Friday, 6 September 2013

7 Questions Teachers Want You to Ask - Part I


----This ended up being a real novel of a post (conciseness has always been my nemesis) so I’ve divided it up just so I can get it off and at least offer a few suggestions in case you’re interested tonight!  More to come tomorrow! ----

During the first part of September, many schools offer a “Meet the Teacher”  or some sort of Open House event.  As a teacher, I’ll admit to always being a little taken by surprise (why, I have no idea…it’s always been done and always will be done!) by this night, but I suppose it’s because those first few weeks of school starting are always so hectic.   

Organized chaos is an understatement at this time of year.   Clubs and sports are starting, classroom routines are being implemented, learning difficulties are being assessed, year plans and personal growth plans are being demanded by the powers-that-be.  There seems to be so many things taking precedence over a silly little evening where parents drop in just to say “hi”, after all it’s not like we can give a fair assessment of little Johnny when we’ve only taught him for 5 days!  

Yet this is SUCH an important opportunity that teachers and parents should never let pass because we all know how busy things get once all those clubs, sports, routines, homework and challenges get going full-swing.   No one should miss this opportunity to help get their child off to the best start possible, and make no mistake, although teachers spend a great deal of your child’s awake hours with them, the parent’s role and attitude towards their learning is paramount.  

There are varying degrees of communication at any given “Meet the Teacher” night.  Some schools require teachers to present certain aspects of their classroom and year plans and parents just sit collectively and listen.   While there is usually time for questions, sometimes there may not be time for individual conversations.  At the other extreme, some schools let parents informally drop-in, seeking out the necessary teachers (usually one or two at the primary level and other times five or six for teenagers) and let the conversation go where it may.

If your school happens to be more like the former, this list of questions may end up being answered in the presentation already.   A paper copy of these questions can be downloaded for free from my teacherspayteachers store (7 Questions Teachers Want You to Ask ) so you could just print out this handout at home and write notes directly on it.  If the questions don’t end up being answered, I would still seek out the teacher at some point and ask them.  For the school with a more casual approach, this may be helpful because your teacher may end up being a tad like me and without a prescribed checklist of things to cover, ends up scrambling for child care that same night and barely managing to put on a clean shirt! (Oh, of course I have my classroom perfectly organized, my year plans color coded and my reward systems posted, after all that was necessary for the students on Day 1, but to think about and distribute parent-focused material??…that’s a different story!)   So, again, here are some great questions that might just get overlooked and will help start a healthy, quality dialogue between you and your child’s teacher.

 1.       How can I help my child read/study?

      No one needs to tell you how important reading is.  If your child is just learning to read, the teacher may have specific books and allotted times that he/she wants the children to read.  (ie. 15 min each night, book taken out from class library)  If your child is older and reading is now expected in order to study for a variety of subjects, ask what resources might be helpful.  Perhaps the teacher has some supplementary books/texts/magazines/websites/audio material that he uses for hisr specific subject.  Also, finding material that your child likes to read “just for fun” is also vital.  Pick your teacher’s brain for ideas.  This is especially important if your child doesn’t enjoy reading.  Again, this is a starter question and can lead to passing on helpful information if your child has problems in some area of literacy, is disinterested or has trouble concentrating.

2. Where does my child sit?

      This is crazy-important and can explain a lot of things if troubles arise.   If your child wears glasses or has any trouble hearing, a spot near the front may be imperative and the teacher may not realize how weak a child’s eyesight or hearing is just by looking at them.  Obviously, easily-distracted students will find windows, class pets on the shelf and even posters disrupting.  Even a best friend nearby can be a worst enemy when it comes to concentrating on a lesson.   Usually, one of the first consequences of not listening or interrupting a lesson will be a desk move, but if you can help the teacher avoid even that, by letting them know of possible difficulties, I’m sure they would be most grateful.  If nothing else, it’s nice to just have your own visual of your child in the classroom.

      3. Where do the students go for recess/break and which areas can my child play/hang-out in?

I like knowing this as a parent, but often take this information for granted as a teacher because it becomes so habitual to teachers so fast.  After all, we usually have minimum three breaks a day, not to mention before and after school arrival/pick-up so teachers (who usually supervise these breaks) and students get to know these places immediately.   As a parent you might be interested in this for a few reasons:  

a)      Physical Challenges.  Is your child a dare-devil?  Like, not just curious, like a real kamikaze-energy-bomb that pays zero attention to consequence.  Say so. While the teacher probably knows this already (those things tend to rear their heads in the first 10 min of class) it’s not a bad idea to throw this out there just to let them know that that delightful teeter totter over there likely looks more like a catapult to your darling David and he may need to be encouraged (by you and teachers) to play games on the ground.  You’ve been playing with your child at parks for at least five years now, so you know better than anyone what they’re drawn to and capable of!

b)      Bullying. Be pro-active with “bullying”.  Because this is such a volatile buzzword these days, I’m quoting  it and am now about to qualify.  An ounce of prevention is worth a hundred pounds of cure.   Or maybe a thousand.   While there are umpteen ways I can suggest to avoid your child becoming a bully-target, I will leave that to another post.  I will however indulge a little in bully-friendly locations.  Bullying often doesn’t happen two feet in front of a teacher in plain daylight.  Under a jungle gym, around a corner, behind a building…not every schoolyard is perfect and these places are hot spots.  Teachers know that and are aware of them, but they are also only one person.  One person in a sea of sometimes 50 or more little bodies, running around carelessly, scraping their knees, falling off swings, throwing garbage on the ground or bickering amongst themselves – all things that demand their attention.  And then there are the students that like, or even need, to be alone.  If you have a child like this, you’ll know it. Unfortunately, the same places they go for refuge are are the key places a snide remark or a hurtful shove will start.  Visit the child’s playground after school one day or on the weekend and do a walk-about to show them possible trouble spots where bullying may occur.  I feel this is especially important if your child is a bit of an introvert because even though they thoroughly enjoy or maybe even need some quiet-time to themselves, it can also be an invitation for trouble.  For older students, lower level hallways, bathrooms and change rooms are always the red-flags, but be aware of classrooms far from the staff lounge or even a courtyard area that students are allowed to hang out in in good weather.  Identify these locations and figure out ways your tween or teenager can avoid these places, especially if they’ve encountered teasing in the past. 

c)       Peace of mind. Again with the visual…I like having a real-life place where I can “see” my child playing, not just an abstract term called recess. 

 If you have your teacher meeting tonight and would like the complete list of questions (minus the commentary) download the word doc from here: 

----Stay tuned for the remaining four essential questions tomorrow! ----

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