Organizing PTA Parent-Education seminars

Part of my responsibility as first vice president of my daughter’s elementary school parent-teacher association (PTA) is to bring in speakers to help educate the parents. Last year, I brought a speaker on cyber-bullying. My goal this year was to bring in two different speakers.

One of the fifth-grade teachers at her school is also member-at-large for the Texas Parent-Teacher Association. For the past few years, he has given a speech about Maximizing Parent-Teacher Conferences at the annual statewide leadership conference. But he has always told those of us who attend from his school that we shouldn’t attend his speech as he can always give us that information at a different time.

Last year, I wanted to get him to give this speech at our school but I approached him in the middle of September and we couldn’t get anything planned before conferences started in the middle of October. Instead, I had to settle for him writing a two-sided flyer that gave parents tips. (Check out my post about it here.)

This year I approached Mr. Shelby in August, and we scheduled his speech for the end of September as conferences begin mid-October. As with any presentation, you can plan and advertise it but getting a full house is a different matter. I think even Mr. Shelby was worried about getting people to show up. We had 26 parents attend which nicely filled up our library tables but is a real small percentage of the parents who have children attending the school.

The main point of his presentation is that the parent-teacher conference is not the first time you should see your child’s grades. In our school district, you can go online and check grades on homework and tests plus there are always papers coming home. There really should be no surprises.

The parent-teacher conference is a time to work with the teacher in deciding what areas your child needs to work on. Even good kids have something that can challenge them or maybe there is something that can push them to achieve more.

The second speaker I plan to bring in will speak on children and internet safety. I will be going through the Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program since the CyberBullying one last year was so well done.

Internet safety is an important topic in our technology-driven society and with the ever changing technology and apps out there, I don’t think parents can attend too many of these talks. In fact the middle school just brought in someone from Homeland Security to talk about the same thing.

It was a good speech though most of the information covered was stuff that I have heard before. He recommended that you check your kids’ phones weekly. You should know who they are talking to just as you would want to know who their friends are if they were meeting with them in person.

He recommended the website netsmartz.org as a way for parents and kids to learn more about online safety and the dangers of posting information online. To report Cyber Bullying, he recommended Cybertipline.org. Both websites are hosted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

I’m looking forward to my January speaker and if he/she provides any useful websites or information, I will certainly write a post about it.

The importance of parent-teacher conferences

As first vice-president of the parent-teacher association (PTA) of my kids’ elementary school, I am in charge of Parent Education. This means I need to find topics that interest the parents of my community and bring them information through speakers, reading material or internet sites.

Every time I do something for the parents in my community, I will do a corresponding post here.

img_5228I did a survey in September and one of the topics that piqued parents’ interest was how to have effective parent-teachers conferences. The flyer we passed out was written by one of our teachers who is on the Texas PTA and gave a speech at the Texas PTA Leadership convention on this topic.

Though this may be too late for anyone’s fall conferences, this information can be used in the Spring or even next year.

parent-connection

  • Like all good conversations, conferences are best when both people talk and listen.
  • Ask to see data about your child’s attendance, grades, behavior, social interactions, and test scores.
  • It is important for you to find out if your child is meeting school expectations and academic standards.
  • This is also a good time for your child’s teacher to learn about what your family home life is like. Does your child have hobbies, chores or other responsibilities?
  • When you tell your teacher about your child’s skills, interests, needs and dreams, the teacher can help your child achieve more.

Now on our flyer we included a section about the electronic grade book that our school district provides so that parents always know their students’ grades. If your school offers something like this, I urge you to sit down with your child and review their scores. Attending a parent-teacher conference should NOT be the first time you know about your child’s grades.

  • You may not always agree with what the teacher recommends. Just because it is recommended does not mean that it has to be done. Be open to ideas and work together.
  • Teachers may see or know a side of your child that you do not always know from home and vice versa.
  • Let this be an open dialogue and a chance to talk.
  • These meetings should be a time to discuss what has been working well and what can be done to help the student thrive to the best of their abilities.

Common Misconceptions

1.) These are not “Gotcha” moments.

2.) This is not a chance to tell your teacher how bad they are.

3.) This is not a chance to tell a parent how bad they are.

The point of a parent-teacher conference is to not only fill the parent in on how well your child is doing but is a way for teachers to find out more information about your child and your child’s family life. It is a time for families and the school to work together for the student’s success because both want the students to thrive, to excel and do their best.

Parent-Teacher conferences result in tutoring for both kids

Fall parent-teacher conferences are over, and mostly the news was good. But both teachers recommend each kid has some extra help to make sure they keep up with their classes.

Lexie (1st grade)

We had Lexie’s conference back in October. Her teacher opted to do her conference early because she wanted to talk to us before Lexie began getting extra help with her reading.

In Texas every student, kinder through second grade, takes a TPRI test at the beginning of the school year to access reading skills. In September, Lexie struggled to read the text on her own. Her teacher said she was reading at a Level D. This level is an end of kinder/beginning of first-grade level, but they expect them to read at the J/K level by the end of first grade.

Little girl reading bookNow to help, Lexie advance her reading skills and meet this goal, they suggested she attend a reading program called RAP. We are no stranger to this program as Jase did this at the end of first grade and then again in second grade. His participation was to build up his fluency (the speed in which he reads).

Now when you look at Lexie’s reading score for the first quarter of the year, you might wonder why she needs extra help. She received a 93, but this grade is about reading comprehension. (She did well on the TRPI test in this aspect too.)

So now she attends RAP four times a week for extra reading help. This is done during class when other students are writing in the journals or doing busy work. Lexie is given time to do the same sheets and write in her journal during other parts of the day. RAP also increases her homework by about fifteen minutes each day. I have already seen an improvement in her reading.

Jase (3rd grade)

Now while Jase has struggled in reading before, his teacher wasn’t as concerned about his reading skills. She did say he needed to work on them. When he reads aloud, he is reading at an end of 2nd grade level. He is right on target on reading silently. He did well on his reading benchmark test, placing above the school average. But she still suggests he practice reading aloud, which is something we haven’t been doing this school year.

Teacher writing math equation on chalkboard uid 1281297Her concern was more his math skills. His lowest grade at 84 is in math. He does fine with math, but he is slow at it. Even last year when we worked on basic math facts such as addition and subtraction up to 20, Jase could never seem to get the speed they wanted.

On his math benchmark, he scored only 8 above the passing level and about 20 points below the school average. Now he did say that he had problems with the test. He got hung up on one problem and then later was distracted when he realized others were done with the test, but he was still working.

But Jase does this often when under pressure. He freezes up. I definitely think he has test anxiety, and I am concerned it will only get worse as this is the first year that he has standardized testing. The Texas STARR test is this April, and you must pass to move up to the next grade.

So to help Jase become more confident with math, his teacher has suggested he join an after school math tutoring session that meets once a week. I am all for more help, and he actually seems excited about it. The math tutoring hasn’t begun so I don’t know yet if it will help.

I am just glad that the teachers recommended help and better yet, it is all through the school so no extra cost for us. I can’t wait to see them improve.

Surviving the first parent-teacher conference

A few weeks ago, we had our Fall Parent-Teacher Conference with Jase’s teacher. He is now in the first grade, and I had expected it  to be very different from the one I had with his kindergarten teacher. Last year, the meeting lasted all of five minutes. His teacher showed us a few things he had been doing in class, said he was doing well and that was it.

At parent orientation, his first-grade teacher said that her conferences would last thirty minutes. Yikes! I couldn’t imagine what she could talk about for that long – especially if he was doing well. It turns out that most of that time was going over the assessment test she gave him a few weeks before. She showed us the questions, talked about how she administered it, and of course gave us his test results.

There really were no surprises. Jase is doing wonderful. Actually, for the first five minutes of the conference, she just raved about how great he is. She also mentioned he is funny. His Kindergarten teacher made the same comment, actually calling it  a dry humor.

Of course, him being funny has never been a distraction in his class. He is our rule-follower. I honestly would be surprised if he ever got in trouble for disrupting class. Now his sister is the opposite. She likes pushing to see how much she can get away with and is chatty. Her current preschool teacher also had Jase 3 years ago. On the first day of school, she commented that Lexi had spoken more in one day then Jase did all year.

It actually was his shyness, that reserved nature where he barely spoke to adults let alone other kids, that caused us to hold him back from Kindergaten at his preschool teacher’s suggestion. When he turned five, we enrolled him in a Gift of Time program (which I wrote about previously.)

I mentioned this to his first-grade teacher, and she thanked us for making that decision. She said she wished that more parents would do that for children who have summer birthdays. In fact, she did that with her daughter. Nowadays, kindergarten is not the simple skipping in a circle, nap time and basic learn of colors and letters that it was when we were kids, she said. And I agree. I see the schoolwork and homework he brings home. It isn’t what I was doing in school at this age.

And I think giving him that extra year to grow and mature is part of the reason he is doing so well in school. I don’t regret holding him back at all. I expect another positive conference when we meet again in Febrauary. Now when I have Lexi’s conference in January, it may be a whole different story.