Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Struggling Student at Conference Time

Can it be that the first grading period has arrived already? Yes, and with it come the annual or semi-annual, parent-teacher conferences. This realization usually causes one of two parental reactions ---“I can’t wait to see how Evan is doing!” or “I’m worried about what Ms. Jackson is going to tell us about our Emma.”

From a teacher’s standpoint, this first conference with parents can also be a stressful event. At conferences, educators often meet students’ parents for the very first time. These conferences usually occur right after the hard work of term test taking for students followed by the time required to prepare report cards with individual performance comments. All the while, these teachers continue to plan lessons, correct papers for the second term already begun, and reply to emails and phone calls from parents and colleagues. It can be a very overwhelming time of the year!

If the scheduled conference is for the benefit of a struggling student, the level of concern on the part of the parents may be even greater, and the teacher may need to prepare even more carefully in order to best help the student. Parents can do much to help make the first conference a very positive experience for all involved, particularly for their child:

First and foremost, show respect for the educational professional seated before you. She likely spends more hours per week with your child than you do during the school year. She knows your child and will provide valuable information to enable the child to enjoy more learning success.

Secondly, when constructive criticism about your child is offered, listen and remember what is said. If needed, jot down a few notes regarding the suggested areas of needed improvement.

• Normally, the teacher will make suggestions or offer resources to help with those improvements. Continue the note-taking. However, if none are offered, “gently” request her recommendations, tools and strategies or other resources you might consider to help your child develop more skill in a specific area.

• Finally, remember to be appreciative. Make it known to this teacher that you are grateful for the time and efforts she gives to help your child read and learn. Teachers are human beings in the work of service, hard work that very often is not always appreciated by those who are served. Be grateful for their dedication and commitment.

For educators, you most likely have a preferred format for conducting conferences. No matter which conference “template” you use, there are a few good ideas you might want to keep in mind:

• Try to describe student weaknesses in constructive ways---with some degree of gentleness. Of course, never compare one student with another.

• For every shortcoming or struggle a student may be experiencing, be kind enough to provide a possible strategy to help bring about improvement.

• Always remember to share at least one positive comment about each child. Every child has at least one talent, gift or characteristic that makes him or her special. Share these good comments with parents.

• Finally, offer encouragement to parents who may be struggling to guide their challenged children.

Once again, we have taken the time to gather some resources here to help both parents and teachers at this special “conference time” of year. We hope you will find them beneficial as you work together to help a child improve and experience more learning success!

Resources for Parents

FREE IEP e-book---To help parents plan for a child's IEP meeting! (from the NCLD---National Center for Learning Disabilities)

What Is a 504 Plan? (Video)---Excellent 5 min. video that clearly explains a 504 plan (from the NCLD)

40 Winning Accommodations---New, FREE ADHD Printable! (from ADDitude Magazine)
Increase the odds of your ADHD child succeeding in school with ADDitude's FREE printable, 40 Winning Accommodations.

10 Top Tips for Dyslexia---Tips parents can use to help their children challenged with dyslexia to enjoy more learning success in school

The Top 50 Apps for Kids (2012)---In education, music, art and more

Resources for Teachers

Parent–Teacher Conference Tip Sheets---both English & Spanish (from Harvard Family Research Project)

Parent-Teacher Conference Resources---These resources will help maximize the benefits of parent-teacher collaborations to serve each child's educational needs. (from

Family Involvement Publications & Resources---Articles and other resources to help with conferences (from Harvard Family Research Project)

The Best Resources on Parent/Teacher Conferences---Some of the most useful materials to help with parent-teacher conferences (from

Happy learning, everyone!

For more information: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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