Thursday, March 23, 2017

7 Ways to Prepare for a Request From Your Child's Teacher for a Meeting

If you're the parent of a school-aged child, you have likely prayed to a higher power that his/her teacher would make it through the 180 days of the school year without making the "dreaded phone call" or sending the "carefully worded email" asking you for a meeting (either over the phone or face to face). I have crossed my fingers and toes for the past seven years begging the EDU gods for an incident-free year, and for six of the last seven years my boys and I have had no luck!

Here's a brief history on RD and RJ. RD is 12, in 6th grade, and a great student. He is the type of kid who, if cloned, would make for a class of great students. He's easy to get along with, a good role model, conscientious, and hard working (most of the time). I remember having very little to say about kids like RD in my own conferences. Those kids demand very little from their teachers and are just a delight. RJ is 9 (almost 10), in 4th grade, and a charmer. Ever since he was a baby I knew I was in trouble; his stubbornness could ignite a dormant volcano while his smile could melt the polar caps. He's a tricky one; inconsistent in every way, yet consistently surprising us. I know that if I were ever his teacher it would be a tough year. I am happy to say, most of his teachers are surprised when I say that. Did I mention his smile?

I will never forget when I got my first phone call from the boys' school. I was shocked that RD had beat his brother out on who got the first phone call (both boys got one in Kindergarten, though RD's came earlier in the year). There was a reprieve when RD was in 1st grade and then, for the first three years that RJ has been in school, we have received the dreaded phone call. As a teacher I know I always reserved phone calls for more serious issues, preferring to soften criticisms with tone and inflection, both of which are missing in even some of the most delicately crafted email correspondence. (I truly believe there is a right and a wrong place for email.) The phone calls have always gone well and through conversation and actions, have shown RJ that his teachers and his parents are on the same team-the one that wants to see him succeed and control some of his silly behaviors. Last year we avoided the phone call because we had a heart to heart with RJ's teacher (who we knew well from when RD had her) at Back to School Night. And this year we thought we were going to make it, and technically we did; on Friday of last week we received an email requesting a meeting. After a few back and forths I realized RJ's teacher wanted a face to face and then my heart sank. Aside from Back to School Night and the first parent-teacher conference of the year, I have never scheduled a meeting with my boys' teachers to discuss their progress. 


But I knew I couldn't let the impending meeting defeat me...and I didn't. Here's are the 7 steps I followed to assure I had a successful parent-teacher meeting.
  1. Make sure you know what the teacher wants to discuss. Nothing is worse than attending a meeting you are not prepared for. Make sure you know if you are there to discuss behaviors or academics or both.
  2. Talk to your child about the meeting you will be having. Your child should know you will be discussing him as a student with his teacher. Ask him if he has any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions he'd like you to share on his behalf. If you feel comfortable enough (and you child is old/mature enough-about 5th grade and up), you might even suggest to the teacher that your child attend the meeting with you so that you can develop an action plan together as a solid team. This helps create agency with your child. He will be part of the conversation, adding valuable information and hopefully coming to a better conclusion and outcome overall.
  3. Listen to your child's teacher with an open mind. As a teacher it's never easy to break the news to a parent that their child is struggling in school. If your child's teacher is reaching out to you it's because s/he wants to see your child succeed. A meeting or a phone call with you may add missing pieces to a puzzle that you thought was intact. Listen to what the teacher has to say about the school day, how things are going in writing workshop, about missing homework, or inappropriate behaviors. 
  4. Add to the conversation. YOU know your child best. Help your child's teacher with the missing pieces. If you are seeing the same things at home, own those behaviors and struggles. Being dishonest about how your child presents at home will NOT help matters at school or at home. Now is the time to admit that your child can't sit still long enough to eat a full meal or that she plays with one toy ALL. THE. TIME. If your child hates reading or writing, or struggles with math and word study, let her teacher know. The teacher is an integral part of your child's learning team!
  5. Take notes. Getting any kind of bad news can be overwhelming. Be sure to take notes on key information as it is presented, strategies that have already been put in place and their effectiveness, and steps in the action plan (if one was developed). These notes will help you and your child as you take steps to make improvements.
  6. Fill in the necessary players who may not have been in attendance. If your spouse, partner, or significant other was not able to attend the meeting, be sure to fill him/her in on the details of the meeting (this is where those notes come in handy). Also, share any necessary information with your child, as the meeting was set up to bring about changes that will affect him.
  7. Follow up with the teacher in a few weeks and share new insights (make changes to the action plan as necessary). After a few weeks, check in with the teacher to see if there has been an improvement as a result of your joint efforts. This need not be a face to face meeting, many times a phone conference will suffice. But do meet if the teacher feels this is the better option. Perhaps this time you can bring your child with you. 
In truth, I have not completed step 7, yet, but I have already scheduled a reminder to send my follow-up email and will clear my calendar if RJ's teacher wants to meet face to face (good or bad). I'll keep you posted. 


How do you prepare for meeting with your child's teacher?



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