Sunday, November 24, 2013

My 1st Parent-Teacher Experience

     On Monday of this week our first round of report cards went home and officially kicked-off Parent-Teacher Interview week. Being that we are a K-12 school, our K-7 teachers scheduled and organized their own meetings which ran throughout the week. In the 8-12 end, our school secretary scheduled our meetings for us which were primarily held on Thursday after school and Friday during school-hours (there were no classes on Friday).

     Thursday marked a full day of teaching from 8:50-3:30 and then straight into interviews beginning at 4. By the time I had straightened up my room and ran to the bathroom, parents were already walking down the hall (talk about a busy day)! Our interviews are scheduled in 10 minute blocks and with the exception of a 20 minute break, I was scheduled from 4pm to 8pm! I'm proud to say that for approximately 95% of my interviews I was on-time and didn't have to be concerned about running over time. Near the end of my schedule, however, I had one interview that ran over and resulted in me not actually being done until 9:30pm! Over 12 hours at school is way too long for me...

     Friday was more spread out and I felt more prepared having a full evening under my belt already. Our staff was able to go uptown for lunch together and I was done early at 2:15!

ORGANIZATION/SET-UP

     Here are some organizational aspects that I included when  setting up for my interviews:

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
  (knowledge/understanding, mental math, problem solving) and/or from the
   different units of study (rational numbers, percentages, etc).

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.

4 ) Setting up a Tech Station Outside The Door
- This way parent could explore through our classroom website or the Grade
  8 class blog while they waited for their interview. This received positive
  responses and I had several parents on the computer when I went to
  welcome them to the interview.

     When I first posted about Parent-Teacher Interviews when I was student-teaching I summarized some of the different types of interviews you can encounter. Now that I've gone through interviews independently, I'd like to revisit these types:

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 these interviews just reassure the parents that their child is 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.

     Depending on the student, these interviews may discuss the option of enrichment material as well. Luckily for me, the High School math teacher is right next door to me so it was easy to quickly include him in the conversation if the student/parent was interested in adding in enrichment activities from the upper-years math classes.

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 I 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. 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.


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 me included:
- Frustration over Grade 10 Essential Math being mandatory
- Anger towards disciplinary actions occurring through another
  teacher or administration
- Unhappiness with the wording of Report Card comments
     These interviews were more about school operations, me as a teacher, and classroom routine as opposed to the student and their progress. I will start by saying that these types of interviews are mentally and emotionally exhausting. Depending on the parent and what their concern is, you might not be the one who can assist them. For these types of interviews, remember to reference back to your anecdotal records to provide specific examples and recognize when to direct to administration for the concerns that were not in your jurisdiction.

TIPS
(in no particular order)

- Speak to what was communicated on the report card (both academically
  and behaviourally). This ensures the parent/guardian fully understands
  what the report was telling them.
- Having print-offs of the most current achievement report (including
  report card comments) is a great reminder if you're on your 101st
  interview and can no longer think clearly!
- Write notes to yourself after each interview (if needed) so you can
  follow-up effectively (I would never remember otherwise)
- Have your anecdotal records handy, don't mention behaviours or
  situations that you can't back up with documentation!
- If your discussion warrants a follow-up phone-call make sure you
  note this and put it into your planner after interviews are done, there
  is nothing worse than promising to do something and then forgetting!
- If you are not the right person to talk to regarding a certain situation
  then make sure you direct the parent to the correct person, don't try
  to tackle something that isn't in your area.
- Relax, focus, and take it one interview at a time! :)

     

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