California Educator

October 2015

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By Cynthia Menzel and Karen Taylor Tips for fruitful parent-teacher relations Meet the Parents A T T H E S T A R T O F T H E S C H O O L Y E A R : Contact information. Give parents specific times and day(s) that you are available to be contacted by phone or email. Establish positive contact and relationships with parents and guardians early on in the school year, through email, a text reminder system, a newsletter or a class website. Content. You do not need to include content standards, but a brief overview is helpful so parents know what to expect. Homework policy. Make sure your policy aligns with the district/site's policies. Be clear about your expectations regarding late assignments (helpful later in the school year in case of any problems/confusion). Attendance policy. Make sure your policies align with the district/site's policies. Be specific about your definitions and consequences regarding tardiness/absences. Behavior expectations. Send home a copy of the rules, consequences and any reward systems so parents know what to expect. Technology. Share your expectations, but understand that some families may not have computers or printers at home and have a game plan to accommodate these students. Website/online communications. Keep parents in the loop by posting assignments, due dates and updates, and sharing class work on a class/school website or online communications system if possible (again, have a plan for families who do not have access to technology). If you in- tend to post information about individual students that can be seen or accessed by others, have parents sign a release form to avoid problems down the line. Communication between parents and teachers is key to student success, so connect with parents early and often, not just at the official parent-teacher conference. Here's a checklist of key information to share with parents: A T T H E P A R E N T - T E A C H E R C O N F E R E N C E : Encourage both parents to attend when possible. Misunderstandings are less common if both parents hear what you have to say, and you'll be able to gauge the kind of support both parents give the child. Allow enough time, at least 20 minutes. Greet parents/ guardians/stepparents at the door by name. Give yourself a short break between conferences. Arrange seating so everyone is equal and you have no physical barriers between you. Use positive body lan- guage. However, keep in mind cultural differences about eye contact and seating arrangements. Open on a positive note about the child's ability, work, or interests. Focus on strengths as well as needs. Identify problems and concerns with examples. Suggest specific things parents can do at home to help, and ways you will proceed at school. Have a plan, and prepare in advance to answer specific questions about a child's ability, skill levels and achieve- ments. Assemble grades, test scores, student work sam- ples and attendance records. Ask for parents' opinions. Then hear them out, even if the comments are hostile or negative. Be prepared to help parents understand the CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Prog- ress) student score report (see page 41). Avoid the use of acronyms and jargon. Use Google Translate or the help of a district translator with families who do not speak English or have limited English. Summarize the discussion and steps you and the parents will take at the end of the conference. Keep a record. If you and the parents make specific plans or set a course of action for the child, follow up in writing in a day or two. For more ideas for parent-teacher conferences, go to and search for "parent teacher conferences." 59 V O LU M E 2 0 I S S U E 3 CTA & You

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