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March 24, 2009

Parent Teacher Conferences

Parent teacher conferences are not always something parents or teachers look forward to.  I have an advantage: I see parents every day when they drop off or pick up their child.  This allows me to get to know each family and check in when a child might be struggling with something or to let them know a funny anecdote from the day. 


I just completed our round of spring conferences.  Now that our program is specifically for four and five-year-olds, most of our time is spent discussing whether or not their child is ready for kindergarten.  My colleagues and I have come up with a very comprehensive assessment form that allows us to really help parents see where their child excels and also where additional support throughout the summer and at home would be helpful. 


In accordance with our state standards, these areas are divided into language and literacy, mathematical reasoning, science and sensory, reading and writing, large and fine motor skills and social/emotional development. 


Most parents have a pretty good idea of how their child is doing in all of these areas and are also working on these skills at home.  Unfortunately, our conferences, like our programming, are voluntary.  Consequently, I don’t often to get to spend those twenty minutes face to face with those that potentially need more assistance before kindergarten.  Either the parent doesn’t show up or they are working multiple jobs and cannot take the time off.  I am wondering if any of our readers might have suggestions for encouraging parents to participate?



I enjoyed reading your piece on parent-teacher conferences and Kindergarten readiness. I am a kIndergarten teacher, and there are times I wish that parents had a real heart-to-heart talk with a preschool or Kindergarten teacher, to see if their child was really ready to start school. Many parents feel that if their child can count and say their ABC's, they are ready for school. Unfortunately, there are many other essential skills a child needs to be successful. A student may be ready academically, but not socially/emotionally, and vice versa, and some parents do not understand that.

I know that it is an impossible task, but I feel that every child and parent should have an "interview process" before they begin Kindergarten. In my district, we screen our students two days before they start school, and group them heterogenously based on race, sex, and test scores. As the first month of school progresses, there are students that do not belong in Kindergarten, but there is nothing that can be done. I am aware that it would be impossible to give the "seal of aprroval" to every student who signs up for school, but I believe it would alleviate some of the problems in school today. I have three students this year who are progressing fine academically, but they are not socially and emotionally ready for school, and I feel that this is going to hurt them throughout the rest of their school years.

Another point I would like to comment on is the fact that the parents that you need to see are the ones who are not able to attend conferences. I struggle with the same issue, and I truly believe that if I had more home support, these students would excel further in school. As far as incentives for parental attendance at conferences, our district has found that serving food is a big draw. We have also arranged for transportation for our parents and provided child care during conferences. We encourage the students to invite their parents to school to see their work, and at times, have student-led conferences. We have held book fairs during conference hours, and that has always been a big draw for our families. A few times, we have held drawings for people who attended, with prizes for both families, and for the children. At times, it takes many incentives for parents to attend school functions, and it can be disheartening to think that their child's education is not reason enough, but there are times when we have to bribe them to show up!

Thanks for the ideas Kelly! I think I will suggest some of those things for next year. We do host family celebrations throughout the year and people bring a dish to share...they are ALWAYS well attended! MAybe we could try doing conferences during one of those times.
Thanks for reading!

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