By Alex Chiu
By the month of November, students are well into their school routines. They have learned the classroom rules and guidelines, refreshed their memories after a summer off from school, likely made some new friends, and are deep into their new learning. This is why November is often the time of year when schools will schedule their Parent/Teacher Conferences. It’s a perfect time for teachers to connect with parents to share their observations about their students, and it’s the opportune time for parents to glean some insights into how their children are performing in school both academically and socially.
Prior to conference season, teachers take a great deal of time to prepare for their upcoming meetings with parents. They may work with the students individually for the most up-to-date assessments of certain skills, they will take more time observing the children as they interact with peers in the classroom and on the playground, and they will collect any important and pertinent information for students, which depending on the child and the school, may include support services reports, samples of student work, or additional notes.
Montessori teachers have an edge in preparing for Parent/Teacher Conferences because a large part of their training specifically focuses on observation in the classroom. Montessori teachers learn and practice the art of observing how their students work and interact, using their observations to drive which lessons to present to which children, which materials to rotate, and which parts of the environment to adjust to meet the children’s needs. Therefore, parents of Montessori students can be assured that at their conferences, they will learn quite a bit about how their children function at school and what they might be able to do at home to bridge the school to home learning.
For parents with children in school for the first time, we’ve gathered some information to help you prepare for your first Parent/Teacher Conference. For ‘veteran’ parents, these reminders may help you get the most out of your conferences this year.
At your conference, you can expect to learn about your child’s:
1. Recent academic progress.
2. Behavioral development as observed by the teacher since September.
3. Social interactions and development in the classroom.
4. Strengths and challenges within the classroom.
During the conference, you can help your child’s teacher learn more about your child by:
1. Describing your child’s attitude towards school.
2. Sharing anything that currently may be impacting your child’s academic or social progress (e.g., family illness, move to a new home, other family changes or potential stressors).
3. Discussing what you see as your child’s strengths and challenges.
4. Providing information about any special interests/activities your child has outside of school, so as to help your child’s teacher get to know a little more about your child.
What parents can do to prepare for and help facilitate a smooth conference:
1. Bring a list of questions you may have or topics you would like to discuss, keeping in mind the time allotted for your conference. Prioritize your list.
2. Ask your child if there is anything he or she would like to discuss with the teacher and share his or her comments with the teacher.
3. Come prepared to listen and take notes.
4. Ask to see samples of your child’s work or which Montessori materials he or she has been using.
5. Ask what you can do at home to help your child with academic, social, and emotional development. Inquire if the teacher has any community references that may be helpful to your family.
6. Be respectful of the time. If you have more questions than time allows for, do ask for a follow-up meeting at a later date. Communication with your child’s teacher can and should continue beyond the conference as needed.
Parent/Teacher Conferences are a wonderful opportunity to learn about what a typical day at school is like for your child, develop stronger connections with your child’s teacher, and gain insights into your child’s development. By participating in these conferences, you are showing your child that you are interested in what happens at school. You also are modeling the importance of open communication, and you are building the bridge between home and school to promote your child’s success as a student.
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