The ABC’s of parent-teacher interviews

It’s that time of year again. Parent teacher interviews, a long standing tradition, welcomed by some, but feared and loathed by others. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The interviews are supposed to be a time for parents to be kept in the loop with their child’s progress at school; a time to learn how best to help their children succeed.

To make parent-teacher interviews more effective, it helps to connect before school begins, says Mitchell Curci, special education teacher and guidance counsellor at the YMCA academy. Get involved with the school, extra-curricular activities and school events, he advises.

Another helpful thing to do, especially if your child has a learning disability, is to communicate your child’s needs with the teacher, says Judith Guttman, who teaches reading recovery to grade one students.

“If there’s a new teacher at the school introduce yourself and your child,” Guttman says. “You can say, ‘I know it’s the beginning of school, I know you might not have had an opportunity to read her OSR (Ontario Student Record), but she does have an IEP (Individual Education Plan).” This way, you are not accusing the teacher of not reading the IEP, but you are letting the teacher know that there is one.

“And don’t be afraid to ask, ‘What are you doing to support my child’s IEP?’” Curgi says, adding that it’s important for parents to know what the child’s experience at school is, which includes their accommodations.

After you’ve met and spoken to the teacher, keep in touch. Curci says not to be afraid to call in between report cards. Ask how your children are doing and what they are learning in class. Ask about support strategies that you can implement at home, or just check in.

“Last year, we met with the teacher every month, month and a half,” says Tomas, the father of a grade seven child with ADHD and a language based learning disability.

“You have to [check in]…Some of the parents who pick up their children would say, ‘How was the test?’” Guttman says, adding that while that’s really informal, teachers have phones in classrooms and extension numbers and parents should not be afraid to call.

If your child comes home from an evaluation and says that it was too hard and they couldn’t do it, “You should call the teacher and see why your kid had a meltdown. Did they have extra time?” Guttman says. “You have to be on top of it,” she adds.

Already, after having met the teacher and having established the relationship, the interview is less stressful, but you want to still be prepared. Guttman suggests to read over the report card, and look at the comments as well. Come prepared with questions you want answered and ask questions that focus on achievement: how can your child achieve better?

“[Parents] can come prepared with questions about the homework that’s come home or routines that they’ve seen,” Guttman says.

And lastly, since the interviews are about your child, you want to have spoken to your child. Keep informed about school work. Look at your child’s agenda so you know when tests are coming up and when assignments are due. Encourage your child to talk about school and to show you how he or she did on tests and assignments.

“Last year, I’d never know if he had a test, if he had a quiz. If I was lucky I’d find out about a project a week before it was due,” Tomas says.

The main purpose behind parent-teacher interviews is to increase communication and awareness, so if you speak to both your child and their teachers regularly, there’s nothing to fear.

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