Friday, March 22, 2013

My Experience with Parent-Teacher Interviews

parent-teacher conference cartoon
Bacall, A. (2011). Parent Teacher Conference.
Available online at:
 http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/p/parent_teacher.asp
This week not only marked the last week before spring break, but also "S-School's" springtime Parent-Teacher Interviews. While parent's could technically come in anytime during the week, depending on their schedule, our main interview dates were yesterday evening and today during regular school hours. Luckily, I was able to sit in on parent teacher interviews and learn more about how they are organized and how to address any parental concerns. As I am student teaching and not a staff member, however, parents need to give their consent for me to sit in on their child's meeting. Thankfully, all of the parents that attended were okay with me being present so I was able to see over twenty meetings and see the wide range of interactions that can occur. Here are some of my observations:

ORGANIZATION/SET UP

     Even though I have only been back in the school for two weeks, I set up an interactive display featuring infographics that my Grade 10 class had made regarding minerals as natural resources. Each infographic had a QR code attached to it that could be scanned to show the written research behind the information on the infographic!

using QR codes in the classroom, QR codes during parent teacher interviews

   Almost every teacher that I saw had a different organizational take on how they set up their room and materials for parent-teacher interviews. Some teachers had lots of displays of student work (especially in the younger years) while some had nothing at all. Some had beverages or snacks available while some didn't. I don't think that there was anything that was mandated by administration so each teacher was able to organize their set up depending on their personal preference. Some of the things that I really liked were:

1 ) Clearly Posting The Schedule Outside The Door
- This way parents could visually see that someone would be coming
   after them and that there was only so much time (it seemed to prevent some
   interviews from running over time).
- It also let other parents know when you were with someone so that they
   weren't walking in during the middle of someone else's interview.

2 ) Having Portfolios of Student Work
- Before interviews, have students place samples of their work in a duotang
  so that their parents can see their actual products of work and see the
  rationalization behind the assessment.
- It seemed like a lot of parents had a better understanding about their child's
  mark once they were able to see the work that they had completed and it helped
  to have a visual when explaining what the student's "next step" could be.
* Make sure to pick work samples that demonstrate different skill sets (writing,
   representing) and/or from the different units of study (short stories, grammar).

3 ) Having a Detailed Print-Off Of Their Mark Ready
- I found that a lot of parents didn't come into the meeting with a copy of their
  child's report cards or the child hadn't brought their report card home with them.
  By having a detailed print out of a student's marks in your class it is easy to show
  parents what assignments are missing, trends in marks, and provides insight if they
  hadn't seen the report card yet.

STUDENT WHO IS DOING WELL

     We all know this student, he/she is the one who has marks in the mid 80's and up, they have all of their work in on time and very rarely present behavioural challenges in class. These interviews were very short and to the point. More often than not the teacher just reassured the parents that their child was still doing well in the class and that they should keep up the good work through the remainder of the course. At times, the parent was interested in knowing how they child could do even better but for the most part, these interviews were very short as there wasn't a lot of information that needed to be covered.

STUDENT WHO IS STRUGGLING (PERSONAL EFFORT)

     These students are the ones who have the potential to do quite well in the class but, for various reasons, are not applying themselves. Some reasons for this could be:
- Not taking the time to fully complete their assignments
- Not handing in assignments for assessment
- Not attending class
- Not interested in the class
- Influenced negatively by peers, etc
These interviews tended to address the fact that the teacher knew the student understood the material but due to the student's personal effort, their understanding wasn't being reflected when it came to assessment activities. Most of the time, the parents were quite aware of their child's behaviour and the discussion shifted from their child's assessment to what can be done to assist the student in getting on track. For a lot of students, we used the pre-printed reports to highlight missing work and make lists of what the students can complete, or re-do, in order to boost their mark. We also discussed options like coming in during study periods, lunch hours, and after school to work on assignments and receive additional support to get caught up.

     While I realize that these type of interviews could be challenging, I found that most parents were very aware of their child's personality and weren't surprised that their child needed to apply themselves more often. I think that, for a lot of students, this type of behaviour is just a part of growing up and learning responsibility and accountability.

STUDENT WHO IS STRUGGLING (UNDERLYING CONCERN)


     These students are the ones who are continually struggling in multiple core-area subjects and the parents and teachers have begin to consider adaptations to help the student succeed. Some situations I experienced were:
- Students encountering new medical concerns that were presenting
  challenges for the student
- Students who may be undergoing assessments for a possible learning
  disability
- Students who comprehend but are unable to produce any tangible
  products for assessment.
These interviews focused on the fact that there was some sort of underlying concern that was preventing the student from succeeding and having a positive learning experience. For almost all of the students who were in this group we discussed the resources and supports that may be available to them in the school. We also set up meetings with the school's resource teacher when it was appropriate. This allowed the teacher to have some type of documentation about the student's challenges and would allow them to implement certain adaptations once the resource team had addressed the student's specific situation. Until assessment with the resource team could take place, we discussed adaptations that could be implemented  right away once spring break was finished. These included bringing in laptops to type assignments, using voice-to-text software, having verbal assessment options so students can verbally explain their understanding and recording in-class explanations.

     In the summers I work one-on-one with students through Children's disABILITY Services and often sit in on I.E.P meetings so I found it really interesting to see the steps that go into working with students before an I.E.P has been set up. I found that these meetings gave me good insight into the challenges that can occur and the frustrations of parents when their children are having consistent difficulty while in school.


STUDENT WHOSE PARENT IS UNHAPPY


     These students had their parent(s) come into the meeting very unhappy with various aspects of the class or school in general. Some concerns that were addressed with us included:
- Dislike for the new provincial report cards
- Frustration over scheduling of the time table
These interviews were more about school operations and classroom routine as opposed to the student and their progress. I think the teacher did a very good job about speaking to the information that she could and directing the parent to administration for the concerns that were not in her jurisdiction. We provided parents with support documents on the new provincial report cards and directed them to the appropriate online supports as well that would help them understand how they are set up and the rational behind them. We also got some parents set up with the online "parent portal" that allows parents to log-in online to check their student's progress and attendance daily. Most of the concerns, however, did need to be addressed with administration rather than individual classroom teachers.

     These interviews were very mentally and emotionally exhausting for myself even though I was only an observer! I am thankful that I was able to experience a wide range of interview scenarios before I become a first year teacher and have to be organizing parent-teacher interviews by myself. I feel more knowledgeable about understanding situations that can be addressed by a classroom teacher and what situations are more appropriately addressed by administration. It definitely provided insight, however, about the various frustrations that are felt by parents.

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