October has rolled around again and for many parents and teachers, that means it’s check-in time. Students are finishing the first quarter of the school year, report cards are gearing up for the mail, and it is time to discuss how your child is progressing academically. Though October seems to be a consistently busy month for both families and teachers, you should definitely carve some time in your schedule to meet your child’s teachers. Here’s why:
They’re Watching You!
Your child is watching you, even when you don’t notice. They observe the way you handle yourself in difficult situations, how you respond to disrespectful behavior or uncomfortable interactions. They also pay keen attention to how you prioritize your time. Setting aside a few minutes to have a conversation with the people who spend a significant portion of each weekday with your child reveals to them that THEY ARE YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY! Silently, all children desire to be number one in someone’s world. Vetting each and every person who interacts with your child speaks volumes to how much you care. Think about it, would you let your child sleep over at a friend’s house before meeting their parents? For most of us, the answer is a resounding “NO!” In that same way, get to know your child's teacher. They spend such a vast amount of time with your kiddo. Learn about their backgrounds. Ask about their hopes and dreams for your child. Make sure they care just as much as you do!
You Know Your Child,
BUT there’s ALWAYS something NEW to Learn!
Parent-teacher conferences offer a space for you to shed light on all of your child’s positive attributes. Conferences also serve as a perfect platform to inform teachers about some of your child’s interests, likes, and dislikes. You know that your child prefers to read science fiction as opposed to mysteries. You’ve noticed that your child learns best when she has the ability to get creative. She’s a visual learner and remembers better when she takes notes in multiple colors all over her notebook. Voice those characteristics. Advocate for an optimal learning environment for your child. Conferences offer an opportunity for you to learn new things about your child as well. Take the time to listen. Maybe she’s becoming increasingly interested in poetry or perhaps she’s developing a new found passion for robotics. You know your child well, but there’s always something new to learn! Bring a pen and jot down some notes.
Find out About the Weird Math
We’ve all seen the memes and Facebook posts about the “weird math” being taught in schools these days. The truth is…it’s the SAME MATH! Math didn’t change. However, the way math is taught HAS evolved. New state standards not only require students to be able to complete math problems, but they must also be able to explain HOW they came up with their answer and WHY that answer is correct. New education standards focus more heavily on strategic and extended thinking than basic recall. Gone are the days of spitting out multiplication facts in the classroom game of Around the World. Now, students must do more! They are expected to “interpret a multiplication equation as a comparison” as in, 35 = 5 X 7 or 35 is 5 times as many as 7 and 7 times as many as 5. Conferences are a great way to learn more about the school’s learning standards and see examples of the work your child is expected to master. Conferences are also a great place to learn more about the culture and behavioral expectations of the school.
Make Your Voice Heard & Collaborate
Parent-Teacher conferences offer a safe space for you to express questions and concerns regarding your child’s education. It’s your time to establish a rapport with the teacher(s), develop a communication plan (how often you want to be contacted, your preferred method of contact (text, email, cell phone, work phone), and discuss how you can play an active role in their learning process. The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory found that students with involved parents, no matter their income or background, are more likely to:
Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs
Be promoted, pass their classes and earn credits
Attend school regularly
Have better social skills, show improved behavior and adapt well to school
Graduate and go on to post-secondary education
Learn About FREE Services
Many schools offer free services and support that often go underused because families don’t know they exist. Schools put their best foot forward on conference nights. They try diligently to have community advocates and resources available. Parent-teacher conferences serve as a great place to learn about where to buy school uniforms at the cheapest price, how to get free tutoring services, which apps to download to monitor your child’s behavior throughout the day, and which after-school sports, creative arts programs, and clubs are offered at the school. If there’s something else you need, ask during the conference! Advocate for your child. Advocate for YOU. Schools want to hear from you and hope to do everything they can to direct you to the services you need.
Just Show Up!
If for no other reason, SHOW UP because we all saw you at the football game last Friday night, and the football games take place at the exact same time as parent-teacher conferences. I’m kidding…but seriously, think about what you’re communicating to your child when you’re able to make it to every basketball game or soccer match but can’t seem to carve out 30 minutes to speak with teachers about your child’s academic performance. If the dates and times just absolutely don’t work for your schedule, seek another opportunity to meet with the teacher. Many teachers are open to chatting for a few minutes during planning periods or even before school. Find a time and make it happen. Your child deserves it!