It is that time of year again and parent teacher conferences are here or around the corner. Are you prepared? This article is written more from a parent of a child with special needs, but the information can be helpful for all families with children in school.
Being on both sides of the table as a parent and a teacher I have learned to prepare myself when attending conferences for my children.
Some teachers, I hate to say are scripted. They know exactly what they are going to say and what class work to show you and build from there.
Your time is short, I mean 15 minutes is not that long, especially when you have a child with special needs and they expect you to listen to two or three staff members within that amount of time. Every one of those people are important to talk to, but everyone is cramming information your way, without ever answering the questions you’ve had since you’ve known conferences were coming.
I have learned to either send my questions ahead of time or take control of the conference from the very beginning.
One thing I don’t need to waste time hearing is, how great my child is and how it’s a pleasure for the teacher to have them in their class. I don’t mean to sound like a crazy parent, but I need information and how my child is a gem is not really telling me anything.
- So first I make sure I have my child’s grade report and a list of the questions I have.
- I let the teacher know that I respect their position and I appreciate them as a teacher and what they have done with my child, but I need to ask the questions first.
- I remind them that I am my child’s advocate and I would like to think they understand my position as a parent especially with a child who has special needs and how my child’s inclusion is very important to me.
Now, Questions you should ask your child’s teacher
- What is my child’s class or school routine? My child is pulled out for different therapies and how that is orchestrated is important to me.
- The name of the therapist my child sees and the duration of time spent with them or out of the classroom?
- Is my child an active participant in class activities? I have seen my child sitting quietly and not interacting with anyone, including the teacher when attending other programs. Needless to say soon after I said good-bye to that program.
- Does my child express interest in the content that is being taught?
- Does my child struggle with understanding the information that is being taught? If so what measures are taken to help my child understand?
- Does my child show effort?
- How does my child interact with other children in the class?
- What are my child’s areas of strength and areas where they may need improvement? I ask this question, because how my child performs at home is always different from how they perform in school.
- How often is my child tested? Are their special provisions made for my child when testing? How are the test formatted?
- With the new common core, grading is very black and white. You either meet or don’t, so I ask what method does the teacher use to determine if my child meets or does not meet in different subject areas? I remember one teacher told me, it is based on one test that is taken at the end of a unit. Homework and classwork is not a factor.
- How many opportunities are they given to take the test?
- How are the test distributed, with or without assistance from the teacher?
This list is long and you may not need to ask all of these questions, but I like to be thorough, especially since getting a meeting with the teacher and therapist outside of a school scheduled conference, is hard to come by.
What questions do you ask? What can you add to my list?