Many parents and students view the 4th quarter of the school year as a winding down process. In fact, many parents don’t even schedule a spring parent conference.
This is a mistake.
Take the opportunity to meet with your child’s teacher and learn about all the wisdom that he or she has gleaned about your child during the school year.
Spring parent conferences are different than fall ones. During fall conferences, the focus is typically on you, the parent, sharing with the teacher as much as you know about your child both as a student and as a person. This helps the teacher understand your child’s needs and what strategies have been successful in the past.
The spring conference presents a chance for the parent to understand what the teacher has learned about your child. After all, the teacher has now spent the last 8 months interacting with your kid on a daily basis.
Engage the Brain spoke with an Orange County Public Schools 4th grade teacher and asked why she thought spring conferences were important.
“Teachers get a different glimpse of their students from what parents see. Teachers sometimes see different strengths and weaknesses from what parents see at home, which can result in identification of possible concerns OR reassurances for parents who are worried. Children are typically at their most vulnerable at home (whatever that may look like for each child) because that is where they feel most comfortable. Just as adults may have a slightly different/more polished work persona than home persona, so too do many children.”
She added: “For best and most prepared teacher responses, pose one or two questions ahead of time (by sending an email, for example) to let the teacher know your expectations for the conference. Also, please be mindful of spring standardized testing dates; these tests often have far greater implications for teachers than students and can be a significant source of stress, no matter how well the teacher is managing it. Don’t add to that stress; contact a teacher after testing, or request a conference after testing.”
Parents of children with IEP’s or 504 Plans can use this opportunity to speak with your child’s teacher without a full child study team in attendance. Good questions to ask the teacher are:
What interventions have worked best with my child?
Did any interventions not work?
How can I help my child start the next school year strong?
Can you recommend some resources or games my child would benefit from using over the summer?
One final piece of advice from the O.C.P.S. teacher: Don’t request a specific teacher for the next school year. Teachers may not end up back in the grade they taught the previous year.
Wrapping it up
Even if you child has had a great school year, take the opportunity to schedule a spring parent teacher conference. It is a wonderful time to learn more about how your child is progressing academically, socially and emotionally, all equally important. Spring conferences provide the chance to compare what the teacher sees at school versus what you see at home AND the occasion to start addressing any troubling discrepancies.
What are you waiting for? Prepare a few questions and schedule the conference!
David Karch (Learning Specialist with Engage the Brain)