Category Archives: interviews: parent-teacher

Getting Ready for the Teacher-Parent Interview: Part Three of Three


THINKING ABOUT YOUR CHILD

A session in parent teacher meeting at Lahore ...

A session in parent teacher meeting at Lahore College of Arts and Sciences. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You have finally deciphered the code and concluded that the teacher is not a robot.  You are pleased with how your child has done in some things; other subjects or learning skills have you worried.  Before you go to the interview, think of your concerns and how you want to tackle them.

START WITH WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR CHILD

We all tend to be good at coming up with a shopping list of things that other people should do.  The problem is that we are the only people we have control over.  You can’t change the teacher’s personality or create more time for her to help your child.  You can’t make your child smarter or quieter.  What you can do is create a good environment to prepare her for school and encourage her to study when she gets home.

I have been there.  My children were not perfect about doing their homework every day but most of it got done and they were usually attentive in class.  That isn’t to say that sometimes their teachers didn’t get annoyed with them but these six things worked for them.

1.  Breakfast– they had to have it. Because it was cheaper I often made oatmeal but they were welcome to eat anything healthy.

2.  Lunch – they made it but all the fixings were in the fridge and I tried to make sure that most were healthy.   They eventually got smart and worked together to make the weeks sandwiches on Sunday and freeze them.  They learned that lettuce doesn’t freeze successfully.

3.  Sleep – was more important than homework.  “I haven’t finished my homework” was never an excuse to stay up late.  Any child who had to be hauled out of bed in the morning wasn’t getting enough sleep and went to bed earlier.

4.  Television – no more than half an hour on a school night.  Homework is a lot more interesting when there is no television (or computer or video games or other electronic distractions)

5.  Quiet time– right after dinner so we could all work.  Kids stayed in their own workspace.

Mathematics homework

Mathematics homework (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6.  No incoming phone calls half an hour before bed and no outgoing phone calls an hour before bed.  It gave the kids time to calm down so they could sleep.  If they didn’t inform their friends, then I did when I answered the phone.

As you can see, # four and five were about the importance of homework and the rest were about the importance of their health so they could do well.  We didn’t stand over them while they did homework because it was their job.  We were available to help but they were responsible.

FIGURE OUT WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT

These worked for my family; something different may work for yours, but the same principles apply.  If you demonstrate that you will do everything you can to create an environment where your child can get his homework done and acquire healthy habits, eventually things will begin to fall into place.  If you are unsure of what role you, your child and your child’s teacher should play in your child’s homework, the attached chart copied from Dr. Maggie Mamen’s excellent book, The Pampered Child Syndrome: How to Recognize It, How to Manage It, and How to Avoid It, should help.  responsibilities for homework

LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD’S THOUGHTS ON HIS REPORT CARD

Now you have thought about where you can adjust the things you have control over, see if your child has some thoughts.  The best way to get good ideas out of a kid is not to expect anything you would approve of but sit back and listen as if your child was a respected colleague.  It is surprising the insights kids have when they aren’t worried about parents or teachers getting angry with them.

WHAT DO YOU WANT THE TEACHER TO TELL YOU?

With some thoughts from your child and some ideas about what you could do, think about what you would like the teacher to tell you.  This is where it gets tricky.  A lot of parents come away from interviews without anything useful because the teacher has sugarcoated everything.

Why would a teacher do that?  She does that because she has been literally yelled at too often when she told the truth.  If you have an evening interview after she has taught all day, fatigue is beginning to set in; she will be even less likely to be frank.  You may be tired and hungry as well and not open to any suggestions that your child’s behaviour is not perfect.  Bringing some muffins and tea might be a smart move.

HOW TO GET PAST THE SUGARCOATING

Ask your questions.  When the teacher’s response seems to be sugar coated and you reckon you can deal with the truth – in fact you will probably have a good idea what the truth is, then state it as a question.  “Johnny is a sociable boy” from the teacher might translate to a question from you “are you finding that he is talking and distracting others when he should be getting down to work?”

VOLUNTEER ONLY FOR STRATEGIES YOU CAN FOLLOW THROUGH ON

When you have agreed on what his main strength and weaknesses are, ask what you can do at home to help.  You might not be able to do anything but give the teacher moral support as she tries the various strategies in her repertoire.  Moral support is a lot, however, if a teacher does not feel she is going to have to justify every strategy.  If you do agree to do something, make sure it is something you can follow through on.  If you travel a lot, then signing your child’s agenda every night is not going to work.

FOR SERIOUS PROBLEMS EXPLORE THE OPTIONS

If the problems seem to be serious and you wonder if they have more to do with the child’s ability, you are within your rights to ask the teacher about your concerns.  Sometimes parents see things that teachers don’t.  You can ask the teacher to bring your child up at an in school team meeting to make sure there aren’t other things that can be explored.

If the problems are the normal ones of a normal child, thank your lucky stars. No matter what, even if you have disagreed about the next course of action, let the teacher know that you appreciate her efforts.  She may not be perfect and she may not always teach the way you would like, but she cares about the children in her class and she works hard to do her best for them.  A thank you or a kind word goes a long way.

Parents and teachers need to remember that they are both on the same side: the success and well-being of the student.

For More Information

Getting Ready for the Teacher-Parent Interview: Part Two of Three to understand how comments are generated.

Getting Ready for the Teacher-Parent Interview: Part One of Three to understand how marks are derived.

R on the Report Card Does Not Mean F (Failure) to understand what an R on the report card means.

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Getting Ready for the Teacher-Parent Interview: Part Two of Three


INTERPRETING COMMENTS ON THE REPORT CARD

In vain we begged students and parents to focus on the learning skills and comments instead of the marks. Asking them to focus on the comments proved to be a mistake in some cases and here is why.

GENERIC COMMENTS

Teachers are asked to list the students’ strengths, weaknesses and next steps in the comments section, using verbs and adverbs from a number of suggested lists. They do not have to be used, but a teacher who does use them is less likely to be asked to redo a comment. It is accepted practice to write a generic remark for all the students and then individualize each one with appropriate adverbs and perhaps more personal next steps. Some teachers get very clever at writing the generic comment. The generic child in the report card program is called Casper. Here is an example of the generic comment: “Casper has demonstrated an understanding of the usefulness of titles and subtitles in anticipating the topics covered in difficult text. He has difficulty using context, the titles and other vocabulary to infer meaning for unknown words. He is encouraged to read more non-fiction and take time to reflect on difficult language.” In the first sentence, “thoroughly” can be inserted after demonstrated or “a thorough” can replace “a” to create an appropriate comment for a level 4 student. If Casper is having difficulty, then “not yet” can be inserted between “has” and “demonstrated” or more mildly “rarely” or “occasionally” might be inserted. The teacher might have written the second sentence because the majority of students were having the same problem and part of the solution might be encapsulated in the third sentence. Again, the second sentence might be modified by suggesting that Casper has “some difficulty” or “little difficulty” in which case he may be “encouraged to continue to read …” in the third sentence. The program will change Casper to the child’s name and put in the correct pronouns and modifiers. Occasionally it makes a mistake and when we don’t catch it in the proofreading, there is an indignant student.

PEDAGOGICAL BUZZWORDS

You may be wondering about all the stuff about sub titles, context and inferring. These are some of the buzzwords in a new (and excellent) approach to teaching reading, called Balanced Literacy. The teacher is signaling to the principal or vice-principal who will be reading and signing her report cards that she is very much au courant with the latest and greatest trend in teaching to the extent of using it and evaluating it in her classroom. It’s also a signal to any parents who like to research the latest in teaching. Why would she bother? Teachers are under some pressure to be seen to be aware of and impressed by whatever the latest thing in education is. This is because principals are pressured to have the latest and best in their schools and so on. Sometimes it is sufficient to have the outward garb such as the Word Wall of Balanced Literacy and it is rather funny to see educators faking it. In the best schools, whatever comes across the teachers’ desks is evaluated for usefulness and integrated as appropriate. The report card comments may seem mechanical and awkward. They make anyone who likes good writing shudder, however parents were promised accountability and for some, that means report cards being the same while being individualized. There are times when doing a good job in education feels like being the old man and his donkey. Perhaps we listen too much to everyone’s opinion instead of trusting those experienced and well-educated professionals in the classrooms to pose the problems and propose the solutions. That’s a discussion for another day.

For More Information:

Getting Ready for the Teacher-Parent Interview: Part One of Three to understand how marks are derived. Getting Ready for the Teacher-Parent Interview: Part Three of Three to reflect on how each of the three parties involved can work on any issues brought up by the report card. R on the Report Card Does Not Mean F (Failure) to understand what an R on the report card means.

Getting Ready for the Teacher-Parent Interview: Part One of Three


UNDERSTANDING THE ELEMENTARY REPORT CARD

 

You have received your child’s report card and on Thursday evening or Friday

 

Report Card, Winter 1903

Report Card, Winter 1903 (Photo credit: Carosaurus)

 

morning of this week you will be meeting with the teacher. If this is the first time your child has received a report card in Ontario, you may have some questions. To save you time in the fifteen minutes allotted with the teacher, I will try to clarify a few things below.

 

LEARNING SKILLS: The Heart of the Report Card

 

report card 1944

report card 1944 (Photo credit: pjern)

 

Teachers take the learning skills section of the report card very seriously. Twenty, even ten years ago, part of a mark in some subjects might have been for homework completion, effort or participation. That is no longer allowed. Teachers may not even take off marks for late assignments. The only place that those issues may be addressed now is in the learning skills section.Learning Skills per report card The nine learning skills are not a frill about non-academic issues but skills that go to the heart of your child’s long-term success in school and probably in the work world. Take a look and ask yourself if these aren’t qualities employers look for when they are hiring or promoting. I have attached the detailed lists of learning skills here so you can see what teachers take into account when they assign a Not Satisfactory, Satisfactory, Good or Excellent to each skill.

 

MARKS: the teachers use levels 1 to 4 for assessment

 

Let’s look at the marks assigned to the subjects. Teachers are required to assess students on a scale of 1 to 4 (I have covered R in a previous post R on the Report Card Does Not Mean F (Failure)). A level 3 is the provincial standard and should mean that the student has successfully mastered the material and skills. The key word here is mastered as opposed to crammed sufficiently to fake it on a test and then forget it. A level 2 means that the student is approaching mastery but needs more practice, time or effort. Usually the student can achieve a level 3 with more work. At a level 1 a student is floundering and unclear on the subject matter or weak in the skills. It is possible he might achieve a level 3, but a lot of help and extra work may be needed. If a student has a number of level 1s, parents and teachers should be prepared to discuss options for the next year such as retention, remediation or an individual education plan. A level 4 means that the student is regularly going beyond mastery in this area. It does not necessarily mean that the student is working above grade level although that is one possibility. Depending on the subject, the teacher might consider differentiating the program for some topics for this student. You might also discover that some of the work has been open-ended, allowing the student to go further in his work. BUT on the report card the marks are not shown as levels. It would make sense for the marks on elementary report cards to be written as levels 1, 2, 3 and 4, but they aren’t. Below is the chart the ministry produced in 1998 instructing the Boards of Education in Ontario about putting marks on report cards. Appendix B: Provincial Guide for Grading

 

Level Definition Letter Grade (Grades 1 to 6) Percentage Mark (Grades 7 and 8)
Level 4 The student has demonstrated the required knowledge and skills. Achievement exceeds the provincial standard. A+ A A– 90–100 85–89 80–84
Level 3 The student has demonstrated most of the required knowledge and skills. Achievement meets the provincial standard. B+ B B- 77–79 73–76 70–72
Level 2 The student has demonstrated some of the required knowledge and skills. Achievement approaches the provincial standard. C+ C C– 67–69 63–66 60–62
Level 1 The student has demonstrated some of the required knowledge and skills in limited ways. Achievement falls much below the provincial standard. D+ D D– 57–59 53–56 50–52
R or Below 50 The student has not demonstrated the required knowledge and skills. Extensive remediation is required. R Below 50

 

CONFUSED?

 

The parent of a student in a grade one to six class shouldn’t be too confused; the A, B, C, Ds of old more or less match up with the new levels and the definitions help. The R makes sense. If your child is in grade seven or eight and you are trying to calculate how they got a certain percentage in a subject, stop! If the teacher followed orders, she assessed him using the 1 to 4 marking scheme, following the definitions listed in the chart and then converted the assessment to the meaningless percentage on the right. You need to remember that the percentage IS meaningless unless you interpret it according to the definition provided by the level.

 

IS THIS LESS CONFUSING?

 

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board tried to clarify things by telling teachers to use only specific numbers such as 52, 55 and 58 for level 1 and so on through the levels. Although it was a tad confusing for parents, that bit was relatively easy to explain. What was more difficult was the 20% spread for level 4 when all the other levels had a 10% spread. This made an A+ worth a heck of a lot more than an A-. Some top students began to feel cheated, especially initially when the top mark was 95%.

 

For More Information:

 

Getting Ready for the Teacher-Parent Interview: Part Two of Three to understand how comments are generated. Getting Ready for the Teacher-Parent Interview: Part Three of Three to reflect on how each of the three parties involved can work on any issues brought up by the report card. R on the Report Card Does Not Mean F (Failure) to understand what an R on the report card means.

 

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (Photo credit: Wikipedia)