Nothing changes you like perspective. As young teachers, we often do so many things wrong. As parents, we also do things wrong. Each has a different perspective and a different role to play. With that in mind, what are the most crucial parent-teacher discussions that need to happen? Are we talking about private parent-teacher discussions? PTA meetings? Ongoing day-to-day communications?
Actually, we’re talking about all of them. Imagine a conduit between teacher and parent that flows in relation to a child in their care. These are understandings that must be addressed and internalized to meet the needs of the unique learner on a daily basis. Since we’re talking any student, let’s include those with special needs, those at risk, and those in the margins.
We’ll focus in this way and then leave it to you to adapt which questions best suit your situation. Here are what we would consider to be the 3 most important parent-teacher discussions to have regarding a student’s well-being.
Dialogues between parents and teachers should happen regularly, but both are incredibly busy individuals. Here are a few simple guidelines from Prep for Parents for readying oneself for parent-teacher discussions:
- Have a clear purpose and be mentally prepared for the discussion. Focus on a desired outcome that is beneficial for all.
- To find the right time, start by asking if either one has time to talk or when it might be convenient for them to do so.
- Draw up a list of questions you wish to ask and rank them in order of importance or priority.
- Don’t expect one person or the other to propose all of the answers. Research or think about the issue before you go into the discussion. In this way you’ll both be better prepared to make suggestions and offer solutions.
- Always be diplomatic, tactful, and respectful with one another at all times. Actively listening, taking notes and considering ways you can help each other will achieve an outcome that will benefit the child’s learning.
1. Discipline philosophy
How do we view challenging behaviour individually, and how do we address it? Will a student be labelled as a troublemaker, or be recognized for their strengths and uniqueness? Do they see challenging behaviour as problems that have solutions, or reasons for exclusion? The next thing to decide is how to collectively handle such circumstances in the way that is best for the student. What are the appropriate actions that need to be taken to redirect and refocus?
It’s a good idea for a parent to be aware of what the expulsion rate is at their child’s school, and more importantly why those expulsions mostly happen. A high rate could signify a simple lack of understanding of how to engage students in meaningful life improvement. A punitive school bent on exiling wrongdoers is not in the mindset of improving children’s lives, but rather on their school’s outward appearance. There’s a good chance they haven’t taken the proper steps to develop their staff in the art of collaborative problem-solving.
2. Communication philosophy
How approachable are the teachers/counsellors/administrators? Is there a welcoming open-door policy? Are parent-teacher discussions possible through digital means such as cell phones, email, or video conferencing by Skype or Zoom? Are parents welcome, in special circumstances, to observe classes?
As a safety concern, certainly any parent wouldn’t be allowed to appear at a teacher’s door unannounced or set foot in the corridors without a visitor’s pass. However, the need for parents to feel welcome to communicate as needed is important. For example, how will parents be notified about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, or in the case of an emergency?
The other factor in this is establishing who the go-to person is for the first line of such communications. Will it be a counsellor, the principal, the homeroom teacher, the secretary, etc.?
3. Classroom philosophy
This is so important to ensure that no child is forgotten in the midst of so many others needing their fair share of attention. What is the overarching focus for any student, including those with special needs? Behaviour vs. academics? Social needs and integration? Developing independence?
The transition from home to school is also important and is an often-overlooked factor in a child’s success. This can be especially true for new students coming from different cities, or students with anxiety issues. In that sense, how much support will there be for a student’s transition, and will there be ample opportunity to make friends in a safe environment?