To me, this is one of the hardest parts of teaching, but one of the most important. We are given the amazing gift of trust by the parents of our students, and we need to let them know that we are doing everything in our power to help their little one grow up to be a productive member of society. That’s a heavy load to carry, huh?
My very first parent teacher conference was a DISASTER. The mom came in with all guns blazing. To this day, I have no idea what she said to me, but she was MAD. I just stood there and nodded my head. (Yep, we hadn’t even gotten to the table yet). Thankfully, after I talked with one of my colleagues, I was reassured me that I was doing everything right, and this mom had some “issues.”
It is always a delicate situation to let a parent know that their child is struggling in school. Especially in Kindergarten. Most parents do not realize that their has been a huge shift in Kindergarten in the past 10 years. My memories of Kindergarten are of rest time, the play corner, and painting. Oh, and my teacher would draw a HUGE birthday cake on the chalkboard whenever it was someone’s birthday. (I was always bummed that I never got a birthday cake drawn on the board for me since my birthday is in December ).
We need to gently let parents know if their child is having a tough time with the curriculum, while still reassuring them we are doing everything we can, and we will not give up on them. We also need to celebrate their success and help them to understand they we will push their child as much as we can. We want their child to learn, and we celebrate their successes! We also have to let them know that we can’t do it alone. We need their support. That’s where goal setting comes in.
In our district our conferences include goal setting. As teachers, we look at the data of our kiddos and set goal for the next time we meet. The goals that we write are SMART goals.
Here’s what that means:
The goals need to be:
S – specific
M – measurable
A – Attainable
R – realistic
T – timely
Yep, they are a bit more work, but it spells out exactly what they kiddo needs to do, when they should do it by, and how we are going to assess it. We also write action steps for the teacher, parents, and student.
So, a goal for Susie Q might be: (this would be an example of a goal for one of my LOW kiddos – I still let parents know that MY goal is for all students to know their letters and sounds by November. I let them know that we can’t go on teaching them to read if they don’t know their letters and sounds! February is the chosen date since that is when our next conferences are).
Susie will read, write, and say the sounds of all 52 letters of the alphabet by February 2012. This goal will be progress monitored through weekly letter/sound checks and a formal assessment will be made through our quarterly Kindergarten assessments.
1. Susie will participate in whole group, small group, and one-on-one language arts activities.
2. Parents will practice writing, identifying, and saying the sounds of the alphabet for 5 minutes each night.
3. Teacher will work with Susie in small groups to practice these skills.
I always try to be very specific in what the parents will need to do. I know what I need to do, so I don’t always include that in the action steps. If February comes and little Susie is still struggling with letters and sounds, and I know I have done everything in the classroom, I can then ask the parents if they have done their part at home. If they have – then we have some further testing to do. If they haven’t….well….you fill in the blanks.
Our district has a form that we use to write the goals, but I also send one home to the parents. This form gives me a good idea of what kind of expectations they have for their kiddos and how much they really know about kindergarten. I should add that each fall we have a parent meeting in which we explain to parents the goals and expectations we have for them and their kiddos. If a parent fills in the form with “add double digit numbers” (yes, I got that this year) or “learn letters” – I know that I will have to help the parent understand what Kindergarten really is all about!
You can download the form I send home by clicking on the picture below.
I usually write 1-2 goals for each student. Sometimes they are both literacy, sometimes there is a literacy and a math goal. Sometimes I have to add a behavior goal too!
Here are a couple of other forms I like to have handy for notes during the meeting:
And a time/schedule chart – just fill in your times and the names of your kiddos:
How does your district run their conferences? Do you have any conference horror stories? Any a-ha moments from parents? I would love to hear about it! Leave a comment below!
Be sure to stop by and visit me over at my blog!