Friday, 30 September 2011 17:45

Initiate Contact with Parents as Soon as Possible (Teaching Tip #43)

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This Teaching Tip is the fourth in my new “Starting the School Year in Style” series.

In previous years I have usually waited until our school’s annual Parent Conferences in mid-November to meet with parents for the first time. This approach worked well because I had a couple months to get to know the children as individuals before discussing their progress with their families.

Recently, I have tried a more proactive approach, and the benefits have been substantial.

  Now, as soon as I notice that a child may have special academic or behavioral needs, I contact the parents to schedule a short meeting (10-15 minutes) either right before or right after school. Because the school year is just starting, we can approach these meetings in a fairly relaxed way with a sense of hope, optimism, and possibility. When we meet with parents later in the year, it is often difficult to achieve this type of casual, informal feeling because there are usually many issues and situations to discuss, and we are right in the middle of it all. So, meeting early in the year with parents enables us to take advantage of the fact that we are still in the getting-to-know-you stage.

At these meetings, for many reasons, I like the children to be present. First, the meeting is about them, and I feel they have a right to be there. Second, when we create a short list of goals to guide our work over the next few weeks, I want the children to help create this list. Helping to create goals builds valuable reflective and goal-setting skills, gives children a sense of ownership of the process, and sends the message that parents and teachers think that what they have to say is important. If there is ever a time when I need to talk privately with the parents, I ask the child to wait outside for a minute.

Now, when Parent Conference time rolls around, the meeting becomes an important follow-up to the initial meeting, and we are in a wonderful position to review our goals, look at student work samples, and plan ahead for the next few months.

As soon as you discover that a student may have special academic or behavioral needs, schedule a meeting with the parents as soon as possible. Positive, proactive communication is always a good thing.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.