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Teachers - what sort of parental involvement/support do you most appreciate?

26 replies

Earlybird · 01/10/2007 19:20

I'd be curious to also hear what specifically makes for a productive/constructive parent-teacher conference so that it is more than simply a status report?

Do you raise concerns, or wait for a parent to?

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wildwoman · 01/10/2007 19:22

Ooh as I'm paranoid that my DD's teacher thinks I'm a pushy parent I will be watching this thread!

jennifersofia · 01/10/2007 20:52

I generally start the meeting asking the parent if they have any issues or concerns they want to talk about, and we deal with that first. I find it quite valuable and a good chance to set a parents mind at rest, or flag up something that we haven't picked up yet.
When that is dealt with, I would tell the parent about the progress their child has made, and any specific areas that I feel are especially good, or need more support. I also often ask parents to work on various things with the child at home (eg, letting the child find the change and pay next time at the shops etc) to support whatever learning we are doing at the moment. I also often take the opportunity to re-emphasize things like reading together at home.
The parents I find difficult are:
a) the ones that try to sneak a look at my papers to see scores of other children
b) ones who are not satisfied with their child, even if you have said that the child is doing well
c) parents who do not listen.
Generally though, most parents are great and it is a good chance to feel like we are all aiming for the same positive goal.

louloutoo · 01/10/2007 21:16

I used to work in a school where the parental support was mostly zero with the occaisional threatening encounter or a helpful 'that's your job'. So as far as I'm concerned any positive support is more than welcome. Help with homework. Listen to them read daily. And if you have any questions or concerns, however minor you think they are discuss them with your teacher, especially at conferences. You know your child better than the teacher!

Earlybird · 02/10/2007 15:45

Good feedback, thank you.

DD is a PFB and an 'only' (ooh double whammy! ), and in the past has been a 'model' student. Consequently, previous conferences have largely been conversations about how fab she is backed up with evidence of her progress.

She has now moved to a new school in America, and quite frankly, the transition has not been smooth. Early on, I was concerned about how easy the work was, as she was doing much of the same level work a year ago in London. At one point she said she was bored (something she's never voiced about school before), but she's not said that again.

However, she's gone from being near the top of her class in London and a happy/popular child, to doing a lot of daydreaming, not listening and being quite personally disorganised and forgetful. This of course, causes her to be reprimanded in class which distresses her.

I don't quite know how to address this issues with the teacher. Clearly dd is capable of alot, but the system here in America is different. At one point, dd said to her teacher yesterday "I miss London", and was hoping for (I think) a sympathetic response. Instead the teacher responded with "Well, you're in America now". DD clearly needs to adjust/fit in, but I don't know how to help her other than lots of reassurance at home.

I'm worried for her, and don't know if it's best handled with a breezy attitude of 'don't worry, it will pass', or if a more pro-active approach should be taken. Any suggestions/ideas would help immeasurably as the parent/teacher conference is Friday.

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bossybritches · 02/10/2007 17:41

Sounds to me (as a parent not a teacher) like she is bored & not being stretched/challenged enough, which is a shame.

Maybe you need to ask for some kind of assessment to see if she is in the right class for her abilities? Are they making any allowances for cultural differences?

If you are not happy with her progress/their response would a change of school be out of the question?

I'll be interested to hear some more teachers views on this.

Horrible for you, good luck for Friday & let us know what they said!!

NKF · 02/10/2007 17:48

When I was going to my first teacher/parent conference, I asked a friend what I should say. And his answer was: ask if the child is doing what is expected of him/her conmensurate with age and ability, ask what you (the parent) can do to help and, for God's sake, remember to say thank you. That's what I do. And if my child has enjoyed something in particular, I make a point of mentioning it.

Earlybird · 02/10/2007 19:17

bossybritches - changing schools not possible for this year, I don't think as most schools are over-subscribed and there is generally not alot of movement in the area where we now live.

I'm definitely not ready to give up on the school yet, as it is early days and I'm hopeful things will improve. But, have never had a school 'problem' to tackle previously, and don't quite know how to go about it. Also feel hugely concerned for dd, and if I'm completely honest, guilty at uprooting her from a place she loved.

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admylin · 02/10/2007 19:31

Have no idea about the American system at all but was wondering if your dd actually likes her new teacher? Did she really like her old one? It could all be making things difficult for her. Ds had to leave his primary school just as he was going into the 2nd year and he loved his teacher. In his new school he sat with his coat on for the first week and wouldn't join in, he dislikes his new teacher because he compares her to his old one and the two are total opposites in their ways.

lljkk · 02/10/2007 19:46

Americans are piss-poor at understanding what cultural differences even are, much less that they exist. They can see racial differences and almost understand cultural difference arising from different skin colour background but otherwise, Americans don't really understand culture okay, I didn't know that different cultures existed 15 yrs ago when I moved to the UK, and I'm convinced that I was sadly representative of my native "culture" in this deficiency.

What I'm saying is that explaining any problem in a "culture" conflict basis is going to be hard work... but moving house and changing friends -- these are obvious difficult upheavals. I would try to discuss (with the teacher) the child's problems in the context of moving home and "change".

More challenging class work might help, might not. For instance, maths could involve counting change in American coins -- very different from counting using British coins. So could leave her bored due to lack of interest combined with frustration at not "quite" knowing how to do it. Ditto with a writing exercise where she could lose marks just for using British not American spelling.

jennifersofia · 02/10/2007 22:39

Express your concerns to the teacher, and ask her what her observations are, on the emotional and academic level. I wouldn't be too surprised if the work was a bit easier in America, so whether she feels engaged and challenged is a good question to look into.
Maybe she felt be top of the block in her old school environment, and now feels more like 'one of the many', and a slightly out of place one too. It sounds like she is withdrawing herself because of the unfamiliarity and difficulty instead of embracing. Certainly no guilt to you for moving her, which I am sure was a very considered move, and also no blame for her for pulling back a bit.
Maybe just remind yourself that this is a transition phase, that may take a while, and see it as a creative challenge as to how to help her start becoming immersed. Hopefully the teacher should be able to help with that.

Quite possible that the teacher herself has never been out of America, much less to London (although obv. also possible she has)so she might not have much of a picture of where your daughter has come from and how different it is. I wonder if the teacher could work London/England into the curriculum somewhere, where your daughter could get to describe her own experience?

How is your dd socially? Friends can really help with integration.

Earlybird · 03/10/2007 03:34

admylin - interesting question. DD absolutely adored her reception and year one teachers - and they adored her. She's an engaging child, who connects/communicates particularly well with adults - as many 'only' children do. Her new teacher is very experienced/respected, but is more emotionally detached. She's not hugely receptive to reassuring an anxious child with cuddles - and that is the sort of reassurance dd initiates/seeks (I've had some gentle chats with dd about when this is appropriate and who she can reasonably expect to respond/reciprocate). I also get the sense that the teacher, while understanding/sympathetic, thinks that dd now just has to 'get on with it' and should be further integrated/adjusted - in other words, I think the teacher's 'special treatment' of dd's 'special circumstances' has largely run it's course.

lljkk - interesting to think about it in terms of a cultural difference. I think dd has been frustrated that she has been asked to re-learn some things. An example: she has been 're-taught' how to write most of her letters. So my little girl, who previously loved to write stories, letters and little poems has spent time being drilled on how to write her letters in the 'American way' (they don't want a tail on t or i, and her a needs to be in the shape of a teardrop, etc.) I understand they're teaching the 'correct' way - but it makes me sad to see her worksheets come home. My free-flowing eager writer now does drills that ensure the 'stem' on her letter d is long enough, etc. And she doesn't seem much interested in writing stories anymore.

jennifersofia - I cannot fault the teacher. She allowed dd to bring in her 'farewell' photo book from London to show to her new classmates (though the fact they weren't much interested didn't escape dd). The teacher has talked about setting up a video conference in the spring with dd's old classmates in London so that both classes can learn about life in a different country. The teacher also firmly squashed some early stage bullying where dd was labelled 'weird' - just because she comes from another culture and speaks with a different accent. I think we are making some progress with friends - we have been proactive with playdates, and some nice invitations are coming dd's way as a result. And you're right, it is very much a transitional phase - but even I didn't realise how immense. Before bed, dd stated that at break time, many of the little girl's imaginary games center around pretending to be super-heroes or a character from 'High School Musical'. DD wants to play at being a kitten, horse or fairy as she did with pals in London. The basis of experience, relating, thinking and even playing is vastly different.

Of course, I wouldn't dream of dumping all of this at the teacher's feet. But I want desperately to help my little girl turn back into the fresh faced eager learner who skips every morning into a school filled with friends. And I don't know where/how to help her.

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Earlybird · 03/10/2007 12:41

Based on my long middle of the night essay , can anyone advise thoughts about how, from a practical standpoint, to approach the parent/teacher meeting on Friday? I feel very emotional about the entire situation, and need to focus on what I'm going to say without being teary...

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Blu · 03/10/2007 12:54

Earlybird - I wonder whether your dd is missing London so much that she wants everything to stay the same as it was in London, including playing the same games. the arelity is that in Yr 2 (as I guess from her age she would now be in London) she probably WOULD be playing High School Musical! All the 6 year-olds at DS's school have suddenly started, and (shudder) Bratz has suddenly replaced princesses in the little girls' imaginations.

I feel for you, and her...but I listen to my PILs talking of how they miss England (now they have returned to thier country of origin) and talking about the things they miss - which are no longer in any evidence in England, anyway!

Sorry, not sure how to actually help her addres all that...

Sonnet · 03/10/2007 12:57

I don't know really what to say Earlybird - I just couldn't let your last post go by and not respond with my heart....

I think I would be open with the teacher and say that you are concerned that DD has "slipped" performance wise at school and why does the teacher think this has happened - how can we help her at home etc. I think you need to state your worries whilst being supportive of the school IYSWIM

Not too helpful I know!

On the creative writing side could you buy DD a "Special book" with a "Special pen" for her to write her stories/poems in - to maybe encourage her to start agian. I can see how the "drill" is stifeling her creativity. Maybe she is "afraid" of getting the letters wrong. This could also be why she has withdrawn in class as another poster says.

I know this wasn't helpful - sorry.
Please let me know what happens and how DD gets on as I am genuinely interested.

Earlybird · 04/10/2007 19:31

Checking in today only briefly, but wanted to say thanks for allowing me to articulate concerns. Writing it down, and reading your responses/thoughts has helped, and thankfully I am feeling less emotional/upset about the situation.

Will post tomorrow after the meeting. Wish me luck.

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admylin · 04/10/2007 19:41

Good luck Earlybird, hope your dd feels happier soon.

bossybritches · 05/10/2007 10:27

Fingers crossed for you EB Be positive & I'm sure it'll work out!!!

majorstress · 05/10/2007 11:00

Oh dear, I only just saw this thread. Sorry you are finding it hard, but you aren't alone by any means. I grew up in America, with a British Mum, and now live in London with dh and 2 dds age 7 and 4.

I don't know where you are but I know about an average midwest kind of place:

American schools IME are very different. They start about 2 years later and progress much more slowly. They won't be finished until 18 at the earliest-so they don't move at the pace of British schools.Boredom is a feature for bright children in many schools.

On average children are more "commercialized", more junk food (which is not recognzed as such) and movies like High School Musical are considered perfect for them (popular last year in our school too, my dd felt left out but couldn't get into it, and horrified Irish dh wouldn't have it in the house). She learned that she is not interested in "fashiony" things (Barbie, Bratz), and slightly changed her circle of friends as a result.

Attitudes I've grown up with in many American people are that other countries are cute but backward, and immigrants are lucky to be there and should now cast aside their primitive backgrunds, with just the odd peculiar cake for the bake sale. This is my mother's experience, and mine.

Here is an American-biased site, this is a link about parent teacher conferences. The site is useful to give you the American parenting view.

Are you planning to return? In any case, you may need to is provide a bit of extra homework yourselves in weak areas; we consider school more of a social outlet (and really living in another country IS a wonderful learning experience in itself) that is what we have done in our falling standards school in London, and it made a HUGE difference to dd1.

bossybritches · 07/10/2007 20:53

ANy news EB? How did it go?

newgirl · 08/10/2007 16:15

when you mentioned the writing it made me think that perhaps you do need to raise that asap - i am sure good teaching is about encouraging a love of writing - and this teaching is squashing that

i would be taking that very seriously

it might be that your dd's teacher just isnt that great but the one in the next year may be better

our school def has one teacher that the parents with older kids have mentioned to me as being very old fashioned - it may be that your dd will do better next year with someone else teaching

Earlybird · 09/10/2007 15:42

The meeting on Friday went..........fine. It all felt a bit of an anti-climax really, and I don't quite know what to say/how I feel about it.

I had got myself so worked up into a lather of concern, that being met with a long list of 'good news' from the teacher was gratefully received (of course), but I was expecting a very different conversation based on dd's end-of-the-day accounts, and the classwork/homework that has been sent home.

In a nutshell: The teacher is very pleased with dd's performance. She's top of the class atm (doing spelling words 2-3 years ahead, streamed math extension work, reading/comprehending chapter books with ease, writing beautiful stories with definite beginning/middle/end, good listener/contributor in class, kind/concerned with her peers, etc etc). All positive stuff (which was very nice to hear), but sort of to be expected as to some extent, she's ahead of her peers in America simply by virtue of having been in a faster track educational system up 'til now. Not to take anything away from her natural brilliance, of course........

After hearing how dd was doing academically/socially, I asked " if she's so far ahead/doing so well, should she have been placed in the class the next year up". The teacher nodded and said "probably, but she might have struggled socially as she's already one of the younger ones in the class..." Just as we started to get into that conversation, there was a knock on the door, and it was time for the next appointment.

We both agreed that we needed more time to continue the conversation, and will schedule another meeting sometime in the next 7-10 days. Any thoughts/suggestions from anyone reading much appreciated........and thanks for all your help so far.

OP posts:
Bink · 09/10/2007 15:50

EB I am so sorry I missed that you were having worries, while you were posting sympathetic replies to my anxieties!

I will come back to this, prob. tonight. Till then ...

bozza · 09/10/2007 16:00

So earlybird what do you think regarding your DD and whether she could cope socially in the next class? The playing example you give makes me wonder a little.

newgirl · 10/10/2007 10:24

im not sure i would move her up a class even though her work is so good

the social thing is so important and she may find it tricky with the older ones - they may not want to play with her and that would be tragic!

i would concentrate on making sure the teacher sets her appropriately challenging/interesting work

maybe you could arrange for some private classes in something else eg french/music so she is being stretched

Bink · 10/10/2007 21:43

Right, EB, now I have time to contribute!

Most important: well done dd!! And well done the school in recognising her abilities and qualities (I remember the Class Prize in London too - she's a special little person ).

Daydreaming/not listening/forgetfulness: even before you had the report which suggests these things aren't the problem you might have been thinking, I was wondering - might that not just be age? As in growing up? - a sign of moving on from being an obedient model student (doing what she's told), to being someone with her own thoughts & plans (having ideas beyond what she's told)? So rather an interesting development?

Acceleration at school: this one will be partly cultural. Is acceleration at all common in dd's school? - so do classes quite often have a mix of ages? - I have a sort of feeling they do, with (eg, on the other side) children staying back to repeat a grade rather more routinely than they do here. If there is a mix of ages, then yes I'd say consider it. But if not - well, our recent experience (with dd) is that acceleration is only a quick (and accordingly temporary) fix - a speedy child goes on being a speedy child, and when accelerating yet another year starts looming then you realise it's a thin plaster.

What is the long-term ideal is your own age group PLUS differentiated work - which is what my dd has in her new school. And, as to the work, it sounds like your dd's school is all on top of that?

And I've just been talking with dh about this, who was a speedy-always-top child - and he says: don't worry about the primary age, it's the secondary (middle/high school) age that matters.

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