By Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
Your child has been in school for several weeks now. Parent/teacher conferences are fast approaching. Will you go in clinching your teeth and holding your breath, hoping not to hear news of your child's poor performance? Will you conjure up feelings from when you were a child and your parents returned home with news from the teacher? Have you given any consideration to what you want to learn from that meeting? Will you sit quietly and listen? Or will you ask questions? If so, what will they be?
Remember conference time is an opportunity for you to gather information. You gather can glean information about your child and also about the teacher. The six questions hat follow will help you make the most of the few moments you have with your child's teacher and perhaps help you discover some interesting information.
Question 1: What are my child's strengths?
Here you are looking for an answer that will give you feedback to take back to your child to foster feelings of accomplishment. If the only news you return with is about their deficits, your child can be left with feelings of failure and inadequacy. This question also gives you valuable information about how the teacher sees your child. That can tell you as much about the teacher as it does about the child. Does she see his strengths and is she able of articulating them by providing specific examples? Or is she always looking at problems and limitations? How the teacher sees your child can have a significant impact on his performance and feelings towards school. Why not check it out.
Question 2: What is my child's best learning style?
You may already know if your child is more of an auditory learner or a visual leaner. You may have some clues already as to whether you daughter prefers information provided in a sequential manner or enjoys seeing the whole picture. Yet you might want to know how the teacher is addressing the various learning styles and accommodating the needs of many students. Is the material being presented in a variety of ways so that your child has the opportunity to learn through her primary learning style? Does she have opportunities to practice her weaker learning styles in an emotionally safe environment?
Question 3: What are the major goals other than academics that are addressed in the classroom?
Does this teacher have an agenda other than reading, writing, and arithmetic? Is there a focus on something besides test scores, benchmarks, and grades? Is this simply a test-prep laboratory or are other significant learning's, including higher level thinking, cooperation, leadership, responsibility, application, appreciation for diversity, in-depth analysis, and being able to see several sides of an issue being covered? How are these topics, often left out because of the craze to increase achievement scores, being handled in the classroom? And where is your child in regards to these areas?
Question 4: How are my child's social skills?
You see your child interact at home with peers, but how does she interact with other students at school? Does she make friends easily? Do people like him or is he seen as a bully? How does she handle adversity and social conflict at school? Ask for specific examples of what the teacher is seeing, don't accept generalizations or judgmental labels. You want to know how the teacher really views your child when the grades are set aside.
Question 5: What would you like to know about my child that would be helpful to you as his teacher?
Don't be intimidated by the teacher. You know your child better than anyone else. You have information about his or her skill, knowledge and growth that can assist the teacher. You are the primary expert on your child. This teacher may be an expert at teaching 8th grade, or 3rd grade, or kindergarten so together you make a team of caring adults. Consider yourself part of the team.
Question 6: What can we do at home to support you?
Discuss briefly what you are able and willing to provide as home support for your child. Share your feelings about homework and the ways in which you support, encourage, and embrace your son or daughter with the work they bring home. Be clear with the teacher what you are unwilling to provide. Your role at home should not be one of homework scrooge or soldier on the front lines of a battleground.
With these six questions you will be sending a strong message to the teacher that you are serious about raising a responsible, caring, confident child that is well rounded in his academic experience. You put yourself in the position of an active participant in your child's education. You are challenging the teacher and asking to be challenged as a parent as you enter a partnership in teaching your child. By doing this you could make this the best parent/teacher conference ever.
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