to Jump-Start Your Partnership
conferences can be the start of a partnership between you and your
students’ parents. Unfortunately, I find that curriculum conferences
are held at the end of September, and that’s too late as far
as I’m concerned. The first few weeks of school are basically
dedicated to setting up routines and getting off on the right foot.
I feel it’s important to do this with the parents, as well.
At my school,
my kindergarteners have a half day on the first two days of school.
As I meet my children on the first day of school I hand their parents
two notes. One is a letter of introduction and the other is an invitation
to a curriculum conference the very next day.
not have the luxury to schedule a meeting within the first two days
of school, but you can still arrange one for the first week. First
you need to seek approval from your supervisor. If you cannot use
your own classroom you’ll need to request an alternate setting,
such as the auditorium. Try to arrange a time when your students
aren’t schedule to be in your classroom, such as a prep or
lunch period. I know many teachers will argue against using the
lunch period, but my personal feeling is that I need to do what
will make my life and the school year easier and more successful.
If it means giving up one lunch, I’m happy to do it.
is kindergarten specific and isn’t appropriate for all grades.
First, it’s important to remember that for many parents this
is the first time their child will be in school, so in many ways
this is the “Grand Introduction.” I try to have the
parents empathize with their four- and five-year-old children by
giving them an assignment. I give them paper and very short
pencils. I distribute a handout I have produced before hand—it
contains directions using inventive spelling--and ask the parents
to read and follow the directions on the handout. It is interesting
to watch what occurs. Some parents dive right in, others hesitate
but then try, some try and then stop, others refuse to try. It helps
parents understand what their children may be feeling.
proceed with my discussion. I have a letter
prepared in advance which I give to each parent. (The letter
can be as long or short as you deem necessary. Mine is three pages
long.) The letter clearly and explicitly explains my classroom policy
as well as school policy. I also write
an agenda which corresponds to the items in my letter and attach
it to a wall near where I’ll be standing. I refer to the agenda
throughout the discussion.
the discussion I explain my philosophy of teaching, my routines,
trip policy, homework procedures and, most importantly, my need
for their cooperation and assistance. I explain what I need them
to do at home to help their child succeed in school. I show them
every book their children will be using as well as samples of the
school supplies I would like them to bring in. I also field any
questions and concerns they may have, thereby nipping some future
problems in the bud.
I am doing most of the talking (since I am providing the information),
I still want the atmosphere to be one of a friendly discussion,
not a lecture. I encourage the parents to speak up. If they have
ideas that they would like to volunteer or questions they need to
ask then they need to feel welcome to do so. The goal is to develop
camaraderie, not a hierarchy.
is important. You need to pace yourself so that you don’t
run out of time. Put the items you consider most important at the
head of your agenda. Make sure you clearly explain each point. You
don’t want your clarifying meeting to lead to more confusion.
Conduct the meeting in a structured manner; this assures the parents
that you’ll have control of your classroom.
It is also
important to end on a positive note. Since my students are present
during the meeting we “read” a book called Read
to Your Bunny (Rosemary Wells) to the parents. Again,
this isn’t appropriate for all grades (we’re kindergarten,
we have a high “cute” factor and we milk it for all
it’s worth), but you should have a definite ending in mind.
You might want to distribute your explanatory letter at the end
of your meeting rather than at the beginning. You might want to
end by giving away a book. You can pull a child’s name from
a bag and give that child’s parent a book for his/her child
(please make sure it is a new book). Whatever you decide, remember
to keep it positive. You want your parents to leave thinking what
an informative and pleasant experience it was. That’s a good
outlook for your future and it’s the one you want for the
new school year.