Monday, November 16, 2015

One Sheet of Paper and 15 Minutes?!

Principal ponderings...
'Tis the season for report cards and parent conferences.  You've been doing everything you can to educate each child in your classroom, and now you have to figure out how to let parents know all about their child on one page front and back and in 15 minutes face to face.  Is that even possible?  I would say no.  Hopefully, report cards and parent conferences are not your only interactions with parents.  Over time, report cards and parent conferences have stood out as the main communication with parents.  We all know that's not true.  But that doesn't change the fact that you need to present parents with an outline of their child through the report card and then in 15 minutes give them the complete picture.

Sorry if I am painting a bleak picture for you.  But I know this is the reality you are all facing over the next few weeks.  I remember those conference days all too well.  It was like an assembly line, one parent in, one parent out, one parent in, one parent out.  Never enough time to give my full attention to each parent and share what I wanted to share about their child.  I was thinking about the next conference while I was in the middle of the current conference!  So what is the best approach to parent conferences?

First, I would say that you should have already been in contact with all of your parents.  You don't want your first interaction with a parent to be a rushed 15 minute conversation.  Hopefully you were able to start the year with a positive phone call or email home for each child in your class.  And then if you have had an concerns or information that you felt necessary to share with parents, then you have already done that.

Second, I used to give out a little sheet before my conferences that simply asked parents what their concerns were or what they wanted to discuss.  Some years I found that I was prepping lots of information about a child's reading, when in actuality all the parent wanted to really talk about was how they were doing socially...were they making friends and interacting with peers?  If you can give parents an opportunity to give you a heads up about what they want to focus on, you can save yourself a lot of preparation time.  This could be a form that goes home or it could actually be a Google form that you send through email and then collect all the info in one place on line.  It is helpful to know the agenda that parents are walking into the room with because it could be different than your agenda.

Third, let it go.  No, I don't mean start singing the Frozen song.  I mean you need to accept that fact that you won't be able to cover everything that you may want to talk about in a 15 minute time slot.  You definitely want to plan ahead and be mindful not to overload yourself with conversation topics.  If you did not find out what the parent wants to talk about in advance, then ask them.  It needs to be a conversation that they feel part of, not a one-sided, rapid-fire lecture from the teacher about their child.  If you had planned to discuss three things and only get to one, let it go.  Don't let yourself get stressed about not being able to talk fast enough.  Remember, the parent conference should only be one small part of the home/school communication connection.

Fourth, be sure and take notes.  Parents may share information or ask for follow up about something, and you are should not think that you will remember what was said at a 5:30 conference after you have 8 more conferences that follow that one.  Take notes for yourself and then after conferences are all done and you give yourself some recovery eat and sleep!...then go back to your notes and think about how you will use that information or how you will follow up with that parent in future communication.

Fifth and final for now, remember that while you may have 24 (or 44) different sets of parents to meet with, each of those parents is only concerned about their one child.  To the best you can, give them your undivided attention.  If they see things differently than you, resist the urge to be defensive. Listen to what they have to say, and let them know that your number one job is to be there for their child.  Even though you care about and are charged with supporting a whole class, their only interest is in their most prized possession, their child.  In my experience with parents, I have learned that the biggest thing they want is for you to care about their child and for you to hear them.  You are the child's teacher for one year.  They are the child's teacher for a lifetime.

Does communication with parents happen on one sheet of paper and in a 15 minute conversation?  No.  So how are you preparing for not just parent conferences, but for the whole year?  Each student needs and deserves a team that is working together for them.

Currently reading:
I finished listening to Absolutely Almost and really enjoyed it.  I think this would be a goo read aloud for 3rd or 4th grade.  It's actually a book that is mainly character development, not one that you are going to find a definitive plot.  On the audio version, I was also able to listen to an interview with the author.  The main character is a student who struggles with learning and navigating social interactions.  I could imagine several of our students who would enjoy hearing or reading this book.

I am excited to start a new book: The Mindful School Leader.  Here is the description from Amazon:
Big results come from small steps.
Written with school leaders in mind, this inspirational yet practical handbook teaches you how to add mindfulness into your day, bit by bit, whether you are sitting in your office or walking down the hall. With mindfulness, you will get better at managing meetings, responding creatively to complex situations, and achieving resilience—you will become a more effective leader and a more positive force for your staff and students.
I am participating in a virtual book club with a few principals across the country, looking forward to engaging in great conversations about this book!
Events this week:
**2nd. 3rd and 4th grade will have vision and hearing screening throughout the week
Tuesday - 4th grade field trip to Lowell Mills, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Bus Open Circle Meetings @ 9:20, Grade 2 chorus @ 2:25, Staff Meeting @ 3:30, School Committee Mtg/Pledge @ 7:00
Thursday - 4th grade field trip to Lowell Mills, Kindergarten classes Discover Fall Enrichment Program, PTA General Membership Meeting @ 3:30
Friday - Dianna and Liz at SLT meeting in the am, 1st grade field trip to the library
**Reminder that report card entries will need to be completed by Monday, November 23

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Recently Dianna attended a conference on anxiety.  She shared insights that she gained from the conference with the district leadership team on Friday.  I know she will be sharing helpful pointers with our building as well.
  • Mrs. Spiczka's am class was doing writer's workshop...writing stories where they were teaching someone about something.
  • Mrs. Clark's 4th graders were using Chromebooks to research the Northeast region.
  • Be sure to check out the fall poetry that Mrs. Wenz's 2nd graders wrote.  I noticed lots of great descriptive language being used.

Check it out:
Interesting post about typing out some of your favorite writers in order to better understand and teach writing technique:
Through this Friday, DESE is seeking public comment about the revised science standards.  Take a few minutes to visit this link and then complete the survey.
Love, love, love this visual that I came across on Twitter!...

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this article. Any chance I can share it with my teachers? Thank you for posting!