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Archive for the ‘Dealing with Parents’ Category

Who Should Lead the Parent-Teacher Conference?

June 1, 2016

parent-teacher

As much as I like the logic of having your students lead the parent teacher conferences, I am grateful taht this doesn’t happen at my school. I prefer meeting with the parents without the child present.

Sometimes vital issues are raised that are not for the child’s ears.

Others such as Monica R. Martinez clearly disagree:

 

I can still remember the anxiety I felt when my parents went off to school for the traditional biannual parent-teacher conference like it was yesterday. The anxiety I felt was not even rational: I was a good student, I was on the honor role. So why was this so disconcerting? Probably because a set of “authority figures” were discussing and most likely, assessing, my day-to-day behavior, habits and learning strategies. They were sure to talk about what was enhancing or deterring my performance and I knew I would learn all about it later.

I recognize that the purpose of the teacher-led conference is to honor the expertise of the teacher and solidify a relationship between the parent and teacher. This ensures parents can understand and support their children academically. But there is a different, and I believe, better way for parents to learn how to support their students academically – and that is through student-led conferences.

Instead of having students stay home while their parents and teachers talk about them in the third person, have students lead the conference. The student could be prepared for the conference by the teacher through a collaborative review of their previous work and a guided reflection on the connection between their efforts and the quality of their work. The teacher could kick off the conference with an explanation of the process but move to the side or sit across the table with the parents to serve more as a facilitator than the leader. While the specific logistics and dynamics of student-led conferences vary, the basic spirit is the same: This is the student’s moment to take responsibility for their own learning.

Parent-teacher conferences were a good idea in concept but they reflect a tradition that is too centered on adults. Flipping these conferences to be student-led empowers the student and facilitates a partnership between the teacher and parents that is focused on supporting what the student identifies as her strengths and challenges in learning, not what the teacher or parent identifies for the student.

 

Click on the link to read Tips for Making a Parent-Teacher Relationship Work

Click on the link to read Sometimes It’s Worth Risking a Fight With a Parent

Click on the link to read 10 Tips for Dealing With Difficult Parents

Click on the link to read 5 Helpful Tips for a Better Parent-Teacher Conference

Click on the link to read The Cafeteria Controversy

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Tips for Making a Parent-Teacher Relationship Work

January 5, 2015

parent-teacher-cartoonThe strength of the parent-teacher relationship is absolutely pivotal to achieving in the classroom. Below are some insightful tips by teacher Toby Sorge:

 

* Think of what the end goal is. Teachers can tell when the focus is on a specific grade or assessment, whether the communication is by email, phone call or in person. Giving authentic feedback and grading assessments is not an easy task, but remember that the grade that was earned is now in the past.

* Work with the teacher to create a plan. This plan should focus on student engagement and growth. This may take time, so it’s important to trust the process. Maintain open lines of communication, so if you have questions about your role, you can ask and have them answered.

* Trust is one of the core values when it comes to fostering a successful relationship. Trust that the teacher knows what’s best for each student and how to get there.

* Trusting the process of learning is also important. True learning and deep engagement do not happen with one quiz, test or writing assignment. They take time.

* Make sure you work with teachers and not against them. Instead of coming in with an agenda, work on creating a plan with the teacher. The plan should focus on the development, practice and reinforcement of skills.

* Offer suggestions but also take advice. Discussing with teachers ways for students to succeed will help everyone fully understand children and what their capabilities are.

 

Click on the link to read Sometimes It’s Worth Risking a Fight With a Parent

Click on the link to read 10 Tips for Dealing With Difficult Parents

Click on the link to read 5 Helpful Tips for a Better Parent-Teacher Conference

Click on the link to read The Cafeteria Controversy

Click on the link to read Insensitive ‘Parent Bashers’ Take Aim at Grieving Colorado Parents

Sometimes It’s Worth Risking a Fight With a Parent

September 27, 2014

cookies

I’m glad the teacher didn’t let this most unreasonable parent have her way:

A crazed feminist told a second grade school teacher that she hopes she gets beaten on a nightly basis by an abusive husband because she refused to hand out vagina shaped cookies to her class. 

The unnamed teacher asked a friend to post details of the bizarre encounter on her Reddit account. 

According to the story, the teacher regularly invites volunteer parents to cook snacks for her class on a Friday when the children have been well behaved. 

The teacher said the woman arrived at the school and handed over a plate full of treats and said: ‘I decided you can use these to teach the kids about the woman’s vagina today.’

According to the teacher: ‘Baffled and completely caught off guard I slowly peel the aluminum foil off the pan to behold a plethora of sugar cookie and frosting vaginas. 

‘Not just any old vagina, but ALL KINDS OF VAGINAS. There were small, puffy, white, brown, shaved, bald, and even a fire crotch with beef curtains. Perplexed I give the parent the most professional look I can muster and quietly reply “I’m sorry, but I can’t give these to my students. This just isn’t appropriate.”

The teacher said the outrage parent started shouting at her in front of the class of seven-year-old children. She said ‘I should be proud of my vagina and ‘I am settling for a women’s role in life’. 

The feminist, according to the story, shouted the word vagina repeatedly before storming out of the classroom. 

Later that afternoon the teacher received several phone calls and emails from parents wondering how their child learned the word ‘vagina’ while at school.  

Then, the crazed mother sent a series of abusive emails to the teacher, wishing domestic violence upon her. 

10 Tips for Dealing With Difficult Parents

August 3, 2014

difficult

Courtesy of teacher.net:

 

 

1. Let upset parents know that your goal is to help every child succeed. Look for ways to find common ground. Tell parents that both of you want what’s best for their child and that you want to find ways to work together. When parents are able to look at the big picture and realize that you are on the same side, you can begin to work together to help their child succeed.

 

2. Be sensitive! No matter how tense a situation becomes, always remember that your student is someone’s precious baby. Open your conversation with parents by acknowledging the child’s strengths before you focus on areas of concern.

 

3. Good records that document dates, times, notes and decisions about students can be invaluable if problems arise. Keep track of communication you’ve had with parents throughout the school year. Make a set of parent communication folders by labeling file folders with the names of your students. Staple a few blank sheets of paper inside each folder. Use these folders to jot notes with details of important conversations and keep notes from parents organized. Inside each folder, write the date, name of the parent with whom you spoke, and any actions that need to be taken. Make sure to date notes that you receive from parents before you file them in the folders. If you respond to a parent’s note in writing, make a copy of your response and staple it to the parent’s note. After making phone calls to parents to discuss problems, take a few minutes to record any important information that was discussed. Parent Communication Files come in handy if you ever need to document how you’ve involved and informed parents after an incident at school. Keep these important folders inside the front of your desk drawer so they are at your fingertips instantly.

 

4. Be proactive! Contact parents as soon as you see academic problems or negative behavior patterns develop. You’ll have a better chance to change these patterns if you catch them early. Here are some things to discuss with parents:

 

  • areas where their child excels
  • if their child is attentive during lessons
  • where their child stands academically
  • specific areas where their child experiences difficulties
  • specific ways they can help their child at home
  • how well their child gets along with classmates
  • how long homework should take to complete
  • allow parents to share their concerns and ask questions
  • if you are unsure what a parent asks about, request specific examples

 

5. Be prepared to give specific examples to illustrate the points you make. Show parents examples of average and above average work for your grade level. White out the names on papers and use actual samples of students’ work to clearly illustrate typical work for the grade level. The idea isn’t to compare students to one another, it’s to give parents a clear idea of exactly what your expectations are for students in your class.

 

6. Have you ever been caught off guard by a parent and answered a question in a way that you regret later? If a parent asks you a question that floors you, don’t be put on the spot. It’s fine to let parents know that you need some time to reflect on their question before you respond. Let them know that you’ll get back to them in a day or two. Relax—you’ve just bought yourself time to explore options and perhaps bounce ideas off of a colleague before you respond to the parents.

 

7. Don’t be afraid to end a meeting with parents who become confrontational. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to provide an opportunity for all parties to cool down and reflect on the issues at hand by bringing the meeting to a close. Set a time and date to meet again. If you feel threatened, ask your principal, vice principal or school counselor attend the next conference.

 

8. It’s awkward when parents share too much information with you. While it’s helpful to know things that directly impact a student, it can be problematic when parents disclose too much personal information. It’s not your job to be their therapist. Remind parents that during the limited time you have to speak with them, that you need to focus on their child and not on them.

 

9. Sometimes neighborhood issues spill over into the classroom. Don’t let yourself get dragged into disputes between families of children in your class. Problems escalate quickly if it’s perceived that you’re siding with other parents. When parents begin to share information about neighborhood squabbles, jump right in and tell them that it’s information that you don’t need to hear. Let parents know that you’re receptive to their thoughts and ideas about their child, but you must stay out of personal issues between the families.

 

10. Watch for parents who hover relentlessly. I had a parent my second year of teaching who expected to volunteer in my classroom all day every day. I welcome parent volunteers, but this was ridiculous! She actually burst into tears when I told her she could only work in my room for an hour or two each week. I let her know that her daughter needed the space to develop social skills and gain independence. Then I told her about all of the other volunteer opportunities available at the school. Before long she was busy helping in the library and active in the PTA.

 

 

Click on the link to read 5 Helpful Tips for a Better Parent-Teacher Conference

Click on the link to read The Cafeteria Controversy

Click on the link to read Insensitive ‘Parent Bashers’ Take Aim at Grieving Colorado Parents

Click on the link to read Mother Films Her Kids Fighting and Posts it on Facebook

Click on the link to read It’s Not Spying on Your Children, It’s Called Parenting

 

5 Helpful Tips for a Better Parent-Teacher Conference

October 18, 2012

Five tips courtesy of Carl Azuz:

 

Do your homework

Talking to your child before the conference to find out if he has any questions or concerns of his own can give you ideas of what to address with the teacher.  A good next step:  having a physical list of questions.

The National PTA says that the “questions you ask during the conference can help you express your hopes for the student’s success in class and for the teacher.”

It’s an idea echoed by Ryan Koczot, an award-winning middle school teacher in North Carolina.  “Parents should come to the conference prepared (note pad, pen, list of questions) – just like teachers should be prepared (information on the child, progress report, questions for the parent).”  This will help get everyone on the same page.

Join forces

Several teachers have told us that the best results follow when parents and teachers work together.  According to Debbie Geiger of Scholastic.com, “The goal of both the teacher and the parent should be the success of the student, but sometimes parents have a hard time discussing tough issues.”

Geiger suggests starting off by complimenting the teacher on something that he or she seems to be doing right – a piece of advice echoed by the National PTA.  This can set a positive tone for the meeting and help foster cooperation later on.

If there’s a problem that has developed between your child and a particular subject or teacher, look for ways to address it together.  “Be a team player,” suggests New Jersey middle school teacher Donna Spoto.  “Let the teacher know that you are on his/her side.”

Open lines of communication

Divorce, remarriage, foreclosure, moving, a new baby:  These are just a few of the personal issues that can affect a student’s behavior and work on campus.

A 7th grade social studies teacher in Tennessee said that one area where parents fall short is letting teachers know of problems in a student’s life outside of school.  “When parents don’t tell us what’s happening, we can’t adjust accordingly.”

Spoto agrees that “stress and emotional issues definitely affect a student’s work.”  By informing the teacher of possible causes, you will help the teacher better understand the child and be more equipped to appropriately instruct him.

Aim for action

Coming up with an action plan to address academic or behavioral concerns can benefit the parent, the teacher and the student long after the conference is over.  The National PTA recommends establishing a series of steps that both you and the teacher agree on.  A couple ideas to consider:  what your short- and long-term plans are, and how you’ll measure progress.

One of first actions you can take after the conference is going over key points and discussion topics with your child.  “Depending on his age and maturity level, he may need help understanding what problems – and solutions – were covered.  Most kids also want to have a clear idea of what’s expected of the teacher, the parent(s), and, most importantly, from [them],” writes Kristin Stanberry of Greatschools.org.

Keep in touch

Once an action plan is in place, try to determine how you’ll follow up with the teacher in the weeks and months ahead.  Will it be through written notes, a phone call, or another conference?  Koczot says that an email or phone contact at school can help the parent “check in on their child weekly or in a couple of weeks to see how they are doing.”

And it’s not a bad idea to inform your child that you’re keeping in touch with her school.  “When a child knows parents and teachers are regularly working together, the child will see that education is a high priority requiring commitment and effort,” according to the National PTA.

 

Click on the link to read Schools Invite Kids to Parent-Teacher Meetings to Subdue Angry Parents

Click on the link to read Mother Films Her Kids Fighting and Posts it on Facebook

Click on the link to read It’s Not Spying on Your Children, It’s Called Parenting

The Cafeteria Controversy

August 18, 2012

Talk about a lot of hot air. So what if a school uses a scanner to serve children with greater efficiency. Big deal! Honestly, sometimes parents complain for the sake of complaining:

Moss Bluff Elementary School in Louisiana is looking to streamline lunch payments by implementing a palm vein scanner program, but some parents aren’t pleased.

A letter to parents this week informed them of the new scanner that will allow the school’s nearly 1,000 students to move through the lunch line faster and with fewer payment mistakes — an issue that had arisen in the past, KPLC-TV reports.

While the letter notes that parents can opt their children out of the program, parent Mamie Sonnier told KPLC-TV that she was angry and disappointed by the program, as the scanner violates her beliefs. She contends that if the scanners actually make it to the school cafeteria, she’ll be transferring her kids to another school.

“As a Christian, I’ve read the Bible, you know go to church and stuff,” Sonnier said. “I know where it’s going to end up coming to, the mark of the beast. I’m not going to let my kids have that.”

Calderara notes that it’s just “technology that is used throughout our lives. Everywhere.”

Florida’s Pinellas Schools were the first to adopt palm scanning technology to pay for lunch last fall under a voluntary program. The technology uses infrared light to read unique vein patterns connected to meal plans.

It’s two seconds to buy a meal. Literally, two seconds,” Edward Rutenbeck, senior user support analyst with Pinellas Schools Food Services told WTSP.

Click on the link to read Insensitive ‘Parent Bashers’ Take Aim at Grieving Colorado Parents

Click on the link to read Mother Films Her Kids Fighting and Posts it on Facebook

Click on the link to read It’s Not Spying on Your Children, It’s Called Parenting

Schools Invite Kids to Parent-Teacher Meetings to Subdue Angry Parents

July 14, 2012

If you ever wanted evidence that some schools have a selfish mentality towards their own wellbeing over the welfare of their students, this story proves it.

It is unacceptable to use children as ‘human shields’ to protect teachers from hostile parents. This strategy puts children in the middle of a very difficult situation. Should the parents lose their temper, it can potentially harm the child psychologically.

SCHOOLS have found the perfect solution to maintain the calm during parent-teacher interview nights – bring along the student.

In a bid to quell “pushy parents” and to encourage greater student input, schoolkids are involved in the three-way discussions to highlight their main concerns.

Education experts said having the student present encourages them to be responsible for their own learning, behaviour and to reflect on their academic goals.

The principal of Corpus Christi Primary in Cranbrook, Richard Blissenden, said having students present acts as a “grounding” for some parents who might use the interview night to bombard teachers with irrelevant questions.

“It means that perhaps parents who might have been a little more over the top might not have that opportunity because their child is present,” Mr Blissenden said.

 “It emphasises we are here because we are all interested in the learning for this child.

“You can’t get distracted with issues which are off the topic. You just don’t have the time and having the child there helps to refocus.”

Click on the link to read my post, ‘Tips For Parent-Teacher Conferences‘.

The Loss of Common Sense in Education

May 6, 2012

Teacher Kathy Kenney-Marshall mourns the lack of common sense in education and shares some stories which highlight the double standards of some parents:

Lately though, one particular sentence repeats itself in my head when I read my school email. The line says, “Common Sense took a turn for the worse when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.”

I find this to be all too common as my teaching career marks nearly a quarter of a century. This includes, but is not limited to, expecting that kids do their homework.

Recently for example a parent was incensed when her child was not given a sticker on a homework assignment that was not completed according to directions! A sticker!!

It happened every once in a while when I was newer to the profession; a child on the verge of permanent punishment made up a story to “get me in trouble”: “MOM! The teacher is making me write every spelling word from the whole year 5,000 times each and it’s May!” “MOM! She’s making me write a 17-page paper on the 17 countries in West Africa…by TOMORROW!”

Most of the time the parents of these embellishment makers, will write a note asking why I am torturing children, but for the most part, I get a very nice call or note letting me know about the tall tales that are coming home to deflect the attention off themselves and whatever it is they have or haven’t done, and onto me, the evil teacher in room B29.

But, as I spend more and more time in the classroom, I find myself addressing situations that make me believe that Common Sense is, if not dead, rushing out the doors of many homes. Not too long ago, I had a parent call me to say that she was having trouble putting her child to bed. She asked what I could do to help her. I thought perhaps she dialed the wrong number and really meant to call the pediatrician. But sadly, I was mistaken.

She literally asked me if I could come to her home to help her put her unruly-at-home son to bed because I didn’t seem to have trouble with him at school.

Another day, I received a phone call from a distraught mother whose child was new to our school. She was upset because her very bright daughter wrote a very messy essay and reported, “Mrs. KKM said to do it this way.”

The mother berated me for forcing her child to do a bad job. It didn’t take long to figure out the confusion; I asked the children to do a rough draft, but since they are only 8, and I like to rhyme, I call it a “sloppy copy” and apparently I failed to explain the term properly to an appropriately literal third- grader. The mother and I had a laugh and so did the student the next day.One of my favorites of late was a parent of a child who transferred from a very religious private school. The parent called to inquire about a discussion that her son relayed to her from the day. The conversation went something like this:

Parent: “Are you teaching about the family in school?”

Me: “No, there is a family/community unit in first grade, but not in third.”

P: “Well are you teaching about alternative lifestyles?” (Now I was interested)

M: “Hmm….no. I can’t figure out where you’re going with this, why do you ask?”

P: “Mrs. Kenney-Marshall! We are a very conservative and religious family! Are you teaching homosexuality?!” (I almost choked on my water.)

What I wanted to say and almost did, but MY Common Sense took over just in time, “No, Ma’am, that’s not until fourth grade.” After a few more questions from me, I realized what she was talking about; in math class, I had talked about how certain numbers are related. For example; 4, 3, and 12 are related in multiplication and division. She was immensely relieved, but as I hung up the phone, I shook my head and found myself missing my good friend Common Sense who had apparently vacated her home that day.

 

Students Should be Treated Like People Not Numbers

December 6, 2011

I just read a piece too good to cut into excerpts. It’s written by Sheila French and is about the way she has learnt to approach parent-teacher conferences. She discusses the need to put grades and data to a side and instead, concentrate on talking about the child.

Below is the entire article. It is absolutely worth reading:

In elementary school Parent-Teacher Conferences come and go every year. This year I tried something new with the parents of my third graders at De Laveaga Elementary School. Rather than discussing test scores, grades and assessments I told the families I would like to talk about their child as a PERSON.

There’s no doubt about it, instruction in the kindergarten through high school is data driven. Our students have ID numbers, are assessed at least three times a year, and all of their data is kept on line. Our students are ranked anywhere from far below basic, basic, proficient to advanced.

But how are they as people? 

Are they able to work well with others?

Do they have the skills to make friends and create lasting relationships that will be needed throughout life?

Or our these children little turning into little robots who have “apps” for everything from studying their times tables to practicing for the SAT’s? Do these children of today need to memorize anything when they can run to their laptop and “Google” something?

I say there’s way too much emphasis put on test scores and grades. Let us step back and take a closer look at what our goals are as educators and parents. I don’t think I stand alone when I say that we would like to educate and parent children who have work-ethics, life skills and are well-rounded.

If you go to talk to your child’s teacher, go prepared to talk about your WHOLE child.  Go with a list (just like you’d go to the doctor), ready to ask questions about your child’s social behavior inside the classroom as well as outside on the playground. 

Before your parent-teacher conference, I suggest that you take the time to sit down and talk to your children. Ask them about their favorite classes. Where do they struggle? Do they have friends? Who are they? What do they do at recess? Of course these questions are not limited to pre-conference discussions. They are good conversations to have with your children on an on-going basis.

The playground is just as important as the classroom.

Chances are, the teacher will be more than happy to share some insight about your child as a whole person, not just another test score. Parents, take this opportunity to learn about your child from someone who cares about your child’s social, emotional and education development. This will ensure that our students become GOOD people even in this crazy data-driven world.

Ms. French has echoed many of the points I have made on this blog (although she writes more eloquently). She is absolutely right to point out that the playground is as important as the classroom.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have.

I Thought Christmas Was About Good Will?

December 4, 2011


I thought Christmas was about family, community, good will, acceptance, tolerance and togetherness.  Turns out I was wrong.

Should a teacher have told her class that Santa doesn’t exist? Of course not. Should she have told them that their presents are planted under the tree by their parents? Absolutely not.

But here’s where the parents of these children had a choice. They could have had a quiet word to the teacher, accepted her heartfelt apology, practised the long-lost art of forgiveness and not taken the matter any further.

Allowing this mishap to get overblown and on the nightly news suggests that Christmas may not be about real values, but rather, about the “real” Santa:

A teacher ruined Christmas for a class full of second-graders when she told them that there is no Santa Claus during a lesson about the North Pole at their Rockland County, N.Y., school.

The educator even told the youngsters, mostly 7 and 8-year-olds, that the presents under their trees were put out by their parents, and not St. Nick.

The stunning behavior caused a blizzard of outrage at the quiet George W. Miller Elementary School in Nanuet, where angry parents would like to see the teacher roasted like a chestnut over an open fire.

“If that happened to my daughter in her second-grade class … I’d be very upset,” according to 48-year-old Sean Flanagan, whose child was in second grade at the school last year. “If her brothers told her [there was no Santa], they would be punished. So I can’t imagine what should happen to the teacher.”

A nanny picking up a child at the school said that anyone who tells kids that Santa does not exist should get coal in their stocking.

“It’s outrageous that a teacher would strip a child of their innocence and try and demystify something,” 59-year-old Margaret Fernandez said.

A grandmother of a kindergartener added, “I think this is awful. If it happened to my granddaughter, I’d tell her [that] her teacher made a mistake, and there is a Santa.”

The unidentified teacher reportedly made her anti-Santa comments Tuesday during a geography lesson, when students told her that they knew where the North Pole was because that is where Santa lives.

School officials would not discuss the Christmas incident or say if the teacher would face any discipline.

District Superintendent Mark McNeill released a brief statement, saying only, “This matter is being addressed internally.”

Above is one of many scathing reports about this teacher. Let’s examine the facts.

Did she “ruin Christmas” for these kids? If so, their whole enjoyment of Christmas was founded on a lie. If the legitimacy of Santa is the only thing a 7-year-old can take out of Christmas, then they are missing a hell of a lot.

Was this “stunning behaviour”? No. It was a mere lapse in judgement.

Does she deserve to be “roasted like a chestnut over an open fire”? Absolutely not! Whoever wrote that line was being quite unfair and should have been made to delete it.

Did she “strip children of their innocence”? Hardly. Innocence isn’t just about believing everything adults want you to believe, it’s about seeing the good in people. It’s about not being judgemental and giving everyone a chance.

Apparently this teacher rang all the parents in the class and apologised. I think this is a fair consequence for her improper behaviour.

But I think this story is about more than a teachers conduct.

Is it possible that the mad scramble to make kids believe in Santa eclipses the very heart and soul of what the holiday is supposed to represent?


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