By: Tonya Foust Mead
So, you’ve been called by your child’s teacher, principal or dean of student for a parent-teacher conference? Are you prepared to be admonished for failing to help your child with his/her homework? Roughed up because you don’t read to your child regularly? Allow him/her to watch too much television or play endless video games?
Parents Fight Back
Don’t fear. Use this meeting as a platform to fight back. You do have rights. Yes, your child is in the charge of the school 6-8 hours per day. School personnel shape your child’s habits, monitor his/her behaviors and provide much more reinforcement (positive or negative) during the daylight hours than you ever could. Many parents work twelve to fourteen hour days, leaving less than 30 minutes to 1 hour of daylight time to have a direct impact on the life of their kids.
Prepare Before the Meeting
To deflect negative criticisms of your perceived lack of parenting skills and your child’s alleged discipline or poor behavioral problems requires prior planning.
First, talk with your child. Refrain from making accusations.
* What is his/her side of the story?
* Does he/she find it difficult to learn with this particular teacher?
* Ask for suggestions for ways to help him/her improve the situation at school.
* Is peer pressure a problem?
* Would a change of class or teacher help to resolve the teacher’s concerns?
Second, jot down a list of questions. Ask general questions such as:
* What is the student- to- teacher ratio?
* Does your school have open enrollment?
* What math book do you use?
* What type of correction methods do you use? Self, Group, or Teacher?
* What classroom interventions do you employ prior to involving others (like the principal, dean of students or counselor)?
* How many times do you issue warnings?
* Can you give me examples of the behavior you are indicating?
* Is my child the only child exhibiting this type of behavior?
Third, take notes during the meeting.
* What is the teacher or principal’s message?
* Separate your emotions about your child (disappointment, anger, indignation), from the presenting problem (your child’s academic performance or behaviors).
Fourth, reflect upon the message. Look for a joint solution.
* Have you noticed similar behaviors at home?
* What strategies have worked well for you in changing this behavior?
* What could you do differently at home to improve your child’s situation at school?
* More supervision,
* More focused attention and one-on-one time,
* Increased or decreased involvement with other caretakers,
* Improved communication,
* Greater or less emphasis on school, academic performance, and grades,
* More periodic check ins (check in regularly rather than waiting until the end of the grading period to review academic progress),
* A change in the circle of friends, and/or
* Improved structure and regular routine at home.
Fifth, request for an individual intervention plan from the school.
* Ask the teacher to reflect upon ways in which she might modify her teaching style.
* Could the teacher change the class seating arrangement (closer or further away from friends or nearer to the front)?
* To increase/decrease the times in which your son/daughter is called upon to answer questions before the class?
* Might the teacher take 5 minutes before or after the class to answer your child’s questions about the day’s lesson?
* To refrain from correction/overcorrection of work before his/her peers?
* To increase the number of positive statements in class?
* To vary teaching methods to include visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
* Lower or raise his/her voice; or slow or speed the pace of instruction?
Teachers and Parents as Partners
Remember, school personnel are your partners. Don’t dread the parent-teacher conference. Instead use it as an opportunity to put the teachers to task. It is your child’s birthright, for you to provide an abode for him/her, to guarantee that he is properly clothed, fed and to ensure his emotional well-being. In the same vein, it is your right as a taxpayer and supporter of the public school system to expect that your child is properly educated in accordance with his/her individual strengths. It will not be given freely, you must fight for it.
Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA http://www.ishareknowledge.com is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at: tonya.ishareknowledge.com