can sometimes get offended or upset by what was said in the meeting. Try to look at the meeting objectively, especially if your child is struggling in the classroom and don’t express your frustrations in front of your child. This could cause a negative reaction in the classroom or a negative view of the teacher in your child’s mind. If your child has behavioral issues, try not to take it as a personal insult or take their misbehaving as a reflection on your parenting. Rather, try to find the core of the problem and what might be causing his or her behavioral issues. The teacher may have some great insight on what might be causing your child to act out. If there are behavioral issues, talk with your child and ask them questions. Their behavior might be because they can’t hear the teacher, or maybe they aren’t being challenged enough and become easily bored. You should also keep in mind that it could be that your child just can’t control it. Children with ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, or other learning disabilities have a hard time controlling their body and mind in the classroom. Remember, teachers are not perfect and do make mistakes. If you think the teacher’s assessment of your child is truly misguided, take your thoughts and feelings to the principal to see if adjustments can be made to better help your child’s success in the classroom.
Follow-Up: This is by far the most important takeaway from Parent Teacher Conference. After you begin working with your child on their goals, provide their teacher with a status update of the progress they are making at home and use this as an opportunity to ask the teacher how they are improving in school. Have they made progress? Are there changes in behavior? Is your child reaching their goals? These are all great follow-up questions to ask your child’s teacher and keeps you actively involved in their education. Even if the meeting is only for five minutes, it’s still an effective method to show the teacher you are proactively working with your child to meet his or her goals and you are following through with the recommendations the teacher laid out for your child’s education. This also opens a window for teachers to create greater interest in your child’s learning development and motivates them to invest more time and energy in your child’s classroom experience.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs