Sunset Middle School Instructional Librarian CeCe Balman talks about the road to transforming her school’s library and her continuing efforts to make the space the heart of the school.
With school conferences in progress, families across the school district are getting a chance to meet their children’s teachers face-to-face. Asking questions about what you can do to help your kids prepare for the learning that will be happening between now and the next few months is a great way to find out how to build connections between home and school.
The Whole Story
It’s easy to sit down at a parent teacher conference and be drawn in by grades and progress reports. And those are certainly important pieces for understanding how your child is progressing in their classes. If you leave the room only with an understanding of grades and how they got that way, you’re leaving some important information out. To get more out of parent teacher conferences, consider shifting your thinking from that of a meeting between a service provider and a client to that of a team meeting. When you think about it, other than your child, their teachers and you – their family – are the key players in making sure learning is happening and supported across home and school.
So, other than questions about grades, missing assignments and attendance, how can you get the information you need to make the most of your parent teacher conference?
- Ask about reading. Ask your child’s teachers what is being read in class, what they’d recommend your kid reads at home, and what you might consider reading as a parent. Ask for specific titles, authors, and topic areas.
- Ask what you should be asking. We know the trope of asking a student what they did at school only to hear, “Nothing” in response. A conference is a great place to get material for specific questions:
- What are the names of some key characters they’re encountering in literature?
- What are some key words I could use when asking them about school work, no matter the content area?
- What’s something you’ve seen my student get very interested in that I should bring up to help them see school as a positive experience?
- Ask how you can help pave the way. Parent conferences are often about the past. By asking what you can be doing, viewing, talking, and thinking about at home around the dinner table or during family time, you can make sure your child has experiences with key ideas, books, etc. so they feel on top of things when they come up in class.
- Ask about drive time. Time in the car – heading home, to practices, to rehearsals, to dentist appointments – can be time spent making connections to what students are learning. Ask your child’s teacher if they have suggestions for conversation topics, skill practice games, podcasts to listen to or any other content you might bring up during car rides.
- For a fascinating consideration of the tone and content of parent conferences, check out Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other.
- For a framework for thinking about the needs and possibilities in family and community partnerships, consider the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships (PDF).