On Parental Engagement: Best Practices During Parent-Teacher Conferences
NYC Department of Education
2015 Hometown Hero in Education and Excellence in Education by United Federation of Teachers, biology teacher in the New York City public school system
No one brings a child into the world without at some point thinking deeply on that child’s future. Some of us spend a painful amount of time on the subject of how he or she will become successful. It is indeed our duty; a part of caring for our children is to spend time on their future.
This exercise of looking after our children’s future is a lesson deeply rooted in our tradition. Our beloved Messenger points us to when he said in an authentic narration: “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The ruler is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for his flock. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s household and is responsible for her flock.”
I am very honored to have the opportunity to write about an important topic that directly affects our community. As a teacher and a mother whose children attend public school, I would like to share my unique perspective on being on both sides of the table at Parent Teacher Conference. It is this small event that lasts just minutes every semester that I believe can make the biggest difference in our ability to look after our children’s trajectory to success.
According to Buffalo’s School Calendar for the academic year 2017-2018 the parent teacher conference for middle schoolers is happening November 29 and 30. Dates for the remaining Parent Teacher Conference events for the spring semester are also listed below. It is always a good idea to plan ahead.
Nov 9–10 High School: Parent-Teacher Conferences*
Nov 15–16 Elementary School: Parent-Teacher Conferences*
Nov 29–30 Middle School: Parent-Teacher Conferences*
May 3 High School: Parent-Teacher Conferences*
May 9 Middle School: Parent-Teacher Conferences*
May 23 Elementary School: Parent-Teacher Conferences*
Research suggests that children do well in school when parents are involved in their education. They get better grades, attend school regularly and have a better mental well-being. One of the way to show parental engagement is to participate in parent-teacher conferences. It is an opportunity for us to meet with our child’s teacher and discuss the academic progress our child is making in each of the subject areas.
We have to do quality control. Some of us think once the child is in school she is in good hands. But the safest hands are the hands of the parents. You have to check whether your child’s needs are being met. This means along with Parent Teacher Conference you must attend curriculum night as well. To see what is being taught that year and how your child is being challenged throughout the year.
Involving both parents is crucial. Academic expectations are on teachers but it needs to be on the parents as well. Therefore, if possible, both parents should attend these conferences. If that is not an option try taking along the grandparents, uncles or aunts. Bring the people to this important event who are responsible for your child’s education. The school should see that there is team at home supporting this child just like at school. Your child’s education is a collaborative effort.
If you cannot make it to PTC, that does not mean that you do not care. You must make an effort to communicate with the teacher and let them know that you are unable to come at the designated time and you can make appointments for a separate time.
After all, by attending Parent Teacher Conference you send a positive message to both your child and the school that academic success is important and that you value the education your child receives.
Majority of my students come from homes just like yours: where the immigrant experience leaves more to be desired about how to interact with our children’s educators and what expectations we can have of the education system at large.
There are reasons why we are reluctant to attend Parent-Teacher Conferences. We have some parents who have a general anxiety when it comes to meeting a teacher. Now this could be because of a language barrier or we feel our own educational background is not up to standard for the child’s school’s standard.
To address this point, I want to say your child has two master teachers that’s YOU: MOM and DAD. School is easy compared to the 24 hours a day you had to watch after this child. Teaching them to walk, run, speak and learn the first words.
Let’s talk about the cultural barrier for a minute. I teach students anywhere from Ecuador, Bosnia, Turkey, and of course Bangladesh. This feeling is universal: parents sometimes feel inadequate when it comes to the public school system.
When it comes to the language barrier, your children will do the translation for you. You must have an air of confidence about you. Regardless of your language, if your child sees a confident parent who is invested in their education, it helps the situation as a whole.
I know we treat children as little ones and there is a hierarchy when it comes to household sometimes but I feel that we must empower our children. Make way for them to value the power of knowing a second language. When you can say to the teacher that you will not require a school translator as your child is with you, it is a bonding opportunity. Tell them you are proud of them for being able to convey your points to their teachers.
When getting ready for the parent-teacher conferences, speak with your child and make a note about each class and any concerns about each teacher and subject your child might have. Reassure your child that this meeting is for you to help them be better. It is decidedly not a “gotcha” moment. Having a non-judgmental attitude for that day is important. It allows them to open up. Of course, any troubling issues can be addressed at a later date.
Below are ten questions you can use as a guide to better communicate your interest in the areas of your child’s progress that are important: from upcoming examinations as well as how your child interacts with others in the classroom. Hearing the answers to these from the teacher is very important as it provides you with very unique perspective on your child. After all, teachers see your child sometimes longer part of the day you are able to at home.
Is my child doing work at or above grade level?
- How are grades determined in this class?
- Does my child work better in groups or alone?
- What can I do at home to help my child build on strengths and improve weaknesses?
- How well does my child get along with others?
- What are my child’s best and worst subjects?
- Does my child participate in class discussions and activities?
- Has my child missed any classes other than ones I contacted the school about?
- What kinds of tests are being done? What do the tests tell about my child’s progress? How does my child handle taking tests?
Will my child take any state tests this year and how should we support him this year?
In 20 years of teaching, I have noticed this as a rule now: there is a direct correlation between parental engagement and academic success. What better way to prove that than to make every parent-teacher conference a success? May Allah help you and your families better serve the community and the faith.