Initial Parent Teacher Conference

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Kids from our picnic group were running all around the park.

“I don’t know why, but the teacher says my child is bright. I asked my daughter what 18+30 was and she couldn’t answer. I don’t think she is slow but I don’t know if I’d call her bright either. She is about average and that is fine by me,”

one father commented on the parent teacher conference he had had the day before.

The little girl was four years old. Her dad applied what he understood by the term ‘bright’ and decided she was average after all 🙂 The child wasn’t able to do double digit addition. But her language skills were much higher than a typical four year old.

This is true of many terms we use about our students.

Parents derive meaning to these words by reading magazine articles or by listening to fellow parents.

They may not understand the range of meaning or the subsets of skills these terms have. They do not know how they manifest as behaviors in the classroom or why it is difficult to manage those behaviors when ‘she does fine at home when I sit with her.’

Be prepared to talk about the following to your student’s parents:

What does that term mean?

Give an example. We professionals tend to use very specific words and parents may not know what we are talking about.

Give parents an understanding of age appropriate ability in that skill area.

The problems students face is because their learning behaviors do not match their classmates’ behaviors (their same age peers). Diagnosis, strategies, remediation, etc, are geared to bridge this gap. When parents understand this purpose behind your referral, they are much more amenable to seek professional help.

How does the learning behavior affect the child’s performance in the classroom now?

Provide observable examples.

Will it impact the child’s performance in future (high school, workplace)?

If so, how?

How did you arrive at this conclusion? Is there a record?

If it is a behavioral concern, do you know what happened before the behavior occurred? If it is an academic concern, do you have examples of work to show where the difficulty lies?

How often does this happen?

Does it happen at any particular time of the day—a.m., before/after lunch, towards the end of the day?

Have other teachers expressed the same concerns or is this difficulty subject specific?

For example, the student has trouble in Reading i.e. English, but does well in social studies. This tells you that something else is going on. Social studies is all about reading and comprehension. So you know the problem does not lie with the student’s ability to read. Maybe the problem lies with how information is presented in English period, or the type of assignment.

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