Saturday, 9 March 2013

Talking to Parents

Firstly a HUGE welcome and thank you to my new followers, I have seen many people start following us in the last few weeks. I appreciate each and every one of  you.

This post has been motivated by quite a few conversations I have had in the last month, with my 'parent' hat on. The conversations I have had are private, but I can tell you that they focused on how teachers speak to parents and how information is delivered.

It is always insightful for me to be a part of these conversations as I can get a glimpse of life on the other side of the classroom door.

I realise that this information, for most of my followers and friends in the teacher-blogging world, will not be needed or new. It is nothing earth-shatteringly new. It is basic and practical. I am hoping however, that if a new teacher stumbles upon this post, it may help them in future conversations with parents...

Talking to parents can be difficult. Sometimes you do it on the run, at the classroom door, after a long day with two duties and no lunch break. You have 20+ children to think about. Life in the classroom is very busy. Sometime we forget that we need to be sensitive and think about how our information is received by others. I always have a million things on my mind at work. It's part of the job. It NEVER ends. So, I like to set up frameworks in my mind to deal with the many situations that arise.

I like to think about the information I give parents in a 3 step structure.

I make sure I include the following steps when I am talking to parents. I don't read it out like a list, but in  my mind I am mentally checking each part as I include it.

1. Describing behaviour I see and can observe (e.g. I have noticed that your child is having difficulty writing his name)
2. Describing first what I AM DOING in the classroom to address what I have noticed (e.g. I have modified all our worksheets to include a dotted name for him to trace)
3. Suggesting how the parent could help at home (e.g. It would really help if you could spend a few minutes each night practising - just talking about the letters in his name and writing them in water on the tiles in the bathroom when it is bath time will help).

 
This framework has always helped to make sure that the parent understands that I am aware of her child's needs, that I have started to work towards helping and that I need them to help in the process. I find it really helps to explain what I am doing as a teacher. It is not beneficial to have a parent walk away from the school feeling that their child is struggling and that they are alone in the problem.
 
I would love to hear your ideas about feedback and conversations to parents (and carers) as well!